Our kids are now 3 and 1, which means one of them has a slight idea about what’s happening on Christmas morning and the other will just be excited to watch her brother rip at wrapping paper and wonder why we’re all so busy so early. The holidays are only starting to be a big deal at our house (especially after years of not having kids or any sense of Christmas spirit), so I’m trying to get a head start on preparation.
I’m also committing to only buying gifts locally this year (and no, Amazon’s Dundalk fulfillment center doesn’t count), so each of the suggestions below are here in Baltimore. So go! Shop! Be festive! And do your best to spend your money right here in town.
My love affair with this store began immediately after our son was born and has only grown over the years. The toys are beautiful and require imagination, and the shopping experience is fun and well-informed. And, because kids love nothing more than playing with toys they’re 100-percent sure you didn’t spend money on, the Amuse Toys Quarry Lake location offers open play a few mornings a week. Grab a coffee, let them go nuts, and take a slight break from the holiday madness.
The Book Thing of Baltimore
My kids develop deep, emotional obsessions with books and just when they’ve broken my spirit and I’ve consigned myself to a life of reading nothing but Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day, they lose total interest and find something else. Capitalize on this irrational behavior by clearing out your shelves while simultaneously choosing new-to-them, free books to give to your family.
Baltimore Chef Shop
Edie and Lou are still in the stage of life where food is optional at best and, when properly mashed, table art at worst. But if you’ve survived the early childhood years (good for you!) then perhaps an afternoon spent at the Baltimore Chef Shop would make a lovely gift for your kid who loves The Great British Baking Show. (And if your kid loves that show, again, good for you!) BCS is a beautiful kitchen in Hampden offering classes for 8-17 year olds and their parents on making donuts, dim sum, pasta, cookies, and other important food groups. There are also summer camps available if you’re the kind of long-term planning gift giver tweens love so much.
SIDESHOW at AVAM
Is there a more incredible gift shop in the world? Every inch of the shop is filled with fascinating, beautiful, useless, important, and affordable stuff. On a recent trip, I found cool rings and laser-cut wood earrings for $2; beautiful art coffee table books for under $20; a tiny drawer filled with plastic babies for 50 cents a pop; and a t-shirt offering an apology for the president in 14 languages. I highly suggest taking an hour (sans kids, if you can swing it) to wander through. You’ll check off most people on your list and walk out with the ultimate stocking stuffers.
Over the last few years, locally owned Worthy Threads has been popping up in Baltimore’s social media and retail worlds. Our friends gave us a sushi-printed pinafore dress (Sushi! On a dress! For an infant!) for Edie when she was born and it was so wonderful that I eventually cut the elastic in the waistband to eke out a few more weeks of wear. These clothes aren’t cheap, but they’re the kind that you treasure and begrudgingly-but-lovingly hand down to your favorite friend’s little one.
Shananigan's Toy Shop
Similarly to the SIDESHOW gift shop, this is a store that will put your head on a swivel. It’s filled floor to ceiling with toys and games for all ages just as you start to get overwhelmed by decision fatigue, their knowledgeable staff swoops in and leads you right where you need to be.