Dec 7, 2010
Here is a transcript of a conversation I overheard at the playground a few days ago:
Mom A: “I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping yet. What are you getting little Janey Jane for Christmas?”
Mom B (who is sincerely sweet, always looks amazing, whose children are little angels, and who is apparently very well-organised): I finished all my shopping, and little Johnny John’s presents are all wrapped and hidden away until Christmas.”
If you lie somewhere between Mom A and Mom B and are looking for gift suggestions for your own or other children, you’re in luck! Here are some just-waiting-to-be-wrapped-and-put-under-the-tree ideas that might appeal to you.
If they’re toys you’re after, look no further than Petit Chou in London W1, an itsy bitsy toy shop that could’ve been plucked from a scene in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, packed wall-to-wall with wonderful toys. Some of my favourites in the shop include the life-size abacus, wooden shape and size sorters, and the perfectly tuned xylophone. For those of you not in London, Petit Chou offers worldwide shipping.
More of my current favourite toys – ahem, I mean my son’s – are Crazy Forts!, Magical Menagerie and the oldies, but always so goodies, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads. Thank you Toy Story 3 for reminding us how fantastic blank spud canvases can be. Nowadays, munchkins can enjoy Star Wars, Transformers, doctor, princess, and pirate taters, among several others. Another great gift idea is yarn. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yarn. I surprised my son with a skein of the stuff a couple weeks ago, and this yarn has been played with more than any other toy in his possession. The yarn “chased” him around the sofa and up the stairs, weaved inside his playhouse “like a tornado”, was a “rescue rope” to the knights in the castle and served as the “crazy water” that Buzz Lightyear was trying to swim across. Just today, he and a friend entertained themselves playing tug of war with the now-mangled skein. Please note that if you do decide to give the amazing gift of yarn, any playing with it by little ones should be supervised as it can be a choking hazard. (Most of these toys are available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.)
Ikea is a fantastic place to shop for toys to put under the Nordmann Fir. My son received the Titta Djur finger puppets as a gift for his first Christmas and continues to play with them to this day. Other great ideas are the Speja tunnel, the Mula shape sorter, the Måla easel, the Korall Anemon tent, and the Duktig fruit and vegetable baskets. (All of these gifts, save the easel, are available on both ikea.com and ikea.com/gb.)
If your toddler is anything like my little drama king, he or she may enjoy impersonating you and other adults. Knock knock, self-expression, are you in there? It’s me, the toddler. In our home, there is no shortage of self-expression during dress-up time. Our talents for using a pillow case, a scarf, and three mix-match socks deserve some sort of accolades at the Grand Garb Gala. If you think your tot might enjoy dressing up as Captain Hook, Cleopatra, Sleeping Beauty, or Incredible Hulk, then look no further than Angels Fancy Dress Shop. (Costumes are available online, and Angels ships worldwide, or you can visit their shop in Leicester Square or their outlet shop in North London.)
For a bookworm, I know just the place to go – the Oomphalos Bookworms Bookshop! Most of the books are for children under five; although I’m not under five, and I’d gladly read any of them. My little guy’s current favourites seem to be any books with superheroes and pirates, any books that pop up and A Christmas Carol. He has perfected his rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge saying “Bah Humbug”, followed by a very joyful version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. Perplexed, I ask him if Scrooge’s mood changed due to an eggnog latté or because he learned that he was impervious to any comeuppance for being stingy with the tuppence. He looked at me strangely, walked away and started singing “Jingle Bells”.
About a year ago, my little fella received a subscription to National Geographic Kids, and this really is the gift that keeps giving. Every month, we are beside ourselves with glee when we get this little piece of edutainment in the mail. There are also several additional subscription possibilities, such as Highlights for Children, Sports Illustrated Kids, and Ladybug.
Does your child somehow know the difference between a Bordelaise and a Bourguignon sauce? Well then, you might want to think about putting a gift certificate for Divertimenti’s Growing Gourmets classes under the Christmas tree. Classes include Dinky Dim Sum Dinners for 5-9 year-olds, Small Fry Wok Masters for 10-14 year-olds, and Easter Bunny Baking for both groups. Kitchen Kid in Southern California offers Tot Chef courses for 3-5 year-olds and their grown-ups, and Growing Up Gourmet classes for the older kids. And why not give your BFF the gift of the “Mom’s Night Off”, when parents head out for the night and leave their children to cook a fantastic dinner for themselves.
Your offspring, niece, nephew, or other child who somehow made it on the “nice” list this year not showing signs of being a foodie fanatic? Might I suggest the gift of learning to sew with Homemade London’s Children’s sewing course? It’s a six-week course of fun workshops for 8-12 year-olds. While you’re at it, sign yourself up for one of their signature scent-making or lingerie-making courses (fun and bubbly included!). There are similar classes offered throughout the United States, including A Needle Pulling Thread courses in New York. Detect a gardening guru in your sprout? The amazing Little Saplings in Santa Monica, California offers gift certificates for classes that teach little ones the principles of organic gardening, planting techniques, composting and simple garden design.
And for those of you living in London W1, Small Beginnings, Twinkle Stars Ballet School and Jojo’s Sing Along A Song For Fun all offer gift certificates to classes. Which grandparent, aunt or uncle wouldn’t be delighted to give a little one the gift of learning ballet, to play football or have oodles of fun!
Or, how about gift memberships to museums or zoos? In London, the London Zoo and the Natural History Museum offer gift memberships, and the Science Museum offers an explorer ticket which includes an IMAX film, Legend of Apollo, Fly 3D, a guidebook and a donation to the museum. In Southern California, the Natural History Museum , Discovery Science Center, Aquarium of the Pacific, and the San Diego Zoo offer gift memberships. Often, toddlers are free, but if you plan to go to certain attractions with your toddler, you will need a membership (so even though the toddler is the recipient of the gift as he /she will have a chance to go to the museum, the gift membership is usually in the name of the parent, aka the chaperone extraordinaire). In New York, you can purchase an all-inclusive gift membership to the Bronx, Central Park, Prospect Park and Queens zoos, as well as the New York Aquarium. Or, you can give the lucky recipient a Metropolitan Museum of Art or American Museum of Natural History membership.
Now, about that “Mom’s Night Off” gift…