We’ve scoured Portland’s toy shops for the coolest kid gifts around, no matter your budget. And don’t miss our presents with a purpose and roundup of gifts of experience the whole family can enjoy.
Suyon nontoxic, peel-off nail polish dries quickly and goes beyond pink and purple to include, green, blue, yellow and glittery black. An adorable owl, squirrel, fox or monkey face tops each bottle. All ages. $11 each. At Hammer + Jacks
Got a kid who hates taking a bath? Light-up Cubes by Glo Pals could have him rushing to the tub. These ingenious colored cubes light up when dropped in water and turn your tub into an underwater light show. Ages 3 and up. $10 for a pack of 4. At The Bull and The Bee and Hammer + Jacks.
Watch microcrystals bloom on the Crystal Growing Cherry Tree by Copernicus Toys before your very eyes. Seriously, this kit works fast! Also available in maple tree and volcano shapes. Ages 6 and up. $7. At Kids at Heart, OMSI Science Store, Portland Children’s Museum Gift Shop and Kazoodles.
If your kid is hoping for a letter from Hogwarts, you can at least get her a school-approved pet. The Legend Snowy Owl by Douglas Toys resembles Hedwig and will not deliver Howlers. Ages 3 and up. $19.99. At Thinker Toys, and Barnes and Noble.
Glowing Putty Gels and Slime Kit by Stay Curious/Copernicus Toys pairs a perennial kid-favorite with a bit of simple science education. Explore the wonders of chemistry and study states of matter as you ponder the wonders of gels, polymers and glowy phosphorescence. Ages 10 and up. $18. At Grasshopper, Collage and Finnegan’s Toys & Gifts.
Started by two local moms, Yellow Scope launched a new DNA & Traits science kit that teaches kids how to gather cells — from their own cheeks or from fruit — and how to isolate DNA strands. Ages 8 and up. $49.99. At Oodles 4 Kids, MudPuddles Toys & Books, Piccolo Mondo, iSpark and OMSI Science Store.
Adorable Soft Star Shoes are flexible and rugged and come in leather or vegan in a variety of (often customizable) styles that are great for new walkers. But they also cobble pairs for older kids and adults. Starting at $40.
Transform those random rocks lining your kid’s pocket into sparkling bits of treasure with the Hobby Series Rock Tumbler by Discover with Dr. Cool. Pro tip: It’s actually pretty quiet! Ages 5 and up. $74. At Oodles 4 Kids, Piccolo Mondo Toys and iSpark Toys.
Think of GraviTrax as a marble run on steroids. Your kids will discover how turns, junctions and freefalls can affect the speed of their track. Pro tip: This is the kind of toy that even some parents may have a hard time putting away. Ages 8 and up. $59.99. At Thinker Toys, MudPuddles Toys & Books and Piccolo Mondo Toys.
Smooshy Soft Blocks by UniPlay are made of food-grade materials with antibacterial properties and are perfect for littles ones who put everything into their mouths. Ages 3 months and up. Sets $20 and up. At Hammer + Jacks.
The Dinosaur Escape cooperative game by Peaceable Kingdom allows kids as young as 4 to work together with other players to save three dinosaurs before the volcano erupts! Ages 4 and up. $24. At Hammer + Jacks.
If your kids love hiding out in homemade forts, but you hate having every blanket in your house appropriated for fort construction, you’ll both love AirFort. Add your box fan, and this tent magically puffs up to 70 inches wide by 50 inches tall, big enough for kids to easily scoot in and out of. Ages 4 and up. $50. At Kids at Heart, Oodles 4 Kids and Thinker Toys.
Kiddos with a taste for tech will love the Remote Control Gear-Bot by Lakeshore Learning and its vibrant assortment of heads, gears and claws, which can be snapped together and attached to a motorized base to create real-moving robots of endless variation. Ages 4-10. $49.99. At Lakeshore Learning.
Tokyo Highway by itten Games is a super-cool, uber-minimalist strategy game inspired by the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway.Tokyo Highway encourages finger balance, creative construction and a bit of teamwork as kids build up their very own working mini-super-highway. A good game for families with kids in a broad age range. Ages 8 and up. $50. At Grasshopper and Red Castle Games.
Electro Dough Kit by Tech Will Save Us is the perfect STEM-inspired preschool gift. Thanks to the conductivity of dough — made at home or purchased with the kit — plus customizable buzzers and switches, kid creations come to life with light and sound, teaching littles about electricity. Ages 4 and up. $27 for the kit; $8 for the dough. At Grasshopper.
Soft, snuggly and available in a rainbow of colors, Felt Dolls by Handmade by Seng are crafted from all-natural materials right here in Portland and available in five skin tones and 20 hair colors (availability varies by store). Dolls and outfits are sold separately. Ages 4 and up. $39.95 per doll; $14.95 per outfit/accessory kit. At Beanstalk Children’s Resale Clothing and Palette at Pioneer Place.
Prettify playtime with minimalist wooden playthings, Sticks & Stones by Water and Lightning Toy Company. Inspired by natural objects a small child might collect while tromping a field, each one-of-a-kind set includes two sticks and six stone-shaped blocks, perfect for stacking, sorting and other baby busywork. Ages 1-3. $40. At MudPuddles Toys and Books, and Grasshopper.
Plug some groovy into your tween’s room with the 27-inch Lava Lamp by Schylling. (You know you always wanted one.) $109.99. At Thinker Toys.
The Kinderboard by Kinderfeets is a Waldorf toy that helps with balance, but your kids will find so many other uses for it: a rocking chair for reading, a tunnel for trains, a step stool, or a seesaw. Ages 18 months and up. $100. At Hammer + Jacks.
Gifts with a Conscience
Purchase a present, save the world? It might not be that simple, but these product-makers take their social good mandates seriously — and that gives
us hope for the future.
Time-In Toolkit by Generation Mindful
A “time-in toolkit” isn’t just a gift for the grown-ups! This collection of positive-discipline-inspired posters and card games helps kids to develop social and emotional skills while teaching self-calming strategies through mindful play. Beautiful graphics keep the learning light. Pro tip: Frame or laminate the cards and posters before gifting. Ages 3 and up. $59. Online at genmindful.com.
Kid Power Band by UNICEF
This kid-friendly fitness band helps kids track daily exercise, but that movement also unlocks therapeutic food packets, delivered by UNICEF to severely malnourished kids worldwide. An accompanying app lets friends and family compete on positive impact, while in-app missions teach about worldwide cultures. (No GPS or location-tracking involved!) Ages 10 and up. $39.99. Online at unicefkidpower.org.
Wonky Fruit & Vegetables by Plan Toys
Imperfect Produce has opened our eyes to the waste that results from rejecting cosmetically flawed (ok, ugly) fruit and veg. Teach kids to embrace curly cucumbers and two-legged carrots with this realistic produce set. It’s made from “PlanWood,” which thermally heats and shapes surplus wood scraps into long-lasting toys. Ages 13 months and up. $30. At Hammer + Jacks and Grasshopper.
Encourage nature play and build the stick fort of your dreams with the help of these flexible silicone rubber connectors. They’re far more environmentally friendly than plastic and free from harmful ingredients. Pro tip: Pack them on your next camping trip! Ages 6 and up. Packs start at $15. At Hammer + Jacks.
Membership has its perks. The biggest one is that this huge gift — a year’s admission to OMSI, Portland Children’s Museum or the Oregon Zoo — won’t clutter your house at all.
Unbeatable kids’ shows from Oregon Symphony, Northwest Children’s Theater, Oregon Children’s Theatre and Journey Theater are rolling out through the winter and spring. Snag some tickets and soak up some culture as family!
Lead your family on a guided winter hike with a kit from Super Nature Adventures. The Hoyt Arborteum’s Redwood Trail pack celebrates evergreens and includes a trail map with stickers and a field guide with an activity that helps kids learn the differences between fir and pine cones.
Take a day to play in the snow! Hit the slopes at Timberline or Mt. Hood Meadows. And for those who don’t ski, Mt. Hood Skibowl has eight tubing lanes, a maze, carousel and giant indoor play area.
Book an overnight tour at the Oregon Coast Aquarium to sleep with the fishes in the best possible way. Sleep in the Deep lets participants bunk down underneath the Passages of the Deep tunnel as sharks, halibut and rays glide overhead.
Are your kids back to singing all of Elsa and Anna’s songs after seeing Frozen 2? Grab tickets to Disney’s Frozen the musical. It’s hitting the Keller March 5-22.
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