These gift guides are a labour of love.
I start working on them by late summer, and slowly but surely piece together the things I think you and your child will love. Brands and retailers don’t pay to be part of this — I won’t let them. While I do let them send me goodies to consider, a good chunk of what you’ll see here are products or clothes or doodads that I bought myself and I feel like you need to know about. A few are items that are on my own kids’ wish lists this year.
This time around, you’ll see four distinct categories listed:
- Gifts for grownups
- Gifts for babies and toddlers
- Gifts for kids, ages 3-7
- Gifts for kids, age 6+
First off, yes. You’re going first this year, damnit. You’re the one paying for everything, so you should get first dibs. Enjoy.
Next, don’t get too hung up on ages; they’re there as guidance. Just because Monopoly is in one category doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be perfectly suitable for another (because whether you’re 8 or 80, Monopoly is bad-ass). Use your own good judgment.
Oh…and, I’m sorry moms of tweens and teens — I’m not there yet. I have no clue what your kids would be into. After you check out all of the categories below that fit your shopping list, you can head to Tweenhood for a tween gift guide or take Ketchup Mom’s Harry Potter gift advice; and if you’re shopping for tween boys or hockey players, TJZ Mommy has two lists for you.
And last, do your best to follow the direction of the numbers, which lead to corresponding descriptions within each section. It’s not exactly consistent. But I know you understand how exhausting life is with two small children, so I trust that you won’t judge me. And if you do, please know that I’m too tired to care. xo
Are you ready?
- Towel charms, US$29.95 for set of 5 — these cute little pewter (and rust-resistant) charms cleverly go on your family members’ towels so you’re not left drying off your body with someone else’s towel. We’d personally get the most use out of these during the summer when it’s pool party central around here.
- HP Social Media Snapshots sticky photo paper, US$9.99 per 25-pack — combined with the Social Media Snapshots app and the HP Envy printer (see No. 9), these fun little photo sheets have a Polaroid look with the sticking power of a Post-it Note on the back. They’re 4×5″ and you print right from your smartphone.
- Glama Gal bath bomb, about $3 — now, you might wonder why a tween spa’s product would land on the grownup list. Well, I implore you to try a single bath bomb and not steal them all from your children.
- Arbonne Cellular Renewal Masque, $78 — If you’ve got a big event or presentation or a date or reunion or any reason that your skin needs to look as close to perfect in all it’s youthful, dewy glory, this is the stuff of gods.
- Budstraps, US$9.95 — I just love these little guys, and so does Big B. They work well to keep your ear buds from tangling and if you need to take them out, they don’t do that unsightly dangly thing while you’re trying to look like a fox at the gym.
- Daniel Thompson Mineral Noël gift set, $75 — with $128 worth of products in this festive set, this is a great time to try a higher-end beauty brand. The Gilded Gloss #01 (worth $44 just on its own!) might just be my new favourite lip gloss for the holidays; it’s full of iridescent sparkle and will make you feel like Elsa. Without the freaky powers.
- Ste. Anne’s Skin Nourishment skin-care line, prices vary — during a recent Ste. Anne’s Spa retreat, I had the opportunity to try several of the spa’s new products. And I’m impressed. You know I’m a tad ingredient-crazy, so you’ll be glad to hear there was nothing (and I mean nothing) that raised a red flag. Ideal for skin that’s on the dryer side, the cleansing regimen is very gentle and straightforward. The standout product for me is the Gommage ($44), an exfoliating peel that you remove with your fingertips.
- Kat Burki Body Butter, Raw Sugar Scrub and Micro Firming Wand, US$62, US$48 and US$85 (respectively) — this gorgeous line is made primarily using high-quality cold-pressed oils (think coconut, rose hip, flax seed and evening primrose), and leaves your body feeling supple, hydrated and like a million bucks. The wand is one of the coolest little contraptions ever, and allows active anti-aging nutrients to penetrate deeper ; but the nerd in me loves that there’s no on/off switch: it uses ionic energy and automatically starts vibrating once it senses moisture — and automatically stops once the product is absorbed.
- HP Envy 5540 all-in-one printer, $129.99 — print the “normal” way from your computer or use your smartphone or tablet with this wireless printer. So easy to set up, HP now also offers a program called Instant Ink, which uses your printer’s built-in intelligence to tell HP when to ship you fresh ink (starting at $3.99/month).
- MONOPOLY 80th Anniversary Edition, $24.99 — I mean, hello!, it’s Monopoly, people. It’s a classic. If you don’t already own it, this version is so fun. The tokens look like those from the 1930s game all the way to the 2000s! There’s also a retro gameboard. Love this.
- Icebreaker socks, prices vary — I always buy my husband and kids socks at Christmas. Always. They’re the best stocking stuffer for that spot where the stocking curves around. And you can’t get better than Icebreaker to keep your tootsies toasty. Merino wool is temperature-regulating so you won’t be too hot or too cold.
- Tieks, starting at US$189 — if you haven’t heard me go on and on and on about my love affair with Tieks, then you need to read my blog and/or social media feeds more often. They are, hands down, my favourite shoes. That’s why I have five pairs. Besides, if they were one of Oprah’s favourite things, you know they have to be outstanding.
- Je suis une maman’s family calendar, $19.95 — you know how you need a family calendar that not only has an ongoing paper calendar to write on but also has a white-board attached to it for your week-at-a-glance? Yeah, that’s this calendar. And it’s awesome. Available in English or French (English link coming soon).
- preloved “Ryerson” unisex T-shirt, $34 — part of preloved’s 20th anniversary collection, this T is the ultimate in hipster comfort. Seriously, you have to feel this stretch jersey fabric…ultra-soft. Accented with reclaimed plaid flannel, the guy or gal in your life will love this shirt.
- ZCLIP Le Mans money clip, US$149.95 — it may be hard to believe that on a parenting site like this, the most-read-of-all-time post could possibly be a men’s money clip. But it’s true. And two-and-a-half years later, this is still Big B’s wallet and it’s still holding up beautifully.
- I Love Fawn necklace, $25 — that’s moss and a couple of tiny shells in that necklace! I love the unique design, I love that you could customize it (say, toss in a few Swarovski crystals?!) and I love the price. More of I Love Fawn’s jewelry and other one-of-a-kind artisan stuff can be found at the Craftadian Christmas Show on Dec. 5 and 6 in Hamilton
- Skechers “Feathers” booties, around $100 — so Skechers don’t actually come to mind when you think on-trend booties? It didn’t for me either, until these landed on my doorstep. They’re cute, great quality and fit really well; not to mention they were quite comfortable right out of the box. Pair with skinny jeans immediately. Speaking of which…
- Yoga Jeans, $150+ — I recently bought my first pair of Yoga Jeans (the high-rise skinny), and I’m in lurve. They’re figure-flattering and I actually feel like I have supermodel legs when I wear them. TIP: Buy one size down because they do give after a couple hours of wear.
- Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo, $49.99 — singing, learning, dancing. Does it get any better? Baby will love the bright lights and sounds. You’ll love being able to record a favourite phrase and have BeatBo mix it into a catchy tune. Designed with a growing baby in mind, there are three learning modes that help this toy evolve with your child.
- Ty Beanies, $4+ — I don’t know what it is with these Beanies (and especially those Beanie Boos with the eerily huge eyes), but my kids love ’em.
- B. Toys Skipping Stone Stacking Toy, $11.99 — honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything from the B. Toys line (the Symphony in B. was a fan favourite around here forever), and this is simply a traditional stacker made to look really cool.
- Goodnight Moon, $9.99 — my favourite children’s book of all time, I still recite by rote each line to my children in the quiet dark as they’re drifting off. A classic that should be in every baby’s library.
- LEGO Duplo, prices vary — if you have a toddler, you need Duplo. It’s great for fine-motor development and they’ll spend hours playing with it (or at least what feels like hours because they spend less than a minute doing everything else).
- Playskool STACK ‘N STOW Cups, $11.99 — what makes this stackable toy great isn’t just that cute little lion face; it’s that the cups can be stowed for easy, on-the-go playtime. Restaurants, friends! This is screaming restaurants!
- weehaa Wee Spill Waterproof StarWars bib + Wee Drool Waterproof StarWars Drool Bandana, $14 + $12 (respectively) — designed and hand-crafted in Canada, these are the definition of adorbz. weehaa will also be at the Craftadian Christmas Show.
- Lulla Doll, $99.95 — this thing is HOT. I mean H-O-T. It’s got au naturel mamas just as excited as the ones into luxury baby goods, and with good reason: this unisex doll plays a real-life recording of the breath and heartbeat of a mother at rest. All designed to to help babies to stabilize their own breathing and heartbeat — in turn improving sleep overall.
- Playskool FOLD ‘N GO Busy Elephant Blue, $29.99 — this is like a portable play mat, tummy-time mat and tactile toy all rolled into one. Oh, and it’s machine washable, too.
- Wash with Water, $12.99+ — these baby products’ ingredients blow me away. So natural and no hidden chemicals disguised as perfumes or preservatives. I’m ultra-impressed with the certified organic Barenaked Baby Doll Shampoo + Body Wash ($26.99) in particular.
- Buttermilk Babies Smarty Pants pack, US$45 — this gender-neutral bamboo swaddle set includes a constellation pattern on one that my inner-nerd totally loves. This is one of just a handful of products on Mommy Gearest that has earned a 5/5 rating!
- Cloud b’s Cuddly Comfeez Twilight Turtle, $65 — make no mistake: this guy is HUGE. My almost five year old would have no problem lounging in it to read a book, but truth be told, it’ll be my seven year old who claims this for himself since it will inevitably remind him of “Tut-Tut.” That’s the name he gave to his beloved Twilight Turtle classic night light.
- The Buoy Company’s Anchor System, US$85 — alright, this should probably be in the grownups section, because it’s really going to save YOUR sanity, but I put it here because introducing it to your school-aged kids and getting them on the path of organization and independence is so important. This set comes with the over-the-door hangers, drawers, two activity bags, one water bottle, days-of-the-week magnets and several activity magnets to help you keep track of library day, soccer practise, sleepovers and so on. I’ll have a full review in the new year, but so far I absolutely love this thing.
- My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Collection Sweet Apple Acres Barn Playset, $29.99 — yes, that’s a long name. A very, very long name. But break out the Granny Smiths and have ye a darn-tootin’ picnic, y’all! Two ponies and 13 accessories equal a heap of fun.
- Lalaloopsy Tinies Jewelry Maker Set, $39.99 — so you put the little beads in each of the ferris wheel tea cups and as your child spins it round and round, it strings the jewelry together for you. Ta-da!
- Lori 6″ doll and Lori Go Everywhere Convertible Car, $19.99 and $39.99 (respectively) — Lori is, like, super-fashionable and comes with an awesome outfit and kickin’ accessories; plus, she drives this totally awesome car, which has a working radio!
- PLAY-DOH Pizaa Party Playset, $16.99 — “Party! Pizza Party!” (Please tell me you get the reference.) Miss Q is a ginormous PLAY-DOH fan. As in, she wakes up asking to pull out the PLAY-DOH. And there’s something about the sets that make it so much more fun. Last year, it was cupcakes. This year? Pizza.
- Anything from Wheat Canada, prices vary — seriously, I just can’t get enough of this brand. The clothes fit and wash like a dream, and they’re so stylish without being cutesy or too matchy-matchy. From basics like socks and underwear to holiday-wear to the best kids’ snowsuits in town, you can’t go wrong.
- Disney FROZEN Sing-a-Long Elsa doll, $59.99 — I know I’m going to regret it. I just know I will. But Miss Q has begged and begged for this doll ever since she saw a commercial for it last month. (Damn commercials!) But it will be really neat to see Elsa and Miss Q do a duet, especially since this doll knows where you are in the lyrics.
- Chirp Magazine subscription, $34.95 per year — my kids’ great-aunt has been getting them Chirp (and Chickadee) Magazines for years, and they just love them. Filled with age-appropriate reading, activities, games and craft ideas, it’s not uncommon to see my bambinos leafing through the pages and marvelling at a new joke or a cool craft.
- American Girl’s 2015 Girl of the Year, Grace, $120 — so, yeah, the bigger dolls aren’t really recommended before age 8 but Miss Q has a couple and I just have them sitting on her shelf up high looking all pretty and I take them down when I’m with her so we can play (nicely) with them together. I know there are cheaper 18″ dolls, but none of them have faces like American Girl.
- Anything from Hape, prices vary — these natural, non-toxic wood-based toys and crafts always get my gear of approval. You’ll pay a little extra for the stuff but it’s very high quality and you don’t ever have to worry if your kid licks the paint.
- LeapPad Platinum, $139.99 — I have to be completely honest: I’ve never liked the LeapPad. Until now. This version is smarter, more interesting, more adaptable, more bespoke for your child than ever before. No more having to buy hard-copy games — everything is downloadable. The touch screen is more sensitive, and the device knows when another one is in the same room and they can interact.
- LEGO StarWars Snowspeeder, US$9.99 — this microfighter makes the perfect stocking stuffer. Small but mighty, it comes with two missiles and a mini cockpit in which the included Snowspeeder Pilot can sit.
- Qixels, $14.99-29.99 — calling all Minecraft fans! Forget screen time, and get building pixelated creations at home using water fusion. Use included stencils or let your child’s imagination run wild.
- DohVinci Jewelry Tree Kit, $16.99 — it’s PLAY-DOH for bigger kids, and this set will have your little fashionista creating a jewelry stand for all of her fabulous bracelets and necklaces.
- The Trash Pack, from about $10+ — “Trashies!” The K Man nearly screams when he sees them. I’m not sure why little rubber globs of personified garbage are selling like hotcakes, but they are.
- Project MC2 doll, $16.99 — this is McKeyla McAlister, and she’s both sophisticated and super-smart. And proud of it. She loves science and math, and she’s part of a Netflix original series so you know she’s gonna be BIG. I almost forgot: she’s also an undercover spy.
- Highlights books, prices vary — from joke books to brain teasers and puzzles, Highlights covers every niche for every age.
- LEGO Friends Pop Star Show Stage, $49.99 — with moving stage panels, a catwalk, speakers, drums and a keyboard, your little pop star is going to have a blast building this set and creating one awesome show after another. Includes two mini-figures and a couple of outfits they can share.
- Freshie Snow Scooter, $49.99 — this half-snowboard, half-scooter contraption will make winter funner than ever! And it folds for easier storage. (Funner is totally a word.)
- STARWARS Hero Mashers Battle Pack Action Figure Set, $29.99 — coming soon to a Canadian retailer near you, these figures can be mixed and matched with each other. Go for it: let Darth Vader sport Luke’s hands as his feet. I double-dog dare you.
- Underoos from Wheat Canada, $23 — is there anything better than an undershirt on a little kid? I think it’s the cutest, but it’s also practical because it keeps their core temperature warm in the cooler months. Paired with boyshort-style or boxer-brief underwear in both girls’ and boys’ sets, these are a huge hit at our house.
- Ever After High dolls, from $20 — last year, it was Monster High. This year, it’s Ever After High. Meet the descendants of some of your most beloved fairytale characters, who just happen to come with fabulous clothes and amazing accessories.
- StormTrooper PJs, $8.99 — I can’t link to these PJs specifically because I picked them up at Winners. Considering The K Man was a StormTrooper for Halloween, I expect these to be a hit. No, they’re not organic and, yes, they are probably laden with fire-retardants…but sometimes I bend the rules. Because StarWars.
- nanoblocks, from around $10 — similar to LEGO, but think micro. And what the heck is it with teensy-tiny things being extra fun for kids? I don’t know, but these are neat and will engulf oodles of time and really help finesse fine-motor skills.
- OPERATION: Minions Edition Game, $24.99 — OK, so the classic OPERATION game is one of my all-time-faves from childhood (with Clue being the other front-runner). How flippin’ cute is it to have a Minions version? As long as no one makes me watch that terrible Minions movie again, I’ll play this until the cows come home with my kids.
- 2015 Holiday Barbie, $44.99 — Miss Q has no idea, but I’ve been collecting Holiday Barbies for years for her. They’re tucked away (still in their original packaging!) in our secret storage room, and I may give them to her on her 16th birthday. At which time, she may look at me sideways with a “I’m so not into Barbies anymore” glare and I’ll put them away again until she’s 40 and thinks I’m so amazing for building this collection.
- Super Mario Maker and the 30th Anniversary 8-bit Mario amiibo, $69.99 and $15.99 (respectively) — have you ever been playing a video game and been all, “Man! I wish I could create my own levels…”? Thought so. And you’re not alone, so it’s pretty awesome that with Super Mario Maker you can design your own levels and play other people’s creative levels from around the globe. When you tap the 30th Anniversary Mario amiibo figure to your WiiU GamePad controller, it adds a Big Mushroom power-up to your course! Cool.
And we can’t forget about all of the wonderful family movies that came out on DVD this year…
That’s it! I hope this helps you in the weeks ahead. Don’t forget to pay it forward this holiday season, too; for charitable gifting ideas, check out my 2015 charitable gift guide.