Holigay 2012 Gift Guide: People Who Are Younger Than You

Last year I wrote the most comprehensive guide you’ll ever read regarding parenting and interacting with children during the holidays. I can’t ever top that post. I recommend you read this guide as a companion piece to last year’s genius masterwork, How To Live With, Be Around and Give Gifts To Kids: Holiday Season Special.

If a road trip stands between you and your holiday festivities, you’re obligated to listen to tons of music on the way. Older kids will probably have their own personal music situation, but what of the babes? Or what of making the older kids listen to music with you anyway because it’s family bonding time and one day they’ll thank you for this?! But children’s music, generally speaking, is where you put your ears so they can bleed out. I mean the genre, not the music that comes from children — that’s the sound of a thousand angels, duh. Here are some albums that will feel more like sticking your ears in soda, or something — something fun.

Raffi – Singable Songs For The Very Young

Yo Gabba Gabba! Music Is Awesome! Volume 3 – Sure there are Volumes 1, 2 and 4, but 3 has The Killers, Devo and Band of Horses. I KNOW, YOU’RE WELCOME.

They Might Be Giants – No! and Here Comes Science

Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks – This one is actually just for me.

Raffi’s Christmas Album – You will not regret this.

John Denver & The Muppets – A Christmas Together

And now for the gift guide!

The gifts I remember loving the most — aside from Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Happy Home, obviously — were the ones I didn’t ask for. I felt weirdly guilty when I received something I’d requested, like it took away from the magic of the whole situation. And since I’m such a thoughtful motherperson, I like to throw random shit into the mix that may or may not be of interest to the kid. Because here’s the thing about kids: they’re not done yet. There’s a whole world of things they’ve not tried — not even been introduced to — so how could they know to put it on their wish list? They can’t, silly. It’s your job to show them a bunch of new things, and it’s not even really about seeing what holds their interest or doesn’t — it’s the fact that they met a new thing. The introduction is the important part, the thing that will help make them good and interesting people.

Maybe this year you can just skip the wish list and the asking what they want, and just give them something awesome without any regard to their unique desires or self-evaluated interests!

Try-Something-New Kits

Outdoor Adventure Time

Get an inexpensive duffle bag and fill it with all the necessities: headlamp, flashlight, some specimen containers, water bottle, binoculars, compass, notebook and astronaut ice cream. Optional items could be local hiking maps, books about insects, trees or birds (especially the ones native to your area), maps of historical monuments and sites, and geocaching supplies.

Petzl Tikkina 2 Headlamp ($20)

Fraidy Cat Flashlight ($10)

Astronaut Ice Cream and Space Food Sticks ($14)

Barska Lucid View Series Binoculars ($14)

Brunton Classic Compass ($11)

Field Notes: Ruled Paper Memo Book ($13)

*Extra Random Fun Science-y/Outdoorsy Things*

LED Student Microscope ($90) – First you’ll have to look at a strand of hair, then someone will prick their finger so you can examine the blood (this will dry quickly on the slide, so don’t dilly dally), and then you’re on the hunt for a dead bug. The adventure and learning never ends here, is what I’m saying.

Sun Art Paper Kit ($12) – Using solar energy, time and water, you create images on this magic paper — sorta like developing film, but a shit ton more fun. (Or possibly frustrating as hell — let me know.)

Chia Kitten ($22) – Obviously.

Journal/Scrapbooking/Zining Situation

Fill a tote bag with a journal or notebook, pens, fine-tipped markers, small envelopes, tape (double-sided and regular), glue sticks, brads, paper clips, stickers, photo corners, and some nice paper.

Wisdom by Winston Tote ($18)

Moleskine Plain Notebook ($13)

Pilot G2 Gel Pens ($3) Only the best pens ever.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 10 Pack ($11) Some amazing people brought these to A-Camp in September and I ended up with a green one and it’s basically changed my life.

Vellum Coin Envelopes ($2)

Zots Adhesive Dots ($2)

Copper Mini Brads ($2)

Self-Adhesive Photo Corners ($5) – Also comes in rainbow colors!

Talking Bubble Paper Clips ($7)

Smash Pad ($4) – The Smash Book line of stuff is SO FREAKING CUTE. It’s like a tumblr you can touch.

Mini Foodie in a Box

This actually probably won’t fit in a box, but it sounds better that way. Cookbook(s), nylon knives, ridic dish towels, sprinkles (because why not). It would also be cool to give them a way to organize recipes that they’ll come across outside of their cookbook, so maybe a recipe box full of blank index cards or a spiral-bound photo album or scrapbook. No matter what, when you give the gift of recipes to someone, tradition demands that you include a recipe of your own, so don’t forget that super important step.

Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes by Mollie Katzen ($13) – Preschoolers

Salad People by Mollie Katzen($13) – Preschoolers

Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen($13) – Ages 8 and up

Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat by Meghan and Jill Carle ($14) – Teens! I feel like teens hate things with ‘teens’ stamped on them, but probably this is useful.

Collected Recipes Binder ($16) – With a variety of storage sheets inside, for index cards and full-page situations.

Diner-saurs Tea Towel ($13)

Curious Chef 3-piece Nylon Knife Set ($6)

Kinderkitchen Gold Fish Measuring Spoons ($13)  Shit these are cute.

You can find more neat kitchen supplies for kids from these fine folks:

Boston Warehouse

Kuhn Rikon Kinderkitchen

Curious Chef

Very Important Painter Kit

Put a few tubes of acrylic paint, some paint brushes of varying sizes and a small sea sponge into a cigar box (you can pick these up at cigar shops for super cheap). Laura says to not forget the smock, which can just be an old men’s button-up. Add a little plastic palette and a small stretched canvas or canvas boards and you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet gift.

Acrylic Paints ($4-$9)

Stretched Canvases ($6-$15)  – Lots of sizes to choose from.

Folding Palette ($4)

Acrylic Paint Set ($18) – This includes 12 paints, brushes, painting boards and a paint knife.

Take A Picture, It’ll Last Longer Kit

Stick a small photo album in a tote bag or camera bag with a memo book and a short, simple book of photography — not the instructional kind, the inspirational kind.

Cassette Player Bag ($18)

Paws For Photos Camera Bag ($25)

Moleskine Grey Extra Small 2-Pack ($6)

The Photo Book ($10)

Now you get to choose the camera!

Fujifilm Waterproof Disposable Camera ($10) – Disposables are super inexpensive, just be sure to include a gift card to whichever nearby store develops film.

ActionSampler Camera ($35), Lomography Fisheye ($40) – The lower-end Lomography cameras are super fun. With these you’ll need to pick up some film and a gift card, or you could buy the film with development services for a few extra dollars.

Canon PowerShot 16MP ($80) – Digital cameras range in price from $80 – $2,000+, so you could probably find something to fit your slightly larger budget, if you have one. For the digital camera, I’d still throw in a gift card to Snapfish or maybe just some 3×5 photo paper.

If you’re feeling extremely thrifty, it’s worth noting that you can usually pick up a decent (or at least working) 35mm camera for about $3 at Goodwill!


How do you feel about giving unsolicited gifts to young humans? What are your plans this year? What’s the most ass-kicking gift you’ve ever gifted to a giftee?

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Laneia is the Director of Operations and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here.

Laneia has written 927 articles for us.


  1. oh my god laneia i love you. “they’re not done yet” <-- the wisest thing i've ever heard about kids, i LOVE that, will store it in my brain for when i am a mom one day. also re: cameras, my 35mm film camera was the best fucking gift i've ever gotten in my life, even though i asked for it and thus it was not magical (i know what you mean about that!) and i am not exaggerating when i say photography, both learning the skill and then actually having the skill, drastically changed my life in amazing positive ways. EVERYONE BUY THE KIDS IN YOUR LIFE NON-DIGITAL CAMERAS. they will thank you one day, i promise.

  2. “…they’re not done yet.”

    That is the secret to life and staying young at heart. I’m well into my adulthood but there is a whole world of things I haven’t tried, either. :) Here’s to never being “done”.

  3. These are great! :D

    I would say that getting a kid a non-digital camera is great IF they are both patient enough to enjoy being a hipster waiting on photos to get developed while their friends upload their stuff to Instagram and they/their parents have the money to continually go back and forth to Walgreens (or a better photo place) to develop film and get more. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you aren’t from at least a middle class family, it’s going to go long periods of sitting on the shelf.

    OTOH, you could gift them black and white photography classes and a used camera (you can find used and even new film cameras for super cheap on ebay, and classes are often not expensive either) so they can get some experience, get their hands dirty (literally, with film chemicals), AND they’ll have the skillset for the future.

    • yes these are great points and speak to my comment a little so i’m gonna respond — i should’ve clarified, i guesssss not EVERY child will be so excited about a film camera, especially in the age of instagram (though my favorite thing to do is scan my film negatives and then upload the digital image to instagram and do some “cross processing” and then reprint the instagram image on little business card sized prints which i realize is insane but anyway) and also yes my photography hobby is the most expensive aspect of my life so that is something to consider when getting a youngster hooked, though i still absolutely do recommend it or at least some type of art because i think an appreciation for imagination and creation is the best thing you can give any human, and as you point out, there are ways to do so on more of a budget.

      i always got my color film developed at target, which charged $3 a roll. i know that’s not feasible for everyone, but for me (and for the amount i was shooting) this was a reasonable amount. unfortunately the target closest to me now has shut down their film developing service because there wasn’t enough of a market anymore, and walgreens charges $9 a roll which is completely not feasible. i’ve heard costco is very cheap but i’m not a member so i haven’t tried it out. this has definitely deterred me from shooting as much film as i used to, which is sad.

      also, if it wasn’t clear (which it wasn’t, sorry!) i didn’t magically learn my photography skills by myself, i totally took a black and white photography class, several in fact (my high school offered them and it was my favorite class all four years i think it saved my life, honestly) and the BEST part about shooting film is the darkroom, physically making the film become a photo with your own two hands, it is just…the fucking best. it really hurts my heart that old school film photography and darkrooms are dying out, and you are setting your kid up for heartbreak if you hook them up with this class and foster this passion because unfortunately thanks to digital film is a dying art, and even though cameras & classes may not be expensive, film is expensive, and photo paper is expensive, and archiving materials are expensive, and once they get hooked they’re going to want all of that and more, and once their photo class ends they’re going to beg to make the basement bathroom into a darkroom and you’ll find a cheap enlarger at a yard sale but the filters and the chemicals and again, the film and the paper will still so expensive, and you’ll just think, FUCK why did i get my kid involved in such an expensive hobby, but then you will remember that ART CAN SAVE LIVES and also that you have granted your child total joy and allowed them to see the world in a new way and then it will be sort of okay.

      i clearly have a lot of feelings about this. sorry if i/this got weird. i think i should write a book called “if you give your kid a camera.”

      basically winged brings up really good points and i love photography. i think that’s all.

    • The biggest problem with film cameras when you’re a kid is you can’t take like a million shots of everything because you only have 24 shots until the film you bought with your allowance runs out and so you conserve it and don’t experiment.

      Of course, your relatives might be happier with not being sent nine million photos of the sidewalk and your peanut-butter sandwich and the funny-looking rock you found and the back of your secret crush’s head. So there’s that.

    • i think also though that if the kids don’t already have phones, computers, and a digital camera, the cost of all that will likely outweigh the cost of developing film at walgreens? i really loved getting film developed as a kid, it was like the most exciting thing ever, and developing my own film as an adult, so i’m also overflowing with nostalgia

    • welllll i kinda have to disagree with you a little there. taking pictures using film isn’t inherently hipster — for some people a film camera is the only thing that makes sense bc they don’t have money for a digital camera or don’t own a computer on which to upload them or don’t have access to instagram or twitter or facebook. i mean, i see what you’re saying, but this was written from the perspective of wanting to give the kid something they don’t usually interact with, so film would be more along those lines. and like riese said about the anticipation and actually holding it in your hands and wondering if your shots turned out. also it’s definitely not about giving them the gift of being just like their friends via participating in whatever social media is relevant.

      idk i feel like there’s something important about fucking something up and not being able to go back and try again. like film is reality and digital is whatever we tell it to be.

      anyway yes! photography classes would be like, the deep cuts version of this guide. so awesome.

  4. Laneia, I love when you write about mom stuff. I feel like there’s not very many of us here so whenever I see an article about children or parenting, I’m like YESSSS. These are all awesome gift ideas and I probably would have loved any of them as a kid.

    My 3.5-year-old daughter is getting a (digital) camera for Christmas, at her request. Her latest most favorite thing to do is take pictures with our phones, so if she has her own camera I hopefully won’t spend nearly as much time deleting hundreds of photos of the floor/her toys/her own feet from my phone. She’s getting pretty good though, she took some artsy-looking shots of strangers on the subway the other day. Maybe she needs her own Instagram account. ;)

    Other things on her list are: finger paints, dress up clothes, and a real Smurf. (I think she’s going to be disappointed about that last one.)

    • My two and a half year old niece is so intense about taking thousands of iPhone shots, I completely understand what you’re talking about. She gets reeeeeally into framing things and posing her toys in certain ways. Kid needs a camera.

      But yes to finger paints and dress up clothes. Also: the cardboard boxes that any toy comes in.

  5. And art supplies are always a good gift. I don’t have kids, but if I did they’d definitely be exposed to art at an early age. Liquitex though? They might have to start out with some Roseart or Family Dollar paint first.

  6. My nieces love every kind of spy equipment. You might want to check with the parents first, though, or at least warn them about imminent surveillance.

    Oddly, all the spy equipment “breaks” approximately 48 hours after I leave…

  7. “here’s the thing about kids: they’re not done yet”

    Well fuck me sideways if that didn’t pull on my maternal heartstrings!

    Things I love doing as a Mam;
    ” There’s a whole world of things they’ve not tried — not even been introduced to — so how could they know to put it on their wish list? They can’t, silly. It’s your job to show them”

    Nice work Lanea.

  8. “Because here’s the thing about kids: they’re not done yet. There’s a whole world of things they’ve not tried — not even been introduced to — so how could they know to put it on their wish list? They can’t, silly. It’s your job to show them a bunch of new things, and it’s not even really about seeing what holds their interest or doesn’t — it’s the fact that they met a new thing. The introduction is the important part, the thing that will help make them good and interesting people.”

    This actually made me want a small person of my own someday for like the first time ever.

  9. First comment ever here. I just needed to say that I received the Sun Art papers as a gift when I was a child and I LOVED them. I remember collecting keys and leaves and stuff to make scenes out of and the papers worked really well. My parents also never bought me anything I ‘wished for’, and I can relate to feeling guilty when I did get something I put on the wish list.

    Aside – I really, really appreciate the posts about parenting and raising children!

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