I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a gift guide each holiday season, and this year I managed to keep my wits about me most months and jotted down a few notes here and there about what has had staying power and which gifts have been duds. I’ve included links wherever possible to try to give you a one stop shopping experience. I welcome comments about gifts that have worked for you.
Here are the gifts for boys which have been so successful through the years that they are hereby going into Anne Glamore’s Gift Hall Of Fame:
Anything by Lego, smaller kits for smaller kids and more intricate ones for bigger kids. This includes Bionicles as well as small items like the Lego Police Motorcycle #7235 and bigger ones such as the LEGO Star Wars Republic Gunship. You can’t go wrong with the Ultimate LEGO Building Set as a starter set for budding architects.
Klutz makes all types of cool things- books that show you how to make cool letters, or stencil, but the Window Art (Klutz) was the best gift Drew got one year, and the designs he made are still on his window. Inexpensive, creative fun.
Klutz is also responsible for the Encyclopedia of Immaturity (Klutz)which Finn received last year, but both of his brothers have stolen it at times to learn how to curl their tongues or build a bridge out of pennies.
Guys love their gadgets, and Porter still uses his headlamp. We all do. We’ve used it to read in bed, to look for things in the dark, and to wear when hiking. The boys have put theirs on at twilight and run around in the bushes. We need a couple more.
Remember when we got Finn a Safe for Christmas one year? He’s still using it. I followed my own advice and got the kind with two keys, not a combination. I kept one key, and every once in a while I check to make sure there are no illicit substances in the safe. I was tempted to steal a Baby Ruth one time, but I refrained.
By far the best outdoor toy we’ve gotten has been the RipStik. Porter has spent hours on this thing, sometimes with a parakeet or two on his shoulder. He can shoot baskets while riding it. Neither of his brothers can get very far on it, but if you have a kid who’s exhausted the bike, the pogo stick, the moon shoes and needs a new challenge, the Ripstik is portable, durable and fun. I recommend pads and a helmet to go with it.
The boys are wearing out all the Calvin and Hobbes books we’ve purchased, and I love them because I believe they trick boys into reading while they think they’re looking at comic books. They’re funny, smart, under $15, and the boys read them over and over.
Don’t your kids always steal the Flashlights? That’s why you give them a couple for Christmas, especially the kind that hook to your backpack or belt so you look all official and stuff.
For babies and toddlers of the male variety, my top gift would be the Fire Fighter Dress Up Set. All three of my boys wore the same one for ages until it finally disintegrated. Cowboy Boots are a close second, their main drawback being that they hurt when used to kick a brother.
Smaller babes are endlessly entertained by the Busy Ball Popper, which pops the balls out of its gut over and over and over. Drew couldn’t get enough of this invention.
As for older people, a few gifts made the Hall of Fame.
Enough with the Tervis Tumblers, you say? But I can’t get enough! This year we gave up bottled water for ecological and financial reasons. I discovered that you can purchase a Tervis Tumbler 16oz. Plastic Lid, thus allowing you to take your water to Jazzercise, to the baseball or soccer field, and in the minivan with nary a sprinkle on your clothes. These have improved my quality of life.
L.L. Bean tote bags are classics for good reason. This link takes you to the page where you can design your own, specifying the size, colors, and whether you want long handles (yes!) and a zip top (yes again!) I got one this summer and use it to hold all my audio-visual stuff when I travel: camera and blackberry chargers, iPod speakers, and so forth. Then again, if I’m heading to a party I can load this sturdy bag with several bottles of wine and a hostess gift. My youngest sister loads hers with baby and toddler gear.
We kept hearing about Table Topics Conversation Cards and didn’t see what the big deal was until we received some of our own. Now when the boys talk about farts and burps at the dinner table, I steer the conversation to more acceptable subjects simply by drawing a card. We’ve discovered that as a family we’d prefer to live near the beach rather than in the mountains, we’d prefer a life of adventure to a life of safety, and all but Bill would prefer to have great musical skill.
Finally, the last Hall of Fame gift is a magazine subscription. The boys enjoy their Sports Illustrated Kids although Finn is old enough for the regular magazine. Of course, I can’t survive without The New Yorker and Bill is a devoted reader of Triathlete (and little else)! There’s a magazine out there for just about everyone.
Some New Ideas
I rarely recommend toys, but Drew got a Hasbro Electronic Hyper Slide for his birthday and we all had tons of fun with it. It looks like a bridge with four different colored checkers. A voice tells you which color checker to slide under the bridge and gives you a limited amount of time to do so. Somehow, it manages to keep up with which colors are on which side, and thus, who has screwed up.
We also love Monopoly, but I bet I’ve thrown away over two kajillion multi-colored dollars over the years, as they end up scattered about the house driving me mad. The new millennium has brought changes to the old game. Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition features debit cards instead of bills, and made the game new again for my guys.
Another big hit was the Rocket Balloon with Pump. The set contains long skinny balloons and a small pump to blow them up with. When they’re released, they zoom away, emitting a shrieking sound that’s the epitome of fun. Some people race them, but my guys flew them out the window and awarded points to anyone in the yard who caught one before it hit the ground.
If you have a boy who adores building things, your local Boy Scout store is a treasure trove of inexpensive kits. Birdhouses, trains, airplanes made of wood to be hammered, glued and painted. Leather kits that end up as key chains, wallets, knife holders, or slippers. I have to drag Porter out of there. Ooh, look! I found a link to the Boy Scout craft store, too.
I’ve touted several books this year, but the big favorites were Al Capone Does My Shirts, and the Percy Jackson books, which incorporate adventure and mythology. Porter tore through them and is searching for the author’s address to ask him to please write faster.
If you have a collector in the house, A Pocketful of History: Four Hundred Years of America–One State Quarter at a Time would be fun, especially if you gave it along with something to hold one quarter from each state.
Anyone who’s been a third-grader or had a third-grader will laugh at 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny: Life Lessons from Teaching. It’s a light-hearted look back at twenty years of teaching, and contains lessons that are funny, wise and universal. Don’t think teachers are the only ones who will enjoy this book– it’s sure to appeal to all ages and genders.
If you have athletes, you’ll want to check into the Road ID. They make ID tags that go on the wrist and the shoe so your biker or runner will have his contact information with him at all times. Bill and the boys each have one, and I feel a lot safer that someone will be able to reach me immediately if one of them should have a biking accident.
Is this the year that Wood Burning Kits make a comeback? It might be in the Glamore house. I’ll let you know if we end up with 70’s style crafts or branded hands.
Past gift guides are here:
The Ultimate Guide To Boy Toys (still the best, most comprehensive guide, featuring the ever popular headlamps, safes, flashlights)
Holiday Gift Guide: A Kajillion Ideas! (Ideas for teachers, babies and toddlers)
Gift Guide Part Deux: You’re So Hard To Buy For (funky, practical, collections, cookbooks, and a smattering of this and that.)
Gift Guide For Good Kids (Or Even Merely Tolerable) (books, games, technology).
One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Elves: Round 2 (The boys are trying for an elf again this year, but all they did was stick a one line note and some stale Wasa bread on the fireplace so I tossed it. Still no elves for us!)
Prying information out of boys is like interrogating a particularly recalcitrant prisoner. Often I get the best anecdotes purely by accident. Bill has a passel of first cousins in Columbia, South Carolina, who are now getting married one by one. We refer to them affectionately as “the dancing Glamores” because they showed up en masse at our wedding and proceeded to lead the entire reception in a risque version of the Electric Slide, and everyone is expected to participate in that activity at each subsequent nuptial. The next one is in November, and the boys came home as I was scheduling it on the calendar.
“Are they listed as “the dancing Glamores” in the phone book?” Drew asked.
“No, we just call them that because of their dancing prowess, which is another name for talent,” I answered. “They’re expert Electric Sliders.”
“I know the Electric Slide!” Porter said. “We do that in gym.”
I don’t think I’ve written about the strange activities that pass for gym these days. I’m befuddled by the fact that at other schools the kids are learning the rules of real games like tennis and lacrosse, while our children spend an inordinate amount of time on square pieces of wood with wheels, engaging in a game called “scooter hockey.” Drew says that between the wheels, the flailing legs, the hockey sticks and the balls, it can get dangerous, so he usually scoots to the corner of the gym and spins in circles until he falls on the ground.
But although the boys cannot stand learning the Electric Slide, it clearly has real world application, so I told them to pay attention because they’d be needing those skills soon.
“But it’s such a joke, Mom. The coach is like, kick your leg higher, Glamore,” Finn complained.
“You don’t even go to that school anymore,” Porter said. “When I do the Electric Slide I wiggle my butt and the girls laugh. But only when Coach isn’t watching.”
“Dude, wiggling your butt is a major part of the dance,” I said. “Keep it up.”
Sounds like we have dancing Glamores of our own here in Alabama. They have until November to learn the steps and add their own style to the dance.
People write me asking me to review all sorts of things and generally I refuse, because the requests are generic, or the products have nothing to do with me and my family. We don’t do princesses or baby toys, and organic baby food isn’t big at our house. If you’ve invented a non-odorous soccer cleat, or a food that results in a friendly, cooperative teen, however, I’m your target audience.
I did agree to review Tiny Prints cards because I am a paper product whore. I’ll admit, when I first heard about Tiny Prints I pictured those wee frames with your baby’s footprint in it, and that is not at all what this company is about. (To set the record straight, I don’t have any of those footprints, nor do I have any bronzed baby shoes. I’m unsentimental like that.)
Tiny Prints makes full sized cards for all occasions, including invitations, holiday cards, birth announcements and so forth.
Here in the South people seem overly fond of flowery cards, in my opinion, but I have a definite bias against flowers in any form — fabric, wallpaper, upholstery, and so forth– except for real flowers themselves. I especially liked the Tiny Prints funky holiday party cards, not because I ever throw a holiday party, but because the cards did not have a single poinsettia leaf on them, and that is a good thing. You should check out the web site if you have an event in your future.
While I don’t have bronzed booties of my boys, I do have a hunk of sand with three indentations I made at the height of my craftiness, years ago. It was the end of a long, hot summer, and The Voice of Reason and I brought back sand from our annual beach trip, which was no small feat considering all the toddler gear we had to lug back as well. She’d read about an “easy” project where you mix sand with concrete or plaster of Paris, pour it in a mold, have your child put a hand print in, and then save it for posterity.
It seemed simple enough.
But if you are going to do this, I’d pick a day where it’s about 70 degrees, and limit yourself to one well-behaved 10-year-old. Somewhere I have a picture of us, which either 5 or 6 kids (we’re not sure if her youngest was born yet) and pails of plaster, bowls of sand and kids running amok. There’s another picture, too, where we’ve come to our senses and brought the highchairs outside and put Drew and Porter in them so that we have two fewer boys running around. I won’t speak for the Voice, but my padded bra is slung on the van, because it was well over 100 degrees and we were both sweating like big dogs.
An outsider wouldn’t really be able to tell that the sand has three boys footprints in it, but by God, I’ve saved it, because it reminds me of a sweltering afternoon that was rescued only by juice boxes and a large gin and tonic.
The fact that I can’t find the picture pains me.
Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Virtual Book Club #4
(with many book suggestions!)
I know you’re feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Part of that (the warm) is because it’s summer, and I can’t explain the fuzzy. Maybe you drank too much, or you french-kissed your cat.
At any rate, put those “Yes We Can!” feelings to good use. Sunday (what’s that, the 29th?) we’re all going to buy a copy of this book from Amazon:The Mothering Heights Manual for Motherhood
One of the special things about this book is that I have a story in it. The first essay in fact! The editor said that doesn’t mean anything, but I don’t believe that for a minute. You wouldn’t start a book off with a sucky essay, would you? You would not.
Anyway, when everyone buys the same book on the same day magic happens: the book climbs up the mysterious Amazon algorithm and becomes popular. We all love to be popular.
You know what this book is good for? It’s a great present to give expectant mothers at their baby showers. The Manual of Motherhood plus a pack of Pampers and you’re golden.
If you know a couple who’s thinking about having children and you feel strongly that they should not procreate, you could buy this for them also. The book contains true, scary stories that serve as powerful birth control. (If said couple needs more persuasion, refer them to this blog, or my babysitters.)
This is the first book that I’ve been published in, and Lordy, I hope it isn’t the last.
One thing I learned, though, is that editors sometimes mess with your writing before they publish it. For instance, my concluding paragraph was pure genius, and mentioned both Led Zeppelin and parakeets. The editors liked the paragraph before it better, and chopped it.
So if you buy the book, email me and I’ll send you the ORIGINAL concluding paragraph absolutely free.
Now you and your cat can get back to whatever.
Y’all: Thanks for letting me know that the original link disappeared from my post! I tried again!
Random past post from My Tiny Kingdom: We Talked Too Much
Porter discovered a book called Dragonology (A Field Guide To Dragons) when we spent half the day at the bookstore.
It’s designed as if it were written in 1898 by a dragonologist who provides information about dragon spotting and their habitats, and exhorts readers to continue his investigations. Best of all, the book contains small envelopes, each filled with lushly colored cardboard pieces that can be assembled to form twelve different types of dragons. They’re like manly paper dolls for boys.
Why are all my Doocey posts reptile-related?
One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Training Session: Snack Food Storage