Holiday gifts for kids seem to fall into two categories: What they want, like bikes, games and devices they’re going to lose by January, and what they need, like socks, a new coat and a pair of gloves that are also going to be lost soon in the same place where they left that expensive device.

This year, I suggest Jedi mind-tricking them with stuff they need, disguised as stuff they want, the gift equivalent of those tater tots made with vegetables.

Here’s a list of locally based treasures they’ll actually want, and you’ll have the secret satisfaction of knowing you made the children a little smarter. Whether they want to be or not.

Want more gift ideas? Check out the full 2023 Baltimore Banner Gift Guide

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Mini Salt Boxes
Juliet A

Mini Salt Boxes

If you’re in and around Baltimore City, you’re probably familiar with the work of artist Juliet Ames, aka the Salt Box Lady, who spiffs up those bright yellow boxes used to store rock salt for your frozen sidewalk needs. She’s selling mini plastic salt boxes for $25 that are perfect for storing little things that wind up scattered on your floor, like LEGO, marbles and jacks. Better in a box than stuck in your foot.

I like the me I see

“I Like The Me I See"

Jessica “Culture Queen” Hebron is on a mission to share a colorful, singable version of Black history and culture with Maryland kids in her live performances and recordings. Her kids book, “I Like The Me I See” is fun declaration of pride with the bright face you see in the mirror, and hoping other people feel the same. $13.50 on her official website.

Urban Wild Herbal Jumbo Coloring Page

Urban Wild Jumbo Coloring Page

Remember those adult coloring books that were all the rage awhile ago for stress relief and such? I always thought you could be equally just happy just taking your crayons to the original kid’s version. This gorgeous 24″-by-48″ coloring page sold by Baltimore-based Eclipta Herbal for $18. Depicting animals and plants found in the Northeast U.S., it could be great of the wall for a kid’s bedroom or playroom. Or a project for the family room you can all do together. Inexpensive activities that double as decor? That relieves my stress for sure.

Courtesy of Human Being Productions

FutureMakers Toys

For the STEM-minded kids in your life, Baltimore-based FutureMakers offers all sorts of tactical, hands-on learning toys wholesale that could be affordable gifts for your kids’ class, for party activities and more. You’ll get kits like flying machines and little electric vehicles for $59.95-$69.95 per 10 little learners. Heck, I think they’d be fun for wine and craft night when your kids go to bed!

Ice Rudolph
Courtesy of Gaylord National Resort

ICE at Gaylord National

The annual snow-themed holiday spectacle returns to the grand National Harbor hotel, this year with the characters from “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” with slides, ice sculptures, skating and more. I’m a bad skater, but I’m going anyway to that classic lesson of how you should never bully anybody, particularly when you might need them to guide your sleigh, featuring Rudolph, winsome dentistry elf Hermey, and rugged mountain man Yukon Cornelius, who my mother has called Klondike Jake for 50 years. We don’t even correct her anymore. Prices vary based on activity.

The Black Baltimore Renaissance
Courtesy of Santiago Nocera

“The Black Baltimore Renaissance”

I’m a big Baltimore cheerleader, and this coloring book, compiled by Devin Wilkins, celebrates highlights of the city’s Blackness, from cultural leaders to politicians. It’s available at Greedy Reads in-store and on its website.

Willow Mailable Paper Doll

Throw-back paper dolls

These are not your grandmother’s paper dolls. These kits come with one doll and two sheets of outfits that are easy to assemble. My favorite is the Willow who adorns a cute “The Future is Mine” T-shirt and chic glasses. Find them at Found Studio in store and on its website.

🎁 Looking for more gift ideas?

🎁 9 food and drink gifts with a Maryland touch

🎁 7 gifts for the pets or pet-lovers in your life

🎁 12 must-have gifts for your holiday list from The Baltimore Banner Staff

🎁 Check out the full 2023 Baltimore Banner Gift Guide

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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