No matter the organizational apparatus or technique, the toy room of my house is unbelievably obnoxious. In their excessive, cheap, plastic paradise, my children are fickle friends--lonely, naked, wide-eyed barbies are ghosts from Christmas’ past. Now mute noise makers remember their distant holiday splendor while they try to trip me on the way to the bathroom. The toys and I cried last night at the mention of Christmas; when will the over-excessive holiday obscenity cease? If you are a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or neighbor and are considering purchasing children’s Christmas presents, check out the following options for gift-giving this year. Do not even pull into the Target parking lot (trust me, it’s terrible out there) and don’t touch a thing that requires batteries. Like fireworks, the momentary awe fades and then you have to clean up the mess.
Here are some quieter, smaller, healthier, easier, greener, cheaper, and smarter alternatives (and everyone will still love you, if not more):
- Magnatiles--If you’ve ever been to ArtSparks, your child has probably played with these amazing geometric blocks. Magnets attached to each side allow your child to build their architecture and learn spacial relationships. I’ve had plenty of fun playing with these too, they are destined to be a classic. $51.50 for a 32 piece set. Visit www.magnatiles.com  for more info.
- Small CD player with CDs: Go old school (can you believe that?!) and teach the children the history of rock and roll. My son, 6, loves Bowie, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley. Remember to shop locally at Ear-X-Tacy for your CDs and check the used bin for some steals! This gift creates a life-long bond (and they’ll think you’re pretty cool). I remember my aunt and uncle gave me a classic “Jesus Christ Superstar” record when I was 9; it was my favorite present that year, much to my parents’ chagrin.
- Classic wooden or metal kitchen or tea sets: Artist and Craftsman Supply on Barret have some eco-friendly ones. Throw in a wooden sushi-set ordered from Amazon and your even cooler. The plastic versions from big stores are made in China, contain who knows what (and they put everything in their mouth--forever) and break.
- Real canvas, brushes, and paints: Okay, so this one may be annoying to the parents, but they can get over it. Much better than the loads of throw-away crayola drawings, they can create a real masterpiece to hang in their rooms. Artist and Craftsman Supply on Barret Ave. has great deals on canvas (starting around $2.00)!
- Box or chest of dress-up clothes: Simply go to your closet and throw in long gloves, scarves, ties, vests, tunics, etc... You can sit on the floor and explain when you wore each, instantly creating a memory. Dress-up can never go wrong in the early years.
- Memberships: Don’t forgot the many great memberships you could give a family including: The Louisville Zoo, The Science Center, ArtSparks, and many others. If they go more than once, it basically pays for itself (plus, it creates an outing to plan in the future, that is, if you’re in to that).
- BOOKS!: Of course you can never go wrong with these guys, especially when you support the amazing local bookstore, Charmichael's. According to a New York Time article last month, parents are no longer buying the imagination boosting, wonder-worlds known as picture books. Don't deny the little guys these first seeds to the world of literature, there's plenty of time for novels.