Monday, November 12, 2007

Toys for the Holidays: a list

Monday, November 12, 2007

Toys for the Holidays
Current mood: lazy

You know, one thing I just love to do is to shop for the boys. It's my retail therapy, I guess. I also love researching quality stuff, and then trying to get good deals. Every year I make a list of gift suggestions for the boys' birthdays and Christmas, for my own enjoyment and for any family members who are interested. It works out great because for me it is like window shopping with a purpose, and it also helps interested relatives choose gifts that I'll be just as pleased with as the boys are. Still however, my main suggestion to the relatives is to keep it simple and just contribute a little bit to the boys' savings accounts. If we start that habit early, the boys will never miss a bunch of gifts from the Grandparents and others.

In my last post I mentioned the boys' Christmas lists, and I'll clarify here that at this young age, I am still talking about MY list FOR them- they aren't really serious yet about having their own preferences. (I will rue the day when that changes, LOL!) It helps that we do not have TV channels, and thus their exposure to commercials is limited. I try very hard to keep my list pf purchases pretty simple each year- I do not want to get stuck in a rut with them expecting a large number of fancy gifts under the tree each year, nor a bunch of fad items that they will quickly tire of. I try to make every gift count. I hope I can keep this up, not only with my own list but by encouraging the rest of the family to do the same.

Anyway I thought it might be neat to share my planned gift list for each of the boys for Christmas this year, and some of my thoughts on the items I chose. These are all the items from parents and Santa (and from the pets, LOL- a family tradition). Perhaps it will help you find some unique, quality items that your little one will love! So, here's what will probably be under our tree- shh! Don't give it away! :)

For Littleman, 4 years old:
1) a set of rainbow wooden stepped counting blocks
- These will be great for building with, but I also plan to use them as a math manipulative in our homeschooling. They are classic, beautiful and NOT made in China. I think Littleman will enjoy making geometric designs and building structures for their hotwheels cars, pirate figures and animals.

2) a set of dominoes
- This is very basic, but Littleman has been asking for some and we do not have any. Plus, they are a great toy, both for setting up and knocking over, and for working on counting skills and matching. I don't know where this particular set is manufactered, but I think the safety risk is minimal. They are made of renewable bamboo, which is good for the environment.

3) a beeswax candlemaking kit
- This is a wonderful, simple activity that I know Littleman will enjoy. The beeswax is lovely to work with- vibrant colors, and it smells so good! Excellent activity to stimulate the senses and work on fine motor skills. He will be excited to make candles to burn and to give away. Plus, this kit is made in the USA!

4) 2 books- he is getting "Giving Thanks" and "First Encyclopedia of the Human Body"
- The first is a beautiful book with a peaceful, earth-centered tone that encourages children to find gratitude for the beauties around them. The illustations are lovely. I think this will be both an enjoyable read and a good reminder to cultivate gratitude in our daily lives.
The second is a fantastic non-fiction volume on the human body. We have other books in this Usborne series ("First Encyclopedia of. . ."), and they are great- Littleman enjoys them and learns a lot from them, and I do not expect we will outgrow them anytime soon. He is always interested in what's going on inside our bodies, so I think this book will interest him a lot.

5) probably a scooter, since he has been wanting one so much.
- I am struggling with this, because we don't want to spend a lot on it- he already has a bike he loves, and I don't expect the scooter to be played with all the time. However, finding an inexpensive scooter that is NOT made in China is proving near impossible. If I cave and buy one made in China, we'll probably get this Radio Flyer scooter. Otherwise, I'm not sure what we'll do about this. A scooter sure would bring that magic Christmas morning smile to his face, though! :)

For his stocking, he'll have some pirate band-aids, rainbow crayons, animal crackers, stickers, beginner chopsticks, a little build-your-own bird feeder kit, a Namits game, and some underwear.

That does it for Littleman.

For Mr. Sweetcheeks, 2 years old:
1) a large set of rainbow wooden arches
- These are another beautiful, classic toy with lots of opportunity for open-ended imaginative play. I know Sweetcheeks will love stacking them and making tunnels for their other toys to play in, and I look forward to seeing what else he comes up with! They can combine well with other stcking/building toys that we already have (and with Littleman's blocks, above). NOT made in China. :)

2) a natural wooden name train
- These are made in the USA, and are completely compatible with the wooden tracks and accessories we already own. We have a couple train cars made by this company, and they are beautifully made. It will, of course, spell his name. He loves playing with the train table, so it's nice to be able to give him a train that's not made in China (unlike the Thomas train stuff, some of which has already been recalled).

3) a pad of drawing paper and some beeswax block crayons
- We already have some of these crayons, and they are awesome. They provide smooth, rich color and are easy to grasp. They're natural, and they smell nice. And best of all, they are nearly impossible to break- whereas we cycle through Crayola stick crayons (even the chunky ones) like crazy, these crayons last and last. Sweetcheeks will be happy to have his own set. By the way, some "cheapo" brand crayons have been recalled in the past, due to excessive amounts of lead. And kids do sometimes ingest crayons! These are NOT made in China.

4) 2 books- he is getting "Forest Bright, Forest Night" and "1001 Things to Spot on the Farm"
- The first book has very nice illustartions, with fun details to spot of animals in their natural habitats in the forest. First you read about animals that are awake during the day (and maybe spot other animals sleeping) and then you flip the book over and continue the story with all the animals that come out at night (and spot the day creatures now sound asleep).
The second is another Usborne book, with tons of things to hunt for in the detailed illustrations. It's sort of like the "Where's Waldo" series, but with a wide variety of things to find. I saw this book, and knew instantly that Sweetcheeks will enjoy it. Plus, every review I have read or heard about it has been stellar.

5) a Rody Pony ride-on toy
- These things are wonderful fun. Sweetcheeks can climb on the pony and bounce, bounce, bounce his way around! Classic, and very active- great for improving balance and gross motor skills. NOT made in China. Plus, it's sure to bring that magic Christmas smile! Sweetcheeks will be thrilled with this.

For his stocking, he'll have some pirate band-aids, bathtub crayons, animal crackers, stickers, beginner chopsticks, a wooden slide whistle, a "big boy" fork, spoon and knife set, and some socks.

That's it for Mr. Sweetcheeks.

For both boys together, there will be a foam set of knights' swords and shields accompanied by a book on Knights: "Knights"

- They will love this, and I will love that they can beat each other up with something fun and soft, rather than with hotwheels track, wooden train track, drumsticks or the hard plastic swords that Auntie gave them this weekend. (~sarcastic~ thank you, Auntie ~/sarcastic~). Plus it will encourage dress-up and imaginative play, while the book brings a little cool history into the picture. (It's another fantastic Usborne non-fiction book). I don't know where the sword set is made- probably China. Oh, well.

For new babyman, just born:
1) a set of rainbow wooden stacking/nesting bowls
- Once again (spotting a pattern here?) these are beautiful, classic, open-ended and NOT made in China. Stacking/nesting bowls are a superb baby toy- good for stacking and nesting, of course, but also for playing little hiding games, carrying around, putting things in and out, and later as an accessory to our play kitchen. Babyman will grow into these.

2) a board book: "Global Babies"
- This beautiful little book features gorgeous close-up photographs of babies from all over the world. (Babies LOVE looking at pictures of other babies!) It has simple, loving text but mostly it's about the pictures. Wonderful baby book.

And for his stocking, a HABA Zig-Zag wooden teether. (not made in China).


Wow, it always looks like a lot when I write it all down- but if you can envision Christmas morning, I think the boys will be very happy with these things without there being too much junk. I hope this list might give you some fun ideas for your own shopping!

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