We don’t think we’ve met a toddler who doesn’t get excited when they spot a fire engine on the street. So the Green Toys Fire Station Playset is sure to be a hit. Bonus: The sturdy set is made from 100 percent recycled plastic in the US. For ages 2 and up. $49.99. At Hammer and Jacks and Eco Baby Gear.
Looking for a cuddly friend for your baby to snuggle? Jellycat’s Bashful Blue Elephant is the perfect pick (since we do love our Oregon Zoo elephants here). For ages 0 and up. $23.50. At Posh Baby and Thinker Toys.
What’s the toy that’s always snapped up at Tiny Tots playtime at the library? The drum. This beautifully decorated wooden Animambo Hand Drum from Djeco lets your little one keep the beat at home. For ages 2 and up. $20.99. At iSpark Toys and Hammer and Jacks.
Mad Mattr is a super-stretchy, gluten-and-toxin-free dough that never dries out, even when shaped into Lego-like building bricks. $10.99 and up. At Thinker Toys, Tinker Maker Toy Store, Seahorses PDX and iSpark Toys.
The experts at local toy stores tell us that kids can’t get enough of Squishables, the huggable, Japanese-inspired stuffies, which come in wacky designs like sushi and doughnuts. $19 and up. At Oodles 4 Kids, Piccolo Mondo and Kazoodles.
Buck the PDX anti-umbrella, muscle-through-it ethos and deck your kid out with Holly and Beau’s color-changing umbrellas. It almost makes the rainy season fun. Almost. $22.95. At Thinker Toys.
Stealthily help kids improve their balance and coordination with the Mini-Micro Scooter, an easy-to-use, pint-sized scooter that kids can steer by using their body weight. $79.99. At Polliwog,Mudpuddles, Posh Baby and Thinker Toys
Fidget spinners are so last year. The cutting-edge counselors at Trackers Earth Portland know what’s up, and they’ve pegged Kendama, a wooden skills toy, as the next big thing. $14.99 and up. At Finnegan’s, Child’s Play and Thinker Toys.
Don’t take our word for it that you should buy All’s Faire in Middle School, the newest graphic novel from former PDX resident Victoria Jamieson. Ask The New York Times, which called the Renaissance fair-themed work “effortless,” “tremendously satisfying,” and overall “brilliant.” $20.99. At Powell’s and Annie Bloom’s Books.
Which came first — no, not the chicken/egg conundrum, but, say, the development of Frankenstein’s monster or the invention of the tea packet? Timeline, a fiendishly clever trivia game, has you build a timeline to figure it all out. From $14.99. At Red Castle Games and Thinker Toys.
Did the summer’s total solar eclipse have as big an impact on your kids as it did on ours? Keep that curiosity about the cosmos brewing with the Discovery duvet set from PDX newcomer Huckleberry Kids Rooms. The clever design sends your kid off to bed as an astronaut set to explore the solar system. $79.
WHERE TO BUY
All stores in Portland, unless otherwise noted
Annie Bloom’s Books: 7834 SW Capitol Hwy. • Child’s Play: 2305 NW Kearney St. • EcoBaby Gear: 7980 SE Stark St. • Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts: 820 SW Washington St. • Hammer + Jack’s: 6416 SE Foster Rd. • Huckleberry Kids Rooms: 6018 SE Stark St. • iSpark Toys: 925 NE Orenco Station Loop, Hillsboro • Kazoodles: 13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd., B-3, Vancouver, Wash. • Mudpuddles Toys & Books: 16420 SW Langer Dr., Sherwood • Oodles 4 Kids: 7727 SE 13th Ave. • Piccolo Mondo Toys: 4768 NW Bethany Blvd., C5 and 12345 SW Horizon Blvd., #43, Beaverton • Polliwog: 234 NE 28th Ave. • Posh Baby: 916 NW 10th Ave. • Powell’s Books: Multiple locations • Red Castle Games: 6406 SE Foster Rd. • Seahorses PDX: 4029 SE Hawthorne Blvd. • Thinker Toys: 7784 SW Capitol Hwy. • Tinker Maker Toy Store: 7401 N Burlington Ave.
Gifts of Experience
Get the kids something they’ll never forget.
TAKE A TRIP
We love camping as much as anyone, but sometimes, it’s nice to let someone else do the cooking. Get your family a long weekend at OMSI’s Camp Hancock in Oregon’s high desert country, or at Camp Gray on the central Oregon coast and you’ll make new friends, learn new stuff, and eat tasty food. More info at Omsi.com.
If you’re a cycling family, consider signing everyone up for next summer’s Cycle Oregon family weekend. You get to cruise the Oregon countryside and the kids can ride alongside you. More info at cycleoregon.com.
If you’re looking for one night of up-close-and-personal magic with the animal kingdom, consider a family sleepover at the Oregon Zoo
or the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where they even throw in s’mores and hot chocolate for the pajama party.
FOR THE GRANDPARENTS + OTHER FAMILY
Wave them away from the battery-operated toys or the hand-embroidered all-white outfits for the baby. Instead suggest a gift that keeps on giving, like a yearlong membership to the Portland Children’s Museum, which will stand you in good stead during the long, rainy winter ahead.
Or they can take your kiddos over to Smartypants in NoPo for an adult/child crafting workshop (make fun stuff like dino-themed terrariums or mosaic stepping stones for the garden.)
If your kids are more musically inclined, tip the grandparents off to a series of violin lessons at Bennett Suzuki Violin Studio in SW Portland. Kids as young as 22 months can learn how to make beautiful music.
FOR A NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN
Big, buzzy performances are headed our way this winter. Treat your littles to tickets to Peppa Pig Live or Daniel Tiger Live at Keller Auditorium, both coming this spring. For older kids, splash out on tickets to The Sound of Music or even Hamilton, coming to the Keller Auditorium as part of the Broadway in Portland series. Or become a patron of the arts and buy season tickets to one of our swell kid-oriented theater companies, like Oregon Children’s Theatre or Northwest Children’s Theater. 5 Got kids who are more hands on? Get early-bird tickets to Bricks Cascade, the biggest Lego show in this neck of the woods, March 24-25 at the Oregon Convention Center.
FOR TWEENS AND TEENS
They’re notoriously hard to buy for, and there’s no poetry in an iTunes gift card. Try a punch card to one of these cool local movement spaces instead:
The Lumberyard to tide over mountain bike fanatics during the rainy season.
Skyline Ninja or Forge Parkour for the ones who can’t sit still.
D-Block indoor skatepark for the ones who love wheels.
Mount Hood Ski-Bowl, for those who want to shred some powder all season long.
6 iFLY indoor sky-diving center, for the daredevils. Check out their awesome four-session flight school package, including one-one-one coaching and analysis, plenty of flight time and take-home video clips.
Everyone knows the best gifts are the ones you give. Here are four local organizations that are doing great work to support PDX-area families this holiday season.
PDX Diaper Bank
Because diapers are expensive, and babies need to be clean and dry. This great nonprofit provides diapers and wipes free of charge to families in need all over the metro area. Give at pdxdiaperbank.org.
Baby Blues Connection
Because we’ve all been there. New parenthood can be an isolating journey. These folks are here to help. Reach out at babybluesconnection.org.
NW Mother’s Milk Bank
This Beaverton-based nonprofit works to safely collect donated breastmilk for the most fragile babies. Find them at donatemilk.org.
Two Portland moms banded together in 2016 to found this nonprofit that has put together hundreds of welcome backpacks for the refugees arriving in Portland from all over the world; they also host monthly potluck dinners where you can get to know our newest neighbors. Learn more at butterflyboxespdx.org.
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