Hyack the Holidays: Gifts for Kids

With a DS- and Pokemon-obsessed eight-year-old stepson, a two-year-old whose alter ego is Prince Philip the Knight and a newborn girl I’m looking forward to spoil, I’ve had a personal interest in finding good local Christmas gifts & activities for kiddies.

Here’s where I’ve been shopping for gifts for my kids here in New West. (Hint: Sapperton is the place to be!)

Pedagogy Toys, 424 East Columbia St.

Pedagogy Toys at 434 Columbia St., New Westminster.
Pedagogy Toys in New Westminster.

If  cartoon character-branded toys turn you off, look here for toys for your toddler to preteen. Pedagogy has loads of family games, including some for as young as three, science & craft kids for older kids, handmade Christmas Crackers and loads of stocking stuffer toys. I particularly like the WOW Toys line of friction-powered cars & trucks for toddlers (my son is enthralled with the fire truck, as you will read below ….) and the build-your-own marble run by Quadrilla. Pedagogy also carries Settlers of Catan, among other excellent games.

Unlike Toys-R-Us, Pedagogy is actually kid-friendly: there’s a play table in the back with a small selection of toys to keep small kids busy while you shop.

Owner Karen Smecher has a pack of small children at home, and so she is savvy to the travails of mothers shopping with toddlers. The first time I took my son there, I hadn’t cottoned on to the magic of the timer (i.e. a warning that when the timer on my phone goes, it’s time to leave) and, typically two, my sweet Wesley was on the verge of an all-out tantrum to protest being taken away from playing with Ernie the Fire Truck. Karen swooped in to the rescue with the offer of a ‘pocket penguin’ to take home. She strategically positioned herself and the bucket of tiny penguin figurines by the door, and after he chose his penguins (one for each hand, of course) he was so preoccupied with taking them in and out of his pockets that he didn’t protest at all at being ushered out the door. Now that’s service.

Next to Pedagogy, you’ll find Kids Kloset (420 East Columbia St.), a consignment store that also has new clothing and accessories for sale. I find Kids Kloset a bit crowded, but they have some adorable rain gear for toddlers and last time I was in, I was admiring the stylish diaper bags & lunch bags for Mom.

A few other gift ideas I had for kids in the Sapperton area:

If you’re shopping for a little girl, you should mosey on over to 12th St. and  check out Kiss A Frog (948 12th St.) too. While they carry toys and clothing suitable for both girls and boys, they have a stunning selection of girls’ party dresses and fancy accessories that will make you melt – not to mention light up your daughter’s eyes when she sees it! You can also find Melissa & Doug style wooden toys here, and some unusual kids’ things. This is where Santa has sourced the miniature accordion and wind-up dino Wesley will find under the tree Christmas Day, for example.

Clever Mink’s (711 Carnarvon), one of our sponsors, often has toys among their selection of eclectic gifts. Last year I bought a lovely wooden train puzzle/pull-toy for Wesley there.

Parents of Lego maniacs should also stop by Shamryn Hobbies (612 Carnarvon St.) for an impressive selection of Lego kits, model trains and (oddly) Webkinz. Plus, there’s a pre-Christmas sale on right now and everything in the store is 20-30% off.

I also did a local crafter search on Etsy, and found a couple of neat gift ideas made right here in New West:

If shopping online is more your style, Pinky & Company, run by local mom of two Alix Cote (also a sponsor of our blog), sells baby leggings, ironic T-shirts for toddlers, diaper bags for dads, ‘hooter hiders’ for nursing moms and more.

Hyack the Holidays: Green Gifts

Snow Family by Graham Ballantyne
Snow Family by Graham Ballantyne

There’s a million green gifts out there, and an even larger number of gifts pretending to be green but really, with huge carbon footprints and huge consumptive and wasteful histories. Green really is the new black.

We’re selecting a few green goodies you might not necessarily see in your average Green Gift Guide in the mass media- and a few goodies special to New West and Tenth to the Fraser.

  1. Homegrown right here in New Westminster is the Biggest Little Garden in Town project. Originally designed to bring fresh produce to apartment-dwelling residents, and increase food sustainability in New West, this program has gained in popularity and reputation and now includes the opportunity for the general public to buy one of their custom made planters.
  2. Goods from the Royal City Farmers’ Market Winter Market. Due to the overwhelming success of the summer farmers’ market located in Tipperary Park, the RCFM organization made the decision to start a winter market. The first market kicked off December 12th with great success – and the next one is January 9th. While you can’t go and buy goods to give in time for Christmas, why not make your loved one a “gift card” and join them on January 9th to pick up homemade salsa, fresh cheese, beautiful jewelry, local art, fresh produce, and locally raised meat – just to name a few? There’s also bison dogs, kettlecorn, and hot beverages to make it a complete day. Everything is made, baked, or grown by the vendors themselves in BC. The RCFM Winter Market is on selected Saturdays once a month at Holy Trinity Cathedral from 10AM-2PM. More info is on their website.
  3. Seed bombs – you can make seed bombs yourself. We use West Coast Seeds for all our garden’s seeds because they are superior quality and a nice local company. Their seeds are available at a few local garden stores (it changes every year) as well as online and at their store in Ladner. You can follow directions for seed bombs (or seed balls if your peacenik side recoils at “-bomb” anything) from a number of websites – this is one from a West Coast gardener.
  4. For the post 19 crowd, why not take your gift receiver to check out Green Drinks on the first Wednesday of the month at The Heritage Grill? Green Drinks is an informal social night for people in the environmental field and other like minded individuals. Conveniently, The Heritage Grill is more or less right beside Columbia Skytrain Station.
  5. Consider giving a gift made locally from Etsy. Etsy is a large online community of crafters, often with one of a kind unique items. Using the “Shop Local” feature, I punched in New Westminster and came up with 13 recently updated shops. Most etsy-ers are okay with local pickups, too, to save on shipping.

Hyack the Holidays: Organized Sportsters

I am the singular regular Tenth to the Fraser contributor who loves sports. I’m a hockey fan – primarly Vancouver Giants but I’d take tickets to the Canucks, the Chillwack Bruins, the Abbotsford Heat, or more or less anything at our local arenas. I’m also a former soccer player, coach, and referee of both women’s and girls’ soccer here in New Westminster. I like organized sports – I think they build valuable skills like working with a team, being cooperative, attaining goals, and friendly competition. New Westminster offers many options in the way of team sports at the youth and adult level, and our great climate and numerous facilities mean there is rarely a Saturday or Sunday where the fields in New Westminster are not being utilized. Pretty much all sports teams take a break at the holidays (except those Junior Hockey boys with their annual Boxing Day tournament start) but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a team fix under the tree.

  1. Salmonbellies Season Tickets: Behold the awesomeness that is lacrosse. Despite a heartbreaking overtime loss in game seven of the Mann Cup final, the ‘Bellies are a New Westminster institution. I see tonnes of Salmonbellies logo stickers on cars here in town, and I love the fact that if you aren’t from New West or a lacrosse fan, you probably have no idea what that unmarked W with a salmon swimming through it means. It’s like a secret handshake. Even if you’re not a sports fan, if you are from here, you probably know what it stands for. 2010 Season tickets, which include 9 games, are a measly $55 for adults, $50 for students and seniors, and $35 for kids. Total. That means at most you are paying just over six bucks a game for an adult for top level, homegrown lacrosse. Um, hello, awesome much? Also, why not complete the gift with a trip to the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, located in Centennial Community Centre. We’re talking about a national hall of fame about our national sport. Admission to the Hall of Fame is free – and they are open Monday – Thursday, 9:00 am – 9:00 pm, Friday, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, Saturday, 8:30 am – 1:30 pm, Sunday, 8:30 am – 12:00 pm. (And PS: the Mann Cup and the Minto Cup reside there.)
  2. Portable BBQ for Hyack Football Tailgate Parties: I didn’t really grow up with youth level football as the sport of choice (it was soccer and rugby in my hometown) so this whole GO HYACKS thing is a bit foreign. Football has always felt a bit American High School to me – like cheerleaders and prom – but this past season, I’ll admit I’ve been paying attention ever since I happened to catch a piece on the evening news talking about how the AAA Hyacks were No 1 in their league and how most of the players (and coaches) are destined for greatness. (the Hyacks fell in the finals to the Centennial team this past weekend and are 2nd in the province but we love them anyway). You can buy Hyack Merch at the school and also at Prime Time Sports, but also consider a little BBQ from the Army and Navy for a tailgate party to do it up right.
  3. Batting Practise at the Bullpen Batting Cages: I’ve played a few seasons of slo-pitch, although admittedly it was more of an excuse to drink contraband beverages outdoors in the summer than anything. But the first few games of the season I have to shake some serious cobwebs off the ol’ muscles to re-learn how to hit properly. I’m not exactly Justin Morneau here, but I would think any ball player could use a bit of batting practise during the off season. Fortunately, New Westminster has a hand-fed batting cage that can chuck you pitches at baseball, softball, or slo-pitch speed. Remember, the machines are hand fed, so your gift also needs to include you as the machine feeder. $30/ hour.
  4. Footie Gear from Sherlock’s: This is one of those awesome shops that puts two things together that might go but just might not. Sort of like chocolate and peanut butter. British sweets and groceries, and authentic, reasonably priced English Premier League clothes and accesories to show your allegiance. You can buy online (follow that link) or you can pop by the store located at 659 Columbia Street.
  5. Sports Gear from Prime Time Sports – This little family owned sports store has long been a favourite of mine. Here’s a quick story – I have small feet (size 6 women’s) and most sports stores do not carry soccer cleats that are real leather in such a small size, the theory being that most people with feet that small are kids, and vinyl soccer boots will be a smarter choice since they are cheaper, more durable and likely to be grown out of quickly. I have never been disappointed shopping at Prime Time Sports and have bought no less than three pairs at PrimeTime Sports at excellent prices with good service.  I think this shop is truly underrated tucked away in Royal City Centre. Granted, their hockey gear selection is more or less nil, but the fact that you can choose from more than one pair of shin guards makes them a-ok in my book.

Hyack the Holidays

CNW Truck, photo by waferboard via flickr
CNW Truck, by soulstealer, via flickr

It started off as a brainstorming session in which the editorial staff were sitting around ruminating about shopping locally over a glass of wine (or four). We started coming up with our favourites here in New West, stores that are hidden treasures and gems of awesomeness and started feeling pretty good about not having to leave the city to find a gift for everyone on your list. That conversation has evolved into a special series we’re calling Hyack the Holidays that we will be kicking off today. We invite Tenth readers to chime in with your favourites and suggestions.

Sometimes it’s easy to get drawn into shopping meccas and big box stores with their promises of constant stock levels, super sales and staff to greet you at the door. We believe that a city is what you make of it, and we’re hoping we can help make local business better by presenting alternatives that you don’t even need to leave home to find.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Tenth to the Fraser.

Hyack the Holidays: Our New Westminster local shopping gift guide