As the holiday season hits full swing, many of us are thinking about gifts for family and friends. So just like last year, I’m taking the opportunity to share some things I’ve really enjoyed and/or think would make wonderful presents for a variety of people. This also gives me a chance to highlight local businesses and people offering unique products and experiences as well as organizations that are doing great things. And then there are some ideas that are simply fun and enriching. You might notice some things are back from last year, but that’s because they’re worth repeating (kind of like the photo above). None of these recommendations are sponsored; they’re just things that I truly like and think you and yours might, too. Happy gifting!
Just when I thought my kids were moving on from Kiwi Crate after several years of receiving the monthly craft box subscription, they have assured me they still love it, recently delving into projects like a glowing space mobile and groovy lava lamp. Hence, I’m endorsing the products with fervor once again. The original kit comes with all the supplies needed to make an adorable craft. There is also the Koala Crate for ages 3-5, the Doodle Crate for ages 9-16+, and the Tinker Crate also for ages 9-16+. Sasha still enjoys the Kiwi, while Owen likes Tinker-ing away. They’re great to have on hand for rainy days or anytime kids want a ready-to-go (ie, minimal work for you) project at home.
Craft and Give Back
Similar to Kiwi Crate, but with a philanthropic twist, Little Loving Hands provides pre-packaged children’s craft kits where the end product is used to contribute towards supporting a philanthropic cause. The company’s mission is to provide a fun and educational method for parents and caretakers to engage children in learning about the importance of being kind and giving back to others. Each kit contains materials for the project, as well as documents and other fun items to reinforce what the children are working on and how they are helping others. One Sasha worked on was a sweet little activity bag that was sent to a patient at the Children’s Inn at NIH.
This book is a bible of fun, educational, and just really awesome ideas for crafts, science projects, outings, and other activities with kids. And, as its title states, parents will enjoy them just as much as their babes. Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy is written by my friend Rebecca of the fantastic blog Not-So-SAHM, so I can assure you all of these ideas come from a cool, creative, smart, fun source. (Really, after reading her book and blog, you’ll want to hang out with her and her kids, too!) With a wealth of ideas and tons of good tips, it’s perfect for parents who like DIY pursuits, but sometimes need a little extra inspiration.
There’s so much great live entertainment both currently running and coming to local stages soon, that would make fantastic presents for kids and adults. A few shows to consider this season are The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Adventure Theatre; Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the National Theatre; The Secret Garden by Shakespeare Theatre Company; Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Imagination Stage; Carousel and Moby Dick at Arena Stage; and Into the Woods at the Kennedy Center. And coming up next year: A National Symphony Orchestra concert especially for children, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood at Lisner Auditorium, Monster Jam at the Verizon Center, or The Harlem Globetrotters at EagleBank Arena.
For kids and adults who like thrilling adventures, consider a gift certificate to iFLY Loudoun. This opportunity to experience “flying” without stepping foot in (or out of) an airplane is fairly new to the area — and guaranteed to make any thrill seeker’s day. Meant to simulate skydiving, flights take place in a vertical wind tunnel on a smooth cushion of air created by high-powered fans that enable people to float. It’s incredibly exhilarating, but also a splurge, making it a special and unique present. Read more about the experience here.
For children who aren’t quite old enough to fly or take in a big show, consider a membership to a museum. The National Building Museum offers family memberships for $90/year, getting you all into the Building Zone and most exhibits free of charge (regularly $3-10/person). Port Discovery in Baltimore is another great one with loads of hands-on, curiosity-peaking, educational, fun exhibits that keep kids engaged for hours. Family memberships for the year start at $114 (admission is $14.95/person), and right now they are offering 10% off if you purchase by December 31!
DC’s best shop for board games and puzzles recently expanded, so they have even more fantastic options for holiday gifts at Labyrinth Game Shop on Capitol Hill. This is one of my go-tos for birthday party presents and always a stop for some shopping this time of year. Since I first wrote about the store when it opened six years ago, it’s gotten even better. They have something for everyone — all ages, every interest. And the service is just as great as the inventory. Give them a few details about who you’re shopping for, and they’ll show you just the right game to buy.
Combine your shopping trip to Labyrinth with a stop next door at East City Book Shop, one of the newest retail establishments to open on Capitol Hill, and a really great one, at that. The store doesn’t just have an excellent selection of books from all genres, you’ll also find gifts for children and adults, some of the cutest and most clever greeting cards, and friendly service from staff who will also offer good recommendations if you’re stumped on what to get. You may also end up making plans to return to one of their events — they host weekly story time for kids, book discussions, author readings, and more.
Picture Perfect Presents
How about a gift that includes your whole gang? Present them (and yourself!) with a family portrait session — I know just the right photographer for it. I have adored Darcy Troutman’s photos forever, mostly on her blog No Monsters in My Bed. But over the last couple of years, she has started her own photography business capturing families and weddings, helping people make and preserve memories. Her style is unique and the photos gorgeous, but her approach to her work is what really makes it special. Also, she’s funny and sweet and really comfortable to be around, the ideal personality for the job. Plus, her photos will not only capture this time in your lives, they’ll make for great gifts for extended family throughout the year, too.
T’s That Salute DC
If you’re looking for a fun “DC” gift, check out Sneekis. I discovered this local T-shirt company that specializes in DC-themed wear through Instagram last year. Their clever designs incorporate local sports and recreation, plus a zeal for the District that giftees can proudly boast across their chests. Since then, they’ve also started making T’s in children’s sizes, so tiny Washingtonians can represent, too! Read more about them here.
T’s with ‘Tude
Recently launched by the fabulous Shannon who writes But I Do Have a Law Degree, Kidsults is an online store of t-shirts, onesies, and other products featuring her kids’ best (hilarious!) insults. “Your hugs are boring,” “I will never forgive you, even when you’re dead,” “I didn’t like you when I was a baby,” are just a few of the zingers printed on a variety of items. Perfect for parents and kids with a great sense of humor — just like Shannon. If you check out the Kidsults website, you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Clothes for Comfort
You’ve probably heard by now about the LuLaRoe clothing line for women and children, as online boutiques have been popping up all over social media. I was recently introduced to it by local seller Jill O’Hanlon and now understand what the hype is all about. The clothes are incredibly comfortable — and really cute, too. There are dresses, t-shirts, tunics, cardigans, and you can mix and match many of them. But the leggings, which are super soft and in all kinds of fun prints and colors, are their signature piece and would make great stocking stuffers. The kids clothes are also adorable and comfy, and the prices are reasonable, too! Join Jill’s Facebook group to start shopping.
Gifts That Give Hope
How about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers, and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, while enjoying festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. The Arlington Fair will take place Saturday, December 10, at Discovery Elementary School from 10am – 2pm. You can also purchase online.
Help support people in developing countries while you shop for fabulous, unique, hand crafted gifts, all brought to you with fair trade practices. This is what you can expect at Trade Roots in Arlington. I visited the store for the first time a couple of months ago and was so impressed by both the amazing selection — jewelry, accessories, art, house wares, neat items for children — and values on which the shop operates. As owner Lisa Ostroff explains on her website, “Fair trade respects and appreciates hardworking people, provides a living wage for marginalized populations, supports the conservation of the environment, and empowers women and minorities.” These are gifts that go a long way…all around the world.
Enter Through the Museum Gift Shop
We have some pretty amazing museums in our city, and many of their gift shops echo the impressive collections and have items that are an extension of their programs. It’s not just prints of paintings you see; you can buy books, puzzles, accessories, games, housewares, and lots of children’s items that are artistic, clever, and innovative. For instance, Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab Kit is available at the National Museum of American History — and a great time to purchase it is this weekend, December 3 & 4, at the annual Smithsonian Holiday Festival. And I highly recommend browsing shops at some of the other museums in town: The National Building Museum, International Spy Museum, and Newseum all have particularly great inventory.
Of course, not all gifts have to come with a hefty price tag. There are so many magical yet still inexpensive experiences to be had in the DC area, some without even spending a dime. You can creatively package them up — perhaps a big, fun card with a photo — and promise a visit. Some suggestions: The new and phenomenal National Museum of African American History & Culture; the Washington Youth Garden, Bonsai Museum, and old Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum; the recently reopened East Building of the National Gallery of Art; the Fairy Lolly and art experiences at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens; the Wizard of Oz playground at Watkins Regional Park; a trip through history at Fort Washington; a nature walk among the lily pad laden ponds at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. And there are many, many, many more right in our backyard.