Santa’s Holiday Helper, 2010

Have you started your holiday countdown? When I was little, we had advent calendars in practically every room of the house, so my siblings and I were always very aware of how many days until Christmas. No matter how you are celebrating this year, here are my annual holiday gift ideas for the budding artist and art lover. From reading to robots, there is something for every kid! (Even us grown-up kids).

DIY kits from Fly Children's Art Center

These do-it-yourself kits from the Fly Children’s Art Center are bursting with possibilities. Roll offers materials for designing a marble cute; Sway lets your child create her own mobile; and with Growl, your child can build an imaginary animal. It’s like an art class bundled into a box! And even better, proceeds from your purchase support free arts programming for children. Visit the shop here.

Botanist Kit from Playful Learning

For the child who gets her inspiration from nature, this botanist kit from Playful Learning is the perfect toolkit. It comes with a leaf press, magnifying glass, three collecting boxes, and a pencil and sketchpad. Sketching from nature and creating a leaf collection are both great ways to encourage close observation—a useful skill for botantist and artist alike.

Wind Up Workshop Robots by Creativity for Kids

Do you have a tinkerer, take-everything-apart, budding engineer in the family? Creativity for Kids Wind-up Workshop Robots is part building set, part craft kit. Kids can use stickers, markers, paper cut outs, and the bare bones windup bodies to create five one-of-a-kind robots. “R2D2 it is you!”

MoMA's Modern Play House

This is my go-to gift for my niece this year. She spends hours drawing interiors for her imaginary dream house, so what could be better than this hip kit from MoMA Kids? Six nesting boxes come with mix-and-match furniture pieces and vinyl clings, so that you arrange and rearrange your room to your heart’s content.

Who What Where Junior board game

I have the grown-up version of Who What Where, and it is one of my most favorite games. I don’t consider myself much of a sketch artist, but the fun of this game is getting creative in how you use pictures to get your message across. Stick people welcome! The Junior version is a perfect gift for the entire family. Each player receives three cards—a person, a place, and an action—and has to create one drawing that incorporates all three for the rest of the players to guess. The final score: lots of laughs and perhaps even a masterpiece or two. Find it here.

Monkey Paper Bag Puppet Kit from Paper Source

Go ahead—monkey around this holiday season. Especially if your monkeys have as much personality as these! This paper bag puppet kit from Paper Source comes with everything you need to create your own kooky creatures. After the unwrapping high has faded, this would be a fun way to spend a (quieter) afternoon, crafting and directing your own puppet show.

"Art & Max" by David Wiesner

This is my favorite artsy picture book of the year. David Wiesner has always been tops on my list because of his masterful ability to tell stories with images, so I was over-the-top excited when I heard that he had created a story about art. Art (that’s Arthur) and Max are two lizards who have very different views on how to be an artist. Art patiently tries to share his skills with Max, while Max exuberantly dives into the materials with somewhat traumatic results for Art. To my eye, the illustrations play off the styles of Rothko, Pollock, and Seurat, mixed with Wiesner’s own characteristic clarity and humor. Get your own copy at your local book store or online here.

If you are aiming for a handmade holidays, there are some great tutorials at the Sew Mama Sew blog for gifts you can make for your little artist.

Happy gifting!

Posted by: Leah

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