Holiday Shopping Guide 2022: Families and young children edition


PLAY TIME ­— Kids can dive into the ball pit, ride the swings and jump on the bounce house at Swings and Wings in Alameda, by Sadiya Kazi-Koya

Do you have toddlers and young children in your life that you need to find a gift for? This year, skip buying clothes or fighting the Black Friday sales trying to figure out the latest trending toys, and give the gift of spending time together, making something or experiencing something new.

Pretty much any parent of young children will tell you that they are drowning in toys, so giving a non-toy gift that focuses on experiences will help your young loved ones enjoy a new place, create memories or try something new.

Best of all, you can buy most of these online, just click and print (or hit send), and you’ll be done. Here are some Bay Area ideas, but you should be able to find equivalents in most major metro areas.

Certificate or membership to an indoor play space
Indoor play spaces are popular with young kids for a reason: they provide opportunities for children to experience new spaces, climbing opportunities and new toys, all in the convenience of a contained space. People can also rent out most of these kinds of spaces for birthday parties, and some even offer parents-night-out drop-off options where you can drop your child(ren) off to play while you go do whatever you want for a few hours. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.

PLAY TIME ­— Kids can dive into the ball pit, ride the swings and jump on the bounce house at Swings and Wings in Alameda, by Sadiya Kazi-Koya

Swings and Wings (Sensory-based indoor playspace with a ball pit, swings and a bounce house) 2307 Blanding Ave. Suite E, Alameda, Calif.; (510) 747-9740;

House of Air (Trampoline play space that also has a special section for ages 3-6) 926 Mason St., San Francisco; (415) 345-9675;

Whirlygig (Indoor playspace with a beach room that has a deck and sandbox) 919 The Alameda, San Jose, Calif.; (408) 214-3213;

Museum memberships
Truly, this is the gift of experience that keeps on giving! Zoo memberships are particularly a favorite for the under five crowd, and a museum or aquarium membership are also great choices. The luxury of a membership will always provide families with a back-pocket weekend excursion option, or even a quick one-hour diversion if you happen to be close. By being able to go whenever you want, a membership allows kids and families to even just spend an hour exploring or see their favorites and not feel pressured to try to see everything at once.
Oakland Zoo (Zoo with gondola ride and evening holiday light program) 9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, Calif.; (510) 632-9525;

Bay Area Discovery Museum (Children’s museum with large outdoor space geared for ages 6 months to 8 years); Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito, Calif.; (415) 339-3900;

Exploratorium (Hands on museum with exhibits that explore the world through science, art, and human perception. Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green St.), San Francisco, (415) 528-4444;

CuriOdyssey (Science museum and zoo with both exhibits in indoor and outdoor spaces, and animal presentations) 1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo, Calif.; (650) 342-7755;

Children’s Museum of Sonoma County (Museum with imaginative exhibits and pretend play spaces geared for children 10 and under) 1835 W. Steele Lane, Santa Rosa, Calif.; (707) 546-4069;

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo (Zoo and science & nature museum for children 0-9) 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, Calif.; (650) 329-2111;

Tickets or certificates to watch a show or performance
Chances are high that a young person in your life is getting interested in music, dressing up and dance. If that’s the case, entice kids away from a screen to experience a local show or performance. Here are a few that are coming up. Geared for a younger audience, some of the options available for young children might surprise you.

Bluey’s Big Play (Live action play based on animated children’s TV show)
Disney on Ice (Ice skating shows featuring Disney characters and music)

Try something new
Lessons or even a single session of a new experience can provide the added bonus opportunity to give gear or equipment as an accompanying gift, if there are people in your life who insist on giving something wrapped and in a box.

Aloha Roller Rink: (Roller skating that offers public skating time and lessons) 2190 Eastridge Loop Suite 1402, San Jose, Calif.;

Kristi Yamaguchi Holiday Ice Rink (Seasonal ice rink through Jan. 8, 2023 that Kristi Yamaguchi herself opens the season) General admission w/ skate rental $22.66 (9 years and older; Child general Admission w/ skate rental (ages 3-8) $16.48 (ages 3 to 8) City Center Bishop Ranch, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, Calif., ​

Tutu School (Movement and ballet classes from toddler ages and up that also introduces story ballets.)

Trying something new at home
Send a new experience directly home! The young people in your life will love getting their own mail. Activity kits and magazines give a gift that can keep giving for months. The following fun subscriptions and sites provide options for young people and their families to make, build or read something together.

Raddish kids (A monthly cooking kit for a budding foodie, or just even for getting kids a wider range of exposure.) Options include Cooking, Baking or Global Eats.

Kiwi Crates (Curated monthly activity kits for kids of all ages that cover a wide range of interests including science, art, cooking and play.)

Highlights Magazine (Monthly children’s magazine with stories, activity pages and puzzles.) Try Hello for 0-2, High Five for 5 and under and Highlights Magazine for ages 6-12.; 1-888-372-6433.

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