Tag Archives: toys

Summer Camp Gifts

I never went to summer camp. So I’m living vicariously through my 10-year-old niece. Today she embarks on a week of hiking and horseback riding, campfires and canoeing, and s’mores and swimming. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about the summer heat, mosquito bites, pouring rain, poison ivy, cabin chores and creaky bunk beds. But I imagine she might feel homesick, so she will receive a summer camp care package from her Uncle Gift Giving Guy and Savvy Auntie (tm). I browsed several sites for summer camp gifts and chose Beyond Bookmarks, which offers the “funner size” of the Camp Life care package for Teens and Tweens. This summer camp gift package includes:

  • Chucknuka Uglydoll in purple
  • Hangman travel game by Magnetic Poetry
  • Waterproof playing cards
  • Carabiner (clip-on) pen
  • 16-ounce water bottle
  • Lip balm with sunscreen
  • Clip flashlight (with batteries included)
  • Mosquito repellent wrist band
  • Glow necklace
  • Water squirting frog toy
  • Beach Safe waterproof storage tube on a lanyard
  • Green bandanna (which doubles as wrapping instead of tissue paper)
  • Fill-in-the-blank thank you note

You can customize your care package with add-on items like an autograph pillowcase with black fabric marker, friendship bracelet kits, binoculars, glow sticks and seek-a-word puzzle books. If you want to treat your camper’s cabin mates, add in a small gift for them when you order the care package. Before you order from Beyond Bookmarks, make sure you have the shipping address and the phone number for the summer camp. If the camp only uses a post office box, select U.S. Postage Service for shipping. (UPS cannot ship to a P.O. box.) If camp is a few weeks away, you can schedule delivery for a future date. Don’t forget to add a personal gift tag message. From your shopping cart, click the red  “Add Gift Tag Message” button. Type in the “to” and “from” names. You have a 100-character limit on your gift message.

I can’t wait for the letter from camp from our niece.

When I First Was Santa: Gifts for Kids

Yes, Virginia, I was Santa Claus at age nine. I put on my snow boots, winter coat and red hat. I wadded cotton balls into a beard and Scotch-taped it to my face. Then I surprised my sister and brothers, taking my place in the living room’s big chair. Each sibling sat on my lap and told me what they wanted for Christmas. I’ve always loved playing Santa to kids, and now I get to re-live being Santa with my nieces and nephews. Here’s what I gave them this Christmas.

For the nieces:

For the nephews:

Build-A-Bear Gifts

Today my nine-year-old niece stuffed a monkey; my seven-year-old nephew, a Jack Russell terrier. And they loved it, thanks to Build-A-Bear Workshop (@buildabear). This toy store, found in family-friendly malls, lets children create personalized teddy bears and stuffed animals, step by step. Here’s some advice from an uncle who delighted two Guest Bear-Builders.

  • Build-A-Bear is more than teddy bears. Choose from dogs, cats, bunnies, leopards, tigers and other zoo favorites.
  • If the kids are older than three or four, they will likely enjoy the bear building experience more. Younger kids may want the pre-built stuffed animals and might find the noise from the bear stuffing machine intimidating.
  • Before you go, check online for printable coupons (such as $5 off a purchase of $25 or more).
  • Prepare yourself for puns: “a beary pawsome experience you’ll always remembear!”
  • Set a price limit ($30, $40 or $50 per stuffed animal) before visiting the store. For starters, the Marble Monkey cost $18 and the Jack Russell terrier was $22.
  • The extras are why you’ll want a price limit. Adding a sound effect to the stuffed animal runs between $4 (for a dog bark or monkey eep) to $8 (to record a personalized message). Clothes and accessories range from $2 to $13.50. My niece picked the tie-dye two-piece outfit ($12.50) and my nephew selected the Harley-Davidson black leather jacket ($12) and denim shorts ($5). We skipped the shoes.
  • When creating the birth certificate, you can skip the personal information like home address, kid’s date of birth, phone number and e-mail. On the other hand, providing a home address will allow Build-A-Bear to return lost stuffed animals.
  • The stuffed animals come in great packaging called Cub Condos, a cardboard house that kids can color.
  • The fun continues online. My niece and nephew received an animal ID and key code to play at Build-A-Bearville.

Puzzling Presents

This Christmas, we only had 9.8 lords a-leaping. That is, until we moved the coffee table and found that final missing piece of our “12 Days of Christmas” jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles challenge your problem-solving and pattern-recognition skills and make a great gift for families. Consider these puzzling presents.

German puzzle maker Ravensburger sells some of the best jigsaw puzzles available. I like the 1,000-piece puzzles, like the Celebrating Paris puzzle. Ravensburger also offers puzzles with 1,500 pieces (Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night), 3,000 pieces (Oceanic Wonders) and a brain-scrambling 18,000 pieces (Tropical Impressions).
Don’t let that jigsaw puzzle overwhelm their dining room table. Ravenburger features a “stow and go” mat to roll up puzzles up to 1,500 pieces.
Giving a gift card? Puzzle fans may enjoy the challenge of freeing that card from ThinkGeek’s Gift Card Puzzle Vault. You lock up the gift card, and your giftee must navigate a ball bearing through a translucent plastic maze to release it.
Upload your digital photo at PortraitPuzzles.com and create a 1,008-piece personalized jigsaw puzzle. Choose a puzzle box or puzzle tin for packaging.
Fuel creativity with Roger von Oech’s Ball of Whacks. Arrange the 30 multi-color magnetic pyramids to form hundreds of unique shapes. Couple this gift with the book A Whack on the Side of the Head.
Puzz 3D foam-based puzzles appeal to one’s inner architect. Let them build the U.S. Capitol Building in their family room.
For my nephew’s fifth birthday, I gave the Melissa & Doug 100-piece Pirate’s Bounty floor puzzle. Read the blog post.
Do your gift recipients subscribe to the New York Times? Look up their birth date or anniversary date and give them a puzzle based on that day’s front page.

Christmas Gifts for Nieces and Nephews

Do you know a PANK? SavvyAuntie.com coined this acronym to describe the “Professional Aunt, No Kids” demographic. About 45% of U.S. women do not have children, and many aunts give gifts to nieces and nephews.

My wife is a PANK. So does that make me a PUNK (or at least a PUNKcle)? Whether you have kids or not, here are gifts we will give our young nieces and nephews for Christmas this year.

One-year-old niece:
Snuggle Pea Pod by Manhattan Toy ($15)
One-year-old niece:
Laugh and Learn Say Please Tea Set by Fisher-Price ($15)
Three-year-old nephew:
“Good Egg” by Personali-Tees at Garnet Hill ($29)
Three-year-old nephew:
Imaginext DC Super Friends Batwing by Fisher-Price ($18)
Four-year-old niece:
Fancy Nancy Posh Bedroom Game by Briarpatch ($8)
Four-year-old nephew:
New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS ($33)
Seven-year-old nephew:
Mario Kart for Nintendo DS ($33)
Nine-year-old niece:
Style Savvy for Nintendo DS
Teen nieces:
Wii Balance Board (with Wii Fit Plus game) ($90)