Surely I can’t be the only one who approaches the idea of gift guides, shopping and stacks of presents under the tree with something of a sense of dread? Some days, it can all seem like just too much.
In spite of these feelings, I know that a well-made gift can bring a spark of joy and creativity, and I treasure those memories from my own childhood. My husband David and I try to keep holiday gift-giving focused on experience, and quality over quantity, because we know how easily young kids can be overwhelmed, how generous our relatives are, and how finite our living space is.
In that spirit, here are a few of our favourite Montessori-inspired ideas for celebrating the tradition of giving and receiving gifts this time of year. Some are big ticket, some are small surprises, and all are sorted according to age.
May the coming season serve to remind you of life’s simple joys:
Stocking stuffers and small surprises:
Wooden snail with glass marble rollie – how sweet is this?
Egg slicer – In constant use at our Milkweed Montessori toddler group, it’s like a grand finale to peeling a hardboiled egg
For the sweet and curious baby:
Manhattan Toys skwish – my #1 go-to baby toy
Pikler triangle for fun and motor development for years to come!
For the toddler who always wants to do it themselves:
Apple Slicer/Peeler – I know this seems crazy, but the one we received for Jasper’s first Christmas has been working hard ever since and will for years to come.
Cuddle baby doll – Toddlers love babies, and this one is soft, lightweight and durable.
Wooden drying rack – Because where there are toddlers, there are opportunities to wipe up spills, and a toddler-sized drying rack is the natural next step.
For the child (a three to six year old) who is always discovering something new:
A subscription to Ladybug magazine – Jasper has been a subscriber for a few years thanks to some loving grandparents who live far away. A sweet monthly reminder of their affection, and a new collection of songs and stories to match the season.
Morakniv’s rookie knife* for small but capable hands. Our five year-old and a whole lot of his nature school pals got these this fall, and there have been rave reviews (and no serious injuries). An outdoors knife is a natural step for the child who started with the crinkle cutter as a young toddler.
For the grown ups who loved looking over this list:
Experiences for the whole family to enjoy together:
Family membership at the Art Gallery of Ontario The AGO has great programming and welcoming spaces for children. We have a long distance membership which pays for itself in 1.5 visits, and makes trips to the gallery really easy to justify. All of that means that our family is coming to recognize some really amazing pieces of art that have become familiar and beloved over the years, like Norval Morrisseau’s Man Changing into Thunderbird. If you’re not local, I encourage you to seek out art galleries in your area.
Ice-fishing This is five year-old Jasper’s idea – he’s interested in learning how to ice-fish, something we’ve never done before. An intriguing gift idea.
A family weekend away This is something that we’ve done for the past few years with my family, rather than exchanging Christmas gifts. The road trip, shared meal prep and hot tubbing (a non-negotiable in our Airbnb searches!) has been so much more memorable than anything we could have wrapped under the tree.
Many of these items can be found around the world, but I’ve linked to the Canadian supplier because I know how tough it can be to source things in Canada. Items noted with an asterisk ship to Canada from an international shop, and so may involve duty charges.
See gift guides from recent years here: