I’m the last one who should be putting together a gift guide.
I’m not a tastemaker nor a trend watcher. I’m not even much of a shopper, and I’m a general proponent of less stuff.
But I do love to give and receive gifts. I love finding an interesting or useful or helpful or beautiful something, and then matching it with the right someone.
Most gift guides overwhelm me with choices, so I decided to put together a Very Small Gift Guide filled with only my very favorite things.
OK, this post is long (because I’m talkative), but the number of recommendations is small. These are all things I’ve used, given or received AND have been met with universal delight (mine or my gift-ee’s). Happy gifting, friends.
Disclosure: Several of the links are affiliate links which means that a small percentage of your purchase will go toward supporting this site (without cost to you). I always appreciate the boost, but most of all, I hope this small guide helps you find something special for someone special no matter where (or if) you buy. — Asha
For new or expectant parents (delivered in person)
An Emile Henry baking dish filled with a homemade meal
My favorite gift for parents, especially new or expectant ones, is a homemade meal. A simple gift, but much more than the sum of its parts. There’s the meal, sure, but for the recipient there’s also the time and effort saved, the experience of being cared for, the treat of a new dish to try.
There’s only one problem: returning the dish in which the meal was delivered. What a curse for a new parent to have to remember! I know, I could use foil pans or disposable bakeware, but doesn’t feel as “gifty” to me.
My solution is cook the meal in a lovely baking dish or pie pan my gift-ee can keep. My absolute favorite choice is Emile Henry ceramic bakeware. It’s gorgeous, durable, a snap to clean by hand or in the dishwasher, microwave-safe, and freezer-to-oven-to-table ready. I’ve been using my three Emile Henry pieces for years.
My go-to recipes are Spinach Artichoke Quiche in an Emile Henry pie pan, or Scheherazade Casserole (a totally amazing Mediterannean-esque combo of cracked wheat, soybeans, feta cheese, and vegetables) in a square or rectangular baking pan. Both recipes are from another favorite, The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.
Buy now at Amazon: Emile Henry cookware
For new or expectant parents (shipped)
Nosefrida The Snotsucker
A million years ago (in 2007), I gave away a then-new product: the slightly gross-sounding Nosefrida nasal aspirator. Just the other day, I ran into a store display of Nosefridas (now called The Snotsucker, which is exactly what it is) and I thought BRAVO! Here’s a product so good and useful it overcame a pretty significant yuck factor to become an indispensible tool for new parents.
The Nosefrida works like this: you put a little tube in the kid’s nose, then use gentle suction (provided by your mouth) to remove the snot. Totally hygenic — there’s tubing and a filter between you and the snot — and it’s gentler and more effective (and less hated by babies) than the bulb syringe.
This is a gift that will help new parents through the agony of a congested baby AND it’s an awesome conversation piece…just wait until you find yourself explaining how to use it.
Buy now at Amazon: Nosefrida The Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator
Baby Leg Warmers
If the idea of “snot” and “gift” doesn’t go together for you, my next favorite gift is 2-3 pairs of baby leg warmers. You would NOT BELIEVE how useful these things are. They can be an extra layer beneath pants, they are great for potty trainers, and can even be used on arms. That they are ridiculously cute is just a bonus.
There are several brands to choose from. I’m most familiar with BabyLegs (and love them) but you can check out a brand-agnostic selection at Amazon — for girls, boys, and in unisex styles.
Buy now at Amazon: Leg warmers for babies
For babies and toddlers
Time For Bed (board book)
Most of our baby toys went unused or added to the clutter. The exception: board books. Can you ever have too many? No. They’re compact, good for hours of cozy together time, and make the best hand-me-downs.
My absolute favorite: Time For Bed. The watercolor illustrations are lovely without being too precious, and the cadence of the text is sweet and soothing. (Of course I was the one who usually fell asleep during the reading.)
For a cheeky gift for the grownups, add a separately-wrapped copy of Go the F**k to Sleep.
Buy now at Amazon: Time for Bed
Robeez shoes or boots
Super adorable leather shoes in tons of colors and designs that are good for growing feet and actually stay on. Flexible and durable for babies who are learning to walk. For babies who don’t yet walk, Robeez keep the socks in place, and the fuzzy boots keep little piggies warm.
Both my kids wore these shoes all the time, and I handed them down still looking beautiful.
Buy now at Robeez: Robeez shoes and boots for boys and girls
For young kids
The Cow In Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen (picture book)
There are 20 books I could recommend, but I’m going to suggest my friend Diana’s new farm-to-fork tale as my holiday pick. Not only is the book’s message a great one, the author is a peach and the book’s publisher, Little Pickle Press, is a Certified B Corporation. They give over 50% of their profits to charitable organizations, and that’s just the beginning.
Buy now at Amazon: The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen
A kid-sized exercise ball
Of all the “toys” in my house, by far the most popular and enduring has been a kid-sized exercise ball (also known as a balance ball, fitness ball, or stability ball). You can sit on it, bounce on it, roll it, kick it, roll over it, and generally have a good time with it. For years.
Buy now at Amazon: j/fit 45cm Stability Exercise Ball
For older kids
Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design (book)
This book isn’t for everyone, but it’s perfect for more kids than you’d think.
Older kids are native Web users and are therefore savvier design consumers than we were at their age. Chances are they’re also aspiring or new publishers themselves — with blogs or YouTube channels or Instagram feeds or [insert online platform here].
The gift of design will last them a lifetime.
Buy now at Amazon: Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design
Dance (RED) Save Lives 2 (iTunes music download)
You may not be cool enough to buy music for your kid (according to your kid), but this collection will go down beautifully no matter. Upbeat with rap, dance and pop tunes from celebs you might recognize, and all proceeds from album sales go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.
Buy now at (RED): Dance (RED) Save Lives 2 Album
“The Craziest Thing We Can Do Is Nothing” t-shirt from charity:water
I love charity:water for so many reasons. I’ll save that long list for another time and focus here on a great, packable gift: the humble t-shirt. Never underestimate the power of a good t-shirt message. Great for all ages, especially awesome for teens.
Proceeds from everything in the charity:water store go toward clean water projects around the world.
Buy now at the charity:water store: The Craziest Thing We Can Do Is Nothing t-shirt
S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (book)
I’ve never seen or experienced anything like this book before. Seriously, watch the video. It’s like Griffin & Sabine meet Lost. I got this for my husband and we can’t stop oohing and ahhing.
From the publisher:
At the core of this multilayered literary puzzle of love and adventure is a book of mysterious provenance. In the margins, another tale unfolds—through the hand-scribbled notes, questions, and confrontations of two readers. Between the pages, online, and in the real world, you’ll find evidence of their interaction, ephemera that bring this tale vividly to life.
If you like ebooks well enough but miss the specialness of an actual book, you will love this — a true object of desire.
Buy now at Amazon: S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
Soma water filter carafe (limited edition charity:water version)
We use this pitcher every day. Isn’t this prettier than a Brita? The glass carafe is elegant enough for the table, the filters are 100% biodegradable, and $12.50 from every purchase goes toward funding BioSand filters in Cambodia. So you’re not just buying clean water for yourself.
Buy now at the charity:water store: Soma water filter carafe
I’ve written plenty about FashionABLE scarves, and they continue to be my favorite gifts for women (and super-stylish men). I wear one almost every day. Great for neck-warming, sun-shading, outfit-making and travel.
When you buy one, you’re directly improving the life of an Ethiopian woman.
Buy now at FashionABLE: Scarves
Last minute/no-clutter: A subscription to The Scramble menu planning service
I’ve mentioned Aviva Goldfarb’s weekly menu planning service The Scramble many times. I’m a huge fan of her recipes — her two cookbooks, The Six O’Clock Scramble and SOS: The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue, are my go-to choices for easy weeknight dinners.
This is a great gift for any parent, and through December 31, gift subscriptions come with a bonus: the Best Slow Cooker Recipes ebook.
Buy now at The Scramble: Menu planning gift subscription