Ok. So. I had planned on writing a list of great gifts for kids, but here’s the thing: Modern Parents Messy Kids (MPMK) owns this category. And not that there isn’t enough room around the internet for multiple toy gift guides, but they’ve just done it so well. I love it.
The team at MPMK works on this ultimate guide throughout the year, and it is organized by interest (outdoor toys, building & construction, STEM, dramatic play, etc. etc.) and by age. The resource is motivated by the question, “what should I spend my money on,” which I obviously love. I am confident that anything MPMK has picked will be a gift that is valuable & worthwhile.
I invested the bulk of my time to create an expert guide of gifts that give back, so I will leave these pros to their category of expertise.
Personally, I try to think about gifts for a child (or teen, or anyone, really) as an investment.
If you’ve been around Shop Good a while, you may have gotten a sense that I have a mini passion about no “junk”, especially when it comes to toys and knick-knacks. In our house, we are less-than-average housekeepers, and having little bits & pieces journeying around the house (thanks to our 3 young kids) just adds another layer to the never-ending (and losing) battle of tidyness.
However, I’m not committed to full-on minimalism (or even half-on minimalism), and kids just seem to love little “things”. It’s a real-life tension!
The other problem when it comes to this time of year is that I LOVE stockings and always have. My big ole stocking was always a highlight and what I looked forward to at least as much as the “red ribbon” gift under the tree. Now that I am the one filling them (on behalf of my white-bearded friend, of course), it is definitely a part of the holiday process to which I give serious consideration (and budget).
Stockings must, by nature, be filled with small things, and, ideally, things that are FUN, too! So, what’s a gal to do?
Well, gift-giving and shopping are an art, not a science, so I can’t make any claims to hard-and-fast rules about what should go in a stocking. But, generally, I like items that are practical/useful, consumable, or legitimately valuable (in my definition, this would include items of good quality, items with longevity, items that will delight because they are specifically related to the recipient, etc.). Having little traditions that carry on year-after-year is great, as well.
Check out the list below for some starting points, and get to the end for some items to be wary about, if you (like me) are afraid of junk.
It goes without saying (nope, I’m saying it anyways) that I obviously want you to do ALL of your shopping at dignify!
But, I also know that there are other factors involved, like price point, interests, and the fact that not everybody wants a second blanket for Christmas. Because, of course, I’m assuming you’ve already bought one at some point for every one of your family & friends! ;)
If you love dignify and want to shop “good”, here is a list of our kindred spirits. These are specifically brands & storesthat are either providing dignified work to someone in the world, or who prioritize philanthropic or social goals. It is not exhaustive, and there are fabulous new businesses popping up all the time.
Generally, I’ve included stores that have a selection of items under $50 and under $100, though some items (like leather) simply cost more than that. Many of the items here are specific, but if you click & browse around, the shop has a number of great things . The list for guys is the best one, because let’s be honest here, if you are reading this, you are probably a woman, and the most difficult to buy for is probably a man. And if you are a man reading this, just buy her a blanket. Trust me. And if you’ve already done that, then go snoop her Pinterest board or browsing history, because I can guarantee there are some hints she’s left out there for you.
Finally, if you like the list, share it! A high tide rises all boats, and the more we can shift the buying power to socially-minded shops, the better. Feel free to add any more links in the comments below, and...
In our Reader Survey a couple of months back, we received some excellent suggestions about blog posts related to the holidays:
Tough one! And, what a great question.
Managing expectations with gift-giving & -receiving, limiting “stuff” without raining on the parade, being gracious and thankful… these are all big challenges of the season!
There are some clear challenges out of the gate:
So, with that in mind, and an opportune time approaching, how do you talk about this???
Every year, I see a swirling mix on facebook and among people I know and media I follow about Halloween: “Harvest festivals” and apologetics about why Halloween is naughty or good or foolish or fun or whatever the argument may be. Add the candy/diet concerns in and the conversation broadens and becomes even louder.
In my opinion, Halloween (regardless of the folklore/history/etc. around it), is a unique, wonderful opportunity for community connection; it’s too good to pass up!
I’ve been in my neighbourhood for nearly 11 years and in the early years – before school-aged kids – I felt like this was the only time I could get a sense of who lived around us. Then, once we did start to have kids, it was the only time I ever walked up to most of the houses around me, with a natural excuse to say hello and maybe have an introduction or a conversation.
You may be more friendly and outgoing than I am, but I know that I’m certainly not the only one with this experience! Especially living in a more suburban environment where there are fences and hedges that separate homes, and especially living in a cold weather environment where all winter, people drive into their garage and neighbours never have a chance to naturally interact.
So, while the zombie baby riding a tricycle down the street creeps me out BIG TIME, but nonetheless, I LOVE HALLOWEEN!
Here are some thoughts & ideas I’ve come across on the subject; maybe one will fit with your community or family (plus: a recipe!)
If you’ve never listened to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit about Halloween costumes, you must! Well, that bit along with the rest of I’m Telling You for the Last Time (which I think/laugh about every time I’m in an airport, every Olympics, as well as every Halloween... that kind of longevity IMO = Comedic Genius). Anyhow, the short version is: store bought Halloween costumes can be some of the junkiest, most terribly constructed, disappointing purchases of the year.
Don’t get me wrong: some can be great; you’re never going to be able to replicate an Iron Man by craftiness the way you can buy one. And our furry Cookie Monster & Elmo suits have had a great run. But, store bought costumes can be costly, and with Nov/Dec coming around the corner post-Halloween, it may not be the right budget-blowing holiday. And the amazing costumes that are fabulously constructed and inexpensive... well, we don't know why they are so cheap and we probably don't want to know, truth be told.
My pregnant self with my Paulie Bleeker
The other factor, of course, is time. Home-crafted costumes can be incredibly time consuming! Even sourcing the different elements of a simple costume can be brutal. You want to be Where’s Waldo and it’s more like Where’s A Striped T-Shirt in This Thrift Store or Where’s A Dollar Store With Circle Glasses.
Or, you may be completely un-“crafty” and creating something brings you dread instead of joy.
Well, I’m sorry to say that as with most things in a mature, adult life: it’s tough to have it all! "Low cost, low effort, and fast" is the dream! And it isn’t always realistic. But, I’ve done a lot of Pinterest searches for Halloween costumes over the years, and I thought I would share the best of what I’ve found (that fits, as well as can be, into the dream of inexpensive, easy, fast, & not-junky). Sharing costumes between families or friends is, of course, a great ethical, environmental, and money-saving route.
These costumes would work for adults or children, for the most part (though I will note that one of my most massive personal pet peeves is parents dressing their children in totally age inappropriate costumes; grade schoolers should NEVER be dressed as Walter White or Alex from A Clockwork Orange! EVER! [rant over])
Birthday gifts! For any age, receiving gifts is a delight. But, if you’re a working mom and an aunt to seven and a sister (or -in-law) to six and a friend and a daughter… well, you get the picture: it can become overwhelming. Particularly if giving gifts is not how you would naturally express your affections.
In my family, I have two grown siblings: my sister lives in my neighbourhood and has two kids, aged 3 & 6. My brother lives in a different city and has three kids, aged 9, 11, 15. On the other side we’ve got two more: 12 & 14. My kids are 6, 5, & 2.
Like a wave that comes reliably and relentlessly, everyone has a birthday every year!
Over the years, for birthdays & Christmas, we’ve all dabbled in different permutations & combinations:
One Pro Tip to address all of this overwhelm? Become known for one thing. Give the same gift. It is a way to take the stress out of gift-planning, without forgoing gifts altogether. If you think this is a terrible idea and want to be unique every time, that’s great! God bless you. I could use your help.
If I may be on to something, read on...
Inspired, we’ve compiled a guide of even more ideas, practical tips, & specific goods, all sparked by the idea of a “meaningful” gift – specifically, with moms in mind (and plenty of time for Mother's Day!).
Simple! Just take it.
No bribes. No emails in exchange. Just free. For everyone.
Seasonal consumerism gets a bad rap, and never more than with Valentine’s Day! It’s gaudy, it’s excessive, it’s unnecessary… What can I say? By and large, I agree.
Are gifts altogether bad? Does a tangible, physical item have to fall under the ethically-minded, wannabe-minimalist’s (that’s me, btw) no-no list of “stuff”?
Here’s my problem. I don’t like “stuff” (or “junk”), but I do like gifts. I like giving them, and I like receiving them.
I love donation gifts like a chicken or goat or school supplies; I also think “experience gifts” or other alternatives are also brilliant! But, I also like to wrap a thoughtful gift, place it in someone’s hands, and see them handle it, use it, & enjoy it.
I asked some friends, customers, & followers about meaningful gifts they’ve received in the past from a mate/love-of-their-life/partner-in-crime. Here is a list of some faves:
One of my favourite and longest jobs was at the old green mermaid, located in a busy office tower in downtown Calgary. The shifts were early (I am an early riser, so, no trouble there), the store was busy, and the clientele were largely regulars. As a social extrovert, it was a perfect part-time job for me while I was in university.
A side effect of this particular role was seeing people around the city and recognizing them by their drink. Tall drip (ha!). Triple Venti Latte. Grande Nonfat Hazelnut Steamed Milk, aka “Tough Guy Special” (TGS on the cup). I would see them at a Flames game, or out for dinner, in the lobby of The Christmas Carol or at the park by the river; I saw those drinks walking around everywhere!
I remember at one point looking across the room at my church and seeing a man whom I recognized. Tall dark. Sometimes a bran muffin. He wasn’t chatty, but without fail, he came in every day for that coffee.
A few weeks later, on a Sunday morning, I was in the lobby at a booth chatting about volunteering when up walks Tall Dark. I start chatting him up with the familiarity of old acquaintances, until I realized that he was looking back at me as if he had NEVER SEEN ME IN HIS LIFE!
I tell this story because in our shopping culture, and especially at this time of year, it is easy to forget about the humanity of the people behind the cash register.
Party season is in full swing, but what truly makes a great event?
There’s Martha and her ruler-spaced candlesticks; Epicurious & Williams-Sonoma (& the rest of the internet) offering festive recipes and drink pairings; Pinterest has an unending supply of décor ideas; but in the end, what makes for a holiday event that stands out in the surging sea of parties, gatherings, & get-togethers?
I’ve enlisted help from the best & most prolific hostess I know to offer her thoughts on the what and the how (and a little bit of the why) of being a great host.
Carolyn & Peter love hosting people and have built their life (and their home) to suit. Their house has been the locale for numerous birthdays, dinner parties, farewells, welcomes, retirements, and, during this month, their annual Sunday evening celebrations of Advent.
After attending a number of these events, I can say without hesitation that a party at their house is always a good time!
But it’s not just the food (which is delicious) and it’s not just the company (which is delightful). They have a way of hosting people whereby the guest feels so very, well, hosted! People feel cared for and appreciated. You get a sense, as a guest, that while a lot of work has passed to pull it off, they’re just thrilled you are there to enjoy it.
Once, as we left from a birthday party, my husband said, “That party was for Carolyn’s birthday, but it really felt more like a celebration of their friends. They showed us a good time!”
(C: I know that you’re reading this, and that you’re thoroughly embarrassed. Noted.)
I asked Carolyn to share in her own words how they host people in this way, and some tips & tricks for how they pull it all off with a large crowd. Read & learn! [I’ve got my notepad ready…]
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