Some gift ideas (ages 1-10 years)

I really love planning and choosing Christmas and birthday presents for my family, and I really love reading "gift guides" and other people's posts about their presents. However, I don't usually suppose that writing such a post of my own would be very useful, since I feel like my children are so . . . unique. :) Maybe we all feel that way about our children/families? Surely, I've thought, there aren't a ton of kids who like sprinklers as much as Sebby? But then, my little nephew seems to. And I know other kids like carwashes too, as proven by the fact that I found basic instructions for our carwash online. So I've started to think that maybe a gift idea post would be helpful to someone, if only to spark related ideas. And it's the perfect time of year for it, right? :) But on the upside, I do feel more confident talking about these presents after having seen how the kids responded to them.

So here you go. Our basic plan for gifts is this: each child gets 1-2 presents for his or her birthday, and 2-4 presents for Christmas. I shop for mostly everything online. And Sam is in charge of little things for the stockings. I don't worry about spending the same amount for every child or anything. I just find about three things I think they'll like (loosely, we do the "read/wear/play with" thing, but we're not wedded to it) and that's that.
Abraham (age 10) got this cash register. Sam thought it was too young of a toy (and indeed, the recommended ages are quite a bit younger) but Abe loves money---counting money, playing store and hotel, making signs about how much things cost etc.---so I knew he'd love it. And he does.

He also got a set of these construction magnets which we bought about seven years ago at a toy store going-out-of-business sale and have been saving until someone seemed responsible enough for them.
Seb (age 7) got this monkey puppet, which we all are in LOVE with. It has the cutest, most expressive little face---and the softest fur. Seb named it Oo-oo.

Sebastian's also currently obsessed with aerial trams, so he got this tram which was the ONLY toy one I could find anywhere. (And I couldn't find ANY books about trams at all!) It's not exactly a kid's toy (seems pretty fragile) but I knew he'd love it and it really runs along a string! Seb has been sleeping with it, he loves it so much. It takes patience to set it up, but this boy has patience.

Malachi (age 5) got these wings (he thinks he's a birdie, as you recall),

and these bunnies with this playset. He really loves playing with tiny animals---anytime we go to a toy store, he runs right over to the little animal playsets. We have a bunch of Schleich animals which he (and all the others) LOVE, but for some reason he just also really loves these bunnies when we've seen them. (Maybe he likes that they have clothes?) I wasn't sure these would keep his interest for long, but so far so good. Of course, this is a boy that will spend hours---really---flying a spoon around the house pretending it's a rocket, so he's easily entertained, I guess. I love to hear him narrating their little adventures as he hops the bunnies around. He doesn't really use the sandbox for them much---mostly he builds things for them (like roller-coaster rides) with blocks, and has them play on those.

Daisy (age 3) got the similar butterfly wings (they are a little big for her arms, but she doesn't mind) and this penguin book. I don't usually buy pop-up books (they always get ruined) but this one got good reviews, and she looooves it. Sam and I love reading it, too---it's really quite hilarious. So far Daisy has been really delicate and careful with it---the thing I'm worried about is Junie getting it. To guard against this, we have a rule that it always has to be put away on the higher bookshelf, but this rule is not being perfectly followed yet. :)  Maybe after a few dozen more times of Daisy having the book taken away for a day or two . . . ?

Her one joy in life
Junie (age 20 months) got this baby, which my friend said her daughter loved. Junie didn't really take to it right at first, but then she got sick a few days after Christmas, and started clinging to it like crazy. Now she cries plaintively for "Baaay-bee!" in the middle of the night, and she hugs it up under her chin, and she makes me kiss it for her every three minutes, so I think she is becoming attached. :)

Junie also got these touchable bubbles, which are pretty cool. I was worried about getting them, because the reviews are so mixed (some people say they work great; others say they don't work AT ALL), but we tried them out and they're fun! They didn't last for days like some reviewers said, but they do land unpopped on the floor and you can pick them up, or catch them midair. And when you do pop them, they just leave a sort of thin film that then rubs away---they aren't messy at all, and I can't imagine them staining anything, although we stayed on the kitchen floor just in case. Junie loves them.
I also made shirts for everyone again this year. (Can't believe it's been three years since I did it before! They all still wear their old shirts all the time, but they are getting too small and threadbare!) I would never attempt this if I didn't have Sam to design the animals for me. Here are his designs.
I always get so annoyed with Sam's illustration clients that make unreasonable demands at the last minute, but it turns out I'm no better than they are. ("Wow, that toucan looks great! Now could you just change him into a puffin for me?") Luckily Sam is patient and proficient (a winning combination) so he always comes through with something perfect. 

To make shirts, I just cut out and piece together the designs from different fabric scraps (I had some cute furs this year), simplifying where needed; then attach iron-on pellon, and zig-zag stitch around them onto T-shirts. Then sew on buttons, etc., for eyes. 
The "group present" this year was this little play tent. I found the instructions here. It's really, really easy to make. I used an old fitted sheet and made panels on the side (just to make it cuter) from some pieced-together flannel scraps. It's not fancy, but I knew it would be used for all kinds of adventures (even the older boys haven't grown out of pretend-play).


  1. So can I hire you (and Sam!) to help me get Christmas in line for 2013? I think you would have found such better toys for my kids than I did. And Gabe already wants me to order one of your animal shirts. A cheetah, perhaps? I will pay you.

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  3. So yes, it was a great thing you posted this. The cash register really interests me. And I think I might grab it against a few years from now, just so I have it when I need it. And I love the tent. Does it fall down easily, though? Because I can see Scooter crashing it and Andy getting smacked in the head. Hmm. Now the shirts - this is something I've been wanting to do for ages. Do you put stabilizer on the back of the shirt? Like the tear-away stuff? Or does the iron on stuff do for that? Gin spends so much on the Boden shirts, but yea - we could make our own SO dang easy. I've gotta do that.

    See? Inspired.

  4. K:the tent doesn't really fall over easily, but the pieces come out easily (like, the dowels along the bottom sides). So I guess it could fall down. It's pretty light so I don't think it would hurt anyone if it did come down (and Junie's been closed up inside it as someone's folded it to move it around, and she hasn't minded much). :)

    Yeah, and the shirts are really easy. The iron-on stuff stabilizes it plenty. It's the kind where you iron on the stuff (is it interfacing?) to the back of the animal shape--then peel off the papery part, leaving a kind of webby part--then turn over and iron the shape to the shirt itself. And then I zig-zag stitch around because the iron-on bond isn't super secure. All the pieces of the animal itself are stitched together beforehand. The old shirts have lasted remarkably well, so they're pretty sturdy.

  5. Marilyn,

    You inspire me. I love seeing what people get their kids!! When I can I schedule a visit to see that tent up close. I think it would be a major hit around here and didn't look too hard for me to convince my hubby to make for me. :)

    I'm glad Junie likes her doll. I agree that making suggestions is rife with anxiety as what if you make a suggestion, someone purchases it for their child, and that child doesn't like it?? Argh! So I'm much relieved.

    The shirts are awesome but totally out of my league. You are amazing. I also love that you and Sam tag-team the making of them. My favorite presents are the ones Timothy and I work on together. Though, to be honest, it is usually Timothy working on something and me watching with great admiration.

    Would love to get together sometime.


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