Having both attended and worked at a Montessori school, I am a big proponent of hands-on, technology-free activities for children—preferably made out of glass or wood, involving clay or paper or liquid or scissors and cloth with not-too-sharp needles for sewing: things that are not toys per se, but practical, everyday products that help develop motor and mental skills in growing human beings. Therefore, consider the above list my quick and easy suggestions for young children’s gifts (those, and, of course, books), and these, the more up-to-date, gimme-gimme gifts:
Apparently, I have not quite grown out my stuffed-animal phase. Upon walking into Merry Go Round Children’s Store (150 Washington Ave., 988-5422)—which recently merged with another beloved local toy store, Toyopolis—I’m immediately propelled, without any apparent willpower of my own, toward soft, colorful and fuzzy creatures ($12.99 for small Gund animals). The clerk, Eliza, gently leads me out of my reunion-with-inner-child state and toward the dark and complicated-looking Star Wars Legos ($129.99), which line the store’s wall—the longed-for gifts of boys ages 5-12—along with Lego Friends for girls ($76). The millions of small, choking-size pieces become, with patience and foresight, something with the Force! Luke! Finally, I shall build the space-vessel that will carry me, Princess Mia, forth, to you! Or, realistically, to the puzzle section, where there are puzzles a-plenty—from 35 to 2,000 pieces—as well as board games for ages four and older and Apples to Apples ($33), which is really a gift for the whole family.
For infants and young children, both Hape (“Love, play. Learn”) and Haba are German brands made mostly of simple but beautiful wooden structures. Eliza says that Wow Toys’ cars ($39.99) and the friction-powered Thomas Trains are infant favorites. And while the boys might be into the stocking-stuffer-size Papo dragons, knights and monster creatures ($6.99), there’s every possible tiny accessory for a girl’s cute Calico Critter. The favorites, having stood the tests of time, hang out by the counter—slinkies, Silly Putty, bouncy balls, jacks and pickup sticks (all about $5)—saying “Mom, Dad, have really you forgotten me? I’m the perfect stocking stuffer!” And, by the door, horse heads on sticks promise a quick ride to Never-Never Land.
Explore more gifts for kids at Moon Rabbit Toys (112 W San Francisco St., 982-9373).