Before we had kids, I actually loved Christmas shopping. I had detailed spreadsheets of all the people we needed to buy things for and budgets and deadlines and all the things that fill a Type A’s heart with joy. As they say, though, having kids changes everything and now Christmas shopping is probably second only to having my teeth pulled in terms of enjoyment and I kind of dread it each holiday season. Living less than two minutes from a mall and countless strip malls for the last ten years has magnified this hatred tenfold and I’m so thankful for the new house which is out in the middle of ranches and not much else.
The one small saving grace I have that makes it not so awful and actually maybe a teensy, weensy bit enjoyable is online shopping. I honestly have no idea how anyone survived Christmas shopping before the advent of the internet. Maybe there were fewer people? Fewer malls? I don’t know. I’m just thankful for it now.
In looking for gifts for my own kids this year, I’ve found about a million items that I thought would be excellent in our Charlotte Mason home as the kids get older and I thought I’d share them. I can’t afford to put all of them under the tree this year, but I thought maybe others will find the ideas helpful and we can live vicariously through you all. 🙂
As I’ve said before, I’m definitely not a Charlotte Mason expert. I try to read at least a page of her volumes and one principle every day (going along with my local CM book club) to keep my mind focused on the kind of upbringing I want to give my kids, but I haven’t read all of them yet. Charlotte Mason or not, though, I think these gifts would be wonderful in any home with inquisitive, creative kids!
I’m mainly linking to three online stores that focus on natural children’s toys because I like supporting small businesses when I can. I’ve shopped from each one of them in the past, find them to be extremely homeschool-friendly, and absolutely love all three of them. Also, this is not a sponsored post by any of these stores, nor are any of the links to their products affiliate links. I just really love their products and wanted to share. 🙂
Nova Natural is the one I’ve been shopping at the longest. They’re based in Vermont and all of the things we’ve purchased from them over the years have been extremely well-made and withstood lots of abuse. I can definitely see us holding on to these toys for years to come.
Bella Luna Toys is based in Maine and offers a similar product line of extremely well-made, heirloom-quality products. They focus primarily on Waldorf toys which I loved for B before he was school-age and still get for C. While I don’t follow a Waldorf approach to education, I think the toys made in the Waldorf style are not only beautiful but also extremely friendly to acquainting younger children with the natural world.
Imagine Childhood, based here in Castle Rock, Colorado, is my favorite of the three. Before we moved down here to Castle Rock, they actually took the time to drive up to Denver to hand-deliver (at no charge) a gift to our house that wasn’t going to get there before Christmas Eve. They had put a lovely bow on it and I had even gotten a discount because it was a floor model (which had only been assembled for them to take photos for their website as they don’t actually have a brick-and-mortar store). That’s probably the best example of customer service I have ever witnessed!
So here is the list in all of it’s wordiness. 🙂
Imagine Childhood actually has an entire category on their website dedicated just to Nature Study, many items of which are perfect for Charlotte Mason methods. I particularly like the Botanist Case, Wooden Birdhouse Kit, and the Garden Insect Hotel Kit. Quite a few of the items listed could even double for handicraft projects that you can later use in your yard.
If you want to attract bees to your yard, especially if you have any kind of flowers, vegetables, or fruits growing, this Mason Bee Kit would be perfect. There’s also a Weathervane Kit to assemble if you happen to live in a particularly breezy place (as we do, out on the plains).
B likes to capture non-bee/hornet/wasp bugs and I can see him loving this Large Window Bug House so he can watch them do their bug things. On that note, for the last two years, during the late summer, we’ve grown butterflies using the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden and it’s been a huge hit with both kids (though better for warmer times of the year as you release the butterflies after they’ve emerged from their chrysalids)!
Earlier in the year, I posted about the Smokey the Bear Nature Posters we were able to pick up for free from a local National Forest Service Office and they’re fantastic (you can also buy the set for $15 here). If you’re not able to get your hands on any of those or prefer a different style, there are also these beautiful posters for birds of prey, butterflies, backyard birds, tree leaves, wildflowers, backyard bugs, wildlife, and mushrooms that would be perfect decor for a homeschool area.
Another popular mode of brightening up the homeschool walls has been gift wrap from Paper Source (scroll down past the Christmas paper to see vintage maps, charts, sketches, etc.). I particularly like the birds, nests, and eggs; the celestial chart; the British isles map (there’s also this set of 4 vintage maps from the same company); and the phases of the moon prints. Many of my fellow CMers have used the Paper Source wall-hanging kit to hang them up, but I think these would also look great framed or just hung as posters.
Handicrafts are definitely an area where I struggle to actually get them together for B to do. I’ve discovered that pre-made kits and sets are my friends!
The kids and I made a trip across town last fall to pick up this Lap Loom for his preschool curriculum and it has gotten quite a bit of use in the last year (though we’re still working on actually finishing something 🙂 I’m wondering if this Potholder Loom Kit would actually be better for younger ages). I’d love to eventually get this Kid’s Weaving Loom once they’re both older.
For kids just starting out in the world of sewing and knitting, this lovely Little Tailor’s Kit comes in an adorable little suitcase. There are also a few other kits to make a little Fairy Sister (perfect to make a gift for a younger sibling!), as well as all kinds of Sewing Kits and Felting Kits to make other little friends to give to others. Just before C was born, I made this Silk Fairy Mobile Kit to hang above her bassinet and it’s still hanging over her bed in her room.
For slightly more challenging projects, these 2017 needlepoint calendar kits for Flowers, Stars, and Fruit are also perfect to have a handicraft to do each month. I also love these Owl and Fox cross stitch kits, as well as this Turtle Needlepoint Kit that could be later sewn on to a larger project (like a pillow or quilt). Younger children will like this Needlepoint Kit which includes three projects to make coasters or decorations and a bookmark. And for some homemade house decor, your kids can contribute to the household with these Sheep and Rainbow rug hooking kits.
I think B would absolutely love to make this Build Your Own Bulldozer with E that he could later use to play with. Someday, we’d like to get him this Large Tool Kit, though we may start with either this Small Toolbox or this Kid’s 5-Piece Toolset.
B loves to help me in the kitchen (C is getting there…but her attention span isn’t quite where it needs to be to follow a recipe) and this Le Petit Chef and Finger Guard would be an excellent way to teach him knife skills. We currently have little plastic knives for them that have done well over the years and are perfect for younger children, but don’t cut quite as well as B would like (not surprisingly).
I know another popular thing in some of my Charlotte Mason groups has been soap carving for younger children who aren’t quite ready for wood carving and this Soap Carving Kit would be a perfect way to get started. There is also a Carve-A-Stamp Kit that would be a great way to make homemade gifts for others.
My step-mother makes beautiful baskets that she hangs all over her house and I think that would be a wonderful activity for a child, especially since the finished product is so utilitarian but also beautiful. These Basket Making Kits come with either pine needles or raffia to make adorable little baskets.
I also think this Leathercraft Tool Kit would be a great project for B when he gets older and another possibility for making gifts.
I admit that I’ve fallen behind in the art department since we moved into the new house, but I’d like to get back into the habit of encouraging both kids in their creativity. Putting this list together has definitely been inspirational. 🙂 In the past, we’ve used this Watercolor Paper and these Watercolor Paints which B has enjoyed a lot. Eventually, I’d like to get these Watercolor Brushes for finer details, but up until this point, these Kindergarten/Preschool Paint Brushes have served us extremely well. It’s also been fun to send some of their watercolor creations to family members (my mother, who is an artist, is particularly fond of them), and this little Watercolor Postcard Kit would make that so easy.
From a purely aesthetic aspect, I LOVE these Giant Colored Twig Pencils. I got a few twig pencils through Olive Box a few years ago and the kids love using them now. There are also these Birds in Nest Watercolor Pencils which are good for using when you’re out in nature and then can later add water to. On that note, this Gold Birds Sketchbook would be lovely to bring on a nature hike.
When I was in school, I had to take a lot of art classes (though I’m FAR from actually being an artist). One of the techniques I loved getting to know was drawing with charcoal and these Natural Charcoal Pencils would be a great way to introduce your kids to this method of sketching. I also enjoyed working with clay, but it’s not exactly the easiest thing for little hands to manipulate. This Modeling Clay is made with natural plasticene and beeswax which makes it easier to work with. My printmaking class was also definitely a favorite and this Lino Cutting Set for older kids is absolutely perfect for this way of making art, especially if you want to make more than one version of a piece!
We obviously haven’t delved very much into the world of science other than nature study yet, but there were a few things that I found particularly interesting when they get older. I love the idea of this Crystal Radio Kit which has all the supplies you need to build your own radio that plays directly into your ear. Also, this Camera Obscura Kit definitely appeals to the photographer side of me. And I can definitely see B being excited about this Ornithopter Kit when he’s older.
Finally, what would a Charlotte Mason-themed Christmas post be without at least a few books? 🙂 There are many excellent Charlotte Mason-themed books out there to help you with your homeschool endeavors (For the Children’s Sake [an absolute must if you’re wanting an introduction to this philosphy], A Charlotte Mason Companion, A Charlotte Mason Education, and Consider This are a few that I’ve either read or want to read), but this list is primarily “fun” books either for kids, or for mothers to enjoy a little mother culture. 🙂
At the very tippy top of this list is definitely the Puffin in Bloom Books from Rifle Paper Co. (one of my very favorite companies) and Puffin Books. This absolutely gorgeous set includes Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Little Women, and A Little Princess (which I’m reading right now 🙂 ) and at $43 for 4 books (as of this writing), it’s extremely affordable. Anna Bond at Rifle Paper Co. also illustrated an edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that isn’t included in this set. It’s larger and slightly more expensive, but completely worth the added cost. If you end up having extra money in your book budget, you can also splurge on the beautiful Folio Society (a website where I often sit and drool) versions of the Anne of Green Gables books. They also have Little Women, but I’m still partial to the Rifle Paper versions.
Puffin Books is putting out some other amazingly beautiful books and some of my favorites are the Puffin Hardcover Classics Set, which includes A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows, and Peter Pan. I also love their Clothbound Classics, a few of which I’ve been able to add to my own collection. They offer a few sets that have a reasonable price point considering how many books they contain, including collections by Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Love and Friendship) and Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, Hard Times, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, and A Tale of Two Cities).
Ever since I found out how much John Muir had to do with the founding of the National Parks, I’ve been fascinated by his writings. This collection of his Wilderness Essays is simple, but also beautiful and would be a great addition to any nature-lover’s collection.
I think The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling or Keeping a Nature Journal would be particularly helpful once we dive more into the world of nature journaling. For now, Nature Anatomy has been extremely useful for B to copy art from in his nature journal.
And, a complete splurge gift is Book of the Month Club. I got this for three months earlier this year and it was so much fun to get a new book in the mail each month. This would be excellent for any book-lovers in your life who enjoy fiction.
I can see myself referring to this list in years to come as the kids get older, but for now, I can dream. 🙂 If you’re more visual like me, you can see all the items listed here in my Pinterest board.
Let me know what I’m missing!