Eugene Weekly : Gift Guide : 11.24.10


Eugene Weekly’s Gift Guide 2010:

Reduce, Reconnect,  Rejoice! More ideas than just “coupon good for one massage” 

Organic on Your Skin Soaps made with love and garden herbs 

Caffeine Up Get through the holidays with the rituals of tea and coffee

Birds of a Feather Art and fashion in Poppy & Moe

Between Children and Young Adults Gifts for tweens straddle the line

Wood from the Heart Bad economy leads to lovely toys

Life, Death and Water Soothing fountains arise from crises

Drool-Worthy and Local Start a new, natural tradition

Kiss the Cook Better yet, get the cook one of these great holiday gifts

Genius Gift: Make your own Fizzy Water


Between Children and Young Adults
Gifts for tweens straddle the line
by Zanne Miller

Yes, star wars is still cool. (Lord Vader modeled by 10-year-old Clio Tveskov)

Tweens — those pre-adolescents — are at times confusing. One minute they’re snuggled up in your lap wanting to read a book; the next they’re asking to borrow your iPhone or use your laptop, or giving you an eye-roll that will make your heart sink. One minute they’re incredibly easygoing and easy to please, and the next … well, good luck with that. Even Janet Hogan at Elephant’s Trunk in Fifth Street Public Market, while discussing some of the more popular items, said, “It’s a difficult age group.” 

But don’t give up. We surveyed a (select!) group of 9-to-12 year olds to get the low-down on what they think makes a good holiday gift. Some realistic, some not — but surely something that could work for the tween on your list.

Books: If your tween is a reader, the Guardians of Gahoole series by Kathryn Lasky is a huge hit, with the Lost Tales of Gahoole being a chart topper. Other popular series include The Dork Diaries by Rachel Renée Russell; Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney; Vampirates by Justin Somper; Warriors by “Erin Hunter” (the pen name of four different writers) and the Percy Jackson tales by Rick Riordan. You can talk to local bookstores, of course, and has some great suggestions for this and any age group. One caution about buying books, though — tweens can be very particular, and they don’t always like being told (especially by a parent) what’s good. Case in point: For two years, I have practically begged my two daughters to read Little House on the Prairie. “Um, maybe later, Mom,” they say. Proceed with caution. An outing to a bookstore with a gift certificate might be the way to go, and that’s something you could do on a special day

Plan a special day: “I want a day that is all mine,” says 10-year-old Riley. “Everything I want to eat and do, and nobody says no.” Maybe you can’t impose your tween’s preferences on the whole family, but you could plan a “just for your tween” day that includes lunch out and a movie — “Tickets to Deathly Hallows!” — or a trip to the mall or to Brush Fire, which also ranked high with our survey group. Gifts of experiences, from the spendy (horseback riding lessons for a year) to the not-so-spendy (a visit to a favorite park) are, as Julie Daniel of BRING Recycling points out (see the reuse story) often the most memorable. And time with your tween, especially one-on-one and away from the madding crowd (or the daily bustle of school/work/activities) is a gift for you, too.

Crafts: “Gift certificate to Brush Fire!” was an enthusiastic suggestion from a few (both boys and girls) in the survey group. Turns out many tweens just love those arts and craft kits, too, which range from $10 to about $30 and are available at bookstores. Elephant’s Trunk has a number of kits in the under $20 range, and KLUTZ products — like draw your own Marvel Heroes or Star Wars characters ($16.95 each) or Paper Fashions ($21.95) are pretty cool.

Speaking of Star Wars: According to a large portion of the survey group, Star Wars is still awesome — and all those movies will be released in 3D in the coming year. Action figures, light sabers, DVDs and even a Darth Vader helmet (“Not the mask, but the helmet”) made their list. “The Force is kind of cool,” one says, “and R2-D2.” Just hang in there when they marvel that the original movies were made “a really, really, really long time ago.”

Special interests: According to the Journal of Developmental Psychology, this age group has more realistic job expectations for the future than when they were younger — e.g., “I want to be a fashion designer” versus “I’m going to be the baker in Cat World.” My daughter Clio has wanted to be a fashion designer for three years running, so may of her gifts have included fabric, patterns, sewing lessons and fashion design kits. A book or an outing related to burgeoning interests might just turn out to be something they remember when their biographer is taking notes once they make the big time, or it could just be fun for now. Either way, it shows you care. (I got an electric typewriter from my mom for my 10th Christmas — and it’s probably still my favorite gift of all time.)

They love their independence: This is one situation where a gift certificate, chosen from a favorite store, says more than simply, “I didn’t have time to shop.” 

They are becoming themselves: Tweens are just beginning to explore their individuality. A book like KLUTZ’s “My Not So Perfect Life” ($16.95) or Diary of a Wimpy Kid Journal gives them a place to record who they are. (After they’re finished with it, you can store it to bring out at a holiday dinner 20 years from now). Blank journals with locks and keys, like the ones from Peaceable Kingdom ($12.99 at Elephant’s Trunk) would be great, too. 

They love their Ducks: Two of the girls in my survey group want “Return of the Quack” T-shirts. And one boy wants an autographed football from Coach Chip Kelly. “But really, anything Ducks would be cool,” says 10-year-old Sarah.

It’s the little things: As almost-12-year-old Maya put it, “Little things we can collect” (and trade) are often a hit. Silly Bands ($4.79 at Elephant’s Trunk); Little Erasers ($1 individually; also available in sets); or Smencils, “gourmet-scented” pencils made from recycled newspaper ($1.79 each) are a hit. A box to keep them in is nice, too. Clip-on keychains (to put on a backpack) are also quite popular. 

They still want to borrow your iPhone: Or your laptop. Or your iPod. And they wouldn’t say no to a video camera, an Xbox 360, a Nintendo DSi or a Wii, either. Or even just “a cell phone that calls home and 911” (which isn’t a bad idea, really). 

If all else fails, you can always ask: Tweens may or may not be willing to go along with writing a letter to Santa, but they’re happy to tell you what they want. In addition to what’s above, you may hear, as I did, any of the following: lava lamp, cruise to Hawaii, a snowball maker, a three-ring binder, a bean bag chair, balloons … and a Ferrari. 



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