I LOVE to shop small, especially at Christmas time! Searching for unique, and often handmade, gifts has always been one of my favorite things about gift-giving. Luckily, my DIY gifts are much nicer now than they were 25 years ago 😆 Even if a handmade gift isn’t appropriate for everyone on your list, you can still shop small by choosing locally owned businesses in your area.
I put together a list of some of my favorite handmade shops, some larger shops that do a lot of good, and a few other ideas for imaginative play.
As Christmas gets closer, I find my Facebook feed filled with more and more articles about how many/what toys to buy for children, and many opinion articles saying absolutely no toys. We love toys at our house, and our kids still get some for Christmas, but we try to find quality toys that require some kind of active play or imagination.
We don’t have many toys that require batteries (I would say fewer than five!) We have tons of building toys that my son and now my daughter love to create with. We have a play kitchen that I rescued from a neighbor’s curb and renovated, which is the most played with item when we have friends over. The kids love their wood train tracks, dolls and stuffed animals, art supplies, play dough, and of course, books. They have a marble run, a wood castle, a vintage (it was mine, I think that makes it vintage?) doll house, piles of costumes and dress up clothes, and bikes. And I will admit, we do have a ridiculous 24v princess carriage because why not!
Here are a few of my favorites for this Christmas (and some from birthdays and Christmases past):
Unicorn Stacking Toy from Zooble– This is even cuter in person! My daughter still loves her stacking toys even now that she’s two. This unicorn one is just too much; she’ll be so excited to find it in her stocking this year. My son took a peek at their Etsy store and found a couple play sets he’d like under the tree this year, too!
Play Camera from WoodandMoreUK – my daughter LOVES to pretend anything rectangular is a camera, so I know she will have so much fun playing with this and making all of us say “cheese” for her.
Recycled Crayon Name Set by Art2theExtreme – both of my littles are getting these. They both love to color and draw, and my son will be so tickled to see his name.
Cuddle + Kind – This is not technically “shopping small”, but I love when my money can do a little good for someone in the world, too. We bought the bunnies for my kids, and the glasses on the boy bunny is my favorite part I think! They are pricey for stuffed animals, but they’re hand knit, and provide meals for others, so I’m in!
Alphabet Peg Dolls from Zooble – I put these on Bee’s list this year. They are so fun!
Other things that my kids have and love – Some of these are likely available at locally owned toy stores, so check there first! The Land of Nod toys are not, but we love to have some quiet play options in this house too 🙂
Hape Rocketship, Carry Home Dollhouse and/or Rocketship
Le Toy Van Wood Castle, Magnatiles, K’nex
For the Adults:
Jane + Cope Leather Statement Earrings – I think I have four pairs from these fellow military wives, with several more on my wish list! They are so pretty, and so lightweight. I want every color!
Noonday Collection by Analisa Jernigan – Analisa is so sweet, and the jewelry is stunning. I adore all the stories about the artists that create the jewelry and accessories, and hope that everyone’s purchases throughout the year help add up to a big difference in the lives of these women and their families.
Agnes & Dora by Tiffany Lantz– Almost every clothing item I own and wear these days is made by me, or made by A&D! I love their swing tunics especially, but honestly I love it all! My nieces are getting some A&D dresses along with some auntie-made dolly and me tunics this year!
Cheri by Kate – If you’re local to Warner, NH, you can visit Kate and her handmade goods at her holiday pop-up shop (25 E Main St in Warner) through December. She makes crocheted accessories as well as gorgeous custom clothing.
Whipping Up Fairy Tales – Kasey is the world’s fastest crocheter (I don’t think that’s official yet, but it takes me roughly 100 years to crochet something that takes her 30 minutes!). She makes amazing bow ties, bows, headbands, beanies, bun beanies, and funky jewelry. I need to order some faux druzy earrings from her (I hope she still has them!!!).
JamesMichelleJewelry – I have a personalized gold bar necklace with both of my kids’ names on it, and get so many compliments on it! I bought it for myself before right before Bee was born. It came out exactly as I hoped!
Custom Cutting Boards by CabanyCo – I got my husband a hilarious Breaking Bad themed cutting board a few years ago. He uses it all the time!
Butcher Prints – I got my husband a set of prints like these a few years ago. I can’t remember where I ordered his from originally, but he got a big kick out of them!
Personalized Bangles from Frosted Willow – My sister and I both have a set of bracelets from this Etsy seller. I like how delicate they look worn separately, but usually wear mine stacked! They also look cute mixed with other bangle bracelets.
Herb Garden Set from The Gifted Tomato – The Gifted Tomato had lots of beautiful gift sets for anyone on your list with a green thumb (my thumbs are as black as they come so don’t look at me!).
Handcrafted Yarn Bowl from aaharrison – We bought this yarn bowl for my mother-in-law a few years ago. I had seen several others like it, but I loved the little bird!
The Handwritten Home – Allyson creates gorgeous custom watercolors and chalkboards. She offers a range of sizes and canvases, and can create a print for just about any occasion.
Bouchard Custom Creations – Amanda is the queen of all things monogrammed. She’s based in CA, but can ship if you’re not local.
For DIY Gifts to Give:
Made for Mermaids and Patterns for Pirates – Both companies offer a ton of free printable PDF sewing patterns for things like mermaid tail blankets, aprons, bookmarks, leggings, and many other goodies! They have lots of cute ideas for teacher gifts, gifts that kids can help make, etc. Most anything can be hand sewn, if you don’t have a sewing machine. Psst! Starting December 1, Made for Mermaids will be doing another round of 12 free patterns!!!
Thread & Grain – Cut vinyl cutouts, funky wood necklaces, and other goodies are available from Katy at Thread & Grain! She sells shirts pre-made, or you can order the vinyl to iron or heat press the shirts yourself, or you can order the digital file by itself! I have her sewing machine necklace on my list this year 🙂
Dolls and Daydreams – The CUTEST PDF patterns for dollies and stuffed animals, plus tons of clothing patterns. My kids each have several – if you’ve seen their Easter bunnies, or E’s ninja, or the elves I made them last year for the Polar Express, that’s what I used!
DIY Dollhouse turned Superhero Hideout:
One of my favorite gifts I’ve given my son is this “superhero hideout” I made for his 5th birthday. E helped design parts of the hideout so it was even more fun for him to see it all finished. There are plenty of plain wood doll houses/structures that can become something similar, or find a local carpenter! I made this one myself with a couple boards and a hand saw, so I know someone with actual wood working experience could make you something amazing.
Take some time this weekend (and this holiday season) to support small businesses. Visit your town’s downtown area, check out local book stores and hardware stores. Swing into locally owned restaurants and coffee shops. Browse on Etsy for teacher gifts. Give gift certificates for a session with a local photographer. Gift experiences like art lessons, or passes to local museums or aquariums. See if your grocery store sells items made from locally grown ingredients.
I’m so grateful that this year I’ve had the opportunity to grow my own small business, and I owe that opportunity to all of you that have supported me along the way. Thanks for being a part of mama & little e’s story all these years.
P.S. If you’re a small business owner, please feel free to leave a description of your business and a way for people to find you in the comments!