Mom Knows Best: A Family-Friendly Holiday Handbook

mom knows best

Here’s a gift just for moms and dads: a shopping guide specifically tailored to the needs of the most frazzled and time-strapped among us.

We asked Scout’s friendly local parenting expert, “Mom Knows Best” columnist Kat Rutkin, to track down the best gifts for kids of all ages at a few of her favorite shops. Some are practical, others are purely fun, but all are guaranteed to inspire big imaginations in the smaller residents of our city.

By Kat Rutkin

gift guidenest-and-stack-buckets

This adorable set is a space-saving shape-sorter and stacking cup set in one—crucial for avoiding that toy creep that stealthily strangles your post-baby living space. My son got this from an actual Magic Beans expert for his first birthday—my kids both still love it, and my oldest is now five. $22.99, Magic Beans padmini is powerful
Published by Bharat Babies—a company founded by Somerville mom and constant inspiration Sailaja Joshi— Padmini is Powerful is a beautifully illustrated introduction to Hindu Gods in a baby-friendly board book format. Bharat Babies books are available at Magpie Kids and Porter Square Books and are totally charming. Learn more about Sailaja in a recent interview with her from our sibling publication, Scout Somerville! Magpie Kids, $9.95toddlersbroom

Yes, it’s a set of miniature cleaning supplies. Trust me on this one—I have never seen any toy get as much use in our house. And the colors are pleasantly gender neutral, because we all know cleaning is everyone’s work. $11.99, Henry Bear’s Park

bruins zamboni
Nothing says winter fun in New England like a tiny little Bruins zamboni! This is sure to please the tiniest hockey fans in your house well into the offseason and stands out from boring ol’ wooden cars. $17.99, Porter Square Books seedlingSEEDLING MAKE YOUR OWN SUPERHERO CAPE
If there’s anything cuter than a kid in a superhero cape, it’s a kid in a superhero cape they designed themselves. Unleash the superhuman creativity of the children in your life with this great Seedling set. $39.95, Magpie Kids
boba doll carrier

Cute, tiny versions of a baby carrier—just like mom or dad wears!—for your little one’s stuffed animals and dolls. (Replicating parental exhaustion is optional.) $29.95, Diaper Labyoung kidspeaceable kingdom

This line of games gets children working together as a team to win rather than pitting them against each other. While they won’t create total peace in your kingdom, they do teach valuable life skills like listening, sharing and collaboration. “Race to the Treasure” and “Outfoxed” come recommended as favorites of parents and kids alike. These games are great for the 5-8 crowd and remain interesting to parents even after repeated play. Starting at $17.99, Henry Bear’s Park

365 things to do with lego bricks365 THINGS TO DO WITH LEGO BRICKS
If you, like me, have a giant tub of Lego bricks, long-lost directions, a bored kid and little-to-no master building skills, this is the book for you. It has lots of project ideas to inspire creativity and imagination in your child, as well as building tips from real-life Lego Master Builders. (Talk about a dream job!) The book includes a timer with a random selection button for those afternoons when even picking a project feels like too much. $24.99, Porter Square Bookskidoozie pogoKIDOOZIE POGO JUMPER
This is the kind of genius thing I can’t believe I didn’t know about sooner—I only just saw a kid at the park with one a few months ago. Budget-friendly and available locally at Magic Beans and Henry Bear’s Park, it’s essentially a tiny, less dangerous pogo stick. It squeaks hilariously (sometimes frantically, depending on size of jumper… yes, it can support an adult’s weight) and can be used indoors and out. This is a must for any New England parent who doesn’t want to deal with storing a trampoline indoors but needs to get the kids moving during the winter months. $19.99, Magic Beans

tweens and teensemoji pillow

Tweens rejoice! There’s no need to speak anymore—this pillow can do all the expressing you need. Plus, it feels pretty awesome, as it’s stuffed with tiny beads. $14.99 and up, Henry Bear’s Parklaser maze

This single-player logic game uses a real laser and all kinds of tricks to help kids complete 60 challenges. It’s great for independent play and problem solving, and with challenges that range in difficulty, the game can grow with your child for quite some time. It’s recommended for ages 7 and up, by which time kids can mostly be trusted not to point the laser at their siblings’ eyes. Adventurous parents with better vision insurance can also check out the Laser Maze Jr. $29.99, Henry Bear’s Park

If your tween or teen is starting to get into makeup, Pacifica palettes are a great choice. They remind me of my own mother’s coveted Mary Kay palettes but are updated with natural ingredients. Muted, natural tones are all made with vegan, cruelty-free ingredients and methods. They’re also free of parabens, sulfates and chemicals to keep that young skin free from harm. Starting at $13.99, Cambridge Naturalsrush hour
Anyone who’s ever sat in Cambridge traffic will understand the point of this game—a sliding tile puzzle with cards presenting the true-to-life challenges of gridlock. Sadly, Alewife rotaries aren’t included. But this will keep your single-player gamer age 8 and up entertained while you flash back to those real-life traffic jams in your head. $19.99, Henry Bear’s Parkscreen-shot-2016-11-28-at-2-14-03-pmEEBOO SKETCHBOOK AND SERIOUSLY FINE FELT TIP MARKERS
Every budding artist needs some really sweet supplies. Henry Bear’s stocks a variety of sketchbooks from eeboo and others, plus an amazing set of fine point felt tip markers great for detail coloring, illustration and journaling. $6.99 and $17.99, Henry Bear’s Park

new mom

summer lulu

Becoming a mom isn’t the end of your fashionable days, even if you occasionally end up buying your clothes where you buy your food. (Guilty!) Summer Lulu accessories are the ultimate in multitasking, serving as both jewelry and teethers. The company was started by Cambridge mom Sarah Wilson, and the necklaces are made by moms, for moms (and kids). They’re beautiful and safe for baby to chew on, as they’re made of food grade silicone—just like a pacifier—and come in a variety of styles and sizes. And they’re not just good for moms and babies; kids with sensory issues can use these as well. Summer Lulu is the very proud official chewelry of the American Autism Association. Learn more about this great company in our recent interview with its founderPrices vary, available at Magpie Kids, Two Little Monkeys and online at
sakura bloom sling
These are a useful splurge for the new mom in your life, great for wearing newborns, babies and toddlers with beauty and grace.* They’re perfect to stow in the diaper bag or car for those moments when you need an extra pair of hands—and an extra dose of style to distract from the sleepless look. Available in silk and linen blends and in several gorgeous colors, every carrier sold at Diaper Lab comes with free babywearing assistance from a team of trained experts, as well as the emotional support of a team of experienced moms. $95 and up, Diaper Lab

*Grace not guaranteed, although the beauty of the sling makes up for that!

This story originally appeared in the November/December print issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 250 locations throughout Cambridge or by subscription.