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‘Tis the season for holiday chaos! If you’re asking me, there is no better time of year than the month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, especially in New York City: chestnuts roasting on the street corner, the huge UNICEF snowflake hanging above Fifth Avenue. The day after Thanksgiving, I am dutifully out buying my Blue Spruce. But as soon as we’ve finished decorating it, my toddler is already eagerly demanding, “presents go under tree!?”
With kids, the holiday season is a time of joy and delight but also total pandemonium involving lots of hard-to-assemble toys, shards of wrapping paper in every corner of your home, and meltdowns when they’re not allowed to open all their gifts at once. So we’re here to help solve your toughest gift conundrums for all the tiny tots on your list—whether they are yours or someone else’s. It can be hard to nail down the best gifts for kids, not to mention the added complication that a gift for someone’s child is also a gift—or nightmare—for their parent, so pick wisely and do unto others as you would like to be treated.
For example, stay away from the 10-foot-tall Santa or singing dreidel, and consider a chic wooden toy that isn’t an eyesore or some elegant holiday ensembles that will have parents wishing they came in their size. Herewith, a breakdown of the best gifts for kids by type with some outside-the-cardboard-box ideas for kids of all ages and gifts of all sizes—from Santa’s main gift to stocking stuffers. For the kids on my list, I’ll be getting Little Sleepies bamboo family matching PJs, Meri Meri advent calendars, and La Coqueta knits.
For the Nutcracker Nut
Visions of sugarplum fairies dance in their head, and every morning, they wake up imagining the Christmas tree has doubled in size. This young one is an NYCB aficionado and not only loves their weekly ballet class but would take Tchaikovsky over Raffi any day of the week, crack their nut with this theater advent calendar,
For the Mini Monet
Picasso said it takes a lifetime to learn to paint like a child, encourage young brushstrokes with these art-minded gifts and make sure they won’t be splashing tomato soup on Van Gogh’s sunflowers anytime soon.
For the Sondheim Superstar
They’re only allowed to watch the first half of Into the Woods, but they’re over the moon for it and can be heard trilling the score of Company at night in their toddler bed. Encourage this Broadway breakout with some gifts that bring them right Into the Woods.
For the Doomsday Prepper
This young one has never really gotten over the toilet paper shortage of 2020 and has been prepping their upstate compound for the apocalypse ever since. Make sure they have everything they need, from astronaut ice cream to an emergency doctor’s backpack.
For the Circus Freak
You’ve been a houseguest at this friend’s home and have never been so thrilled to use the phrase, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” A morning with three kids under six makes a three-ring circus seem like child’s play (another term that will never be the same to you). Treat these crazed cuties to some circus-themed delights and maybe even take them to the Big Apple Circus, which treats its animals with love and care!
For Santa Baby, Literally
It’s baby’s first holiday season, make sure they’re decked as festively as the halls from elf booties to angel wings to tartans and knits.
For the Fledgling Fashionista
This sartorial sprite doesn’t believe in Coco Chanel’s adage to take one thing off before you leave the house, she hews more to the Iris Apfel ‘more is more’ approach and all of her stuffed animals are dressed to the nines.
For the Climate-Anxiety Kid
They love Greta Thunberg and loathe big oil…and they’re only four. Help relieve this tot’s climate anxiety with some eco- and weather-friendly gifts like these rain boots and coral reef stacking toy.
For Fido’s Fan Club
You got a dog during the pandemic and the only one who doesn’t regret it is the tiniest member of the household–because they don’t have to worry about Spot’s on-leash aggression and grain-free diet. Train them to take more of a hand in canine caretaking with these pup-themed presents.
For the Bunny Sloper
You’re visiting your friends at their condo in Deer Valley for holiday skiing, make sure to arrive with the best alpine-themed gifts for their kids who are already better skiers than you are.