seeking Santa's database
November 19, 2007 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a meta gift advisory for kids.

I need to select Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews who live halfway across the country and I don't know well. I like to buy high-quality semi-educational toys that they are unlikely to have already. Searches for gift advice this time of year turn up link farms for every piece of cheap plastic crap with a cartoon character on it. Can anyone recommend a source for good generic gift recommendations for kids of different ages based on developmental readiness? For example, our 1 1/2-year-old loves puppets, pull toys, and chunky crayons, but doesn't understand puzzles yet. It would be great to have a similar list for every age from 2 to 8. Out of kindness to the parents, no extravagant, enormous play furniture or blippy bloopy battery-required items, if possible.

Every year I've bought books there have been dups, so I'll be doing BookSense gift certificates this year, but I want something for them to unwrap, as well.
posted by libraryhead to Shopping (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I love this catalog. Not everything in it meets your description, but a fair bit of it does.
posted by Capri at 12:21 PM on November 19, 2007

My son is age 2, and here are his current faves:

-crayons (of course, we have to be willing to sit and watch him colour, otherwise we would have interesting art everywhere)
-toy cars/trucks/heavy equipment
-Playmobil sets are a recent introduction, and seem to be a hit (toy trains especially)
-Puppets were big, but seem to be fading somewhat
-Pull toys are an off and on thing

Books are always a big hit in our house (sounds like yours too), and a gift certificate is the way to go. What is exciting for us is that he is now capabae of grabbing his board books and flipping through them on his own...when we read to him now, it's from books a bit longer and more fragile than what I would leave with him on his own.

Individual differences and all that means YMMV.
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2007

I got the book Under the Chinaberry Tree from my sister-in-law who has three kids and runs twice annual book sales for their school. It's basically a book full of book reviews of kids' books, but it's also interspersed with kind words and helpful hints. I use it when I'm trying to find books for my son based on his interests and developmental level.

There's also, which tries to avoid plastic stuff and point you to simpler toys. It's organized by age/interest which may help.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:49 PM on November 19, 2007

I have the cutest niece in the world, and Mighty Junior saves my ass twice a year.
posted by Kreiger at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2007

Hearthsong is a great catalog, good choice Capri!
posted by radioamy at 1:44 PM on November 19, 2007

Back to Basics toys are usually good for this stuff, and you can search for toys by age level, price, and category.
posted by kidsleepy at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2007

Taro Gomi's Scribbles, Doodles and Squiggles, the best colouring books out there. They're more like volumes of creative problem solving for kids, and a number of adults I know have given them as gifts recently. Click on the links for expanded pageviews that give you an idea of what the 'scribbles' are like.

I have one as part of my design portfolio, and my art director gave them out to colleagues at Christmas. In my three years working in an educational toy store, I sold more copies of these books than anything else.

Yes, this was the same guy who wrote Everybody Poops.
posted by avocet at 2:39 PM on November 19, 2007

On actually previewing all of the links on the page: none of them are as fantastic as my favourite double-page spread. A number of worried-looking doodled pigs sit on the same empty picture plane as a wolf. Keep the wolf away from the pigs.
posted by avocet at 2:42 PM on November 19, 2007

This doesn't quite answer your request for a list, but: has some nice non-crap stuff. I also like Plan Toys.
posted by kmennie at 3:09 PM on November 19, 2007

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