Orange Marmalade’s Annual Non-Electronic Gift Guide 2016

My annual Black Friday tradition at Orange Marmalade is to cajole you — oh so winningly! — to resist the flood of electronic toys vying for your attention and choose juicy, life-giving gifts!

packages tied up with string

This holiday season give packages jammed with potential for creativity, recreation, and imagination. Gifts that spark wonder. Gifts that get kids moving. Gifts that promote community rather than riveting eyes to a screen. 

pottery together

This year, I’ve pulled together all my past lists so you can find them easily, with links, in a new tab at the top of the page. I have tried not to repeat myself over the years so there are lots more great ideas tucked in there. These are merely suggestions to get your creative-gift juices flowing. If it’s a hard-t0-find item, I’ve linked to a website that carries it.

Ages Birth to 2

If you’ve got a brand-new-to-the-Earth person on your list this year, these organic snugglies look mighty charming:

cuddle bunny

Cuddle Bunny

Nesting and stacking, putting in and taking out, making trains for small dollies…you can’t go wrong with nesting blocks. Here’s a charming woodland set:

petit collage nesting blocks

Nesting Blocks

A bucket is exceptionally handy. For sand and water. For mixing mud. For a hat. A chair. A drum…

tinsmith sand pail

Puzzles are yummy brain food. These are so beautiful, I think:

puzzles by melissa stewart and kevin hawkes

eeBoo puzzles 

A road-rug is a long-lasting present. Kids will play with it for years.

road map rug

A merry way to spend time relishing sunshine and breezes:

bucket swing

I don’t mention many board books on my blog, but here are several you might enjoy, plus one splendid book of nursery rhymes:

one two buckle my shoe cover image

One Two Buckle My Shoe, by Salina Yoon — A bright, clever counting book with pictures that magically transform as you turn the page.

Pantone Colors cover image

Pantone Colors — Arrays of nuanced colors will get you spotting Basketball Orange and Radish Red, and perhaps naming your own zesty shades.

old bear cover image

Old Bear, by Kevin Henkes — Journey through the seasons with this lumbering fella, a toddler treat from Kevin Henkes.

over the hills and far away cover image

Over the Hills and Far Away:A Treasure of Nursery Rhymes, edited by Elizabeth Hammill — a gorgeous, diverse collection. Read my full review of it here.

Ages 2-6

My kids would have been thrilled to hammer the real nails in this tack board set. I can’t believe this exists in our Land of Utmost Safety, but I’m glad it does!

geometric shapes tack board

geometric art tack board

Doll-house friends with varying skin tones. Yes, I love these:

multiracial dollhouse dolls

multiracial dolls

A sturdy wagon is another long-lasting gift.


For scooting around the park, the neighborhood, or the basement on a rainy day.

razor scooter

I am adamant about bike helmets, and my son is a living testament to how they prevent brain injuries in the case of unforeseen crashes. Don’t ride without helmets.

giro scamp bike helmet

Giro Scamp bike helmet

My kids and I enjoyed this satisfying craft many years ago now, and they made gifts for others with it. Buy pillar candles and go to town decorating them with these wax sheets.

wax decorating sheets

candle decorating supplies

This is a grand age to be gobbling up books. Here are four of my favorites for this age group from this year of blogging:

the teddy robinson storybook cover image2

The Teddy Robinson Storybook by Joan G. Robinson — a chapter book that would make a great first read-aloud. My review is here.

last stop on market street cover image

Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson — probably my favorite 2015 picture book. The review is here.

beastly verse cover image

Beastly Verse, a variety of poems illustrated by JooHee Yoon — if you think poetry is dull, just crack this one open! The review is here.

creaturepedia cover image

Creaturepedia, Adrienne Barman — eye-popping color and wonder in this unique catalogue of animals. The review is here.

Ages 6-9

Some ideas never grow old. You can buy stilts or make your own.


If you live in the snow belt…go nordic!

cross country skiing

Puzzles are a great group or solo activity.

ravensberger puzzle

This cooperative game looks fun. Can you work together to keep the town humming during a blizzard?

snowstorm game

Snowstorm game

Building immense, complicated worlds is a lovely way to spend time alone, or with siblings and friends.

Plan wooden city

wooden city

Wool felting is an ancient craft. Set your artist to work with a kit like this one:

friendly fox needle felting kit

wool felting kit

Some children this age are happy independent readers, but all are happy to curl up with you and enjoy a good book together. Here’s a variety to suit this age group:

finn family moomintroll cover image

Finn Family Moomintroll, by Tove Jansson — Read aloud these classic Scandinavian tales and enter a new world! My review is here.

dory and the real true friend

Dory and the Real True Friend, by Abby Hanlon — One of the most endearing, spunky, imaginative kids in literature. My review is here.

atlas of adventures cover image

Atlas of Adventure, Rachel Williams and Lucy Letherland — Explore and dream together about our magnificent world. My review is here.

winter bees and other poems of the cold cover image

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold, Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen — I think it’s one of the most beautiful books of 2014. Poems and prints about wintering animals. My review is here.

Ages 9-12

In case you hadn’t noticed, coloring books for adults are taking over the world. Here’s a good one full of intricate designs to color with ink pens.


Build your own camera obscura?! Now that is a cool idea.

camera obscura kit

camera obscura kit

Hammocking is a thing, you know, indoors and out. Buy one for your child, or, you know, buy a bunch and try this:

tower of hammocks


This sounds like rambunctious fun for a wide age range. 



Giving your child a piece of outdoor gear is a fantastic way to equip them for a life of adventure. A good daypack is one of the basics. Here’s one from REI:

REI Tarn 18 Pack


Perhaps the most accessible musical instrument out there. Set up some beginning lessons and let ’em fly.

child's guitar

 Here are just a few book suggestions for this age group: 

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone illustrated edition cover image

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay — This brand new edition, awash in atmospheric paintings, would make a grand gift for a Potter fan or newbie.

canoeing with the cree cover image

Canoeing with the Cree, by Eric Severeid — The astonishing and true account of a couple of adventurous teen-age boys in the 1930s. My review is here.

the wacky and wonderful world through numbers cover image

The Wacky and Wonderful World Through Numbers, from Barron’s Educational Series — Kids this age are fact-hounds. This lively volume is just the ticket. My review is here.

where children sleep cover image

Where Children Sleep, James Mollison — In this year of refugees, take the opportunity to engage social issues with your kids.  James Mollison’s photography powerfully opens up the world . My review is here.


Happy Holidays to you all!