Holiday shopping online is easy, but if I had just stuck to that, I probably never would have found a Harriet Tubman doll or a wooden automaton kit while scrolling through toy guides on Amazon. A recent visit down the aisles of area shops and chats with store employees led me to a world of brilliant gift ideas for the children on my shopping list. Plus, I got a little help from my own kids.

Here are some ideas that might make the little people in your life smile a little wider this year.

For the kids who love games

Count Your Chickens
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Count your chickens: (3+)

Uh-oh, Mother Hen needs help getting all her little baby chicks back in the coop. This cooperative game ($15.99) from Peaceable Kingdom stresses teamwork and encourages counting skills. Finally, a kid’s game with no tears – that’s because everyone wins. It’s a great beginner game for a preschooler and is on par with classic board games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.

Spot It
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Spot-It: (6+)

Spot-It ($12.99) is actually five games in one, and it’s fun for the whole family – even grandparents will enjoy this one. It came as a recommendation from the good folks over at Canton Games a few months ago, and my family hasn’t put it down since. It requires a good eye, some luck, and a little speed to spot matching symbols on the cards.

You've Got Crabs
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You’ve Got Crabs: (7+)

For you crab-loving Marylanders, may I interest you in a crustacean-themed family dinner and game night? You’ll have to supply the crabs; I’ll supply the game idea. From the creators of Exploding Kittens comes another team-based game called You’ve Got Crabs ($19.99). You’ll need an even number of people for this one. It does require some strategy and has secret signals, but it’s full of funny puns like “Abracrabdabra.”

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Wingspan: (Ages 14+)

For families who have been following The Banner’s chimney swift story, this one’s especially for you.

Bird enthusiasts can’t stop “raven” about this game. This one is for the older kids in your life who are ready to take on a more challenging board game. The game will last about an hour and there is a learning curve, but it’s great fun that will have your spirits soaring. The object is to attract as many birds (with high points) to your network of wildlife preserves. There are eggs and food tokens involved too.

For the kids who love art

I live by this: A pack of fresh colors and new drawing paper is heaven. If you’re like me, I describe my house as a maker space because we are always in a state of creating. We even have a teeny tiny art gallery on our stairwell.

Here are some tips for gifts for budding artists in your home.

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Consider leveling-up from the go-to beginner art sets to something a bit more refined and you might be amazed at what the kiddos come up with. The friendly folks at Plaza Art have always been helpful at recommending something new.

Colors of the World crayons
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Colors of the World crayons

For those kids who love drawing pictures of their family and friends, Crayola’s Colors of the World crayons, markers and colored pencils have been a game changer. They make you appreciate how beautiful the rainbow of skin tones is in this world. Find them at local stores everywhere.

Fifi beaded art kit
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Beaded art kit

A beaded beast art kit from the American Visionary Art Museum makes for a perfect craft for your little one. There are kits of a crab, Fifi and more for $18.00. Find it online on their site. AVAM’s Sideshow also has lots of fun quirky stock stuffers.

Make your own Comics
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Make your own Comics

The “Make your own Comics” drawing pad ($9.99) at the Walters Art Museum will also be a big hit with youngsters. For older kids looking to work on a project with a grown-up, they’ve got a Red Knight Wooden Automata Model kit that might be the perfect thing to assemble on a snowy winter day ($32.95).

For the kids who love science, history, and nature

You might have kids like mine who ask a lot of questions about the world around them. Here are some gift ideas for those kids who are into real-life people, events, and nature.

Wool turtle hat
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Sea creatures

Fans of turtles will adore the 100% wool turtle hat ($30.00 at the National Aquarium). If you’re a fan of jellyfish visitors in the Inner Harbor, as we are over here at The Banner (Did you see our jellyfish comic?), your kiddo might like a jellyfish plush ($25.00 at the National Aquarium).

Harriet Tubman plush doll
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Trailblazing women

For those kids who want to take a trailblazer with them along for the ride, check out the Harriet Tubman plush doll ($21.95) from the Baltimore Museum of Art. Little feminists interested in the women’s suffrage movement will also like the Votes for Women 100-piece puzzle ($15.95).

Freezy Freakies gloves
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Science fun

For those looking for experiments, try a Potato Chip Science Book and Stuff kit ($22.95 at Becket Hitch) that’s actually packaged in a potato chip bag. The kit is filled with 29 snacktivities. Kids might also enjoy a squishy ball science kit ($18.00 from Wee Chic) or a throwback to the ‘80s with color-changing gloves called Freezy Freakies ($34.00 at Wee Chic). The Maryland Science Center is another place to find cool science gift ideas.

A one-stop shop for all kids

Shananigans Toy Shop
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Shananigans Toy Shop might just be the last toy store in Baltimore City. It has something fun for every kid and even the stuffiest of grown-ups won’t be able to resist cracking a child-like grin. Shoppers can browse board games, puzzles, and science experiments filling the shelves. There’s a display of Trump card games (no relation to the former president), furry puppets and dolls. Cubbies are filled with adorable stuffies, and there are crafts for kids who like sewing and beading. Figurines hang from a rack attached to the ceiling like toy shop superheroes. There are engineering kits, magnetic tiles and marble runs aplenty.

Kids who love adventures

If you’re seeking more than just toys, consider purchasing memberships to one of the many kid-friendly institutions here in Baltimore.

Penguins at the Maryland Zoo
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Memberships to area attractions

Memberships are great gifts for families. They offer no shortage of memorable experiences year around. These family-friendly institutions include the Maryland Zoo, National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, B&O Railroad, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, and Irvine Nature Center as well as county parks. Many of these places have free weekend events, discounted nature programs for members, or reciprocal membership benefits to other museums.

Culinary Craft Workshop, JR Chefs
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Cooking classes

For families with budding chefs, cooking classes might be the perfect gift. Take a look at the class lineup for Baltimore Chef Shop in Hampden and Culinary Craft Workshop in Catonsville. Classes range from making holiday cookies to sushi rolls.

Bagel from Towson Hot Bagel
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Build a bagel

A gift card to Towson Hot Bagel might be the way to go to help start their day. Families will love the Build-a-Bagel Kit from THB ($18.95). The take-home kit includes 8 uncooked bagels, cream cheese, and a variety of toppings that you can choose from. You get instructions on how to boil, season, and bake your bagels at home. It’s a morning cooking date with your favorite little sous chefs without having to wait hours for your dough to proof.

iFly in White Marsh
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Fly high

For families with kids who are thrill seekers, your kids will enjoy in-indoor skydiving in iFLY’s state-of-the-air wind tunnels. Located in White Marsh, the holiday gift package starts at $69.99.

Sports programs at Coppermine or YMCA
(Stokely Baksh/The Baltimore Banner)

Youth programs

Baltimore has no shortage of experiences that your kid will enjoy. Consider the gift of a seasonal youth sports program at the YMCA or Coppermine, or even an art class at Social Studio Art.

My last suggestion is the oversize cardboard box. The cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum in 2005 and is a favorite among children everywhere, including mine. Remember The Banner’s story about Paul Newson who made a spaceship out of a box for his two sons. Behold the power of the box and boundless imagination. If you call around to stores, you can usually track one down for free.

More stores you might be interested in visiting for kid’s gifts include The Ivy Bookshop, Found Studio Shop, Better World Imaginarium, In Watermelon Sugar, Greedy Reads, The Pied Piper, Atomic Books and Collectors Corner Inc.

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