I’m a firm believer that a book always makes an excellent gift. Depending on your recipient, though, sometimes a single wrapped volume can receive a lackluster response. I like to apply the “gift basket” treatment. Add an additional related item or two, and voila! That great-but-underappreciated book suddenly feels like a deluxe offering. Check out these suggestions for pairing great books with add-ons at every price point, from stocking stuffers to Santa’s Big Present:
Sure, there are countless adorable board books out there to gift to babies and toddlers. My toddler’s absolute favorite, though, is a custom board book of names and faces from Pinhole Press. Upload photos of a little one’s VIPs and they’ll create an extraordinarily durable spiral bound board book with them. Yes, it’s pricier than a typical board book, but they offer discount codes around the holidays and my son marvels over his every single day. Pair this special book with a Name Blocks Puzzle from tinyme.com. For a baby, it’s cute nursery décor, and as a child grows, this keepsake will help him learn how to spell his most important word of all.
For the toddlers and preschoolers I know, exploring colors is hugely satisfying. Pair fun Herve Tullet’s "Mix It Up!" and creative "ABC Color: Apricot, Burgandy & Chartreuse, 26 Cool New Colors Are Out On the Loose!" with finger paints and glossy paper so little hands can concoct every color under the sun. Art supplies from Lakeshore Learning are my favorites. Rest assured, what’s labeled “washable” is reliably so.
For school-aged artists, "Vincent Can’t Sleep," by Barb Rosenstock, is a brand-new title from the creators of Caldecott-Honor-winning "The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art" (also a great choice). “Vincent Can’t Sleep” is a kid-friendly (meaning filtered) biography of Van Gogh that includes inspired renditions of some of his most famous paintings. Pair the book with a professional-feeling artist’s palette, paints and brushes, and a few blank canvases or painting paper.
There’s a deluge of great kids' books about coding that have hit the market recently. One family favorite is "Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code" by Laurie Wallmark. (Did you know that the expression “computer bug” comes from an actual moth that found its way into an early computer? Neither did we.)
Pair a book about coding with one of the many new coding-related toys. Choose wisely, there are some doozies out there. A great option for younger kids is the 2017 Parent’s Choice Award-winning KIBO Robot kit. It’s an investment, but its design is backed by significant research. For older kids, the new LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox Building and Coding Kit is hailed as being more user and budget-friendly than LEGO’s previous Mindstorms robotics products.
My preschool- and kindergarten-age kids are obsessed with finding and studying bugs. "The Big Book of Bugs" by Yuval Zommer is both gorgeous and fascinating. Give this book with a bug house and some of the “Bug Spotter Kit” supplies listed in the book, like a pencil case, ruler, notepad, and kid-friendly magnifying glass.
For older kids, check out the new title from the fantastic “Lab Series,” Geology Lab for Kids: 52 Projects to Explore Rocks, Gems, Geodes, Crystals, Fossils, and Other Wonders of the Earth's Surface by Garret Romaine. Many of the projects are simple enough for kids to do themselves using common household supplies. (The recipient’s parent, if it isn’t you, will appreciate this.) A fun add-on is the National Geographic Break Open 10 Geodes and Explore Crystals Science Kit, because, come on, what kid wouldn’t like smashing rocks?
If any child is going to appreciate a book as a gift, it’s this one. Still, if you want to wrap up something more with the beautiful new "A World Full of Animal Stories: 50 Folk Tales and Legends" by Angela McAllister, consider adding a cozy blanket for snuggling up to read. My kids received these personalized animal sleeping bags from Land of Nod last year and they are in constant use.
"I Wrote You a Note" by Lizi Boyd is a simple but touching book for young kids about the power of the written word. Give it with personalized stationary – such as these darling choices from Minted – and maybe you’ll even receive a thank you note.
What do you get for the kid who has everything? These book and gift pairings are fun for all.
Give a piece of toy history by pairing a classic Slinky with the book that tells its story, Gilbert Ford’s "The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring: The Accidental Invention of the Toy That Swept the Nation." The mixed media collage illustrations are a hoot and the James family’s entrepreneurial spirit had my kids and I all rooting for them.
What is it that’s so magical to kids about shining a flashlight in the dark? Matt Forrest Esenwine’s new title, "Flashlight Night," nails it. Pair this story about three kids whose nighttime storytelling comes to life with – you guessed it – flashlights for all the kids in the family. Or give everyone headlamps, which are tons of fun and surprisingly practical, too.
Start with a terrific book, add some pizzazz, wrap it all up in a fun box or gift bag, and delight the children on your gift list this season. Of course, don’t forget to be the first one to offer to read aloud.
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