Holiday Gift Guide: Toys and more from local stores

As moms, we understand the appeal of fast and free shipping. But part of the joy of the holidays is exploring local shops that make our community unique and finding gems. We rounded up a quick list of fun holiday hits from shops across the Valley, and this is just a taste. Don’t forget about museum gift shops, most of which you can visit without paying admission to the attraction. And local shops often offer perks like free gift wrapping!

Airplane Rolling Backpack and Flight Jacket. Perfect for a tiny traveler, this soft airplane rolling backpack from Popatu can be filled with carry-on activities for an upcoming flight. Pair it with a tiny military-style flight jacket (in children’s sizes extra small and up). $32-$50 at the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa.

Cactus Onesies. Don’t forget about the Desert Botanical Garden’s newly remodeled gift shop for desert-themed children’s books and all things cactus — from huggable saguaro pillows to adorable onesies like this one. $20.

International Airport Play Mat and Air Force One. This mock runway mat will inspire all sorts of creative play. Pair it with a Bump and Go Air Force One jet that’s just the right size for little hands. $10-$13 at the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum.

Kids Book Boxes. Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and Tempe offers a brilliant gift service. They’ll pick out kids books for you — from classic picture books to the best tween titles — based on the recipient’s age and interests and how much you want to spend. You can also pick up cool pens, craft kits and sweet stuffed animals.

Rocks. Sometimes simpler is better. Terri Walters, manager/buyer at the Arizona Museum of Natural History Guild Museum Store in Mesa, says rocks are the hands-down the favorite of school children who visit. Options that cost just $5.99 include break-open geodes and small velvet bags you can fill with shiny, smooth, brightly colored tumbled stones.

Wooden Dinosaur Letter Puzzle. This colorful 3D wood puzzle is fun to assemble and also teaches the alphabet, because the pieces are arranged in alphabetical order. $10-$12 at the Arizona Museum of Natural History.


American Ninja Warrior Ninjaline. Hang this 34-foot Ninjaline between two trees, and you have an instant challenging obstacle course! Comes with rope knot, T-bar, monkey bars and rings. Recommended for ages 5-12. $129.99 at Kidstop Toys in Scottsdale.

Handmade Doll Clothes. Here’s where you can get heirloom quality yet affordable clothes for American Girl and WellieWisher dolls. The Sun City Sew ‘n’ Sew Club makes and sells a variety of unique, beautifully stitched clothes for 14- and 18-inch dolls. Fashions range from formal to casual. $10-$48.

Hatching Mermaid. Luci’s at the Orchard and Luci’s Healthy Marketplace in Phoenix are great spots for quick gifts. You’ll find cute cactus-themed baby items, kids Golden Books, jewelry and tons of cute stocking stuffers, from candy to rainbow unicorn eraser sets to a $4 shell that “hatches” a mermaid when submerged in water.

Mad Matter. This modeling material is clean, easy to use, and never dries out, says Sari Custer, Chief Curiosity Officer at the Arizona Science Center, who describes it as a mix between playdough and kinetic sand. It’s also wheat, gluten, and casein free, plus it’s an affordable, creative toy. $15.

Ozobot Bit. This tiny award-winning robot is a great way to get kids (and adults) excited about coding. Custer says with just a few markers, you can introduce concepts of programming. The robot follows hand-drawn color-coded commands or app-based block coding. $60 at the Arizona Science Center gift shop.

Power Up 2.0 Electric Airplane Conversion Kit. Add a rechargeable electric motor and propeller to your paper plane, or upgrade to a 3.0 Bluetooth version and control the plane from your phone. $20-$60 at the Arizona Science Center.


4Ocean Bracelet. OdySea Aquarium’s gift shop in Scottsdale sells this cool unisex bracelet, which is a constant reminder to protect our oceans by reusing, reducing and recycling. Made from recycled post-consumer plastic with a stainless-steel charm, the $20 purchase price goes toward removing one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines.

Junk Yard Drummer Kit. Ages 8 and older can turn empty cans and other junk into a working, robotic drum set with this “green science” kit from Eco Engineering. $22 at the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa.

Personalized Charm Bracelet. Here’s an affordable alternative to the trendy-but-expensive Pandora or Alex and Ani charm bracelets! Personalize the perfect bracelet with a variety of charms. $5 for a bracelet and one charm, $5-$12 for additional charms. $21 as shown from She’s Crafty Boutique in Peoria.

Rock N Roll It Rainbow Piano or SpecDrum. These portable, colorful and flexible musical instruments from Mukikim are on the hot list for the holidays at Kidstop in Scottsdale, says store owner Kate Tanner. They come with a headphone jack, record-and-playback mode and more. Plus, they’re great for travel! $60-$70.

Snap Circuits Bric: Structures. Wire up building bricks to have lights, sounds, moving parts and 3-D circuits with this snap circuit kit at Kidstop in Scottsdale. Store owner Kate Tanner says it’s compatible with Legos. A fantastic STEM toy for ages 8 and up! $40.

Wireless Karaoke Microphone. Connect this microphone to your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth and belt out your favorite tunes with this 3-in-1 wireless mic, speaker and smart phone charger by FunkyRico. Tweens will love it, but honestly so will ages 5 to adults! It comes in black, gold, pink and rose gold for $40 at The Container Store.

All kids

Memberships to local attractions. Memberships to Valley venues — including Arizona Science Center, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Desert Botanical Garden, i.d.e.a. Museum, Legoland Discovery Center, OdySea Aquarium, Phoenix Zoo and SeaLife Aquarium — make fantastic gifts for both kids and families. $55 and up.

Tickets to holiday performances. What’s Christmas without the reminder to be kind from Ebenezer Scrooge, laughs from Buddy the Elf or holiday favorites from the Phoenix Symphony? Tickets to local, live performances throughout the year make great gifts for all ages.

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