Each year when I compile my Holiday Gift Guide, I whittle down the list until it only contains the things I (or my kids) have loved, used the most and/or were impressed by throughout the year. Some of the items were sent to us for review, but many were not; they are all featured here because I think they’re FAB!
There’s something on my list for everyone on yours… from kids of all ages to that hard-to-buy-for adult.
Most are widely accessible and a few fall squarely in the “buy local” category, because supporting local businesses and makers is important to me.
And so, I present my 2015 picks…
Holiday Gift Guide: For Kids
You may already know that my family is crazy for Star Wars, so it’s no surprise that I fell in love with this twist on one of my kids’ favourite classic toys. My personal favourite is this Darth Tater, but you can also find Luke Frywalker, Spudtrooper and Frylo Ren to keep your toddler busy for hours on end!
Mixable Mashable Heroes ($5+)
If you love the idea of Mr. Potato Head, but in a smaller version, check out these adorable Mixable Mashers (available in different themes like Marvel superheroes and Transformers)
For the My Little Pony fan in your house, I’ve got another classic toy that never goes out of style – Play Doh. It’s oh-so-simple, but provides hours of fun. There are other sets to choose from, too, including Minions, Frozen and Superheroes.
LeapFrog Word Whammer ($25)
Having a 5-year-old means learning sight words and being entertained by levelled readers. My son is at the stage where he really relishes sounding out words and feels empowered to write on any piece of paper he can get his hands on. Enter the LeapFrog Word Whammer – the learning apparatus disguised as a video game-type toy. The Word Whammer looks like a gaming controller and works much like one, too (which is why it appeals to my little guy!). It contains lots of different games and grows with a child’s abilities… it starts off with matching up letters, then moves to upper case and lower case matching, and so on. My son has been asking to play with it for a few minutes before bed each night, which I love. Who am I to say no?
Star Wars Hero Mashers ($10+)
My son received some Marvel Hero Mashers last year (Iron Man, Hulk, etc) and absolutely loved them. The premise is that the body parts and accessories of each figure can be interchanged with that of any other Hero Masher (including Marvel Heroes, Jurassic World and more), making for endless playtime possibilities. I can guarantee he will be excited to see a few of these new Star Wars themed Hero Mashers under the tree this year!
There’s nothing more fun than having a battle between the forces of good and evil! Kylo Ren’s Extendable Lightsaber lets kids act out their favourite Star Wars scenes, with the added bonus of a customizable lightsaber. Its compatible with other Blade Builder kits and can be configured to make a unique creation for any Star Wars die-hard.
We love doing target practice in the basement with Nerf! And, while there are Nerf blasters for every age and skill level, this one is the perfect size for younger kids. It is easily held in one hand and has a reasonable range – up to 65 feet. (Any farther and my kids wouldn’t chase down the darts if we played with them outside!) Now your kids can pretend they’re First Order Stormtroopers, just like in The Force Awakens!
Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron Iron Man Arc FX Armor ($25) and Mask ($13)
This is the perfect role-playing set for kids who are fans of the Avengers. The Hulk, Thor and Captain America role-playing accessories are available as well, to round out the superhero contingent. And, if you’re a big Iron Man fan like me, you might just want to buy an extra set for yourself!
Disney Descendants Dolls ($25+)
What would happen if Disney’s biggest and baddest villains had children? Enter Disney Descendants! The sons and daughters of Maleficent, Cruella DeVil and more are featured in this series. The full-length movie of the same title was a huge hit with my 8.5 year old this past fall. Proof? She’s constantly singing music from the soundtrack and practicing Mal’s and Evie’s dance moves! As far as toys are concerned, the dolls are beautifully designed, with great attention paid to the unique outfits (the Coronation Edition dolls are standouts) and hairstyles of the characters.
Ever since the movie Brave, my daughter has been inspired to try archery. We bought her a very simplistic bow with suction cup arrows when she was really little, but now that she’s eight, I thought it might be fun to try a bow & arrow with more force behind it. Enter the Nerf Rebelle Arrow Revolution Bow! This really packs a punch and is a great way to battle with her brother (and his Nerf First Order Stormtrooper Blaster) in the park. This, too, is fabulous for increasing hand-eye coordination and concentration.
Crafty, creative kids call for lots of art supplies to keep them interested and engaged. I was introduced to the Doh Vinci line earlier this year and was hooked! There are so many amazingly fun kits and projects to choose from, and the colour selection of dough is vast. The Spotlight Spin Studio is the perfect design and display turntable for showing off all of your wonderful creations. Bonus – Doh Vinci helps kids with hand-eye coordination, too.
Hasbro has some of the best games around – ones I remember from my childhood that never get old. Well, they’re almost the same. A few have been updated, like Operation: Despicable Me 2 Edition (Minions make it even cuter) and Star Wars Battleship (love me some Star Wars!). For all the purists out there, don’t worry – you can still get the classic versions. Since my youngest is starting to learn to spell, I love Scrabble Junior. And for my oldest, who loves to dance and move, I’ve got Twister Moves: Skip It – a great way to keep the kids active, especially during the winter months. We’ve had Connect4 for over a year now and it’s one of our go-to family games. My youngest gets a thrill out of knowing he can (occasionally) beat me!
My kids are both gonzo for Shopkins, and I will admit that I think they’re pretty adorable (and addictive!) too. Check out my full Shopkins review to see some of the cute sets that are available this season.
DK Books ($20+)
Some of my kids’ most loved books throughout the years have been from DK. Everything from Lego books to Star Wars and more… there’s something for every age and interest on the DK website. You’ll love the beautiful illustrations, eye-catching layouts and great quality of these books. (Of course, we are hooked on their Star Wars books right now!)
For folks living in or around the Greater Toronto Area…
Toronto Marlies Tickets (Starting at $10 each)
My family loves going to hockey games. There’s something about the atmosphere and watching a game live that really gets us pumped. While many sporting events can be too expensive for a family to afford, it’s nice to know you can catch the Marlies in action for as little as $10 per ticket! Visit the Toronto Marlies website for more information.
Holiday Gift Guide: For Adults
Moto X Play ($450+, depending on model)
Android fans will love the Moto X Play‘s sleek rounded body, textured back (for aesthetics and just the right amount of grip), large screen and the ability to go completely hands free no matter where you are. This mid-range smartphone won’t break the bank, but comes with lots of features you’d find on premium phones, including a 21MP camera and a 5MP front camera (for selfies), as well as a battery that can last all day and into the next.
The Moto X Play captured all my favourite moments when I marched in this year’s Toronto Santa Claus Parade, and the images were stunning. The full-screen shutter means you can click anywhere to take your picture, making it easy to take shots on the fly. A major selling point for me is the micro SD card slot, which means I can upgrade my storage to 128MB if I want to. Now I don’t have to worry about running out of space! I’ve only had the Moto X Play for a few weeks, but I already love it. Stay tuned for a full review in the new year!
Moto 360 ($180+ depending on model)
This Android Wear watch is the thing to buy for the tech lover in your life! Compatible with both Android and iOS (although I haven’t tested it with the latter), this watch will keep you connected without being tethered to your smartphone. I use it to check messages (emails, texts, Facebook messages, etc), the local weather, my daily schedule, as well as other alarms and reminders. I can even reply to text messages via voice command and control my smartphone’s music playback and camera shutter.
It boasts a built-in fitness app (Moto Body) which tracks the number of steps I take each day, my heart rate and more. It even comes with a flashlight app, which is handy when I’m searching for my house keys at night. While I love tech gadgets, I will admit that no matter how awesome they are, I won’t wear one unless it’s nice to look at… and the Moto 360 definitely delivers in that category.
I love my rose gold model with Horween leather band, but the other choices (silver bracelet band, black band, etc) are just as stylish. To “up” the style factor even more, the Moto 360 can be customized with an array of watch faces to suit my every mood (some come standard on the watch, others can be downloaded from the Google Play store). This watch does so much more than I ever imagined it could do. It makes keeping up with my digital world a whole lot easier!
I first saw (and coveted) the City of Neighbourhoods product line a few years ago, when a local shop began carrying it. I was completely on the “rep your ‘hood” bandwagon, but I had to wait a few years until they added my neighbourhood to their growing line of fashionable, comfy and – best of all – made-in-Canada toques. What can I say? It was definitely worth the wait. If you’re not from Toronto (or even Canada), fear not! Tuck Shop Trading Company has expanded their City of Neighbourhoods line to include some major US cities, so check out their website to see if yours is there! And, if your heart is torn between the city and the country, check out “Cottage Bound“, which appeals to the cottage-goer in all of us! Now you can rep both of your ‘hoods! (I love that!)
PC Home Products (various prices)
President’s Choice is not only one of my favourite food brands, it’s also one of my go-to home brands! Under the banner PC Home, you’ll find a wide array of gorgeous items for the home, ranging from beautiful dish cloths, candles and coffee mugs, to small kitchen appliances, pots and pans, and cheese platters. The selection, found in Real Canadian Superstores across the country, is ever-changing but here are a few items from recent collections that I think would make fabulous gifts this holiday.
I just discovered these at a local pop-up shop and now I’m hooked! The designs are bold, fun and perfect for getting cozy this winter. They fit well (don’t let the “one size fits most” sizing throw you) and won’t break the bank! I just washed mine for the first time and they turned out great (cold water, delicate cycle; hang to dry). Forget gifting these… I think you’ll want a pair for yourself!
Blissful Sew Mittens ($35+)
I love buying local. Every time I buy something unique and created with love by a maker, I’m drawn to the handmade movement even more. Those are the items that speak to me and inspire my creativity. So, when I came upon this line of mittens produced by a local entrepreneur, I knew I had to feature them. Shannon from Blissful Sew (and Blissful Patterns) recycles old wool and cashmere sweaters and turns them into masterpieces for your hands (and more!). She deftly combines patterns and colours to make cool, quirky, one-of-a-kind mittens that not only look good, but are sure to keep you warm. My favourites are her Canadiana Mittens shown below, at right.
During the winter season, Shannon is busy at local shows, so her hard goods are not posted on her Etsy page. If you would like to purchase a pair of mittens, contact her through her Etsy shop by clicking on “Request Custom Order”. If you’re in the Toronto area, you can visit her booth at the Evergreen Brickworks Winter Village Handmade Market on Dec 12-13 and Dec 19-20 between 10 am and 7 pm (the market is held in an outdoor space called CRH Gallery near the Farmers’ Market).
Sweet Holiday Story Books from Life Savers, Hubba Bubba and Skittles (various retailers; $3)
To top my list off with a sweet treat… remember these? I grew up getting a candy book in my stocking each Christmas. What a lovely tradition! It was the only time of year when my sister and I got them and, boy, was it special. Well, nothing has changed… except that now you can get Hubba Bubba, Skittles and more instead of just Life Savers. (Santa, in case you’re reading this – Life Savers will always be my favourite!)
Happy shopping! And I wish you all a very happy, safe holiday season with friends and loved ones…