Gift guide: Ideas for the holidays and beyond

Smart Gurlz World.

This month goes by in a blink. Need some easy ideas for holiday gifts? Here’s a quick roundup of memorable gifts, toys and gadgets for all ages.

SmartGurlz. Finally, here’s a STEM toy created for girls. It may look like a doll on a Segway, but it’s really a cool coding robotic toy. To help her own daughter take an active interest in STEM education, Sharmi Albrechtsen created this self-balancing coding robot and doll characters. The SugarCoded app for smartphones and tablets breaks down coding into simple assignments, and each doll has its own back story, personality, and interest in technology to mechanics. You can find SmartGurlz toys locally at Kidstop in Scottsdale for $79.


Groovebook. I used to spend hours making annotated holiday photo books of my daughter’s early years. Now, it’s all I can do to text photos to family members. Enter Groovebook. Co-founder Julie Whiteman lost thousands of family photos from her phone, so she and her husband came up with an easier way to print and preserve precious memories. Groovebook was introduced on Shark Tank and is now owned by Shutterfly. This is a great gift for busy moms everywhere, or use it yourself to create lightning-fast flip photo books you can “gift” to everyone on your list this holiday season! The easy app lets you create up to 100-page photo books monthly for $3 per month. An annual gift subscription is $35.88.

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The gift of college. Let’s face it. The projected cost of college in the next decade is crazy. Here’s an alternative option to the latest toy: an early start on paying for college. A life-changing gift is contributing to your child or grandchild’s 529 plan — a tax-advantaged investment plan that lets family members save for qualifying college expenses. Money earned from a 529 plan can be used for books, supplies, and tuition and fees for an accredited college, university, or vocational school. Because getting a card that says “I’ve contributed to your 529 plan” may not be the most festive thing under the tree, Arizona’s College Savings Program through The Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education gives these tips for making a donation to a 529 plan a fun holiday gift: Wrap it up with a book or costume: Give an astronaut suit, a chef’s hat or another fun career dress-up costume with a note championing that can be whatever they wish and explaining you’ve contributed to their college fund to help make that happen. Or, find a fun book about a future career with a bookmark noting your 529 contribution. Give a smaller gift: Take half of what you would have spent on a larger gift and contribute that amount their 529, while using the other half to buy a less expensive gift. Take a field trip: Explore a museum or plan an activity that helps them better understand a future career, then head to the bank to deposit funds into their 529 account. Visit for more tips.

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“Letters to my daughter” or “Letters to my son.”

“Letters to my daughter” or “Letters to my son.” by Lea Redmond (Chronicle Books/ $14.95). The tagline is “Write now. Read later. Treasure forever,” and there’s a book for everyone, including “Letters to my Mom” or Dad, friend or future self. For the nostalgic, these books are perfect. They offer easy intros into writing short, handwritten notes to your child, from “The best adventure we’d had together was …” to “I love being your parent because …”. Write on the tear-out page, seal and date it, and stash it for important birthdays or milestones. Find it at any local bookstore or

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