Holiday Gift Picks for Minimalist Families

Courtesy Bogdan Dreava Photography

Take the stress out of holiday gift-giving with a new focus on creating meaningful gifts and lasting traditions. For this gift guide we focus on the Want, Need, Wear, Read philosophy, in which parents give children only four gifts: something they want, something they need, something they can wear, something to read. Whether you will be sharing a single item with love or more presents with purpose, you’ll find something for your kids on our list. We also offer some ideas to create a new holiday tradition (with even less clutter) with whole-family gifts of experience.


Courtesy of The Great Pretenders

Reversible Blue Lightning Holographic Cape This holographic cape will let your tiny superhero shine — even better, it’s reversible too. The maker Great Pretenders has spent 35 years inspiring open-ended play. Size 5-6. At MudPuddles Toys & Books. (And more designs at Oodles of Toys.) $29.99.

Courtesy of Spinmaster

Bitzee The Bitzee interactive digital pet is your childhood Tamagotchi crossed with a Star Wars hologram. Widely recognized as the “must-have” toy of 2023, the Bitzee is a digital pet that evolves like a Pokemon and unlocks new games and characters, too. Items sell out quickly online! Ages 5 and up. At Target and Amazon. $29.99.


Courtesy of Peaceable Kingdom

Gnomes at Night In this award-winning family game, trusty gnomes engage in cooperative play to find the queen’s treasure across a twisty maze. Collect all the treasure before time runs out. Ages 6 and up. At Thinker Toys. $25.99.

Courtesy of LEGO

LEGO® City Ski and Climbing Center Your family can’t hit the slopes every day, so bring your winter sports home with this LEGO City adventure. This deluxe set features skiing, sledding, climbing, mountain biking and a working elevator. Mt. Hood not included. Ages 7 and older. $119.


Courtesy of Hydro Flask

Kids’ Hydro Flask 12-ounce Water Bottle Hydro Flask hails from Bend, Oregon, and keeps your kids’ water at their preferred temperature all day long. The 12-ounce kids’ vacuum-sealed water bottle features a wide mouth for easy filling, a flip-up straw, and an impact-resistant and grippy boot. Ages 2 and older. $29.

Courtesy of Oakiwear

Oaki Rain Suit With a warehouse based in Vancouver, Washington, you know this rain suit was built by people who understand PNW weather. A staple for outdoor play in the winter, waterproof your child head-to-toe in a variety of fun and friendly colors. Sizes 12 months to adult. Select sizes at Bridge City Kid. $69. 


Courtesy of Slumberkins

Slumberkins Kinspiration Kit Slumberkins awaken from across the Columbia in Vancouver, Washington, to bring social and emotional health to children. Choose from four brand-new Kinspiration Kits for open-ended games and adventures featuring your favorite Slumberkins characters. Ages 4 and older. $78.

Courtesy of Omie

OmieBox Bento Box for Kids The bento-box solution for the kid who can’t decide. This three-compartment lunch box features two temperature zones for both hot and cold eats, including a leak-proof, insulated jar that can hold soup. Ages 3 and older. $44.95.


Courtesy of KEEN

KEEN Kids’ Howser II Waterproof Chukka Family-owned and Portland-based KEEN may be known for its durable summer sandals, but these winter boots should not be overlooked. Waterproof inside and out, these warm and fuzzy shoes feature PFA-free insulation and that same easy-cinch closure you love from the sandals. Little kid size 8-13; big kid size 1-7. $75.

Courtesy of WowWee

WowWee Style Squad – Hype Hair Floral Frenzy Summer festival season may be over, but that doesn’t mean cool hair is out! This seemingly simple hair accessory abounds with possibility. Choose from over 250-plus flowers and sequins to “stamp” into new hairstyles for holiday fun. Ages 6 and up. $9.99.

Courtesy Hanna Andersson

Hanna Andersson holiday pajamas Portland-based pajama favorite Hanna Andersson is back with all-new holiday designs. Kids with sensory challenges will appreciate the scratch-free seams. Pro tip: Hannas have such a long lifespan, you can sell back your used jammies and clothes to the company for cash or credit! Kid size 2-16 and adult sizes. $46.


Keep your kids glued to a new book during winter break. Thanks to Kim Tano and Madeline Shier, the children’s book buyers at Powell’s City of Books, for these great recommendations for books to give as gifts!

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

The Wilderness written and illustrated by Steve McCarthy A perfect gift for any child ages 4 and older! Follow Little Oktober as he ventures out from his cozy home on an amazing adventure. Quirky, detailed illustrations and a celebration of the great outdoors make this perfect for re-reading at bedtime or on a rainy afternoon. $17.99. 

Courtesy of Magic Cat Publishing

5-Minute Nature Stories by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Mona K Explore animals, insects and plants with a charming fact-based story and cute woodland creatures sure to captivate. Dance of the Honeybee, Flight of the Blackbirds and The Mystery of the Mushroom are just a few in this 10-story collection. Perfect as a quick read before dreaming about the miracle of nature. Great for ages 4 and up!  $14.99. 

Courtesy of Labrynith Road

Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-tale Life, written and illustrated by Emma Steinkellner Graphic novel creator Steinkellner’s (The Okay Witch) illustrated novel reads like Diary of a Wimpy Kid set in the world of Ella Enchanted. Middle schoolers who love fantasy, graphic novels or journal-style storytelling are sure to fall in love with Nell of Gumbling. $18.99.

Courtesy of Nosy Crow

A Whale of a Time, poems selected by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Matt Hunt Nosy Crow’s fourth gorgeously illustrated poem-a-day collection highlights funny poems to bring joy whether read aloud or alone. If you’re looking for a gift like Shel Silverstein, look no further! Excellent for any age. $40.

Gifts of Experience

Want even less stuff in your house? These gifts will provide memories of fun family time that will last even longer than plastic. 

Bring your family to The Yard on the Vancouver waterfront for outrageous milkshakes. Taste IG-worthy creations adorned with whipped topping, brownies, cookies, rock candy, gummy worms and more in towering citadels of sugar.

See a show as a family. Rick Riordan fans will love Oregon Children’s Theatre’s The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical and its reminder: The things that make you different are the things that make you special. Tickets from $26-$49.

If holidays bring out the angst in your family, we’ve got the solution: Smash PDX. Smash a car. Splatter some paint. Break some glass. Everyone can get their frustrations out at this Portland rage room. Tickets from $26-$50.

Or maybe your family prefers to create together. Clay is the perfect medium for whole-family classes. Owl and Bee Clay Company offers kids-only or adult clay sessions, or parent-and-child workshops. Packages begin at $225. And Kilnfolk Vancouver offers two-hour family clay sessions from $50 per adult and $25 per kid.

Spend a day together playing in the snow on Mt. Hood. Snow Bunny Sno-Park offers an affordable option. This area is free to use, so your gift budget only needs to cover the gas, parking and hot chocolate.

Kate Hagan Gallup
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