It’s that time of year when the world falls in love. Every song you hear seems to say Merry Christmas and may your New Year dreams come true.
Wow – I could almost write Christmas songs with words like that! But I don’t have to because Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn wrote them for “A Christmas Waltz” and then let Frank Sinatra sing it. But I love the sentiment and it describes how I feel this time of year.
We stop, appreciate all things sparkly and pretty, and focus on giving and not receiving. At least that’s how it’s supposed to go.
One of the greatest compliments I ever got was from my older brother who told me I was a really good gift giver. I always like to pick something unusual and personal either to me or the recipient. In other words, I want to make it memorable.
So if you’re the kind of person who loves to give, hates shopping off of a list, and buys gift cards only out of desperation and then still finds a way to personalize it, then this gift guide is for you. I’m going to walk you through several categories that should at least give you a running start for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
Let’s start with the kids, shall we? Because I believe the children are our future.
Inspired by NatGeo
It’s no secret, or at least it shouldn’t be, that I’m a National Geographic Kids Insider. It means I get to sample and review so many awesome, fun, and educational things for kids of all ages. Here are some of my favorites.
- National Geographic Kids Brain Games – Get the book modeled after the hit National Geographic Channel’s TV show of the same name. My son loves the show and will love challenges, myths, fun facts, science and games.
- National Geographic Kids This or That? – This series of books allows us to officially play one of my son’s favorite games that he calls Would you rather… Great for the car too!
- National Geographic Readers: Pope Francis – Don’t think your kid is interested in reading about the Pope? I didn’t think mine would be either but this is just one of many readers that make kids feel empowered to discover knowledge on their own. (And we’re not even Catholic!)
- National Geographic Kids Cookbook – Have a budding chef on your hands? These are kid-friendly recipes that also teach them about their world!
- National Geographic Kids Guide to Photography – Here’s a secret. This is a great book to teach your kid the basics and get them interested in photography. But chances are you’ll be “borrowing” it from them. So good, I wrote my own review about it!
- National Geographic Kids Why? – If you’re kids don’t mind reading but won’t usually sit and read a book, this one with 1,111 facts will give them little snippets of info keeping them coming back for me. Shhh. They won’t even realize they’re reading!
- National Geographic Funny Fill-Ins – In my day, we called them Mad Libs and oh, they would make you blush! But these fill-in books will keep your kids thinking and laughing.
- National Geographic Kids Mission: Lion Rescue – Remember when Cecil the lion was killed? It sent a lot of kids (and adults) into a frenzy about how they can protect valued species. The Mission Rescue books focus on specific animals and give kids actions they can take to make a difference.
- National Geographic Little Kids Magazine Subscription – 6 issues per year are perfect for ages 3 – 6. Magazine subscriptions are the gifts that keep giving!
- National Geographic Kids Magazine Subscription – 10 issues per year for kids ages 6 – 12. That’s like giving 10 gifts all year through! Perfect gift from grandparents!
Kids at Heart
I didn’t want to do a toy section although people with kids are always on the lookout for something really cool. But I don’t like to force a gender or age limit on the things I classify as toys. So, instead, I simply offer this as a section of gifts for the young at heart.
- The Christmas Pickle Tradition – So the elf isn’t for you? Start a new tradition with roots in the old world by hiding the Christmas pickle. I promise – kids love it! And they love hiding it for you!
- Moff Band – This orange, wearable smart toy is almost like a fitness tracker. Almost. The younger crowd will love using the corresponding iPad app that will allow them to make the same movements and sounds as swords, tennis rackets, and many more things for imaginative play!
- Chrono Bomb Action Game – Kind of like Mission Impossible, the game. Except instead of lasers, it’s strings. Think of it as a modern day Twister!
- Budsies – The greatest gift EVER! My son saved his money to buy his own stuffed animal custom made from his complex drawing. While it’s too late for Christmas, you can purchase a gift card to make it happen. Trust me, just visit this website.
- CRUSH-IT! Baseball Bat – We’re admittedly a ‘sports lite’ family but this bat takes the best of tennis and the best of baseball for some spring action fun.
- E-Z Grip Super Grip Hi Bounce Ball– I tested this myself and this thing bounces on ANY surface. Easy to grip, easy to bounce, easy to throw.
- IQ Fit and IQ Twist – Awesomely intelligent games that are fun for kids and adults. I personally own both and they’re also great for travel.
- Wonder Workshop Dash and Dot Robot Pack – Are your kids interested in robots and computer programming? The Dash and Dot robot components give kids an introduction to basic programming with actual results.
- Guinness World Records 2016 and Guinness World Records 2016 Gamer’s Edition – Without Guinness, how would we know about the world’s longest fingernails or the world’s heaviest twins? More pop culture-ish and updated than the guide from my youth, these books still entertain.
What Mama Wants
This is the easiest category for me. Because it’s basically full of things that I love and things that I want. So if you’re exactly like me, or somewhat kind of like me, you might want to add these things to your list.
- Aventura Savona Infinity Scarf – I’ve been wearing Aventura clothing for two years now as ambassador and I still don’t have everything I want. If you’re not familiar, one of their fabulous scarves is a great place to start (I don’t have this one!).
- GustBuster Metro 43-Inch Automatic Umbrella – If you think about it, there hasn’t been much umbrella innovation… until now. An umbrella that refuses to turn inside out. Yes please.
- The Skinnytaste Meal Planner – I love to eat and I don’t mind cooking. But on any given night, I have no idea what to make for dinner. Since I love Skinnytaste recipes, I’ve put this meal planner on my personal wish list.
- AT&T Mobile Hotspot – With no contract, this reloadable wifi device has come in handy for me since I first reviewed it back in July. Love it!
- Alex and Ani “Oyster and Pearl” Bracelet – With a good friend that works for Pandora, I never really saw the appeal of these bracelets. Until I had one. And I only have one! I love it when people wear an entire wrist of them so I’m going to start with this one.
- Shark Rocket PowerHead – Yes, I’m suggesting a vacuum for Christmas. THIS vacuum. Here’s why – it’s all right here.
- Apple MacBook Air – I have to admit that I’ve gotten to the point where I need a travel computer and this right here is my computer of choice.
- Misfit Shine – Activity and Sleep Monitor – I’m on my third Shine not because it doesn’t work but because I keep losing it! Now is a good time to buy one because the Shine 2 is just out and the price on this one has steeply dropped!
- LEGO Birds Model Kit – Grown-ups like LEGO too. And this set looks adorable for people just like me.
- Philips Pasta Maker – Make your own pasta? YES! And since I just got this for my birthday, I can tell you this machine is AMAZING. It’s like a bread maker but for pasta. It’s so easy!
- Cascading Circle Earrings – Lisa Lehman makes beautiful jewelry and I know because I have quite a bit of it! I love these earrings that I bought in October and then just about cried my eyes out when I lost one.
And Now For Something Completely Different…
Everybody has someone. That person that has snobbish tastes. Or that has everything. Or could buy everything if they really wanted it anyway. Or is just really really picky. Or is difficult to buy for. This section is for that person. Or maybe even for you because you have eclectic tastes just like them. This section puts the “unusual” in my unusual gift guide.
- The Keyboard Waffle Iron – Funded with Kickstarter, how can you not love a kitchen appliance with a tagline like, CTRL+ALT+DELicious!
- Nut Hammer – There is a certain primal urge that is satisfied when smashing things. Now you can do that with a nutritious result.
- Butter Shaver Knife – Why has it taken so long for someone to come up with a solution to the hard stick of butter problem?
- Original Buddha Board – They say it’s for mastering the art of letting go. I say it’s great for relaxing doodling. And I should know. I have one.
- The Oyster Bed – If you don’t know about the joy of Wilton Armetale, let me be the first to introduce you to this Lancaster, PA company. If you can’t make it to their factory store, you can still get cool products online like this tray for serving and cooking oysters.
- Consol Solar Jar – I love anything from The Grommet simply because there’s a story behind every entrepreneurial product. But I especially love these solar jars because I own two of them!
- Geno 2.0 – It might surprise you to know that I’m part African. Of course, we all are and you can trace your ancestral path and contribute to science but participating in National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 project.
- Orbitwheel Skate – I’m gonna be honest. I don’t even understand this product. It’s considered a “boardless skateboard” but I just think it looks cool. As long as I don’t fall down.
- Sriracha2Go – Did you know that there are many many Sriracha sauce enthusiasts out there? In fact, I just watched an entire documentary about it. I also learned that my husband is one of those enthusiasts. So why not give him to ability to take the sauce with him wherever he goes?
- 30 Min & 5 Min Hourglasses – Time Management Set – My husband swears these have helped his work-from-home life. 30 minutes of working. 5 minutes of goofing off. Sounds good to me!
- Moscow Mule Mugs – I’m not sure why but I see Moscow Mule mugs everywhere. I’ve never even had one but I want to try one just because the mugs are so cool. (And yes, you have to have the mug or else it’s just not legit.
- RawSpiceBar – Buy the monthly spice box as low as $6 – It’s hard to tell what that little picture at the bottom is. But it’s a monthly spice subscription. Just a tweet and one of my followers is all over it! I used some Ethiopian spices from a complimentary pack they sent me and OMG was it hot! I’m definitely looking into this one for myself (each pack includes recipes too).
Gifts That Give Back
If there’s one thing I love, it’s gifts with a meaning. And it’s gifts that provide value to someone else in some way. I tend to purchase a lot of foreign made products that support local artisans and help them create their own economic marketplace. And I think gifts like these that are given to others carry a lot of meaning in addition to the value of the gift itself. And if none of these gifts float your boat, consider giving to some of my favorite charities listed below.
- Heart of Haiti Dragonfly Lantern – I have a special thing for dragonflies but I generally love all of the products from the Heart of Haiti and Rwanda Path to Peace projects. All products are sold exclusively through Macy’s and help establish an economic marketplace for many artisans.
- Artware for Good – I love this product for kids or even for parties. Kids get to create art, learn about different cultures, and contribute their artwork to a tile wall in Kenya, Rwanda, or Nepal. Beautiful idea!
- Inscribed Singing Bowl – If you’ve shopped at Ten Thousand Villages, you’ll know that they sell unique fair trade products from all over the world. From household goods to jewelry, you’ll find something for everyone. But personally, I love the handmade singing bowl from Nepal (we have one!).
- St. Jude Cutting Board – A bamboo cutting board inscribed with the St. Jude logo will provide you a place to properly “cut the cheese.” Something that is sure to make the kids there smile. Also, consider donating wherever you see the merchant sign for the St. Jude Thanks and Giving program (we’ve contributed through Williams Sonoma and Dominos Pizza!).
- Home T-Shirt – Home is where your heart is which is why the Home T-Shirt company makes soft shirts to celebrate every state in the nation. But even better? 10% of all profits are donated specifically for multiple sclerosis research.
- Amazon Smile – Here’s an easy way to give back. Start every Amazon shopping trip at smile.amazon.com. Choose a charity of your choice (mine is St. Jude) and Amazon donates a portion of every purchase price to your charity. Nothing out of your pocket (except what you were going to spend anyway)!
- Infinity Scarf – I fell in love with the products from Just One while attending a conference in Canada. One woman with a mission to help African women earn a better living. And they produce gorgeous and unique items like this beautiful scarf from Northern Uganda.
- Single Strand Bone Bracelets – I bought two of these to stack when I was in Canada. I was taken by how the finish looks like wood but is simply a by-product make form cow bone.
- TOMS Nat Geo Women’s Jaguar Classics – As you probably already know, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. But this special edition is the result of a partnership with National Geographic to support its critical nonprofit work through the Big Cats Collection.
Other places you may consider opening your wallet to… St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Save The Children ASPCA Humane Society of the United States Or find a local charity that speaks to your heart. This is a critical time of year for charities and non-profits so give – even if it’s simply for the tax deduction!
So THAT was a lot of stuff. And I should say that some products were provided to me as samples and for consideration of inclusion in this gift guide. And some product links are affiliate links, which means that I might make a little cash if you decide to buy because of me. But I solemnly promise and swear that I only included things handpicked by me. Hope you enjoy and remember it is better to give than receive (and that includes those poor people standing out in the cold ringing their bells in hopes of collecting change for The Salvation Army).