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Oregon Family Magazine

From Fun & Fit to Awesome Tech

11/29/2015 04:44 ● By Sandy Kauten

As you’re making your list and checking it twice, our fourth annual holiday gift guide brings some off-the-beaten-path ideas to delight, entertain and inspire your kids.

My boys had a great time testing out and trying on many of this year’s selections. For others we relied on friends and neighbors to give us feedback. See the five fun categories of gift ideas in this year’s guide for some fresh ideas for your holiday gift giving.

Fun & Fit

Sqord. ($39.95, This kid-centric activity tracker looks similar to mom or dad’s FitBit. When synced with the Sqord mobile app, it tracks the wearer’s activity points. Set up challenges like getting 10,000 points a day or a certain number of active hours in a given time period. The whole system is designed to be social so kids can connect to friends and compete.

Glide Bike. ($69.95+, Glide Bikes created the original balance bike. I’ve watched my own son learn on a balance bike since he was barely walking. It’s given him such a feeling of independence and confidence. And when he’s ready to transition to a regular bike, he should be able to do so without training wheels. From as young as 18 months through ages 10 and up, there’s a Glide Bike for your kid.

My Mini Golf Gift Set. ($99, Since the set arrived, my boys have been setting up mini golf courses all over the yard, driveway, neighbor’s driveway, living room and anywhere else they can. Who knew we basically lived in a mini golf course waiting to happen? The gift set is enough for starters, but if you're serious about the mini golf, check out the ad ons!

CastaKite. ($29.99, Kite flying is fun when it all works out just right, but the frustrations of tangled string, cut lines and just getting the kite off the ground can make you want to give up. Using a clever design, the Castakite makes kite flying easier. You “cast” your kite just like you would a fishing line. It comes with a kite, but you can use the Castakite for any kite up to 60”.

Selk'bag 5G Kids. ($99, The Selk’bag is perfect for camping adventures. It’s the original human-shaped sleeping bag and brand new this year — Marvel character bags for both kids and adults. Warmth, comfort and super powers!

Uniquely You

The Home T  ($28+, We love Oregon. This T says it all. It’s insanely soft with the perfect blend of sentimentality and pride. From onesies to adult t’s, pillows to shower curtains, you can find the perfect way to say “home.”

HipCity Sak ($29.99, Cute and functional, HipCity Saks are designed to give girls independence and style. The boost of independence comes from being able to carry their own stuff in a hip bag that’s just for them. The style? That’s easy, each HipCity Sak can be personalized with charms and accessories that fit every bag.

Melissa & Doug at Things Remembered ($17-$22, or in store). We’ve been big Melissa & Doug fans since my older son was little. Through a new partnership with Things Remembered, you can now get personalized versions of some favorites.

Easy Peazy Patches ($3.50+, Have a budding fashionista who likes to personalize jeans, t’s and backpacks? Or maybe a rough and rumble kid that seems to wear through clothes faster than you can keep up? These patches are permanent and no-sew and come in dozens of styles and colors. An easy way for kids to personalize (and repair) their own gear.

Sneaky Learning

MOVA Globes ($135+, I’ve been obsessed with globes since I was young. I’d finger trace the equator or the International Date Line, imagining what the countries I crossed were like. When I saw the MOVA Globes, I was in love. The globes use patented technology to turn on its own using sunlight; it seems to just float above the plexiglass stand. Sitting with my kids, we’ve watched the blue and green orb spin and I’m sure they’re imagining all the adventures they’ll go on.

Plyt ($30, Playing together and learning together is a wonderful way to build skills. Plyt is a math-based game that kids and parents can play together. Research shows it really does help to improve numeracy and math skills for all players no matter how young or old – and the more you play the better you get! Getting my 4th grader engaged took a little work at first, but once he saw that I was learning along with him (my multiplication skills without a calculator are rusty!), we had a lot of fun competing.

The Multiples ($9.99 - $89.99, Adorable illustrations of multinational animals that clearly love math on kid-friendly dishes are a clever way to embed numbers at the breakfast table. A different animal represents a number from one to 12. The cups, bowls and dishes each have multiplication tables imprinted on them, exposing kids to the fun of numbers. My favorites are Professor One Hoot (a scientist from Berlin) and Inspector Eleven (a detective from Brussels).

Universal Yums ($13 or $25/month, I’m a sucker for a subscription box. I love getting little surprises in the mail each month! Universal Yums takes the subscription box idea to global snacking. Each month, a box of snacks arrives from a different country in the world. We sampled a box from Colombia and loved the Piazza Fresa (similar to Pirouette cookies, but with strawberry), Nucita Paleta (a creamy neapolitan flavored candy) and the Pocineta chips (bacon chips with lime). The box also comes with fun facts about the country and a card to hint at next month’s destination.

TeachMy ($9.99 - $29.99,, Toys R Us, Walmart). Parents are their child’s first teacher. But sometimes as a parent, we don’t know where to start. TeachMy is wonderful toolkit that gives parents a little help to support early literacy and learning with their little ones through games, activities and together time. My preschooler loved his box and we have spent several hours together playing with number trains and practicing our letter tracing.

Awesome Technology

 MaKey MaKey Classic ($49.95, Using this little gadget to create a pencil-drawing Pac-Man joystick has been the highlight of the toy-review process. The MaKey MaKey is an “invention kit” — a basic electronic board that comes with a USB cable and alligator clips. You can turn every day objects into touchpad and combine them with the Internet. The Pac-Man pencil-drawn joystick works, for example, because graphite conducts electricity. Easy to use and fun to experiment with, the MaKey MaKey is a door to technology and engineering for beginner inventors. 

Amusement Park Engineer ($64.95, Exploring engineering isn’t limited to older kids. This colorful, fun set from Thames and Kosmos gives kids as young as 3 or 4 the ability to build slides and swings and pendulum rides, all while following along with a story of two inquisitive kids in a beautifully-illustrated storybook. My preschooler had a great time going through the story and ideas with Dad, creating his own variations to fit his imagination. Have an older engineer that’s ready for more challenging activities? Thames and Kosmos has a huge variety of kits for kids of all ages.

With so many great options for holiday gift-giving, we hope this guide gives you some fresh ideas for the kids in your life.

Kelli Matthews is a mom of two boys, age 3 and 9, and lives in Eugene, Oregon. She's always on the lookout for clever ideas to educate, entertain and inspire them.


Getting socks for Christmas is not the disappointing gift that it may have once been. Cool socks are so hot right now! Our favorites are from Foot Cardigan, a monthly subscription that ships two socks to your “whippersnapper” every month for $11. My kids were stoked about the “wacky socks” they got and have been wearing them just about every day.

Two other options for sock goodness: Strideline (Pacific Northwest-based!) has pretty rad city and team socks - though Oregon Duck socks are conspicuously absent ( Neon Bandits has a more limited line, but the geometric designs are on point (

Foot Cardigan (

Strideline (

Neon Bandits (


With the holidays falling in the winter, I must admit gardening gifts have never occurred to me. The combo of Grow Journey’s seed of the month club and the Minnie Moon paper potter would make a great gift for your young green thumb. The paper potter is a wooden mold that creates the perfect base for a small pot made of newspaper. Fill with a bit of soil and seeds from the seed of the month club. You can pot the seed right in the ground, newspaper and all.

More about indoor gardening? Blooming Secrets indoor kits are beautiful and kid-friendly. The Zombie Farm would be a big hit in our house. The kit includes weird and wonderful plants, along with cute illustrations and decals.

Finally, get ready for spring with Seedsheets. I have to admit, this is probably more for me then the kids, but these pre-made and perfectly measured roll of organic, non-GMO seeds come ready to roll and go.