Posts Tagged ‘holiday gift guides’

Searching for just the right gift for an adult on your list?
 Books marketed for children can be spot-on for grown ups, too!

Here are a few ideas:

Are they passionate about immigration?

Her Right Foot, written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris
published in 2017 by Chronicle Books

This is the only book on today’s list that hasn’t been on my blog yet so just let me say: It is tremendous!

Dave Eggers, with his nonchalant, conversational tone, wows us with fascinating tidbits about our treasured Statue of Liberty, all building up to a surprising reveal about that Lady’s right foot! Shawn Harris knocks it out of the ballpark with his strong, vibrant artwork. 

This one sneaks up on you with understatement, then moves you to tears. One of the best of 2017, for ages 5 through Adult.

Do they treasure the beauty of flora and fauna?

Try: The Lost Words (review here)

Are they enamored with words?

Try: Ounce Dice, Trice (review here)

Do they dream of world travels?

Try: City Atlas (review here)

Did they recently become parents after a long, difficult wait?

Try: Wish (review here)

Have they loved books since they were knee-high to a grasshopper?

Try: A Child of Books (review here)

Are they allergic to morning?

Try: Pug Man’s 3 Wishes (review here)

Is Norse mythology their thing?

Try: Odd and the Frost Giants (review here)

Do they cry every time they watch You’ve Got Mail?

Try: Skating Shoes (review here)

Need a book for your favorite feminist?

Try: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (review here)

Have someone interested in African-American history? 

Try: Freedom Over Me (review here)

Or: Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph (review here)

Or: One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (review here)

Or: March Trilogy (review here

Would they appreciate a gorgeous Minnesota read?

Try: Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (review here)

Are they jazzed by Art Deco?

Try: Snow White: A Graphic Novel (review here)

In addition, you might consider…

…a children’s book written by an author they love. I’ve reviewed children’s books by Sylvia Plath, Salman Rushdie, Aldous HuxleySherman Alexie, Chinua Achebe, Jane Gardam, Frank McCourt, Sigrid Undset, and a number of others you might consider.…a favorite book from their childhood that’s out of print now. It might take some tricky questioning to find out which stories they loved best decades ago, but especially for friends or family members getting on in years, this might be a lovely gift. Amazon and Abe Books are great sources for purchasing out-of-print titles.

Know any other children’s books that feel like perfect grown-up gifts? Let us know in the comments!


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Have I saved the best for last? Giving books and bookish gifts is obviously what I love to do! Here are some great ideas for the kids in your life, plus a give-away

Litograph t-shirts

Text and illustrations make up these clever t-shirts. I am partial to Blueberries for Sal, but there are lots of choices so check them out.

Out of Print t-shirts

Favorites old and new beautifully printed.

Bookplates for those special books

I had bookplates as a child. It is lovely to feel ownership of a really special book, one to keep for always.

Anorak magazine or Dot magazine subscription

Magazine subscriptions sashay into a child’s mailbox all year long.
I recently discovered these tremendously creative magazines coming out of the UK. Gorgeous graphic design. A lalapalooza of imagination-sparking, brain-fizzing stuff for ages 2-5 (Dot) and 6-12 (Anorak.)

Visit their awesome webpage to get the details. Keep in mind these are British magazines so embrace the British English and some UK-oriented features. To me, that is an added bonus!

GIVE AWAY ALERT! If you’d like to win the two copies Anorak so graciously sent me — the Food issue of Dot and the Art issue of Anorak — just comment with a “sign me up!”. Winner will be notified on the blog, December 4th, so don’t delay!  U.S. mailing addresses only, please.

Literary cookbooks

Jama Rattigan’s delectable blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup, has a round-up of delightful cookbooks based on favorite characters from Goldilocks to Star Wars.  Kids will love mixing up Diana Barry’s Favorite Raspberry Cordial or Hans Soloatmeal!! You can find Jama’s entire list here.

A boxed set of classics

Wow. Gorgeous design work courtesy of Rifle Paper Company. Many happy getting-lost-in-a-book moments all packaged up for you! I love tempting new readers with old classics.
Amazon Link

And a few more ideas for book-giving — one classic and one new title for each age group. I had to limit myself or the list would get too long! Browse through my blog for gobs more ideas.

 One for the whole family: The Lost Words

Read my review here to see what’s in store in this gorgeous, remarkable book.
Amazon Link

Ages 0-2:

something old: More More More Said the Baby (regular and board)
Amazon Link
review here

something new: Night and Day: A Book of Opposites, by Julie Safirstein
published in 2017 by Princeton Architectural Press
I haven’t reviewed this on my blog but it’s exploding in clever, exciting pop-ups for careful fingers! And yes, many small children can be careful with books. Plus: tape.
Amazon Link

Ages 2-5:

something old: My Father’s Dragon
Amazon Link
review here

something new: The Street Beneath My Feet
Amazon Link
review here

Ages 5-8:

something old: A Bear Called Paddington
Amazon Link
review here

something new: This Is How We Do It
Amazon Link
review here

Ages 8-12:

something old: Swallows and Amazons
(The new paperback from David Godine has a wretched cover! Here’s a link for this one which is available from 3rd party sellers.)
Amazon Link
review here

something new: The Wonderling
Amazon Link
review here

If you are able — please shop at a local Independent Bookstore. That’s who will keep the great books coming to us, trust me.

If you’re going to shop at Amazon anyway, then consider using my Amazon affiliate links. If you click through to Amazon on one of my links, I get a small dab back from Amazon no matter what you purchase. Thanks to those of you who do.

That’s it for 2017’s gift lists.
I’ll be back next week with some cheery new Christmas titles!


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Playing games together is a great alternative to screen time. Check out these well-loved suggestions gathered from real families like yours! Then tell us your favorites!

Perfect for Preschoolers

Life on Earth matching game from Eeboo. Isn’t it beautiful?

Amazon Link


Sneaky Snacky Squirrel — darling and super popular with small fry.

Amazon link


Busytown — an I-spy-it favorite of many families.

Amazon Link


Uno — Do not forget the basics. This game has serious staying power!

amazon link


Go Fish — ditto. There are a bajillion varieties of this card game. This one matches babies and parents.

Amazon Link

Penguin bowling — Not a board game, but does this look fun, or what?

Ages 5 and up:

Orchard — a classic from Germany with charming game pieces. Everything Haba makes is  beautiful.

Amazon Link


Who Am I? — I watched some people demo this game and it looks like tricksy fun! Comes in a keen little tin.

Amazon Link


Knuckling Knights — This looks like a riot. Watch those knights come tumbling out of the keep!

Amazon Link


Outfoxed — Get your detective groove going. Cooperative games offer a clever change of pace.

Amazon Link


Labyrinth — One of our family’s favorites. Younger players will need help with this one.

Amazon Link


Best for ages 9 through adult

Codenames — Awesome mental-gymnastics game for adults and kids to play together.

Amazon Link


Concept — Hands down our favorite new family game in 2017. We have invented many ridiculous variations of it as well.

Amazon Link


Colorku — This is Sudoku played with colored balls. Looks like a great game for solitary play.

Amazon Link


Don’t forget the jigsaw puzzles!

Four Seasons — four little puzzles for preschoolers

Construction Site — All of Mudpuppy’s puzzles have tantalizing designs. 

Amazon Link

Fairy Garden — so pretty 🙂

Amazon Link

Rainforest — This puzzle glows in the dark! Extreme coolness.

Amazon Link

Hot Dogs A-Z — Now we’re into puzzles for the whole family to build together. This one’s got 1000 pieces of brilliance for dog-lovers!

Amazon Link


Farm Calendar — The New York Puzzle Company carries so many gorgeous puzzles. If this isn’t your style, follow the link and choose another.

Amazon Link


What are your family’s favorite games? We’d all love to hear. Please share with us in the comments!
Tomorrow: Bookish ideas + another giveaway! Join us!

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 Cardboard, dirt, sticks, water — these are some of the best tools of play out there!

The gift ideas on my blog today may come in stores, but are still geared toward creative, imaginative, investigative pastimes.
There are lots more ideas in past years’ lists which you can find via the gifts tab at the top of the page.

All items are linked to websites.

Amazon links are affiliate links. That means if you click through to Amazon, I get a little dab back from them no matter what you purchase. It works a bit like a tip jar 🙂 Thanks for those of you who use my links at this time of year!

Ages 0-2

Stacking Cups
Discovery Toys makes my favorite set of these. Lots of details make ’em good for play long past the baby stage.
Amazon Link

Pat Bells
Older siblings will try to steal these away from the little one! Even very young children can make a beautiful sound and eventually follow the colors to play a tune.

Ferry Boat
Green Toys are awesome! Made out of recycled milk jugs to help keep the planet cleaner. Huzzah!  This ferry is a nice hefty size. Comes with a couple cars to load on. Check the Green Toys site for many more well-designed, Earth-friendly toys.

Colin Camper Van
Darling! Retro! If you click the link, you can see what a nice big size this is. Load the people in, take ’em for a spin. Groovy.

Playground Ball
Simple as that. How can you not smile at that frog face?!

Amazon Link

Natural dough
Feel a bit more peace of mind when the kids eat it. Because…they will.

Ages 2-5

Magna Tiles
I have heard from many moms that these are the cat’s meow. Sets come in various sizes.
Amazon Link

Play Silks
Fabrics for dress-up and imaginative play are foundational. Remnants work great for this, but Sarah’s Silks has lots of beautiful choices so take a peek at their website.

Sugarbooger Aprons
Oh my gosh! The prints at Sugarbooger are charming as can be. This jolly hedgehog print is just one of many. Let’s get those kids cooking and baking!

Haba Geomix Wood Mosaics
I played with a set quite like this as a child for hours and hours. Classic toys have staying power for good reason. Great choice for creative, solitary play.
Amazon Link

Wooden dough tools
This is a particularly nice variety of tools.
Amazon Link 

Wooden Tree Fort
I’ve drooled over this set for years. Quite pricey, but if you have a special present in mind, this is amazing. Lots of scope for kids making more furnishings and expansion sets themselves.

Ages 5-9

Lego decals
My kids actually made clothes for their Lego guys. And wigs out of Sculpey dough! Sometimes you just have to alter the Legos to fit the scenario. Now you can do that with easily-removable decals. From mad scientists to pet shops, kit your Legos out with pizzazz!

Fort Building Set
Chairs and sofas make great forts. With this giant set of curved and straight “pipes” and gobs of connectors and clips, you can make one much bigger. Prepare for entire rooms to be taken over! Awesome rainy day fun.
Amazon Link

Soda Powered Science Kit
Power a geyser car and have lots more fizzy fun with this keen kit.

Doodle Adventures
For burgeoning cartoonists. Help create this book by following prompts and adding illustrations! There are other Doodle Adventures besides this one.
Amazon Link

Art Play
This looks like a truly splendid activity book! From marbelizing paper to creating a pictogram language of your own. Take a peek at some of what’s inside at the link.

Sew and Knit Valise
Isn’t this sweet? A charming way to introduce children to needle crafts.

Beeswax Candle Rolling
Our children really enjoyed making and decorating candles to give as gifts with this kit. The beeswax smells and feels soothing. 

Ages 9-12

Little Bits
I know basically nothing about electric circuits. This kit is pricey, and it’s the least expensive of the Little Bits kits. But my research says it’s the best kit out there for actually learning a bit about circuitry.  And the projects sound quite tantalizing!
Amazon Link

This Book is a Camera
It really is a camera! With film. And the supplies to develop it! Astounding! Watch the demo at the link

642 Things to Write About: Young Writers Edition
642 prompts to tempt young writers. It would feel like homework to some, candy to others. Give it to the candy crowd.
Amazon Link

Felting Kit
Create this darling squirrel or choose another kit from Wool Pets.


Art Snacks
A subscription to Art Snacks brings a new package of art inspiration to your door monthly. Check it out here. These are geared to adults, but may appeal to more serious artists at the upper end of the age range.

Bath Bombs by Klutz
Make your own bath bombs. Great gifts and fizzing fun to boot.
Amazon Link

The beautiful cover of this set unfolds to reveal origami paper. Inside, you’ll find art-inspired origami from The Met.

Don’t forget about giving classes or family outings as a gift. Bonus: They don’t collect dust.

In Minnesota, you can find a few kid-friendly classes at the fabulous North House Folk School, and lots at The Loft Literary Center, and MacPhail. There are community art centers, rock climbing centers, circus schools, concert tickets, horseback riding lessons…you name it.

Come back tomorrow for games and puzzles tested and approved by families like yours!

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It’s that time of year!

Time for Orange Marmalade to shout out once again:
Ditch electronic games as pastimes!
Choose juicy, imaginative, life-giving options for the kids on your gift lists!

Today —  gift ideas to woo kids right out the door.
More lists will come next week.

Darling Easy-On Stay-On Tiger Paw Mittens
No more wrestling with thumbs? No more falling off one minute later?
These sound like preschool gold!

 Jolly puddle stompers make rainy days a blast!

Smart Wool socks are the best for cozy toes!

I’m so excited to draw your attention to this Small Adventures Journal by Keiko Brodeur, chock full of prime ideas for exploring!
Take a peek inside it on her website here! (And prepare to want everything else you see as well!)

Keiko has thought of dozens of clever ways to increase keen observation, engagement of all our senses, and joy in the nature surrounding us, from photographing nature’s textures to making spore prints or recording and naming the colors of the sky. All illustrated in her extraordinarily fetching style!

It’s suitable for ages 6 and up I’d say, and not at all too young for teens (or adults for that matter who’d like encouragement to slow down and savor.) 

Keiko has graciously supplied me with a copy that I’d love to give away to one of you!
Enter by commenting — tell us one of your favorite outdoor spaces to visit.  Winner will be notified on the blog, December 4th.  U.S postal addresses only, please.



A bird feeder brings nature to you.
Our family has loved watching the birds outside our kitchen window.


 Double runner ice skates — so even the 2-year-old can stand up on the ice.
Strap ’em onto boots. This is how I remember beginning to skate in northern Minnesota. 

solar lantern
Both my son and husband have one of these super cool, solar-charged lanterns. Light as a feather. Perfect for backyard campouts or full-bore backpacking trips.

sleeping bag
Dream of camping trips or have a family sleep-over by the Christmas tree. REI’s Kindercone bags let you adjust the length of the bag as your child grows.

balance bike

Get the hang of balancing on two wheels, pedal-free. For kids who are raring to go by the time they’re just 18 months old, this sounds like a dream come true.

bike helmet

Don’t ride without a helmet. Don’t let your kids ride with a helmet. No joke. Giro makes great helmets for all sizes of people!

rocking hammock

This looks like a total blast! Follow the link to the website where you can watch it in motion. 

Swiss Army Knife

You do not even want to know at what age we gave our kids their first pocket knives.  How else do you sharpen your s’more stick??

yard dominoes

Made right here in Minneapolis, these giant dominoes look like so much fun to play with in the yard, at the beach, at a family reunion in the park!

Sidewalk Chalk

Do not forget the basics.  A tub of sidewalk chalk is Outdoor Fun 101. Gallons of potential, right there, and this variety will not roll away from you!

As always, an annual pass to state or national parks, arboretums, nature centers, zoos, and other outdoor spaces makes a great family gift.

Don’t forget to enter the drawing for that sweet adventure journal. 

Next week I’m back with a list of lovely winter-time picture books and 3 more lists of juicy, non-electronic gifts! Follow the blog in order to not miss a post — they’re delivered to your e-mail. 

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If you’ve got any young bookworms on your giving list, I’ve got some book-themed ideas today.

Of course, books themselves are the best idea of all! Scroll through my blog to find a gem, or ask the knowledgeable folk at your local independent bookstore for suggestions — they love matching the right book to the right reader!


Speaking of independent booksellers, my daughter works for what I think is the largest indie bookstore in the Twin Cities, Magers & Quinn. They offer an Utterly Exciting Book-of-the-Month Club which you can purchase as either a 6-month or 12-month subscription. Imagine the sparkle of receiving a new book in the mail, every month!

Here’s what you get in the 1st collection for ages 0-5:


Here’s the 2nd collection for ages 6-8:


And here’s the 3rd collection for ages 9-12:


Purchase by calling the store or inquire in the store if you live in the area.


Need some book-ends to shore up all those lovely titles? This set will gladden the heart of any Elephant and Piggie fan.


Another fine way to get kids reading is with a magazine subscription. The time-tested Highlights

just a few of Cricket's many magazines

just a few of Cricket’s many magazines

…and Cricket both have magazines dedicated to a variety of age groups and interests.


Sport your favorite children’s book character with Out of Print’s huge line-up of bookish t-shirts. Frog and Toad, Harold and his Purple Crayon, Mike Mulligan, and lots more are here including t-shirts for adult-size bookworms.


Need a reading break? New York Puzzle Company has smashing Harry Potter puzzles


…charming Peter Rabbit puzzles, and puzzles featuring other literary characters.


Or, a book-lovers’ lollapalooza puzzle — this 1000-piece White Mountain puzzle crammed with vintage picture books.


Maybe a game? Here’s a sweet matching game for Flora afficionados…


… a thrilling mystery at Hogwarts to solve,


and some Ivy & Bean paper dolls for a rainy day.


Now you’ve worked up an appetite. Serve some tea with this darling Madeline tea set.


Or sip some cocoa from this fabulous Moomin mug!


Time to say thank you for the lovely presents? Make it fun with these Very Hungry Caterpillar note cards.


Then snuggle up with the bunny from Goodnight Moon.

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Use your gift-giving to tantalize kids with a variety of creative pursuits! This year I have extra items suited to kids ages 5-12, a time when electronic devices too often begin to usurp imaginative pursuits as fast as the sun melts butter.

from Art & Max by David Wiesner

from Art & Max by David Wiesner

Stem the tide! Keep them living juicy, creative lives!


Play with Color!


20845_1_1200pxHilarious! Watch your baby create some abstract art with this genius bib!

Crayons rock…and now there are crayon rocks! Don’t they look lovely to work with?


I love these people paints encouraging children to incorporate the whole, real, human race in their artwork.


How magical to color your own set of beautiful, wearable, butterfly wings


Rosie Flo coloring books charmingly combine drawing and coloring. This set features fantastical animal couture! Lots more themes to choose from.


To the Ocean Deep coloring book by Sarah Yoon unfolds to create a marvelously l-o-n-g, deep, underwater journey. 


For younger artists, unroll a jolly picture to color with these paper rolls from Mudpuppy. 


Build cool stuff!



This geyser car look like a blast — literally! Wild, fizzy thrills!


These clever chain reaction contraptions designed by Klutz to build from Legos will provide hours of fun and surely inspire more engineering.


My son built a rocket many years ago. So cool to build and so exciting to blast off!! Here’s a good beginner model.


Get Cooking!


Try this classic cookbook to introduce the joy of cooking to preschoolers. Nutritious. Vegetarian. Charming.


How much fun would it be to whip up some pumpkin pasties or Mrs Weasley’s meat pies? Enjoy some literary feasting, Potter-style.


Snazzy aprons make cooking even more fun! Handstand Kitchen has a great variety of kids aprons to choose from including this bake-me-a-cake print. Nice that they aren’t all frilly, for kids who aren’t at all frilly.


Fine Threads!


This small loom is perfect for getting started with a dynamic form of textile art. 


Stitch up some charming woodland creatures with these beautiful kits.


Wool felting is responsible for so much beauty and delight in this world. Get started with this darling hedgehog kit.


Are you puzzled?


Block puzzles are super for the youngest puzzlers. This Eric Carle set would make a great take-along activity.


The lovely puzzles from eeboo make it exceedingly difficult to choose just one.


A double treat from Alain Grée. Winter on the front, summer on the back. Sounds like a tricky challenge!


Write on!


My children’s homemade books are such treasures. Encourage your little ones to write and illustrate their own stories with this set of blank books.


Comics are being used to tell all manner of stories. Get your kids started by crafting some superhero comics.


Ideas galore to get young writer’s juices flowing. I would have loved this as a child…or maybe even now!


I’m game!


Have fun and enjoy the beauty of a worldful of faces.


This animal-stacking game from Haba looks like great fun for a wide age-range.


Keri Smith is the brilliant mind behind many books inspiring us to think outside the box. This one contains great out-and-about, investigate-and-create activities — enough to last a long time and inspire many more.


Make Music


This water whistle from Cameroon is intriguing, and even young children can enjoy making music.


How about a cool thumb harp from Burkina Faso — make music and support local artisans.


Punch your own musical notations into the paper, then crank it through the music box mechanism. Brilliant idea for youthful composers.


Classic Play


Isn’t this doll pram gorgeous? 


We had this set of blocks for our kids. They come in very handy for constructing villages along a wooden train set!

Find gobs more ideas by using the Gifts tab at the top of the page to search past years’ lists.

I’ll be back next week with a literary-themed gift list for young book-fans.

Long live imagination!

A Big P.S. — I have restarted my Amazon Affiliate program.

This means that if you use an Amazon link anywhere on my blog to direct you to their website, anything you purchase from them at cash-tip-jarthat time will result in a wee kickback for me. It does not increase the cost of your item. Just deposits a few cents in my account. Think of it as a tip jar 🙂

I would love if you would shop at your local, independent book stores instead of Amazon! However, I know that many of you do not live near any such thing, and for many of you the convenience of Amazon is what you need at any given moment. If you’re shopping at Amazon anyway — please consider linking creative-brainthrough from my blog.

I worked extra hard to link directly to a variety of sites today in order to introduce you to folks who offer creative, non-electronic choices. I hope you enjoy perusing their collections. If it’s easier for you to purchase these products in one fell swoop from Amazon, many of them are available there as well.

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