The Ultimate Santa Gift Guide

Choo-choo trains, Obama coloring books, Mancala and other gift ideas for kids.


Santa might be a little strapped for cash this year, but if your kids are anything like mine, they won't be trying to hear that on Christmas morning. It's true; it's the thought that counts, and many Americans just might be on the verge of busting out the depression glass this year.

But most kids I know today aren't programmed to take nicely to handmade gifts in the same way that Great Aunt Mattie might take to some homemade bath salts. Kids these days are savvy enough to know what came from the 99-cent store and what didn't. They have a knack for knowing when Uncle Jr. really wasn't trying. And some can even tell what's been regifted.

But don't give up just yet—with this handy gift guide, you can put smiles on the faces of the important little ones in your life. Best of all, you can do it without emptying Santa's pockets entirely or racking your brain to find just the right thing.

Bless the Child

Bestow baby with a timeless sterling silver cuff bracelet (Red Envelope, $44.95) emblazoned with his or her name. Stimulate little minds with black-and-white Art Baby Flashcards, with whimsical black and white line drawings from the MoMA Store ($14); the cards are stylish enough to create a mini gallery in baby's nursery. Celebrate the naturally coiled hair on baby's head (even if it has yet to grow there) with a onesie that says "I (heart) My Hair" (Dolls Like Me, $11.50, 3-6 months and 6-12 months). 

Splurge: The Deluxe Baby Keepsake Kit from Red Envelope ($44.95) is modern moms' and dads' answer to the bronzed baby shoes from back in the day.

Kid and Play

Get them a game that they'll never outgrow. Mancala ($14.39) is Africa's answer to chess and checkers; a game of sequence, that was originally played on ornately carved boards with stones or cowrie shells. Modern mancalas are a lot more streamlined (think IKEA toy department), but fun and functional, nonetheless. Continue the good times with I Never Forget a Face ($13.95), a multicultural version of the classic concentration game, featuring beautifully illustrated faces of kids from all over the world. Put the under-10 set to bed and finish up family game night with The Black Heritage Trivia Game ($19.95).

Splurge: Nintendo's Wii ($359.95) promises hours of family fun.

All Aboard