Our Favorite Holiday Gift Guides from Years Past

Our Favorite Holiday Gift Guides from Years Past

Putting together obsessively book-themed holiday wish lists is one of our favorite parts of the year. We’ve got a few new ones planned for the coming weeks, but these greatest hits from past years are still pretty much perfect for that hard-to-shop-for Norse mythology fan in your life.

Holiday Gift Guide: Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers

Holiday Gift Guide: Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers

For stockings—and most nights of Hanukkah—I think most of us want small presents that seem useful or fun or (in the best of all possible worlds) both. These gifts fit the bill, from quirky Totoro socks and sushi erasers to laser measures and packable backpacks that smush down to the size of an iPhone. If you’re looking for that “one more little thing,” these are some fun options.

The Gift of Story

The Gift of Story

As we make our lists and fill up our shopping carts, let’s not forget that stories are also great gifts to give. My children may not think of stories as being their favorite presents, but I do plan to pepper the season with stories that hopefully will become special to them as they get older just as they did for me. 

When I was young, my grandmother told me stories about her childhood living on a Georgia farm. I can still remember the sound of Granny’s voice, her laughter and the way she used her hands when she talked.  Since she was the youngest of three daughters, she wasn’t needed in the house, so she became the leader of her three brothers and cousins as they played around the farm and did a number of “tricks.”

Once when they were bored, they spent a day taking the pine needles off a pine tree that stood by itself out in the middle of a field. When my great-grandfather drove by it on his tracker, he couldn’t figure out what in the world happened.  He “fetched” his wife and family to look at the pine tree that “had shed its needles,” and they all looked at in awe. My grandmother and her brothers didn’t say a word.

There were so many stories. There was one about the time they had a water-drinking contest, and she said that almost drowned her littlest brother, James!  My favorite story is about how they took a bite out of every peach on a peach tree because they were told not to pick any of the ripe peaches.

My Granny also told me how my grandfather liked to play practical jokes. One Christmas he wrapped a huge box for my grandmother and put it under the tree in early December. He wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, so everyone had to wait a long time to find out.  All he said was that it was very practical. On Christmas morning, everyone wanted Granny to open that box first.  What was in it?  Toilet paper.

As you can see, I come from a long line of tricksters and practical jokers, and if it weren’t for these stories, I would never know that. True family stories tell children where they come from, and they teach them lessons that their elders learned the hard way. But young children love stories whether or not they are true, and I think every parent should make a point to tell stories to their children. Trust me – it doesn’t matter how bad you think your story is – you’ll have a captive audience.

When my eldest son was four, I began making up stories for him. For several years, I told him a story every night before bed, and it got to a point where he wouldn’t let me go without his story. Somehow, these stories were so much more special than reading him a book. I didn’t think I could always tell a good story, but my son loved them anyway. I would let him pick the main character – usually an animal – or I would use one of his favorite toys to be the hero. Sometimes, I could throw in a little bit of wisdom that I wanted him to learn too. These stories were more personal and pertinent to his life even if they weren’t worth writing down.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll think about starting a storytelling ritual with your children. You’ll be amazed to see that made up stories or family stories can be the best entertainment, the best way to share your values, and the most rewarding gift you can ever give your child.

Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

Homeschool Gift Guide: Everybody Needs Books!

The “something to read” is always my favorite part of shopping. I can’t buy all the books for my own family, so here’s a roundup of fabulous titles for many ages and interests.

Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

Easy, Thoughtful Holiday Gifts to Make with the Kids

I like my friends, so I want to make them something awesome—but my time and budget are always limited. Maybe you’re in the same boat? We’ve rounded up a bunch of easy DIY gifts that are simple enough to make with your kids (obviously you know their abilities best) but nice enough to make your friends feel like they ended up on your family’s NICE list this year.

Our Homeschool Holiday Gift Guide

Homeschool Holiday Gift Guide

** We use some affiliate links on HSL. Learn more here. **

’Tis the season of giving, so we’ve rounded up 
a wishlist of gifts for your homeschooling pleasure,
Some nerdy, some bookish, some just for the geeks—
Unwrap them in haste and enjoy at leisure.


7 Book Lovers' Editions

Who can resist a good book, especially when it’s a great book dressed up in a fancy new cover?

1 :: Virago Modern Classics have covers created by British textile designers like Cath Kidston.

2 :: The sleek, graphic covers of White’s Books Fine Editions add a modern edge to library shelves.

3 :: Illustrator Jessica Hische designed the dramatic capital letters for the covers of Penguin's Drop Caps editions.

4 :: Melville House’s Novella series reimagines some lesser-known literature with bold fonts and Pantone colors.

5 :: Dover Books’ Calla editions are based on classic novels’ original cover designs.

6 :: Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions feature gorgeously illustrated covers.

7 :: Penguin Clothbound Classics look like they belong on old-fashioned library shelves,

4 Journals for Making Memories

What better way to ensure you never forget those backyard volcanoes and home theater productions?

1 :: Bare Books are an ideal way to show off your best stories and poems.

2 :: The perfect antidote to a no good, very bad day, FU: The Journal to Destroy, Rant and Vent Without the Police Becoming Involved makes a handy vent space.

3 :: Poppin’s Soft-Cover Notebooks come in a wide range of colors, so it’s easy to find everybody’s favorite.

4 :: Every Day: A Five Year Memory Book is the perfect way to keep a record of your homeschool life without all the pressure of a serious journal.

5 Cool Building Sets

Think beyond the Lego with these nifty construction sets that will bring out your child's inner architect.

1 :: Uncle Goose's Periodic Table Building Blocks are a silly science addition to the building blocks box.

2 :: Kapla Construction planks look deceptively simple, but once you start building, the construction options are endless.

3 :: Brio Builder Activity Kits come with the usual building blocks, plus wrenches, pliers, and other tools to put them together.

4 :: You don't need to steal a TARDIS when you can build one. Doctor Who fans will appreciate this Character Building Tardis Console, complete with tiny Eleven, Amy, River, and Rory.)

5 :: You have to take shape and weight into account when building cities with Blockitecture's architecturally inspired building blocks.

4 Cool Subscriptions

Subscription boxes are the gifts that keep giving, delivering a regular infusion of fun to your mailbox long after the tinsel's been put away.

1 :: Kiwi Crate‘s monthly project boxes are ideal for younger creators.

2 :: Teens and crafty kids will appreciate the monthly project-making kits from For the Makers.

3 :: Art Snacks delivers shiny new art supplies, plus detailed instructions on how to use them.

4 :: Loot Crate brings you nerdy, geeky goodies inspired by video games and pop culture.

6 Science Stars

You don't have to be planning a career as a scientist to appreciate the creative fun of these science-minded activities.

1 :: With the Bigshot Camera Kit, kids can build their own hand-crank digital cameras.

2 :: Grow your own insect-eating plants with the Carnivorous Creatures LED Light Cube.

3 :: The Periodic Quest board game is as nerdy as it sounds—but it’s also delightfully fun to play.

4 :: A 3-D printer definitely isn’t cheap, but if you’re planning a big splurge, consider this idea-to-reality generator an investment in creative fun.

5 :: Hook the Prank Star Quick-Attach Microscope to your smartphone or tablet, and you've got an instant microscope ready for impromptu science studies.

6 :: The coolest thing about the Roominate build-it-yourself dollhouse construction kit is that it's totally wired—build it right, and all the switches and appliances will actually work.

5 Crafty Ideas

Give a kid a toy, and he's entertained for a day. Give him a project, and he just might discover a lifelong passion.

1 :: Instant Iron-Ons by Julia Rothschild makes it easy to customize your favorite clothes and accessories.

2 :: A Stop-Motion Animation Kit will inspire young filmmakers.

3 :: A Stitch the Stars calendar lets you review your constellations, practice your embroidery, and keep up with what day it is.

4 :: Remember how much fun you used to have making designs with your Spirograph set? Give your kids the same artistic inspiration with a set of their own.

5 :: Small-scale projects like this cute Mermaid Sew Kit by the Beansters are easy for kids (and newbie parents) to finish successfully.

4 Playful Decks

Never underestimate the fun potential of a deck of playing cards.

1 :: Marshall McLuhan’s Distant Early Warning playing cards shuffle the perfect mix of stinging satire and witty pop culture jokes.

2 :: MOMA’s Tim Burton playing cards are as delightfully whimsical as you’d expect.

3 :: The rules in EcoFlux change depending on what cards you’re holding and how many you have.

4: $1 from every purchase of these quirky, Theory-designed Animal Kingdom playing cards goes to the World Wildlife Fund, so you can feel like a do-gooder next time you deal a hand of gin rummy.