The holidays are upon us once again, and no doubt many of us are pondering the best gifts for family and friends, as we look forward to the next festive gathering. While I’m not a huge fan of shopping, I do love stumbling across really fun and thoughtful items that loved ones are sure to appreciate. Here’s a collection of some of the best I’ve discovered this year.
First, to appreciate all the mamas in our lives, let’s start with a few gifts for new and expecting moms:
basq NYC Pure Joy! Holiday Gift Set and Calming Lavender Oil – Originally a brand specifically designed for new and expecting moms, basq NYC has an entire line of skincare products that are perfect for pampering the moms in your life while also being allergy, irritant and sensitivity free. Their Pure Joy! Holiday Gift Set will make pregnant mamas smile immediately with its glittery packaging, tied up with a festive bow. Inside the box they’ll find a Lavender Perfecting Sugar Scrub that helps exfoliate dry, damaged skin and encourage new skin growth. A Lavender Resilient Body Oil, made with 100% Natural Oil, is also included to nourish your skin with Vitamins and Omegas. Used together, these products will help prevent stretch marks and tone the post-partum belly while calming with a gentle lavender scent. The Pure Joy! Holiday Gift Set is available at http://www.basqnyc.com/ for $44.
New Mom Comics: The First Year – Being a mom brings plenty of unexpected surprises, many of which can alter your perspective and give you just the chuckle you need when you’re tired and sleep deprived. Remember all those moments that made you laugh and kept you sane during your first year of motherhood? From late night nursing to poopy diapers and anticipating milestones, New Mom Comics by Alison Wong uses humor and a spirit of camaraderie to reassure you that you’re not in this alone in this crazy adventure. It reminds you just how fun and rewarding being a mom can be. A great read, accompanied by fun bite-sized comics that can be easily read while nursing or while baby naps, this is a book that new moms are sure to love. Available at www.NewMomComics.com/book for $15.
PEEK Beauty Filter Feature Luminizing Face Balm & NomNom Lip Balm – This collection of beauty products comes packaged in stylish tins that make for fantastic stocking stuffers as well as perfectly portable beauty aids that can be slipped into any bag. The Filter Feature Luminizing Face Balm soothes and nourishes while highlighting your best features with a fun satin sheen. The NomNom Lip Balm smells lovely, mixing lychee extract, ginger root and chili pepper. The last couple ingredients add a little holiday spice to your lips! In addition to its moisturizing benefits, this lip balm contains natural sun production. Gift the Luminizing Balm and the Lip Balm together to help ward off winter dryness. $22 each at www.peekbeauty.co
Calm – While the first book I recommended in this guide helps new moms find humor in their every day, Calm helps you take a moment to be mindful of your daily activities – to reflect, appreciate and find inspiration in each moment. While it’s not specific to moms, this book consists of meditation exercises and journal prompts that help you be at peace in what can be a highly chaotic life stage. With each entry only a couple pages in length and not dependent on sequential reading or writing, Calm makes it easy to pick up and engage, even if you only have a couple minutes. An accompanying free app takes you on guided meditations, if you choose. More content is available with a subscription. Calm is available from Amazon for $19.99.
Next, a few ideas for the wee ones, from the very little to the school-aged kiddos that have been on their best behavior as the holidays approach:
GoumiMitts & Boots Set (0-3 months) – As a mom who reads product labels as closely as she reads nutrition labels, I’m always excited to learn about another organic clothing brand. Goumikids started with mitts, complete with a two-part closure system that does a better job staying on and protecting babies from both scratches and germs. It’s since expanded to carry all the newborn essentials, including boots, hats, mitts, jamms (gown/sleeper combos) and ‘alls (footed pajamas) in 100% organic cotton and bamboo fibers. Even better, they provide adorable bundles that make fantastic gifts. The GoumiMitts & Boots Set retails for $24 on www.goumikids.com with 10% of proceeds being donated to efforts that support children and girls globally.
eden and zoe Knit Baby Rattle – With a high class children’s clothing line comprised of gorgeously crafted cashmere and merino wool designs, eden and zoe is hard to resist. Each item is soft and breathable, taking advantage of cashmere’s natural properties that only get better with age. Recently, they’ve added a new line of handmade cotton baby rattles. The 100% cotton knit animal rattles come in the form of a bee, panda or koala and make a great gift or stock stuffer. Easy to grasp and with a gentle sound that comes to life with each shake, these rattles captivate babies and encourage movement. Meanwhile the natural materials provide parents with reassurance that this rattle is safe for even the littlest babies. $20 at edenandzoe.com
eeBoo Keepsake Growth Chart and Plush – These next gift ideas come from eeBoo, a company we love for their beautifully artistic kids’ products that encourage creativity and imagination. Well crafted, their high quality Mushroom Growth Chart ($16.99) depicts a fun and colorful animal forest scene and comes with stickers to mark a child’s height at each new year. While many of their products are paper based, eeBoo launched an adorable plush line just this year that features whimsical characters that look like they jumped straight out of a children’s book. Super soft, and each with a bow around its neck, these plush are ready to put right into your child’s stocking. They’re made from machine washable velour and filled with crinkly material as well as beans that enable each character to sit up. With five animals to choose from, including a bear, owl, cat, dog and bunny, you’re sure to find one for every child on your list. $12.99 on www.eeboo.com.
Fisher-Price Bright Beats BowWowWow (age 9+) – What could possibly be cuter than a dancing and singing robot? BowWowWow is the adorable puppy follow-up to last year’s hit toy Beatbo. With colorful lights, catchy music and fun movements, BowWowWow captivates babies who can’t help but groove to the hip beats. Babies and toddlers tap on the paws to activate each activity, including ones that introduce colors and counting. Lights flash on his belly as his head bobs and his tail wags. With so much going on, it’s hard for anyone to resist. Even parents will be jumping about with their little ones – a great way to get the whole family moving! BowWowWow retails for $29.99.
Downtown Bookworks DC Comics Girl Power Books (ages 0-3 and 6+) – The second these books showed up at my house, they were a huge hit. My First Book of Girl Power ($9.99) introduces 0-3 year olds to the DC female superheroes while My First Wonder Woman Book ($11.99) presents a more interactive board book experience with touch-and-feel pages that highlight Wonder Woman’s super powers. For more advanced readers, The Big Book of Girl Power ($16.99) gives kids 6 and up a more in-depth look into their favorite heroines, including Supergirl, Batgirl, Raven and Wonder Woman. My daughter, a kindergartener who is developing a huge love of reading, was drawn to them immediately and loved learning about all the strong female characters. When my 3-year-old son exclaimed, “My first book of girl power!” I was ecstatic that he, too, was enjoying learning about women super heroes. Wonderful for both boys and girls, these books reinforce the idea that girls are powerful and can achieve great feats when they set their minds to it.
Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar (ages 3-6) – Kids are learning to code at earlier and earlier ages these days, and the Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar makes it fun and easy for even Preschoolers! Kids choose and arrange any of the 8 segments, which each represent a different command. As they begin to make the connection between what they choose, the order they place them in and how the Code-a-Pillar moves, they pick up the basic principle of sequencing, which is the basis of coding. As they start planning their sequences to achieve certain goals, maneuvering across the floor and aiming for targets (2 provided with the set), they learn programming. The Code-a-Pillar lights up and makes sounds that captivate young coders and inspires them to continue experimenting. It’s a great way to teach creative problem solving through an engaging toy. Additional segments are available for purchase, and an accompanying app extends the fun. Code-a-Pillar retails for $49.99.
Fisher-Price Bob the Builder R/C Super Scoop (ages 3+) – If your child is anything like my son, he or she goes bananas over construction vehicles and will absolutely love this Bob the Builder R/C Super Scoop. A favorite character from the popular Bob the Builder show, Scoop is a backhoe with a lot of personality. While there are buttons on the vehicle itself that will activate lights and sounds, kids will enjoy using the remote control to magically move Scoop around the house and activate his digger arm. They can even make Scoop stand on his head as he sings a silly song. The Bob the Builder R/C Super Scoop is available for $49.99.
Barbie Doll and Dancin Fun Horse (ages 3+) – A classic toy that we adored during our own childhoods, Barbie continues to be a hit going into the 2016 holiday season. However, Barbie and her horse have advanced quite a bit from the static figures I remember playing with as a kid. As implied by its name, this modern day Barbie is accompanied by a horse that can actually dance! With 3 songs in its repertoire, this horse hosts a great dance party. Special clips let you attach Barbie to the horse, letting her either sit atop the dancing horse or stand by his side, dancing right along to the same beat. Of course, kids will also enjoy playing with Barbie and her horse in all the great traditional ways, brushing their hair, dressing them up and acting through all kinds of scenarios. Barbie Doll and Dancin Fun Horse retails for $44.99.
Build & Imagine: Malia’s House Magnetic Dollhouse – This reconfigurable, build-it-yourself dollhouse not only encourages role play but also allows kids to be the architect that designs and builds the house itself. The wooden pieces magnetically snap together, making it easy to redesign the house as many times as your child likes. In addition to the walls and floors, the set comes with dress-up dolls and an assortment of magnetic accessories for both the doll and house. The set is bright and colorful and is sure to appeal to builders and doll lovers alike. It retails for $59.99. Additional themed sets can be purchased to expand the house or build a whole village.
And, a few things the whole family can enjoy together:
Back to the Roots Home Gardens – Home gardens have intrigued me for quite a while. Part food source and part science experiment, it’s a fun way for the whole family to be more mindful about where our food comes from. Even better, the kits are generally very low maintenance and fast growing, making this an easy project even for those not born with the greenest of thumbs. My kids love seeing and eating the foods that they grow – a great tip for any parents with kids avoiding their vegetables! The Mushroom Farm ($19.99) teaches kids how to grow their very own organic oyster mushrooms, while a Self-Watering Tomato Planter ($29.99) demonstrates how to grow tomatoes through ancient olla technology. A whole set of herbs, including organic basil, cilantro, dill, sage and mint, are available either as a Garden-in-a-Can ($5.99 or $23.96/4-pack) or Garden-in-a-Jar ($8.99 or $26.96/3-pack), an easy and fun gift for just about anyone on your list. And, last but certainly not least, the biggest hit with my family has been the Water Garden ($59.99), a fish tank and herb garden, all in one! Through aquaponics, the plants get the water they need and, in turn, help clean the tank – a double win. All you need to do is remember to feed the beta fish. Learn more about these great gift ideas from www.backtotheroots.com.
PARA’KITO Refillable Mosquito Repellent Bands for Kids and Adults – It may be Winter, but I’m already looking forward to camping season, especially since so many sites require a 6-month advance reservation. Consider this a reminder to start booking! And, while you’re at it, check out PARA’KITO products that use natural essential oils to ward off pesky mosquitos. Refillable bands come in both kid and adult sizes. Kids bands include an ID label and come in fun neon colors and themed prints. Adults look stylish, too, with great colors and animal prints. Made of neoprene, they’re waterproof and soft to the touch with a Velcro attachment that makes it easy to wear or connect to a stroller or backpack. To keep the mosquitos away, just insert a slow-release tablet that lasts up to 15 days. Bands are available on us.parakito.com for $19.50.
While gifts are fun, another big part of holiday gatherings is food! With family and friends coming together, here are a few treats to enjoy with your guests:
RW Garcia MixtBag Tortilla Chips and Harvest Crackers – With more people avoiding gluten these days, it never hurts to keep gluten-free snacks around, especially when they’re tasty! RW Garcia, a 34-year-old family-owned-and-operated brand, delivers tortilla chips in both yellow and blue varieties – all in the same bag. Light, crisp and salted just right, these chips are great with salsa and guacamole. Not only gluten-free, the chips are also free of wheat, trans fats and GMO ingredients. Put these on your appetizer table, along with a platter of their Artisan 3-Seed Crackers that come in intriguing flavors like Sweet Potato, Sweet Beet, Kale, Quinoa, Sweet Pea and Harvest, a blue corn/pumpkin mix. As you can tell, these aren’t your ordinary crackers and pack in the healthful ingredients while rating high on taste. Like the Chips, they are free of gluten, GMO ingredients and trans fats. With shades of reds, greens, blues and yellows, these snacks are sure to add a burst of festive color to your holiday spread.
Brio Ice Cream – Brio is the product of the same twin brothers who started Earth’s Best Baby Food. After pioneering organic baby food in the US, they turned their attention to the frozen dessert aisle, bringing organic whole milk ice cream to market in intriguing flavors such as Very Strawberry, Dark Chocolate, Tropical Mango, Vanilla Caramel, Café Latte and Madagascar Vanilla. These flavors are robust, using real ingredients like pure vanilla bean, California strawberries and Alphonso mangos. They are packed with probiotics, antioxidants, protein and omegas while also containing half the fat, 35% fewer calories and 40% less added sugar than other premium brands with no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. Given all the nutritional goodness, you’re probably wondering how they taste. The verdict? They’re really good! I especially like the Brio Snack Kit ($27.48), which gives you a sampler of all 6 flavors, 2 of each kind in single-serving sized containers that come complete with colorful little spoons. It’s a fun way for the whole family to indulge. Once you’ve settled on a favorite or two, dive into a full pint. Available at select stores, or order from http://briolovesyouback.com/ and they’ll send ice cream right to your doorstep!
Once Upon a Farm (ages 5+ months – 18+ months)– These squeezy treats ensure that even your youngest revelers aren’t left out of the fun. Once Upon a Farm offers blended mashups of high nutrient fruits, vegetables and superfoods in convenient serving-sized pouches that babies can easily use to serve themselves. The pouches need to be kept refrigerated, as they’re made with fresh organic, Kosher and non-GMO ingredients and are free from concentrates and preservatives. The ingredient list is short, and each of the 10 blends is certified by infant nutritionists. How could you not love that? The packaging is also free of BPA, phthalates and PVC, and it can be resealed should a pouch not be fully consumed in one sitting. However, this has never happened in my household, where the pouches are quickly consumed in full. I’ve given them a taste myself, and I have to say they’re tasty! The pouches are staged for different key nutritional levels: Simply Pure single ingredient pouches for ages 5+ months, Simple Meals for 7+ months, Hearty Meals and Textures for 9+ months and Meals and Sweet Alternatives for 2+ years. Once Upon a Farm can be found at a variety of local stores as well as at www.uponafarm.com for $2.49 a pouch. They also offer a free trial for their subscription service, which delivers 24 packs to your door at a time – you choose how often.
While we hope this guide was helpful in planning your holiday, we most of all wish you health, happiness and a lot of time to snuggle with your family over this holiday season. Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!