Girl with christmas gift

What’s Best and Coolest For Kids This Holiday- Part One

Girl with christmas gift

We hang everything/on our Christmas tree/Ornaments big and bright/and all these sparkling icicles/and twirling balls of white… Eloise at Christmastime – Kay Thompson

Daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, godchildren, best friends’ kids, toys for your kids to give their friends…the list goes on.  Some gifts need to be mailed long before the holiday in order to arrive in time. In other cases, it’s a matter of decisions, decisions, decisions. No one, and I mean no one wants to be shopping that last week. Herein some of the best this year has to offer, many thoughtfully tested by my consultant, 11 year-old Chloe Raizner and one by her friend, Santiago Parra.

My Chocolate Boutique (above) -ages 6+- An especially good idea for mommy and me time or a giggling party of girls. Create home-made, rather than store-bought presents or serve tea and candy at a tasting afterwards. Works well as a preface to learning how to bake or cook. The set includes: chocolate melting pot, bowl, mixing spoon, decorating tool, decorating brush, 50+ molds, 25 foil candy wrappers, 50 candy cups, 25 clear candy wrappers, 2 gift boxes, 100+ decorative stickers and instructions. Really, the only thing you need to provide is the chocolate to melt and mold (and batteries). $32.99 fatbraintoys.com

What little girl wouldn’t feel simply divine swanning through the house in this plush 100% chenille robe trimmed in shag? When I received the sample, I felt like carrying it around like Linus’ s blanket…just to stroke the fabric, which feels ever so soft against skin. Available in sizes 2T, 4T, 6 $55.00 and 8,10,12 $65.00; in many colors. Machine wash in cold water.

Plush ultra-soft scarves by the same source are 60” long, come in 6 colors and are also machine washable. $ 22.00 The next best thing to a feather boa. She’ll be the envy of all her feminine friends. Made by the Family Ties Collection. Both at giftinggrace.com

The Classics

Above Left: Eloise at Christmastime by Kay Thompson-I’m rather fond of caroling/Fa la on every floor/Fa la la la to catering/Fa la from door to door…Eloise is having an EXTRAordinary Christmas at The Plaza, where she lives with Nannie, Weenie (her dog) and Skipperdee (her turtle.) Do join the most sophisticated little fireball in New York as she carries on. (Every little girl should know Eloise) $12.91 amazon.com

Above Center: Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmens- All of Madeline’s housemates have colds-and it’s Christmas! So she buys the entire stock of a rug merchant to warm them. When the merchant gets too cold, she takes him in and in gratitude, he turns the rugs into flying carpets so everyone can get home to their families. $10.87 amazon.com

Above Right: Babar and Father Christmas by Jean de Brunhoff- Babar’s children go looking for Father Christmas in Man’s country. With the help of a dog named Duck, (and their daddy) they reach his workshop, but can they find a way to bring him back to Elephants’ country? $10.85 amazon.com

For the Budding Artist

Above Left: The aptly named Big Art Set- (Portable art box has rope handle for transport) A wonderful way to let a child find his/her own medium and imagination. Includes:• 18 colored pencils• 16 fine-point markers• 18 crayons• 14 pastels• 8 watercolors• 2 paintbrushes• 2 drawing pencils• Sharpener• Eraser. Add an assortment of paper and listen to the quiet. Set up a gallery in the house to engender pride. $29.98 hearthsong.com

Above Right: Make your own Pop-Up Book- ages 5+ This is really clever! A child adds his/her own drawings and story to create the magical world of 3-D. Is he/she bored with coloring books and so-called technical marvels? Here’s a hands-on experience, an opportunity to create something original while learning a little something about visualization and structure. Illustrated instructions include step by step pop-up designs. Includes: 1 large book- 8 ½” sq. and 1 small book 6 ½” sq., 31 die-cut pieces in various sizes, 2 sticker sheets, 8 markers, 2 pair of wiggly eyes. Winner of Oppenheim Gold Best Toy Award $19.98 hearthsong.com

Hot Wheels Light-Box Design Set- ages 6+- After they’ve finished with Thomas and trains, race cars seem to follow. Santi said, “I really loved the car design studio. I spent hours drawing and decorating my cars. My 14 year-old brother loved it too, even my dad. You basically trace the car design, color it and add stickers. You can also mix designs to make your own. I love cars and drawing so this is a perfect toy for me.” Includes: light box table, 40 design sketch pages, 10 colored pencils and sharpener, 15 films, 38 stickers, and instructions. $29.99 toysrus.com

Above: A present for the little girl who’s been really, really good, this Candy Cottage is handcrafted of quilted cotton stretched on a light aluminum frame for easy set-up. (Storage bag included) Decorated with appliqués and finely stitched embroidery, gingham trims on the door and windows with frilly curtains. Measures 40” x 28” x 40” A perfect thing to leave at grandma’s. (The wonderful tutu in the photo can be found on the same web site) Add a tea set and watch domesticity bloom. $348.00 chasing-fireflies.com

Hexbug Spider Micro Robotic Creatures 8 &- Boys have always loved crawly things. Today, that attraction extends to techno-space monsters. How many popcorn films have you sat through where we’re battling creatures who are forms of science gone amuck (theirs or ours?) Here’s one they can control! The largest in a family of “electro mechanical marvels” each spider comes with two-channel infrared remotes; two bugs can be operated independently or at the same time. Think of the battles (they will!- a great gift for brothers) Very cool internal mechanisms, six-leg crawling motion, 360 degree steering, and a LED forward eye (it moves around objects!) make the colorful arachnoids fascinating to watch and pilot. Boys gathered around the demonstrators cheered. In 6 different translucent colors. 4.5” x 3.5” $29.99 all major retailers or hexbug.com

Above Left: eeBoo’s Crepe Paper Flowers (in 10 different color combinations) are a great craft activity for one girl or a group. Chloe writes “This assignment was fun, fun! fun! Once my friend and I started making the flowers, we couldn’t stop. The colors are bright and cheery and the directions very easy to follow. Anyone can do this, even a younger girl.” Once made, they’re perfect for decorating a room or party. Give them in stacks! $5.00@ geniusbabies.com; landofnod.com

Above Right: And pipe cleaners! If you didn’t grow up with these you won’t remember how much fun it was just to bend, twist and create. Chloe writes “…one of the best projects ever. The animals come out so cute. Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment and make your own animals. (instructions for some are included) Little kids may need help, but I was able to make a horse and a bear on my own.” The only issue Chloe had was the all-one-color packs. Easily solved-buy a bunch of different colors! Again, a terrific group activity. Snow days? Also makes a fine stocking stuffer. $ 4.00 @ geniusbabies.com; landofnod.com

Laser Stunt Chasers-These cars and the tricks they do are fabulous fun. Chasing a hand-operated light around the room, they flip, turn, go up a ramp, over a rod, through a ring (30” high!) upside down around a double roll, and round and round the inside of a plastic funnel.  You should’ve seen the glee a loop de loop elicited; screams, laughter…dad wants to try! Able to go 10 miles an hour (it’s a 1:32 scale,) the vehicles can be operated in 3 modes from up to 40’ away as they zoom around the floor. Changing channels allows racing another car. And they’re rigged so that no matter how they land coming out of a spin or over a ramp, they’ll keep going. Not real laser light, by the way, infa-red=safe. Watching a little one get on his haunches to see the car whirl its way through the cone-priceless. Light-up wheel rims. If you can, buy all three to start:

Laser Stunt Chaser $35.00, Laser Stunt Chaser Doom’s Gate Ring and Ramp Set: $35.00, Laser Stunt Chaser Cyclone Force Stunt Zone Play set $40.00  Remember to buy the car set with the 2 stunt sets-sold separately. toysrus.com

The Voice Rockrz Mic- (Microphone) ages 4-10 won out over its competitor-both were tested. Chloe says “…the microphone and jewelry are awesome! … It’s really simple: just turn it on, wear the jewelry and play. Tapping the bracelet makes my voice go higher and lower (the echo-tastic voice effect) and makes me sound like I’m really on tv.” Tapping the ring, creates a hi-note effect. Comes complete with audience cheering and a drumroll sound. Plug into any MP3 player and kids can sing along to favorite songs. Available in pink or blue. Batteries included. $24.99 amazon.com, toysrus.com, target.com

Pint Sized Transportation

Above Left: The Sibling Tricycle- Instead of fighting over it, they can ride together. A good way to begin the “taking care of” lesson. One drives and pedals, the other hold on and rests his/her feet on the tricycle’s 14-guage steel tubular frame. Two 9” diameter rear rubber wheels are 4” wide for stability; road-gripping tread. Both seats are wide, cushioned and fully adjustable. A 10” x 12” x 8” wooden cargo box behind the rear seat means toys can travel with them. Supports to children of 150 lbs, 2 ½ – 5. 46” x 30” x 23” Lifetime Guarantee $299.95 hammacher.com

Above Right: Pink Sparkle Scooter- ages 2-5- Adorned with hundreds of pink crystals, this 3-wheel model is inspired by scooters of the 1930s. Let your very own glamour puss wend her way through the park as you walk beside her or proudly show off to a neighbor. Absolutely for girlie girls. The ultimate accessory. (Wait until she wants four wheels!) Steel construction, chrome wheels and rubber tires. Adjustable handlebar height. 23” x 9” x 25” $280.00 chasing-fireflies.com

I always hang a star on top/With angels in between/ Here’s how many lights we have —Thirty-seven and sixteenEloise at Christmastime

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