This year, our holiday shopping comes with a twist: Stretched budgets mean we want gifts with real staying power; tough, well-made toys that kids will reach for again and again. We asked a few local gift gurus for their faves, and tossed in a few of our own! Read on for the toys, games and books that shine this season.
JelliBee Baby. Give a gift a new parent will actually use: a supercool bib made from machine-washable vinyl-covered organic cotton, a chic wipe clutch or petite clothing hangers.
Pylones Maracas. Made of baby-safe plastic resin and decorated with animals and fairies in bright colors. Babies love the bold, stimulating designs and gentle shaking sound of the beads inside. $16 (Clover)
Tree Blocks. A set of smooth baby-safe blocks made from tree branches. $20 (Clover)
Earthentree rattles. Beautiful wooden baby rattles from a Kirkland-based company. $16 (Earthentree.com)
Books for baby
City Animals by Simms Taback
Hidden Hippo by Joan Gannij and Clare Beaton
Barnyard Bath, a waterproof version of Barnyard Dance, by Sandra Boynton
Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
In My Den and In My Nest by Sara Gillingham
Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett
For a new parent
Itsabelly’s Guide to Going Green with Baby by Jennifer Lo Prete and Melissa Moog. Packed with mom-tested tips on eco-friendly and safe baby gear, and great tips on how to “go green” with your baby.
TODDLERS TO KINDERGARTENERS
Market Teepees for Kids. Colorful cloth teepees that are kid-pleasing, safe and easy to fold and store, available at the Pike Place Market for $45 or online for $55.
I Can Do That! Games. A great line of board games that make learning fun, including Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It ($17), Dr. Seuss Super Stretchy ABCs Game ($17) and Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo Game ($20). (Top Ten Toys, Greenwood; Magic Mouse Toys, Pioneer Square)
Georello Jungle by Quercetti. Set gears atop base pieces, top with animals and you’re set to spin. $18.50 (Teri’s Toybox, Edmonds)
Robot Zot! by Jon Scieszka
Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems
Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
Zelda and Ivy: Keeping Secrets by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Once Upon a Picture by Sally Swain
The “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” series by Mary Ann Hoberman and Michael Emberley
Eye Can Art kits. An art class in a can, including instructions and materials, created by three Seattle artists/moms. Check out their newest offering: the Book-in-a-Box kit. $24 (Izilla Toys, Capitol Hill and Wallingford)
Melody Harp by Trophy Music. Just slide a song sheet under the strings of the beautiful Melody Harp, follow the dots with the pick and wow — you’re playing music! $39.99 (Bellevue Art & Frame, Bellevue)
Origami paper. Unlimited creativity for just $5–$15. (Uwajimaya in the International District, Renton and Bellevue)
Erector Sets. Classic building sets provide endless options for creative building. $10.49–$37.49 (Teri’s Toybox)
Mama K’s Aromatic Play Clay. Gluten-free natural alternative to Play-Doh in fabulous colors, each with a wonderful, relaxing scent. $4.50 per tub or $22 for a five-color set (Clover)
Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo
The Gecko & Sticky: The Greatest Power by Wendelin Van Draanen
Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
NERDS: National, Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society by Michael Buckley
The Joy of Origami by Margaret Van Sicklen
Show; Don’t Tell! Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso
TWEENS AND TEENS
Terracycle’s supercool upcycled products, including pencil cases and messenger bags made from recycled drink pouches. (Target and terracycle.net)
Wire and Bead Art Kit by Arterro. Unique mobiles, interesting ornaments and fantastical sculptures come to life with a generous mix of beads and glass marbles, and high-quality jewelry wire. $15.99 (Bellevue Art & Frame)
Gift card for a great new bike from Gregg’s Cycle in Green Lake or Bellevue.
Tween + Teen Books
The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists by Sean Connolly
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Start to Knit by Alison Dupernex
Bananagrams. The travel version of an anagram Scrabble-like game in its own banana bag. $16 (Bellevue Art and Frame)
300-plus-piece puzzles by Ravensburger. Heavy-duty pieces, sturdy construction and beautiful pictures. Great for all ages. $12.49 (Teri’s Toybox)
Give to others together
You can teach your kids about compassion and the true joy of giving by donating to one of ParentMap’s 2009 Giving Together partners.
Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer.
Cutest tutu ever. Snohomish-based Bee Bops & Lollipops makes a gorgeous tutu, perfect for wearing to The Nutcracker or to dance around the house. $80.
You can win a toddler-size “divine elegance” tutu. To enter, email us by Dec. 15 at email@example.com; be sure to put “tutu” in the subject line.