Holiday gift guide: toys and games


Spooner boards, part of Family Almanac's 2011 holiday gift guide. (SPOONER INC.)
March 10, 2013

Holiday gift guide: toys and games

Even when Hanukkah is bumping into Christmas and parties are colliding with work, many of us are still trying to figure out what to give to the children we love.

This is easier to do if you go through their toys to see which ones are more battered and scarred than the rest. You’ll then know which toys your child plays with the most and likes the best, not because they cost so much but because they spur their imagination and can be used in so many ways. To find more toys like that and the ones below, go to Sullivan’s at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW (202-362-1343); it’s been Washington’s favorite toy store for more than 50 years.

Not all children like the same toys, however. It all depends on their temperament, their talents, their dexterity and even their sex.


HANDOUT PHOTO: Madeline at the White House game by Briarpatch. (Briarpatch/BRIARPATCH)
Little presents

Whether you’re giving small Hanukkah gifts to your children or stuffing their stockings on Christmas Eve, consider Zibits , the remote-controlled robots that can do everything but the laundry (Senario, $15-$17); a harmonica (First Note, $13) or Energy Sticks , which teach basic electricity so well (Be Amazing Toys, $8).

Books

Toys are terrific, but every child should get at least one book, too, so you can read to him each day. Good stories have the rhythms and cadences he’ll need when he starts to read and write.

Begin with Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes,” the board book for babies by Mem Fox (HMH Books, $12). Work up to When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl, author of the beloved “Chicken Butt” series (Knopf, $16), and The Flint Heart,” an old story made new by Katherine Paterson, who is surely the Louisa May Alcott of our time. She wrote it with her husband, John Paterson (Candlewick, $20).

For kids age 10 and older, consider Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, $30); Dead End at Norvelt,” a funny, touching story by Jack Gantos (Farrar Straus Giroux, $20); or Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, whose hero learns to count on his town, rather than his family (Clarion, $17). Give Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (Dial, $17) to someone who wants good laughs and good writing, and Big Nate on a Roll by Lincoln Peirce (Harper, $13) to the child who likes to laugh more than read.

Pre-K

If your pre-kindergartner wants to be as daring as her big brother, look for a sled called the Arctic Flyer (Flexible Flyer, $30) or the Spooner Board , which will teach her the balancing tricks she’ll need for skateboarding or snowboarding someday (Spooner, $40). Another good choice: a mini-luge called the Zipfy , which is safe enough for a 5-year-old and fast enough for a 12-year-old (Zipfy, $40).

Grade school

Your third-grader may think she’s too old for a doll, or your son may say, “Puh-leeze,” but they’ll both love Squishables (Purple Gallinule, $20-$40). Even though they’re soft and round-as-a-ball and look (more or less) like kiwis, manatees or narwhals, any stuffed animal is really just a dolly in disguise.


Squishable black sheep (Squishable)

Guns present a different problem. If your fourth-grader is gun-crazy and you’re not, the Punisher Gatling Dart Blaster may be a good compromise; it shoots 30 darts in 20 seconds without hurting anyone (Buzz Bee Toys, $58).

A gun won’t soothe an anxious 6-year-old, but the Fireworks Light Show in My Room (Uncle Milton, $35) may calm him a little when he points this toy at the ceiling and produces a fine fireworks display. With sound effects.

A shy but dexterous grade-schooler would much rather have a Legends of Magic set, however, because it teaches children to perform magic tricks and can give them enough courage to do it in front of an audience (Fantasma, three versions for $40, $55 and $100).

Games

Games like Madeline at the White House should interest boys and girls in Washington (Briarpatch, $20), and Bag-o-Loot , a wild card game, will delight them wherever they’re from (LB Toys, $10). Apples to Apples (Mattel, $25) remains the favorite game of all.

Puzzles and media

A math whiz will love the collection of puzzles in Math Perplexors,” (Mindware, $13). Music lovers will want the CD-DVD set Jim Gill Presents Music Play for Folks of All Stripes (Jim Gill Music, $17) and the CD “The Soldier’s Tale” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Maestro Classics, $17).

There is also a charming new picture-book app for the iPad called Van Gogh and the Sunflowers (Auryn, $1 through Dec. 31, $2 after), which introduces children to van Gogh and to art. It’s based on Laurence Anholt's book of the same name. If you also give the Nomad Play paintbrush stylus to your child, she can use it to draw on any art app, or any touchscreen device (Nomad Brush, $18).

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.com.

by Marguerite Kelly

Even when Hanukkah is bumping into Christmas and parties are colliding with work, many of us are still trying to figure out what to give to the children we love. ¶This is easier to do if you go through their toys to see which ones are more battered and scarred than the rest. You’ll then know which toys your child plays with the most and likes the best, not because they cost so much but because they spur their imagination and can be used in so many ways. To find more toys like that and the ones below, go to Sullivan’s at 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW (202-362-1343); it’s been Washington’s favorite toy store for more than 50 years. ¶Not all children like the same toys, however. It all depends on their temperament, their talents, their dexterity and even their sex.

Little presents

Whether you’re giving small Hanukkah gifts to your children or stuffing their stockings on Christmas Eve, consider Zibits , the remote-controlled robots that can do everything but the laundry (Senario, $15-$17); a harmonica (First Note, $13) or Energy Sticks , which teach basic electricity so well (Be Amazing Toys, $8).

Books

Toys are terrific, but every child should get at least one book, too, so you can read to him each day. Good stories have the rhythms and cadences he’ll need when he starts to read and write.

Begin with Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes,” the board book for babies by Mem Fox (HMH Books, $12). Work up to When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl, author of the beloved “Chicken Butt” series (Knopf, $16), and The Flint Heart,” an old story made new by Katherine Paterson, who is surely the Louisa May Alcott of our time. She wrote it with her husband, John Paterson (Candlewick, $20).

Or consider Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, $30); Dead End at Norvelt,” a funny, touching story by Jack Gantos (Farrar Straus Giroux, $20); or Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, whose hero learns to count on his town, rather than his family (Clarion, $17). Give Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (Dial, $17) to someone who wants good laughs and good writing, and Big Nate on a Roll by Lincoln Peirce (Harper, $13) to the child who likes to laugh more than read.

Pre-K

If your pre-kindergartner wants to be as daring as her big brother, look for a sled called the Arctic Flyer (Flexible Flyer, $30) or the Spooner Board , which will teach her the balancing tricks she’ll need for skateboarding or snowboarding someday (Spooner, $40). Another good choice: a mini-luge called the Zipfy , which is safe enough for a 5-year-old and fast enough for a 12-year-old (Flexible Flyer, $40).

Grade school

Your third-grader may think she’s too old for a doll, or your son may say, “Puh-leeze,” but they’ll both love Squishables (Purple Gallinule, $20-$40). Even though they’re soft and round-as-a-ball and look (more or less) like kiwis, manatees or narwhals, any stuffed animal is really just a dolly in disguise.

Guns present a different problem. If your fourth-grader is gun-crazy and you’re not, the Punisher Gatling Dart Blaster may be a good compromise; it shoots 30 darts in 20 seconds without hurting anyone (Buzz Bee Toys, $58).

A gun won’t soothe an anxious 6-year-old, but the Fireworks Light Show in My Room (Uncle Milton, $35) may calm him a little when he points this toy at the ceiling and produces a fine fireworks display. With sound effects.

A shy but dexterous grade-schooler would much rather have a Legends of Magic set, however, because it teaches children to perform magic tricks and can give them enough courage to do it in front of an audience (Fantasma, three versions for $40, $55 and $100).

Games

Games like Madeline at the White House should interest boys and girls in Washington (Briarpatch, $20), and Bag-o-Loot , a wild card game, will delight them wherever they’re from (LB Toys, $10). Apples to Apples (Mattel, $25) remains the favorite game of all.

Puzzles and media

A math whiz will love the collection of puzzles in Math Perplexors,” (Mindware, $13). Music lovers will want the CD-DVD set Jim Gill Presents Music Play for Folks of All Stripes (Jim Gill Music, $17) and the CD “The Soldier’s Tale” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Maestro Classics, $17).

There is also a charming new picture-book app for the iPad called Van Gogh and the Sunflowers (Auryn, $1 through Dec. 31, $2 after), which introduces children to van Gogh and to art. It’s based on Laurence Anholt's book of the same name. If you also give the Nomad Play paintbrush stylus to your child, she can use it to draw on any art app, or any touchscreen device (Nomad Brush, $18).

Questions? Send them to advice@margueritekelly.com.

More gift ideas

8 Holiday Guide 2011 Find kid-tested toys, gadgets worth giving and Local Living’s home gift guide at washingtonpost.com/holiday.

More gift ideas

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