2005 Holiday gift guide
Welcome to what has become an annual tradition at ParentMap -- our holiday gift guide. Again this year, we are focusing on toys that do not require batteries, are well made and foster creativity -- in short, items that children want to play with again and again. We're also featuring some fabulous locally produced ideas suggested by local gift gurus.
(Editor's note: When specific stores are listed, it's because we have confirmed that they carry the recommended items. Readers are welcome to check other stores for availability.)
Infants and their parents
Kathe Kruse Towel Dolls. These cuddly little blanket animals and people are great for grasping, chewing on, snuggling and wiping up drool. They are all cotton and washable. Available from Izilla Toys, 206-322-TOYS.
Safe and sturdy toys from Haba, eeBoo and Manhattan Toys available at Merry Go Round, 425-454-1610 or www.merrygoroundkids.com.
Babies love Sassy and Lamaze toys available from Kid's Club in U-Village (206-524-2553) and Crossroads Shopping Center (425-643-5437) or www.shopkidsclub.com.
Hand-painted wooden mobiles from Poland with themes from the natural world including squirrels and birds in tree branches, butterflies, monkeys hanging from vines and apple trees. The mobiles are visually stimulating to infants and beautiful enough to enjoy for the rest of childhood. Also for infants are crib-safe music boxes from Kathe Kruse of Germany and brightly colored, enameled music boxes from Kouvalias, covered with wooden balls on springs that are very interesting for babies to play with. Available at Clover Toys in Ballard, 206-782-0715, www.clovertoys.com.
Consider getting the mom-to-be a gift certificate from the Spa at Salish Lodge for a special pre-natal massage or Snoqualmie Falls Foot Revitalizer for her swollen feet. 425-888-2556.
Books -- 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (babies love that it squeaks) and Tails by Matthew Van Fleet. Both available at Lilypad Books in Issaquah, 425-391-2758.
Music -- Oy Baby CD. Inspired by their 6-month-old son, Rob and Lisi Wolf of Mercer Island founded OyBaby with the mission to spark "a lifetime of Jewish wonderment through sight and song." Available, along with a DVD, on their Web site -- www.oybaby.com -- or call 206-275-4191
Toddlers to kindergarteners
Beautiful heirloom-quality toys from the Giving Tree. A wooden Giving Tree ferry is the perfect gift for any Northwest toddler. The Giving Tree, a joint project of the Archdiocesan Housing Authority and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, is a woodshop where handcrafted toys are created in an environment that fosters a renewed sense of purpose and meaning for local seniors, formerly and currently homeless individuals, and youth and adults. Each toy is made from recycled wood, and is individually crafted and painted with only safe, non-toxic latex paints and finishes. Giving Tree toys can be purchased online at www.givingtreetoys.org (select catalog).
Wooden train sets, villages and farms. The classic Brio train set is a gift that kids will play with for years. Tunnels, drawbridges and cranes with real pulleys make it an imaginative building toy that helps kids work on their fine motor skills. A wooden village set, from Haba of Germany, lets kids design, build and rebuild shops, roads and houses with colorful blocks, and the wooden farm set has a tiny barn to construct with a pasture and barnyard full of miniature wooden animals. Available at Clover Toys.
Puppets for imagination play including fairy-tale theme and animal puppets. Kids will love telling stories and putting on shows. A puppet theater that hangs in a doorway is available from Magic Cabin at www.magiccabin.com and classic animal puppets are available from Chinaberry at www.chinaberry.com.
Classic wooden workbench and tools by Voila and T.J. Whitney Traditional Toys including the popular Wooden Marbles and Blocks set. Available at White Horse Toys, Issaquah, 425-391-1498, www.whitehorsetoys.com.
Radio Flyer Twist Trike -- a two-in-one vehicle that converts from a trike to a chopper. Available at White Horse Toys.
Custom-made fairy skirts and fairy tool belts with wands and outfits for tiny knights by local artist Natalie Kryger. Order by calling 425-443-8773.
Books -- The Railway Series: Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection by the Reverend W. Awdry. Available at All for Kids Books and Music, 206-526-2768. Siamese cat fans will love Skippyjon Jones and Skippyjon Jones in the Dog House by Judith Schachner. Another favorite: Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Both available at Lilypad Books.
Music -- Oldie-but-goodie "10 Carrot Diamond" by Charlotte Diamond still delights toddlers and parents alike. Available at All for Kids Books and Music. Also check out "Choo Choo Boogaloo," a musical tour of the Louisiana Bayou by Buckwheat Zydeco. Available at Lilypad Books.
Great ideas for the elementary set: Classic wind-up tin toys. Ryan's Room and PLAN wooden doll houses. Charming fairy- and horse-theme hand-painted jewelry boxes. The board game Mentology. All available at White Horse Toys.
Give your child a lifelong hobby and skill with the gift of a quality craft kit. Harrisville makes kits for knitting, weaving and crocheting with beautiful wool and easy-to-understand directions. Available at Clover Toys.
Books -- Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco -- a charming tale of friendship with a surprise ending. For budding ballerinas, The Pacific Northwest Ballet Presents: Nutcracker by Angela Sterling. A history in photographs of Kent Stowell's and Maurice Sendak's beloved "Nutcracker" production. Both available at All For Kids Books and Music near University Village, 206-526-2768, www.allforkids.com.
Music, or anything that plays music, is sure to top the list of most teens. While this breaks our "no batteries" requirement, the hottest choice this year is the iPod nano, as thin as a pencil yet holds up to 1,000 songs. Available at any electronics store or major chain.
Budding builders and engineers will enjoy Matchitecture. Following a provided blueprint and using glue and small wooden batons, builders can produce highly detailed models of landmarks, vehicles and other projects. Available from White Horse Toys.
Gift Certificates -- Teens like to shop for themselves and you can't go wrong with a gift certificate to their favorite store. Popular local choices include Target and music stores such as Silver Platters in Crossroads, Southcenter and Northgate.
For crafty teens, visit Bellevue Art and Frame for beautiful journals and art supplies, Redmond Town Center's Rubber Soul for rubber stamps and supplies and the Paper Zone -- at various locations including Seattle, Bellevue, Issaquah, Tacoma and Tukwila -- for paper and pens.
Books -- Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury. WWII through the eyes of a teenage Japanese-American who enlists and is eventually sent to a top-secret K-9 training facility where he and other Japanese-American troops are used as "bait" for dogs training for an invasion of Japan. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall. For budding Francophiles -- The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik. All available from All for Kids.
Izilla Toys carries wooden Labyrinth games from Brio. Izilla owner Jude LaRene raves that the games appeal especially to "parents who thought they would never get their kids off the video games."
Other fun choices: Tip Over by Think Fun, Crafty Badger by Haba and the award-winning Princess and the Pea game from Winning Moves Games, all available at White Horse Toys.
Books -- Out and About with Kids by Ann Bergman and Virginia Smyth will give families many ideas on activities available in the Seattle area. Available at All for Kids.
Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.
Our Gift Gurus
All For Kids Books and Music
- Owner Chauni Haslet has been interviewed on National Public Radio regarding her book suggestions for kids. Her charming store is located just north of University Village at 2900 N.E. Blakeley St., Seattle, 206-526-2768. Check out www.allforkidsbooks.com for upcoming readings by nationally acclaimed authors.
- Ballard's Clover Toys is a charming children's store specializing in classic, European and handmade toys, room accessories and clothing. Owner Sarah Furstenberg is the mother of two boys, ages 8 and 11, who are often available on site to help customers find gifts that actual kids will really enjoy. 5335 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle, 206-782-0715, or www.clovertoys.com.
- Family owned Izilla Toys is in a house with a fenced yard where kids can play. Find it at 2840 E. Madison, Seattle, 206-322-TOYS.
- Issaquah's Gilman Village is home to Lilypad Books, where children are always welcome to play while parents browse an amazing array of books for infants through teens. Free story times offered every week. 317 N.W. Gilman Blvd. #40, Issaquah, 425-391-2758 or www.lilypadbooks.com.
Merry Go Round
- In its new location across from Overlake Hospital in downtown Bellevue, Merry Go Round offers a wide array of everything you need for babies and toddlers including toys, furniture and stylish diaper bags. 1014 116th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, 425-454-1610 or www.merrygoroundkids.com.
White Horse Toys
- White Horse Toys offers a huge array of fabulous items including over 17,000 educational toys and puzzle and toy games for kids. Located in Gilman Village, the store's staff is happy to wrap your gift for free and offer great gift suggestions. 317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., #13, Issaquah, 425-391-1498 or www.whitehorsetoys.com.