Gift Picks for the Unplugged Grandkids

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Any kid who doesn’t already have an iPad Mini or Nintendo or XBox would be thrilled to get one for Christmas. And any kid who already has the hardware would be more than pleased to get accessories or new software, or gift cards to buy more apps or music.

Don’t worry about being age-appropriate with tablets. “iPad” is right up there with “Mama” as one of the first words babies learn. Apps for infants abound.

But if you don’t want to encourage the techie inclinations (obsessions?) of kids you’re gifting, consider more traditional toys that still bring joy.

Some of the best are made by Hape and Haba, European brands, and by American toymaker Melissa & Doug. They’re carried at such stores as Mastermind, Scholar’s Choice, Indigo and independent shops and online.

Most of the 10 traditional picks for tots to pre-teens listed below are available in toy departments or online; prices are approximate:

Linus Bicycles Lil Dutchi ($300)
These gorgeous candy apple red bikes for kids have no cutesy designs or Disney characters. Instead, they’re simple and streamlined just like Linus bikes for big people. They balance beautifully and make learning to ride so easy that in no time at all you won’t have to run up and down the sidewalk beside a wobbly learner. Two sizes and the smaller one comes with training wheels.

A Number of Animals Nesting Blocks ($28)
Bold block prints decorate a set of ten counting nesting blocks from Raincoast. Follow one yellow chick as it explores the farmyard in search of its mother, meeting different animals on each block- from two horses to ten “chirping and cheeping” chicks. Stack them in a tower nearly three feet high or if you’re only that size yourself, practice filling and dumping as toddlers will do.

Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacking Toy ($15)
You really can’t go wrong with any selection from this popular brand that specializes in colorful wooden toys for all ages but for pre-schoolers, the Geometric Stacking Toy is a good choice.

Galt Mega Marble Run Set ($50)
Kids age 4 and up (including grown-ups) can build simple marble or more complex structures with the colourful, slot-together pieces. The marbles disappear inside the columns, roll down the chutes, spin through the paddle wheels and ring the bell as they go. Simple sets are available but older kids would enjoy the Mega Marble Run 100 pieces including three vortex, three paddle wheels, a wiggly bell chute, staircase, two way chute and 180 degree turn and much more.

Play Doh Disney Magical Carriage and Disney Planes Mashem Surprise Eggs ($20 to $40)
Give a kid one can of Play-Doh and you’ve got a happy kid. Give a kid a dozen cans of Play-Doh and you’ve got a mess. These fairly new themed offerings include molds and accessories but there are many, many sets — or just wrap a dozen cans of the stuff and let kids squish and poke and stretch and roll and mix colors until all the balls look the same.

60 Magformers Dinosaur Set ($150)
55 pieces in awesome new colors! Step by Step Idea Booklet Included! Endless 3D designs! An educational experience that’s FUN! And don’t you dare think for a moment that this is only for boys!

Simon ($15)
Along with Pong, Simon was one of the first electronic toys. It’s been updated so now you just swipe the colours. It’s recommended for age 7 and up but boomers can exercise their brains with it, too.

Smithsonian Rock Tumbler ($50)
Rough stones get spun into perfectly polished gemstones that can be turned into key chains, rings, necklaces and more. This comes with the tumbler machine, rough semi-precious stones, grit, polish, jewellry settings, glue, necklaces, key chains and more accessories. Best for age 10 and up. This way, your kid can make you a gift for next Christmas.

American Girl ($130) and Our Generation ($30) dolls and accessories
American Girl dolls that match your girl’s hair and eyes and skin colour are available at Indigo in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa and at kiosks in many other Indigo stores. Less pricey Our Generation dolls are the product of Montreal-based Battat and are sold at Mastermind, Target and online. Both are the 18” inch girl dolls that are immensely popular now, with clothing and accessories (including a horse and equestrian outfit, skating and ballet outfits) and many matching outfits for girls and their 18” dolls sold by various purveyors online.

Moulin Roty ($25 to $115)
Each imaginative stuffed critter made by this meticulous French company is more adorable than the next and only a kid who’s also a hardened criminal could resist them. Bergo in Toronto’s Distillery District has a bewildering variety ranging in price from $25 to $115. They’re also available online.