Top 10 holiday gifts for kids

Our style expert offers this list of finds, all under $15.
Crosscut archive image.

Magic Gertie Ball.

Our style expert offers this list of finds, all under $15.

The holidays are looming, and budgets are shrinking. When you are buying for your kids, your nieces and nephews, your kids' friends, your friends' kids, and more, it can add up to some serious moolah. I firmly believe that thoughtful and useful gifts don't have to cost a fortune. Last year, my daughter decided to buy her friends gifts from Dearborn Goodwill so that she could get more for her money and recycle. We told her she could spend up to $2.50 per friend of her own money, and we would match it. She picked out some great gifts that were special to each friend. (I helped her to make sure everything was in excellent condition and put the kibosh on stuffed animals.) If thrifting isn't up your alley, here are some suggestions of gifts for kids, priced as low as $4.95, that will most likely be appreciated by all the recipients (and their parents).

Quick annual plug: Take the time to wander your neighborhood toy and book stores. Seattle has a veritable buffet of awesome toy and book stores, with educational and fun toys and books for all ages. Talk to the owners/sales staff and tell them what your budget is. They will surely have some great suggestions that didn't make this list.

  1. Vintage style tees — $14.99, Gap.comThese T-shirts are super soft and have some fun original designs, such as Star Wars and Speed Racer. Anyone who was a kid in the 70s will feel nostalgic.
  2. Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child's Restaurant Adventures with 46 recipes by Alice Waters — $12.89, This book follows Fanny through her days hanging out at her mom's restaurant in Berkeley, California. What a way to live! It can be a bit wordy for younger kids, so we broke it up and read one chapter per night. This is a fine way to introduce kids to the idea of eating more than plain pasta. Mine were fascinated with the variety of foods Franny loved to eat.
  3. Magic Gertie Ball — $6.95, This bouncy ball changes color with temperature. The ball is purple, and every time a warm hand touches it, a blue mark is left. When the ball cools off, it turns purple again. During the summer, I would find the ball in the refrigerator cooling so the kids could quickly get back to the business of making funny "face prints." The Magic Gertie Ball definitely gets a lot of bang per buck.
  4. Conversations to Go: The game that has everyone talking — $14.95, The Seattle-based makers of the Moon Jar have a great game, with 100 open-ended questions geared to get young minds thinking (ex. "What is one thing that always cheers you up when you are sad?" or "If you were climbing a mountain, who would you bring with you and why?"). Think of what a parent could learn during this game.
  5. Snack Time CD by Barenaked Ladies — $12.99, Good music for kids and grown ups can be hard to find. This CD is full of clever lyrics and catchy tunes that will keep the whole family bopping.
  6. Virtual Distance Football — $14.99, This foam football has a sensor that tracks how far the football is thrown. Kids are suckers for gadgets and I know some parents who will have fun with this as well.
  7. Baby Legs — $8-$16, Baby Legs is a Seattle-based company that makes leg warmers for kids. They have a lot of great designs for girls and boys. My five year old son still wears his black and red flame Baby Legs under jeans on cold days to keep his skinny little legs warm.
  8. Make a Plate — $15, The online description reads "you know you still have yours from elementary school." Not true for me, but I remember making them. These durable plastic plates can be decorated and used for generations.
  9. Shrinky Dinks — $14.50, These fun kits are still around, but a lot of kids these days haven't been exposed to the "the magical world of Shrinky Dinks." Draw a design on a plastic shape, and when put into the oven, they shrink down to miniature. This kit includes accessories to make key rings, necklaces, and bracelets.
  10. Wacky bandages — $4.95, We all use them, and kids love to ask for them. It's nice for kids to have their own bandages to apply as "necessary." Archie McPhee, in Ballard and online, has a solid selection of wacky bandages to help ease the pain of owies. Designs range from ninjas to unicorns to bacon strips.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors