As we head into the thick of the season, many of us are still searching for those perfect gifts for family and friends. For the first time ever on KFDC, I thought I’d share some things I’ve really enjoyed and/or think would make wonderful presents for a variety of people. This also gives me a chance to highlight a few local businesses offering unique products and experiences as well as other organizations that are doing great things. And then there are some ideas that are simply fun and enriching. None of these recommendations are sponsored; they’re just things that I truly like and think you and yours might, too. Happy gifting!
Craft, Doodle, and Tinker!
I first recommended Kiwi Crate, the monthly subscription craft box a few years ago. And now I’m endorsing them with even more fervor. The original kit comes with all the supplies needed to make an adorable craft. Now, Kiwi Crate offers even more: Koala Crate (age 3-5), Doodle Crate (age 9-16+), and Tinker Crate (age 9-16+). While Sasha still enjoys the Kiwi and continues to create all kinds of fun crafts, Owen has been receiving Tinker for the past year, and it’s amazing. Among the many cool projects, he’s constructed a trebuchet, built a drawbot (a robot that draws, of course), and most recently made his own Orion constellation with fiber optics.
Craft and Give Back
Similar to Kiwi Crate, but with a philanthropic twist, Little Loving Hands provides pre-packaged children craft kits where the end product is used to contribute towards supporting a philanthropic cause, such as activity bags for patients at the Children’s Inn at NIH. The company’s mission is to provide a fun and educational method for parents and caretakers to engage children in learning about the importance of being kind and giving back to others. Each kit contains materials for the project, as well as documents and other fun items to reinforce what the children are working on and how they are helping others. (Disclosure: We haven’t tried this out yet — our kit is on the way — but I thought the concept was so great, I wanted to include it here.)
There are so many wonderful shows both currently running and coming to local stages soon, that would make fantastic presents for kids and adults. A few that I highly recommend right now are Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play at the Kennedy Center (age 3+), Akeelah and the Bee at Arena Stage (age 8+, look for discount tickets), and Kiss Me, Kate at Sidney Harman Hall (for adults, look for discount tickets). And coming soon are Matilda at the Kennedy Center (age 6+), Annie at National Theatre (age 4+), and Bright Star at the Kennedy Center (for adults, look for discount tickets). For even more ideas for the gift of theatre, see this listing of live entertainment on stages through winter.
A Family Fossil Hunting Adventure
If your crew likes searching for shark teeth and other millions-of-years-old marine fossils, then you’ll definitely dig this: Ruddy Duck Adventures offers day-long outings in Calvert County that include a fossil hunting excursion with an extremely knowledgeable guide, plus hot chocolate on the beach; a visit to the fantastic Calvert Marine Museum, including lunch brought to you there; and dinner at one of their restaurants with a beer tasting for the adults. We recently enjoyed the Island Tour — detailed post to come soon — and it easily was one of our favorite new experiences this year. When you consider all that you get, the cost is more than worth it for a unique, fun, enriching family adventure. View their packages and note that they offer tours year-round!
Adventure in the Trees
If your kids like a thrilling outdoor challenge, consider a gift certificate, or even a season pass, to the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, one of our favorite outdoor places to play. It’s an exciting aerial forest experience, where adventure-goers navigate ropes courses in the trees, crossing over bridges, whizzing down ziplines, and scaling ladders to get from platform to platform, all many (in some cases, many, many) feet above the ground. There are courses for kids as young as 5 years old — and even more for us
Play on at Port Discovery
For children who aren’t old enough to zip through trees or appreciate the fossil hunt, a membership to Port Discovery in Baltimore will have them covered. The interactive children’s museum has myriad hands-on, curiosity-peaking, educational, fun exhibits that keep kids engaged for hours. Family memberships for the year starts at $109, making it a great deal if your family of four were to go a couple of times, anyway (admission is $14.95/person). Even better, right now they are offering 10% off, plus one month free if you purchase by December 23!
Star Wars at the Smithsonian
In honor of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens opening next month, the National Air and Space Museum is featuring Star Wars themed gifts for kids and adults including Darth Vader, Ewok and Chewbacca beanies, Yoda plush toys, and M&M Star Wars Light Up Lightsaber. A great time to purchase them is this weekend, December 5 & 6, at the annual Smithsonian Holiday Festival. And you can shop for many more unique items at some of the other museums over the two-day event!
For board games, you can’t beat Labyrinth Game Shop on Capitol Hill. This is my go-to for birthday party presents and always a stop for some holiday gift shopping. Since I first wrote about the store when it opened five years ago, it’s gotten even better. They have something for everyone — all ages, every interest. And the service is just as great as the inventory. Give them a few details about who you’re shopping for, and they’ll show you just the right game to buy.
Nene Imagination Puzzles
Last year, I wrote about these unique puzzles that go beyond the usual putting-pieces-in-their-places jigsaw. With Nene’s Puzzles Without Borders (for younger children) and Tiles of Infinity (for older kids), each piece fits every other piece, so you can make all kinds of configurations. And they’re just as pretty to look at as they are fun to build. Even better, the tiles are magnetic, so you can put them on the fridge. We keep some there, and just about every kid (and some adults) who enters the kitchen makes some kind of playful pattern. The puzzles are available for purchase online for $21.99 or you can find them at local retailers.
T’s that Salute DC
If you’re looking for a fun “DC” gift for an adult, check out Sneekis. I learned about this local T-shirt company that specializes in DC-themed wear through Instagram. Their clever designs incorporate local sports and recreation, and a zeal for the District that giftees can proudly boast across their chests.
Another Instagram discovery, these scarves, hats, and other handmade knit accessories are just gorgeous, a perfect gift for an adult in your life. While the company is local, the designs are Peruvian-inspired and made from alpaca blend wool, so they are really soft. I recently received an aptly named blanket scarf as a birthday gift, and it’s as sumptuous as it is pretty, probably the coziest scarf I’ve ever owned.
LEGO sets are growing up with our kids. Owen just got the LEGO Architecture Louvre as an early Chanukah present, and it is pretty awesome. Even though it’s for 12 and up, younger kids can definitely tackle it, too (Owen is just shy of 10). There are many iconic landmarks available, including the White House, if you want to put a DC spin on the gift.
Humans of New York Stories
If you follow KidFriendly DC on Facebook you might be aware that I’ve been kind of obsessed with Humans of New York for the past couple of years. I share the posts from time to time because the stories accompanying the portraits are some of the most heartwarming, heart wrenching, thought-provoking, and inspirational reflections of the human spirit. This hardbound version captures it all in one beautiful book.
Gifts That Give Hope
How about boxing up hope and happiness this year? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers, and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, while enjoying festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. The Arlington Fair will take place this Saturday, December 5, at Key Elementary School from 10am – 2pm.
Spread the SuperLove
I love the shirts from SuperLoveTees, not only because they’re supercute, but because they spread a good vibe with positive, inspiring messages. They are also super soft and comfy, and made to order with Fair Labor Practices. It makes me happy to wear the one I have and to see others wearing the ones I have given. (PS: The “Teach Peace” tee would make a perfect gift for a teacher.)
Cute clothes with cool messages aren’t just for adults. Svaha makes them for children – and they do so with unique, bold flair. The company was started by local mom, Jaya Iyer, after she couldn’t find an astronaut shirt for her space-obsessed daughter. Offering “clothing to empower your children” with apparel that plays with gender stereotypes, you’ll find butterflies and prism rainbows on boy shirts, dresses with cars and soccer ball prints, even pink and purple underpants for boys (dinos for girls!). These are gifts that kids and adults can appreciate for many reasons.
We just had the opportunity to sample this subscription service of monthly curated activities for kids, and it’s pretty fantastic. Everything is a surprise when it arrives (hence, the name), so you don’t know what you’re going to get, but that adds to the excitement. The box my kids received was Italy-themed, and included a little booklet with facts and other info about Italy, a mosaic tile project, an Italian architecture charcoal drawing kit, a Magic Treehouse Book about Leonardo DaVinci, a soccer ball toy, and even an Italian-inspired snack. Fun, artsy, and educational…I’ll likely surprise my kids with a subscription myself!
Of course, not all gifts have to come with a hefty price tag. There are so many magical yet still inexpensive experiences to be had in the DC area, some without even spending a dime. You can creatively package them up — perhaps a big, fun card with a photo — and promise a visit. Some suggestions: The new WONDER exhibit at the Renwick, the Fairy Lolly and art experiences at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens, the Wizard of Oz playground at Watkins Regional Park, the awesome displays at the U.S. Navy Museum, the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, a hike at Huntley Meadows. And there are so many more right in our backyard.