Wrapping Paper Roll Call: The Kids Are Gonna Be Alright

Illustration for article titled Wrapping Paper Roll Call: The Kids Are Gonna Be Alright
Photo: Studio Romantic (Shutterstock)

If you live with a child, no doubt you’re well aware of what they want this holiday season (they’ve likely been begging you for it since well before Halloween). However, if you are child-adjacent—meaning, you have much-beloved youngsters in your life you regularly spend money on—you might be feeling a little torn on what to give them in this most unconventional of holiday seasons.


You see, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s the difference between want and need. With the events of this year demanding academic pivots that have proved challenging to students, teachers and parents alike, our kids need more than toys this year. They need gifts that support their growth, inspire them, and give them deeper understanding and confidence in their place in this deeply confusing world. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some gift ideas from Black-owned brands with offerings that truly affirm that the children are our future—and with our help, they’re gonna be alright (and yes, so will we).

So, what to gift this season?

Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty

Fun fact: Creative Soul Photography, the Atlanta-based husband-wife duo who create gorgeous portraits of Black children celebrating the beauty of natural hair, were among the first we featured when The Glow Up launched in 2017. In 2020, the couple published their first book, Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty, an instant New York Times bestseller full of imagery that will inspire for years to come...but for next year, you can also cop their 2021 Calendar.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Another must-read for developing minds? Stamped, the “remix” of Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning. Fellow award-winning young adult author Jason Reynolds makes the extensive history of anti-Blackness in America—and Kendi’s epic work—accessible and entertaining for younger readers, predicting it “may very well be [his] most important contribution to children’s literature.”

Serena Williams Jewelry

One of our favorite famous mother-daughter duos has inspired a jewelry collection! Serena Williams’ luxury jewelry line also boasts a collection of “mommy and mini” styles to honor the precious bond she shares with her own daughter, Olympia.


Qai Qai

Serena’s not called the GOAT for nothing—her gift game is pretty strong, too. In October, she made Olympia’s constant companion, the famous in her own right Qai Qai (pronounced “Quay-Quay”) available to the masses, exclusively on Amazon (which means she’ll definitely arrive in time to make it under the tree).


Kamala & Maya’s Big Idea

Speaking of famous women, perhaps few have fueled the imaginations of young Black girls (and boys) this year than Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman of color to be elected vice president. But as her niece Meena Harris reminds us, Kamala and sister Maya (Meena’s mother and also a political powerhouse) were once kids trying to make their community better—a story chronicled in this picture book for ages 4-8.


Izzy & Liv

We love this lifestyle site for its array of culturally-relevant accessories, games, apparel, and more for almost every member of the crew, but its kids’ collection is especially out-of-this-world. Grab some unique finds, or surprise them with new treats every month with a subscription to a Brown Sugar Box. (And while you’re there, grab yourself something, too.)


Just Like Me!

If they’re already avid readers (or you’re hoping to inspire more reading), seeing themselves reflected in the books they pick up is always a great way to keep kids engaged—and affirmed—with a monthly selection of 2-3 books that grows with them.


Puzzle Huddle

For little ones, puzzles are more than a way to keep them occupied; they also help with cognitive development and hand-eye coordination. For even more impact, the aspirational scenes that emerge in Puzzle Huddle’s offerings make a positive impression on impressionable young minds.


The Fresh Dolls

We all know that socialization is crucial to children’s development—and opportunities to do so have been sorely lacking this year. But did you know recent research shows that playing with dolls can heighten empathy (in both girls and boys)—another quality in short supply in contemporary society? The Fresh Dolls take the traditional fashion doll to the next level with skin tones, hair and features that our youngsters can relate to.


A Kids Book About Series

Is there ever an easy way to have difficult conversations with our kids? The A Kids Book About publishing company, founded by Black writer and father Jelani Memory, aims to help, exploring sensitive, complicated, or vital topics like racism, divorce, feminism, religion and more in hopes of helping us raise more aware and empathetic kids.


The Trini Gee

This Etsy shop is full of positive messages for all ages (peep her Black astronaut series), but the select designs Trini Gee creates for kids, like her “Black Minds Matter” tee and, are clever, creative, and bound to help build confidence.


Karyn Parsons’ Books

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that Hilary Banks, the hilarious character immortalized by Karyn Parsons on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was part of your childhood or early adulthood. Thirty years later (!), Parsons is still acting and an already-acclaimed author of two books released this year: the award-winning 1940s-era young adult novel How High the Moon, and Flying Free: How Bessie Coleman’s Dreams Took Flight, a picture book about Black aviatrix Bessie Coleman, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.



Designed by Omar Jermaine, a dad simply looking for cool clothes for kids, apparel brand Moon/5un is not only the manifestation of that vision but the manifestation of a new career for Jermaine, who realized he had his own children’s story to tell through clothes and found a home for it on the all-Black marketplace BeResonant. The result? Basically the coolest kids’ clothing you’ve ever seen. (Because remember: the children are our future.)


Marcus Kwame Anderson

Illustrator Anderson and award-winning comics writer David F. Walker have produced a graphic novel on the Black Panther Party that will be out in time for Black History Month, but in the meantime, one of his heroic prints would be ideal inspiration for the young artist or comic book lover in your life—okay, maybe for the not-so-young ones, too.


Anti-Racism (Words of Change series)

Author, journalist and podcast host Kenyra Rankin has devoted her career to advancing the antiracism movement. But she’s also a mom, which made her latest effort, curating a compilation of quotes from generations of leaders, thinkers and everyday folks, a labor of love intended for young readers—and a healthy reminder for us grown folks that this is an ongoing conversation.


Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?