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The 2010 OWTK Holiday Gift Guide

When selecting a gift for a preschooler, kindergartner or grade school-age kid, I’d like to think that you couldn’t go wrong with anything I’ve featured here on OWTK (especially the music). That said, below are some choice 2010 holiday gift options for young children, divided into 4 1/2 sections.


**While I’m only dishing on a few here, any of the discs I reviewed this past year would make an awesome gift for a music-loving kiddo, especially the albums I noted as Best New Kid’s Music**

Many Hands – Family Music for Haiti
A gorgeous collection of original, unreleased tracks from the best and brightest acts in the kindie music world. There’s never been a grouping of children’s musicians this strong (Zanes, Seeger, TMBG, Recess Monkey, Frances England, Elizabeth Mitchell, Dog on Fleas, and on and on and on), with song contributions this outstanding. Oh yeah, it’s for a great cause too. What else do you need to help you push the button on this one? How about a link to buy it?

Sing Me To Sleep – Indie Lullabies
Another compilation, another good cause, another all-star collection of kindie rockers…wait, scratch that last one. Brainchild of talented illustrator Kate Garchinsky, Sing Me To Sleep features a variety of adult indie acts (Tanya Donnelly of Belly, Dean and Britta, Stars, Dala) covering a variety of songs – some familiar, others less so. Sing Me To Sleep is an indie rock lullaby album that’s as cozy as it is cool. It sounds great at naptime or anytime you and your kiddos wish to be whisked away to dreamland. Here’s a tip: pick up “Sing Me To Sleep” as a gift FROM your kids to your spouse with some homemade “coupons” for snuggling.

Coal Train Railroad – s/t CD and brand new download-only EP
My favorite jazz-for-kids album ever would look & sound positively smashing under the tree this year. Buy the Coal Train Railroad s/t album and prepare to swing your tiny tots ’round the house all-year long.  For your aspiring figure skaters, Coal Train Railroad’s “Just the Juice Jack” is the ideal song to build a 3-minute routine around.  The Bear carpet-skated to many a gold medal to this dramatic number in our living room.


The Monster Who Couldn’t Decide
by Andi Green
Another beautiful book and cuddly stuffed animal from author/illustrator Andi Green. This set would look stunning under the tree on Christmas morning. Fuddle may have trouble making decisions, but you shouldn’t hesitate to pick up The Monster Who Couldn’t Decide book and a plush Fuddle doll.

Between School and Home
by Bill Harley
The greatest gift idea for a teacher ever. Okay, that might be a bit strong, but seriously, this new Bill Harley book on the delicate relationship between parent and teacher is required reading for parties in both camps. At $8 it’s affordable enough to give to all your kid’s teachers. That’s what we are doing. You can even have Harley inscribe the book to the teacher(s). We’re doing that too (ours arrived yesterday, in fact). If you homeschool, buy 2 copies: read one as parent and one as educator.  Get your copy or copies here.

Beautiful Oops!
by Barney Saltzberg
Yeah, the board book is super swell.  But it’s the game the Bear and the Mrs. have invented as a result of the book that earns Beautiful Oops! a spot on OWTK’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide.  A dry-erase board, a marker, and an intentional “oops” leads to the other player(s) filling in the gaps to turn that errant dash, circle, or upside ‘U’ into something, well, beautiful!  Buy Beautiful Oops!

The ABCs of Rock
by Melissa Duke Mooney
A hip, pop-art stylized ABC book like nothing you’ve seen before.  26 legendary musical acts for 26 letters: N is for Nirvana, D is for Bob Dylan, K is for Kiss, and so on.  All genres are covered over the past 4 decades of of rock-n-roll history. Pick up a copy of The ABCs of Rock for your lil’ hipster baby this holiday season.

by Sara Pennypacker
This one isn’t new.  It’s the 1st book in what I consider to be the best-written, most endearing & engaging (and absolutely hilarious) chapter book series for young ladies.  The newest, Friend of the Week (book 4 in the series), WAS released this year and is beyond outstanding.  But if you’ve never heard of Clementine and have a daughter, granddaughter, and/or niece in grades 1-4 allow me to introduce you to her new favorite obsession.  Start her collection at the beginning, with Clementine.


Rory’s Story Cubes
Sometimes toys, music and books arrive, WOW us then quickly fade into the background. There are exceptions, of course, and Rory’s Story Cubes is one of them. This simple storytelling toy and tool still pleases both my girls, even the one who cannot read. She plays alone and ropes in the rest of us for crazy tale-spinning. Inventive dice game results in imaginative kids – and all for under $8. Done and done. Rory’s Story Cubes is gonna be the best thing Santa leaves in your kid’s stocking. Trust me. (unless he leaves a few $20 bills).

Chocolate Fix
This Bear is getting Chocolate Fix for Christmas. I played the game in a toy store and found it challenging in a way that’s similar to Royal Rescue (a great puzzle game Santa brought my oldest gal in ’09 and one the Mouse is working on now) but even more so. I’m most excited to see my smart lil’ cookie take on this sweet, fat-free chocolate brain-twisting game.

Deluxe Fisher Price Travel Magna Doodle Pro w/ light
My girls are semi-pro Magna Doodlers. It’s not uncommon for them both to be up before the sun and get to work straightaway on some whacky magnetic doodle art. They each have this travel version of the classic Magna Doodle complete with flip up light that is bright and bold and awesome for late-night car rides or hiding under the blanket early in the morning. The light takes 3 AAA batteries (not included) but doesn’t burn through them, which is nice. Also, the light turns itself off after a minute or so – annoying while doodling, but a pretty wise design decision. The slight inconvenience of having to hit the button again sure beats the financial inconvenience of blowing through packs of Coppertops. Pick up a Fisher-Price Doodle Pro for your mini-artist.

EllieBellieKids Crowns and Robots
We don’t do the Disney Princess thing, but that doesn’t mean my girls don’t get to dress up like royalty. They’ve got some of those cheaply-made-in-China plastic crowns, sure, but they also are proud owners of a white EllieBellieKids storybook crown. This well-made and soft crown is easily packable for vacation and is Velcro-size-adjustable which means many of our large stuffed animals have played the role of King/Queen/Princess/Prince.  At $28, no one is going to call it inexpensive, but high-quality, made in the USA things usually aren’t. It is worth the cash though, to provide your child a corporation-free princess experience that is fun, portable and long-lasting.

The recently launched EllieBellieKids Robots are brand new and so super cool looking. A sorta stuffed animal/pillow combo, they’re sure to make any robot-loving kiddo extremely giddy. Pair one of these robots with Recess Monkey’s “Final Funktier” CD for an out-of-this-world gift.

The Playmobil School
As a general rule, I consider anything with close to 500 pieces handy-work of the devil. But, the Playmobil school (which boasts 491) is more than welcome in our playroom. I bought this for the girls for this Christmas, it’s their big joint gift, from Learning Express during their storewide 20% off sale. Still, it cost me around $140 – so the massive Playmobil set isn’t for the budget-conscious. There hasn’t been a bigger hit with my girls since they were old enough to play with toys unsafe for ages 3 and under then Playmobil people – not dolls, dress up clothes, nothing comes close to the longevity of these well-made plastic toys.

Playfoam Creativity Kit
How do you feel about Play-Doh?  I’m not the biggest fan (stinky hands, sticky tables, oodles of tiny little pieces on the floor), but my girls LOVE it.  You know what else they love?  My antidote to Play-Doh: Playfoam.  The Please Touch Museum‘s arts & crafts room always has it at the ready and it’s there where I first encountered the fluffy, shape-able foam (which kinda looks like dippin’ dots). It’s light, easily formable (even more so than the smelly doh) and super easy to clean up.  SAY GOODBYE TO PLAY-DOH FOREVER!  Okay, maybe not, but still…buy your kiddo the PlayFoam Creativity Kit and maybe there’ll be fewer Doh pellets ground into your carpet.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown Board Game
I’m not the biggest fan of Scarry’s books (is that sacrilegious?) but the Busytown game looks & sounds terrific for young kids:  6-foot-long game board, 100’s of objects to discover, and teamwork required.  Kinda sounds like a fun way to spend an hour together as a family, no?  Pick up Richard Scarry Busy Town.

Forbidden Island
Speaking of teamwork and cooperation, Forbidden Island is built entirely upon the idea of working together to accomplish a goal.  You either all win or all lose.  I dig this.  While many young kids may be able to play along, Forbidden Island is intended for children 8+ and can also be played sans children.  That’s one versatile game!  Pick up a copy for your tweens or your spouse.

Corolle Les Cheries Ballerina Dolls
As a dad to two young doll-loving ladies, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a doll of some kind.  Chloe & Camille, the ballerina dolls by Corolle, are well-constructed and gorgeous.  In a world filled with cheap plastic babies that cry, pee, and robotically move their heads, these elegant 13″ pink beauties are some of the best we’ve seen.  The Mouse is getting Camille (the blonde) from Mom mom and Pop pop this year.  Buy the Corolle ballet dolls here.


Image credit: Classic Media

The Original Christmas Classics Blu-Ray Collection
To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, this brand new 4 movie set is being released on Blu-Ray for the 1st time ever.  We’re not fans of Frosty Returns, but the other three – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frost the Snowman and the aforementioned Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – remain super cool and cherished holiday traditions.  Pick up The Original Christmas Classics Blu-Ray Set as an early Christmas gift for the whole family, then settle in for some classic holidays movies after the tree is decorated and the stocking have been hung by the chimney with care.

Readeez Money Math Folder
1 video, 5 mp3s, and an eBook make up the Readeez Money Math Folder, a brand spankin’, fun new kindie eLearning product from Michael Rachap and The Readeez Company.  Learning about money and math concepts has never before been this fun, and, well, musical.  If you already understand money, then you’ll quickly learn that this is a great way to spend $8.95.  Buy Readeez Folderfuls here.

An award winning, subscription-based iPhone app with hundreds upon hundreds of stories and songs. I don’t think I’ve ever written about Tales2Go before – I should’ve – because it’s a great service that puts so much quality children’s audio programming at your fingertips for road trips, trips ’round the corner, or rainy days at home. In version 2.0, you can check email and multi-task while streaming stories and music (bonus!).  Many OWTK favorites are in the Tales2Go library: Bill Harley, Debbie & Friends, Scholastic/Weston Woods (the audio from all those great Scholastic Storybook DVDs I review on OWTK!), and so many more (Pete Seeger, Bill Lepp, Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, and tons of fairy tales). Get a 30-day free trail when you download the iPhone app here. After that, it’s just $2.99 per month or $24.99 for a whole year.

…but wait!  There’s more…

Add to the above list:


Okay, that’s all folks.  I hope the 2010 OWTK Holiday Gift Guide will be of some help to you as you develop gift ideas for the ones you love and hold dear.  If you like this post, please let me (and others!) know.  Please consider emailing/forwarding/tweeting a link to this post to a family member or a friend (especially if that relative or friend works at CNN, Parenting Magazine, or the New York Times! ha!)

Note: I link exclusively (whenever possible) to  This is a tricky issue for me.  I love the online retailer, I really do, but I also shop locally and independently whenever possible.  And despite my numerous links above, I implore you to do the same.  If you decide to buy from by clicking any of the links above, OWTK will receive a tiny affiliate %.  This helps me, but I’d still rather have you help a local small biz in your town.

Happy Shopping and Happy Holidays from the OWTK family to yours!

*All 2010 Holiday Gift Guide suggestions are unbiased. I may have received some of these items during the year for review, but that in no way influenced my decision to include the items again here.

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