11 December 2006

Perfect present: what's your family's? And: a word about kids' mags

Megin of GNM Parents has asked parents to share their families' toy and game "hits" -- the stuff that's loved and gets played with for a good long time. Jump on over and join the conversation, or, possibly, pick up a tip or two yourself.

Megin also shared some of her ideas for good no-clutter gifts:

I have some ideas for gifts this holiday season that WON'T clutter up your home and WILL enhance your family life all year long:

  1. Museum passes: the Children's museum, the Science Museum, the Animal farm, the Zoo, or the Aquarium. These are places that our family would enjoy popping into all year round. The benefit of having a pass is that you don’'t have to exhaust the family with a long visit so that you feel as though you are getting your money’'s worth. You can pop in for an hour or so and have a great time.
  2. Gift certificates for fun! “Paint your own pottery” places, bowling, a summer water park, mini-golf, gymnastics, kids' gyms, indoor rock climbing...
  3. Kid’s' magazines: Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic Kids, Highlights, Ranger Rick, Babybug, Cobblestone, Creative Kids, Ladybug, Turtle, Your Big Backyard, or Zoobooks just to name a few. [To be fair: kid mags are a definite source of clutter BUT may be worth it. See my note below. -- Ed.]
  4. A State Park Pass for long days of swimming, hiking, and exploring!

On kids' magazines: I grew up reading Ranger Rick and Children's Digest (which, until this moment, I had no idea was still in circulation). In fact, my first published work appeared in Children's Digest -- a poem called "'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah" I wrote when I was ...7? 8? I can't remember how old I was, but I can tell you that experience set me on the path to becoming a writer. Hence why I think the clutter of children's magazines may be worth it. This is just the sort of stuff you want littering the kitchen table and taking up space on the bathroom counter.

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My son loooooves his subscription to Baby Bug. He looks forward to getting his own magazine in the mail, and we read it cover to cover many times in a row once we open it. It's great for his age (he just turned 2), but the parent company offers a magazine for pretty much any age group:

http://www.cricketmag.com/shop_magzines.asp

I have to give a shout out to the amazing, award winning, children's magazines in Canada under the Owl umbrella: Chirp, Chickadee and Owl.

http://www.owlkids.com/owl/index.html

Apparently, when they recently added inserts for subscription deals to the mags, people were tearing them out at the bookstores!

Cookies in a jar- pretty, fun and tasty. Jar got recycled and we enjoyed the cookies. (These aren't hard to make at home and there are tons of recipes on the web.)

We love Babybug around here, too. My son got it as a gift last year when he was about 6 months old. It's been great.

Besides littering the kitchen table and bathroom counter, kids magazines are great in the car. I'd recommend National Geographic Kids, which also has this fun website: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/

Mmm... Cricket. I loved Cricket.

I recommend the World Wildlife Federation's magazines for children: Wild Animal Baby which is for 1-3 yr olds and is made with thick cardboard, Your Big Backyard (3-7) and Ranger Rick(7+). My 3 year old daughter loves Your Big Backyard. And from 18mo-3 she had a subscription to Wild Animal Baby and we still have all the copies. She reads them a lot and they have been great for the car.

I'll also vote in favor of all the National Wildlife Federation magazines. We've gone through Wild Animal Baby and are into Your Big Backyard. Can't wait till we get to Ranger Rick, which I also enjoyed as a child. (Helpful hint: They let you upgrade your subscription to the next age bracket at any time for no additional charge.)

Yep, we have both Big Backyard and Wild Animal Baby. They're a great idea for out of town grandparents to give as gifts- birthdays in our case. (Out of town because they're less likely to know what toys are age appropriate when they aren't around the kids regularly)

I'd also like to put in a vote for the WWF (that's wildlfe, not wrestling!) mags. They're a favorite around here. And when you're through reading them, you can cut out the photos and make collages.

Asha, any chance we'll be seeing a post with "'Twas the Night Before Hannukah"? :)

My children love "Chirp." My older son has outgrown the age group it's geared toward but still wants to read it and do the activities every month!

Just a note regarding Children's Museums and zoos - many have reciprocal agreements depending on the level of membership.

Check out http://www.childrensmuseums.org/visit/reciprocal.htm
for the list of 150+ participants and for zoos, check out your local zoo website. Googling "reciprocal zoos" also produces quite a few results.

I have fond memories of getting "Wee Wisdom" magazine as a child, and I actually still have a couple of copies. My six-year-old daughter is thrilled by "Highlights" and the aunt who gave it to her says she'll renew it again, hurrah!
Another gift certificate idea is for classes such as music, art, cooking, or gymnastics. My kids love these kinds of activities, and the tuition adds up.
I've also considered donating money to the zoo to get my kids' names on a brick. It's pricey, but the money goes to a good cause and the kids would be thrilled to find their names every time we go to the zoo. And the year my son turns eight, his gift will be a day as a guest engineer on the zoo railroad, shouting, "All Aboard!" at every stop.

As a kid I was always most excited to see the National Geographic World in the mailbox (though I also loved Cricket, Highlights, and my brother's Ranger Rick). The World (now National Geographic Kids) had cooking, culture, animals, and science.

We give our godchildren magazines from the Cricket family (Ask and Ladybug). Cricket also offers some interesting non-literary options that are more about science and/or culture.

This whole gift list is smart and inspired. Thanks!

We have given subscriptions to magazines to the children in our lives. Both of us had grown up with subscriptions to everything from Ranger Rick (Asha, we're buddies!) to National Geographic World.

Sure there are problems with clutter, but I remember how excited I was to get every single issue. I loved any mail as a child and, as we grew up all over the country and globe as a military family, it was something to be cherished (the days of cheap long distance didn't come until I was most of the way through high school in Germany). Letters, postcards, recorded audio cassette tapes, and magazines were much needed and appreciated lifelines.

Adrienne and I discovered that we weren't alone in this (her family moved a lot while she was a child and has similar fixations about mail), when we started sending postcards to the children of friends and family from our various vacation and business travel locations. One friend told us that her toddler son could barely contain himself at receiving his first post card ever. He carried it around with him all day and took it to bed with him.

We've had mixed reviews of the magazine subscriptions (our god children love them, but I never hear much from my brother about my niece's subscription), but without a doubt the ones that love them are the ones that get excited about receiving mail of their very own. So I see that as another benefit of giving magazines as gifts. Not only is it the gift of the magazine content, it is also the truly splendid gift of a periodic day of feeling special for receiving something in the mail.

For those that don't want to give magazines, think about committing to sending the children and toddlers in your life mail on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) for a year. Be creative, add a tzotchke or two now and then. I assure you, in an age when we mostly send email and keep people up to date through our blogs, the gift of mail for a year is so novel that it will have them beaming every time their parents say "There is some mail for you!"

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