Alpha Mom Holiday Gift Guide 2012
We have been testing out toys and games for the past several months, and together with my personal recommendations for other gifts have compiled a list for inspiration this holiday season.
Gifts for Young Ones
1. Baby Literature Board Books (aka BabyLit). These are a great set to gift to any infant or toddler. They are fun and witty and the illustrations are fabulous. Since our initial review, they have added A Christmas Carol and Dracula to the BabyLit series.
2. Roll & Play Board Game: This “first board game” received an outstanding review from our Yay to the Nay contributor Ilana and readers as well. It’s perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers, aged 2+.
3. I Never Forget A Face Memory Game: This memory card game can be adapted to be played as a matching game with younger children. Ilana and her young daughter loved it, as did my son and I when he was younger.
4. The Picnic Game: Even though this game is recommended for children ages 5+, our contributor Ilana’s almost-three-year old loves it. My son was also younger than 5 when we enjoyed it regularly. It’s a great board game to play on the floor.
5. Feed The Kitty: My son and I loved this roll-the-dice game and we traveled with it often when he was younger (we would just take the dice and pieces with us in a ziploc). Ilana and her three-year-old didn’t seem to like it as much (that may be because of her younger age) but it eventually grew on them. I definitely would recommend it for the 4-5 year olds in your life. Read the full review here.
6. Beginner Floor Jigsaw Puzzles by Crocodile Creek: after testing out a few different ones, Ilana decided that her favorite maker of floor jigsaw puzzles for her young daughter is Crocodile Creek. They are more expensive than the others on the market, but she thinks it worth it. They have lots of designs from which to choose. Here’s the full review of beginner floor jigsaw puzzles.
7. Magna-Tiles: they are the piece de resistance. This is by far my favorite toy in the whole wide world and Ilana and her daughter agree about their awesomeness. Unfortunately, Magna-Tiles are pri-cey! Yeah, this is a big investment, but totally worth it in my opinion. This is a toy that if my 9 year old stumbles upon, will continue to play. So, I recommend starting to buy tiles when young and then add and add to the collection. So worth it. Also, a bit of trivia for you… last year, there was a total run on Magna-tiles (there was even an article about it in the Wall Street Journal). They are produced in one factory in Indonesia which had been flooded in our early autumn, thereby halting production for the holiday season. Boom, the only way you could find them was in the auction market on eBay. But, it looks like supply issue has been fixed. Those prices you’re seeing on Amazon? Yep, regular price. I know.
8. Legos: every one loves Legos. I agree Legos are awesome, even if they hurt like a mutha—- when you step on ’em when barefoot. Because of the small pieces, regular Legos are not recommended for young ones. But, there’s a line called Duplo where the pieces are bigger and therefore safer. To read more about introducing Lego to your child, here’s some fun and useful advice from last week.
Gifts for School-Aged Kids
1. Board Games: our contributor, Wendi and her sons spent weeks playing a whole bunch of board games and then sharing their opinions. Their favorites: Blokus, Spot It, Qwirkle, and Apples to Apples Jr. Even though they had some difficulty figuring out how to play SET, it’s one of my favorite games and our readers’ too. So, I definitely recommend SET and it makes a perfect stocking stuffer, too.
2. Legos: yes, definitely Legos. Don’t know which set to buy? Our long-time contributor Amalah thinks that you should start with the Lego Creator or the Lego City sets before jumping into the branded/licensed set options which tend to be more expensive. If you are shopping for a Lego master, I think the holidays are a perfect time to gift the more difficult and expensive (but also more awesome) Lego Architecture sets. My son and I worked on Fallingwater a couple of years ago and he found it to be a refreshing challenge.
3. LeapPad2: I struggled whether or not to include the LeapPad2 on this list since Ilana’s review was not a “Yay.” Ilana admits herself that part of her family’s frustration with touchscreen learning tablets has been their daughter’s long-term use of the iPad. Nevertheless, Ilana concluded that she was going to continue to help her daughter transition to the LeapPad2. Here’s the full review of the LeapPad2 so you can decide for yourself.
Stocking Stuffers for Kids & Adults
1. Cool Typography Pencils: I’ve always loved monogrammed pencils. These take it to the next level with inside jokes (like classic rap verses and Twin Peaks memories) and inspirational, but witty sayings. One Up Designs seems to have the largest selection, but Patch NYC has less irreverent sets. (Last year I gave my son and husband pencils with the sayings of our Family Manifesto on them).
2. Breakdancing Plastic Figures: inspired by the classic green army men plastic toys, these breakdancing b-boy and b-girl plastic figures are my kind of toy. Don’t fight, dance. You can get a small set for $1.95 or invest in a 20-pack bag for $29.95.
3. Personalized Photo Notepads from Pinhole Press: every year, I make a bunch of photo notepads for the family. My husband’s is always a stocking stuffer and this year I’m making one for my son to. I loved stationery as a child and think it’s time that my 9 year old gets one, too. Here’s an explanation of how I designed the personalized photo notepads.
Instant Crowd Pleasers
1. DVD Box Sets: yes, my husband and I gift lots of box sets of DVDs to our adult family members during the holidays. We just love to share our favorite TV show picks. Here are some recent faves: Friday Night Lights (5 seasons): which ended its TV run last year may be my favorite show of all time. Game of Thrones: seasons 1 & 2 are on DVD, and season 3 will be on TV next year. This series is like Gladiator meets The Tudors. There’s lots of violence and it’s very risque– wow. Downton Abbey, like GoT is about to start its third season on television in the US, unless you want to go ahead and buy the UK version which is already available for sale. Downton Abbey is ultimately a soap opera but because it’s set in the UK during the first quarter of the 20th century and it co-stars Maggie Smith, you totally forget and forgive. Homeland is currently airing its second season and is a great gift for anyone who liked 24. There’s Luther which is another BBC import, starring one of the most Beautiful Men in the World, Idris Elba. If your giftee liked Law & Order, well Luther is 100 times grittier and just brilliant.
2. Books: are always a great gift. Here are some of my favorites from the past year or so that I recommend to adult giftees: Rules of Civility, Gone Girl (whatta page turner), Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Happier at Home, and Sh*tty Mom. For a cookbook choice I love Mark Bittman’s new How to Cook Everything: The Basics (with 1,000 Photos). It’s a fantastic reference guide and includes wonderful recipes.
3. Heirloom US State/Country Cutting Board: I have been coveting this for years, so that is why it is on the list. Isn’t it an interesting gift and conversation piece? There is a two-week lead time. The US State cutting boards have been around on gift guides for a while now. But now they make some international country versions, too!
4. Voz geometric wooden bangle: earlier this year I was gifted a Voz wooden bangle by the nice folks at Wantist. And, I fell in love. These wooden bracelets have a cool geometric design in a bright color and are a fantastic price. You can peruse the offerings or order a custom one for the same price. There’s a sale through November 27 and I plan on picking up some more for myself and to gift.
5. Lego Cufflinks: a couple of Father’s Days ago, I recommended custom made Lego cufflinks. They are constructed from Lego minifigures and they are so funny. They come in lots of different themes like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It’s the perfect touch for any man-child or just a mature dad who wants to show some Lego solidarity with his kid.
Delish & They Ship
Here are some of my favorite sweet things. Luckily they are all available for shipping.
1. Lady M Mille Crepes Cake: this is my favorite cake in the whole world. This world-famous cake (it really is; Google it) features twenty paper-thin handmade crepes layered with fresh light pastry cream. It’s heavenly and is a total splurge. If you or your gift recipient live in the tri-state area, there are two Lady M outposts for you to visit or call. If not, there’s shipping available. This cake must stay and served chilled, so make sure your gift recipient is not off on a trip when the package is sent.
2. Baked By Melissa cupcakes are the size of a quarter and perfect to send as gifts or serve at a party, especially since the the bite-size means no cupcake wrapper of which to dispose. It’s the perfect gift to send to a family or an office.
3. Macarons by Dana’s Bakery: in the US it seems like 2012 was the year of the macaron. My fave is by Dana’s Bakery which adds surprise flavors (like Fruity Pebbles, Jelly Donut and Cookie Dough) to its artisanal macarons. With one taste, it’s clear that Dana’s Bakery takes its craft seriously. Fun!
4. Vosges chocolates: if your gift recipient loves chocolate, you will not disappoint with Vosges. There are lots of different chocolate gift packages to choose from, at varying price points. Me? I love the chocolate bars and the caramel marshmallows.
Okay, I’m going to have a slice of leftover Lady M Mille Crepe cake now (I ordered a big cake for Thanksgiving dinner).