Orange Marmalade’s holiday gift ideas…ages six to nine

It’s the six-to-nine crowd this week, and I must say, this begins the stage in which you will be dazzled into numb acquiescence to electronic pastimes for your kids unless you resolutely hold the line!  Creativity, imagination, outdoor play… all demand much of our bodies and minds; the ease of electronic pastimes, once tasted, tends to be highly addictive for the brain, and produces kids (and adults) that “don’t feel like” skating or painting or tinkering on their own.  For that reason, among many others, we have not had a single video game or hand-held electronic game in our house all these years, and have severely limited computer time.  My kids have grown up to be normal human beings! who engaged in recreation and music and sport and make-believe and art as kids, and are thankful for that childhood shaping of their minds and bodies and souls now.  It works… But you gotta be tough!  This is a great age for read-alouds, so I’ve listed four smashing books in that category, as well as some ideas for other non-electronic gifts.

Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall, by Emily Bearn, illustrated by Nick Price

I’ve reviewed this earlier here, but bring it to your attention again as a happy read-aloud for the younger end of this week’s spectrum.  Tumtum and Nutmeg are two comfortable, homebodies, who wind up having some wild and wooly adventures with dreadful aunts, school gerbils, and pirate rats!  Three separate adventures are in this volume, and it’s such a handsome, plump book with such charming artwork,  it would make a happy splash as a gift.Tumtum & Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall

Just So Stories, written and illustrated by Rudyard Kipling

These are Kipling’s classic tales explaining how the elephant got its trunk, how the rhinoceros got its wrinkly skin, how the camel got its hump, and nine more.  Written in an exotic, story-telling style (O my Best Beloved) with delicious words, and settings such as “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever trees”  Kipling’s tales tantalize with sound, and entertain with cleverness.  These would work well for this entire age group.Just So Stories

The Hobbit, written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s first story is one he had invented and told aloud through the years to his young children.  It makes a great read-aloud, journeying together in a world of tiny, furry-footed hobbits, bold, treasure-seeking dwarves, mysterious elves, grim goblins, a tricky little creature named Gollum, and one fierce dragon guarding his fabulous horde!  If you have any plans of taking your kids to the film, coming out in 2012, you owe it to them to read the book first!The Hobbit

Winter Holiday, written and illustrated by Arthur Ransome

I’ve reviewed the entire Swallows and Amazons series before, one of our family’s most beloved series of books.  We’ve read the entire 12-volume set twice through!  Mix together a feisty crew of independent children, England’s spectacular Lake District, an unusually cold winter which turns the lake into a frozen sea, vivid imaginations, a dash of mumps, ice sledges, near disaster, heroics in a blinding snowstorm, the most fabulous uncle on the planet, and a good bit of comestibles…and you’ve got my favorite winter adventure!  It’s not the first of the series, but it’s the only one that takes place in winter.  Ages 8 and up.  Winter Holiday (Godine Storyteller)

Legos: Basically, one of the best toys ever.  Skip all the razzamatazz add-ons which tend to sit on the shelf, and just get a pile of the bricks which can be used to build everything from castles to airplanes to floating armadas.  Lots of extra lego guys are great, too.LEGO Ultimate Building Set – 405 Pieces (6166)

Dollhouse: This is not the dollhouse to buy, but it’s the kind of dollhouse to look for on Craigslist or with a nice 50% off coupon!  As basic as can be, so your kids can go to town on it without their own efforts looking shabby amid Victorian Splendor.  My kids hammered together additions, cobbled together furniture, framed artwork, created miniature books-food-shovels-sleds-everything; some of their friends even learned to make the bendable wooden dolls as well or better than the ones in the stores.  Unlimited imaginative potential.Ryan’s Room Home Again, Home Again

Cookbook: I purchased a couple of Williams Sonoma kids’ cookbooks many years ago because they have great recipes (rather than directions to make a tuna fish sandwich!), they don’t belittle kids’ intelligence by telling them they need a grown-up to do everything the least bit dangerous, and the pictures of the food creations are the ones real kids made rather than perfect models by a chef.  Their out-of-print Kids Baking book is my favorite, but this one looks great, too.  Williams-Sonoma Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food

Butterfly House: We had such fun with one of these — observing the little caterpillars eating themselves silly, watching with fascination as each one formed a chrysalis, waiting with anticipation for the opening up of these dark chambers and the emerging of our butterflies!  The first fanning of their wings; a tightly-curled proboscis unfurling to sip orange nectar.  So. Cool.  They like at least 55° weather to be released outdoors, so those of you who live in warmer climates could write in for your caterpillars far earlier in the year than we northerners could.Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden