christmas tree hat

Holiday gift ideas 2011 (part 1)

4 December 2011

I had an early taste of holiday shopping this year when, at 11:45 pm after a full day of cooking and feasting, I hugged my Thanksgiving lingerers goodbye and drove off in the dark with my oldest son to GameStop’s Black Friday midnight opening (limited-edition Zelda Nintendo 3DS – don’t ask). As I stood shivering in the Ohio night, I was grateful that online shopping and my friendly UPS man Mike generally save me from malls, parking lots, crowds, out-of-stock items and sales tax.

But online shoppers do need extra time for shipping. I’ve been cramming to get my shopping done and to share my ideas with you. Last year I had separate posts for stocking stuffers, preschoolers and school-aged kids. I was trying to get everything in one supplemental list this year, but the holiday rush is well underway and I’m only halfway done. So here you go – part one of two!


Land of Nod – With the unbeatable combo of creative ideas, excellent prices and free shipping, Land of Nod is always a favorite stop for stocking stuffers. This year they have some of our favorites from last year such as gyro wheel ($4), spy glasses ($4) and flutophone ($5). But it pays to shop early – unfortunately they are already sold out of the Schylling head lamp I like – it’s also at Amazon, but shipping is steep).

Service bell ($6) – As long as this doesn’t make its way into my real kitchen, this is an amusing prop for kids playing restaurant or store. In the age of noisy electronic toys, the old-fashioned metallic ding of this bell is practically quaint. But one in the house is plenty.

Wooden slide whistle ($4) – Kids love the amusing sound effects they can make with slide whistles, and this wooden one is safe for little ones. For bigger kids, Grover-Trophy makes the colorful plastic slide whistles I mentioned last year as well as nice metal ones.

Robot claw ($7) – I love the these grabbers as a cool mechanical concept for kids, but my husband always points out that kids use them to terrorize younger siblings. I still can’t help giving them as gifts – they are fun. They also come in handy for when kids drop something behind the couch.

Bill Ding ($13) – I can’t help but smile at the whimsical concept and name of these wooden balancing clowns, which have been around since 1911. I am getting these for me as much as my kids this year and can’t wait to see if I can get one Bill to carry all eight of his friends. This is the best price I’ve seen for this toy.

5-inch pull-and-go school bus ($8) – One of our kids’ first and most treasured toys. This is Schylling’s 5-inch die cast bus; at Amazon, you can get the 8.5″ school bus, which has doors that open and a swinging stop sign on the side of the bus, for less than $10. But the smaller size is more portable.

Rosie Flo drawing/coloring books ($9) – These charmingly illustrated coloring books from British artist/designer Roz Streeten have clothing outlines to color, leaving blank the head and limbs of figures as well as the rest of the scene up to the child’s drawing imagination. Land of Nod is also featuring these books this year, but I recommend buying at Amazon since the Rosie Flo books are among Amazon’s ongoing 4-for-3 promotion. You’ll find many paperback books at Amazon are eligible for the promotion, but with animal, garden and kitchen versions, you could fill up on a Rosie Flo collection.

Sound machine ($13) – My kids find endless uses for this collection of 16 sound effects, including laughter, applause, burp, boing and glass breaking – it’s like having a cartoon sound track in the house. Sometimes it drives me crazy, but the amount of laughter it generates is well worth putting up with the gags.


Magna-Tiles ($50-120) – Sadly, my favorite even-cooler-than-Legos building toy is completely out of stock as flooding in Thailand has temporarily stopped production of this ingenious building toy. The manufacturer, Valtech, expects products to be available again early next year.

Twig ($33) – I think this year I’m going to try this colorful collection of wooden building pieces, which gets rave reviews. The one complaint is that the paint rubs off when wet, so don’t get these if you have little ones with a chewing fetish. The 72-piece set comes with a storage bag, hooray.

Snap circuits Jr ($21) – I’m just waiting for one of my kids to be interested in this fun, accessible introduction to electronics so that I can play with it myself. Pieces snap together easily on a grid, and with the 30 components kids can make dozens of projects, including a burglar alarm or a doorbell. A larger version ($39) has an AM radio among the possible creations.


Ezy Roller ($100) – Kids use their feet to propel this ingenious scooter/cart in S-curves. I like to encourage my little couch potatoes to get outside, and I’m excited to squeeze in and try it myself. Hopefully we have a less snowy winter so they can ride on the driveway. Watch the manufacturer’s video to see it in action.

Nerf Laser Tag ($60 for a pair) – Guns aren’t my top choice in toys, but I have to admit these laser guns are a great way to get the kids running around, indoors or out. Boy and girl cousins enjoy playing spy with these. Jakks makes a less expensive model ($27), but it’s a bit more complicated as kids have to wear an arm target that is attached to the laser gun.

Hope this helps ease your holiday load. Back soon with part two.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

linda 7 May 2012 at 6:17 am

Thanks for these toy recommendations. We are about to move back to the states after 5 years in Europe. Since toys are so expensive and a bit junky here, I’ve put off buying too many toys. I’m going to have a field day on Amazon when I get back. I’m looking forward to the Magna Tiles for the boys.


Lisa Yuen 19 June 2013 at 6:53 am

Thanks, CG! Buying 2 sound machines for friends’ kids today!


Lana 19 May 2014 at 9:20 am

Is that one of my mom’s Xmas trees on her head? Lol! I love all your recipes btw…


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