I have in years past been quite reluctant to do a toy guide, mostly because I think the mommy bloggers out there are doing such a sensational job of it. But this year I had some pretty nifty ideas floated past me, and it got me thinking – if I am going to do a toy gift guide, what sort of toys would I feature? The long and the short of it is, I’m a lo-fi person when it comes to toys. I’d much rather gift a tot with a battery-free, plastic-free item than the latest whiz bang gadget they’ll grow out of. To me, the most special toys are the ones that capture a child’s imagination, rather than capsize it. These are the types of toys I grew up with, and I feel like they encouraged me to explore my creativity – a skill that obviously serves me very well up to this very day. With that in mind, here are five magical, imagination-inducing gift ideas for your favourite little ones.
Nursery Rhyme 28-Block Set – $37 @ Uncle Goose
You’ll see me mention a few gift ideas this holiday season that are in my ‘hall of fame’ for the holidays list, and these colourful building blocks are totally deserving of that honour. Made from real wood, each one of these blocks features a classic Mother Goose nursery rhyme and two images related to the micro-story. A great educational gift for the younger set that also invites the giftee to build to their heart’s content. Totally precious.
Crayola Digital Light Designer – $49.99 @ Toys “R” Us
Create your own digital art with this amazing 3D canvas. Kids can use the included stylus to create their own video game-inspired designs, with fun extras like animations, spinning movement, and activity challenges to keep them occupied. It’s probably the most digital you’ll see this particular toy list get, but it’s certainly not lacking in creativity.
Constructive Eating – $6.95+ @ Applause Toys
Forget the old idiom of ‘don’t play with your food’ – sometimes that’s exactly what kids need to scoop every last bit of nutrient-rich veggies and other not-so-’fun’ foods into their bellies. This construction-themed set of utensils is great to set little minds racing as they shove food around on their plate in the best possible way. Of course, they’re also dishwasher-safe and are free from all the nasty bits you wouldn’t want near your mouth, let alone your child’s. Works as a stocking stuffer, or for your niece or nephew (parents shouldn’t bank on this being a winner if it’s the only gift you give your little one…)
Missoni for Holt Renfrew Stuffed Animals – $50 each
Legendary Italian design house Missoni has extended a charitable hand to Holt Renfrew this season by designing these two cute plush toys in their signature zig zag fabric. The twist? Every purchase will help fund Holt Renfrew’s goal of raising $100,000 this holiday season to support OrphanAid Africa. You can buy ‘em online or in-stores, giving your little sweetheart a slice of high fashion cuddliness, all for a good cause.
Little Tikes 2-Stage Grow With You Kitchen – $129 @ Toys “R” Us, Sears & Wal-Mart
Bestill my grown-up, cooking-loving heart. How adorable is this kitchen playset designed to grow up as your little one does? Set your toddler’s imagination on fire (as opposed to a real kitchen) with a lowered height, perfect for kids that are simply entranced by moving things around, and then stack it up for any boy or girl’s dream playhouse kitchen once they hit preschool age. Make the experience that much more real with electronic cooking sounds, and be sure to stock ‘em up with tons of fake play food so they can serve up ‘dinner’ for you the family.
World Repair Kit – $24.95 @ Serena & Lily
This literally is the gift that gives back. This all-in-one activity set includes a handy guidebook at some of the world’s key issues – including conservation, poverty, and protecting endangered species – as well as stickers, stamps, and a passport to track your child’s progress as they host fundraisers, raise awareness among their friends and family, and altogether just aim to make the world a better place. A stellar idea to get the kids off the couch this winter, and make a legitimate difference while they’re doing it. The price point makes it suitable for one of your many nieces and nephews or cousins. I should note, 100% of proceeds actually go to the Serena & Lily Foundation, which funds youth initiatives around the globe. So it’s really a charitable purchase that spurs on more charity!
Totally Me Totally Charming Bracelet Set – $19.99 @ Toys “R” Us
Girls get an appetite for gems at a young age – so why not indulge them by getting them to craft their own unique charm bracelet instead of shelling out for something off the shelf? This cute set includes two bracelets and thirty charms so she can mix and match to suit her mood or interests, plus she can share the second bracelet with a friend for a doubly sweet treat.
Pedal & Scoot Cars – $89+ @ Restoration Hardware Baby & Child
I don’t know why, but kids have an insane fascination with driving cars. Indulge their fantasies with these adorable retro-styled mini-vehicles available in both pedal and scoot modes, and dozens of styles including a vintage plane, fire truck, and le mans. Accessorize them to the nth degree with RH Baby & Child’s equally cute vintage racing set, including a leather cap and goggles. I smell a holiday photo op…
Rory’s Story Cubes – $11.99 @ Grand River Toys
Whoever said there are only seven ‘stories’ in the world, obviously never played with Rory’s Story Cubes, which promises 10,000,000 combinations of storytelling start-ups. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple for even the youngest one of your bunch to at least listen, if not contribute – simply roll the dice and combine the images to tell a wondrous story. No wrong answers, no points, just lots of imagination.
Deluxe Townhouse & Set Sails Pirate Ship Playset – $149.95 each @ Indigo
Gift the grandkids with a playhouse each of their own with these two whimsical playsets. The Deluxe Townhouse features a dozen rooms, three stories, three family members, and all the furniture you could ever need to launch a thousand made-up tales. If your giftee has their eyes on the high seas, they’ll love this pirate-themed play centre with crew members, ship materials, and a bounty of activity to be had!
Zipfy – $39.99 @ Retailers Nationwide
I like to call this the Canadian answer to the ‘little red wagon’. This lightweight mini-luge manages to be incredibly safe while packing a whole lot of fun into every slip and slide down your neighbourhood hill. It also allows you to carve the snow simply by leaning into it, so you can navigate around icy patches or bumps as you zip along. And of course, it comes in a bevy of colours so your kids can lay claim to their own…and wait, did I mention? These things are actually adult-friendly, so feel free to take a spin or twenty for yourself! Best of all, they’re available at tons of retailers across Canada, so it should be a snap for you to pick this one up.
Ready to unwrap a top toy pick and hit the slopes for yourself? You could win a Zipfy for yourself! Here’s how to enter:
1) Leave a comment by January 1st, 2013 with what your favourite toy gift idea featured in this post.
2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around December January 2nd to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.