Monday, September 7, 2015

Ten top New York City gifts for kids

My father was born and raised in the Bronx, reluctantly leaving the borough and his parents behind for his new family in Chicago. Fast-forward many years to find my sister living there with her husband, only this time in Brooklyn. New York City: the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Center of the World! We’ve always had a special connection to NYC, and have all sorts of souvenirs, presents and keepsakes to prove it. I wanted to share some of the more recent gifts that have come our way; these would be perfect for a child with ties to New York and NYC fans alike!

For his first birthday Vilis received a couple of books from his godfather, including the most fantastic dimensional board book I’ve ever seen. New York City is written by Paula Hannigan & illustrated by Shannon Chandler, and features iconic locations such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and Central Park (among others), with die-cut pages contoured in the shape of New York’s skyline. The familiar outlines of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty provide tactile learning opportunities for toddlers while the fun facts engage older children: “…one souvenir you’ll want to pick up in a New York minute.”

This cozy toddler zip hoodie by Brooklyn Industries is a fall staple. The durable zipper, split kangaroo pockets and leather detailing ensure you’ll be able to pass it down to younger friends or siblings. If you’re looking for some warmer weather gear check out the “Brooklyn” line of graphic T-shirts – plenty of trend-setting designs for men, women and children.

Pop-up New York takes slightly older readers on a tour from Brooklyn to the Bronx with a fact-filled, interactive, large-format book that might teach even life-long New Yorkers a thing or two about the city they live in. Jam-packed with informative blurbs and fantastic paper engineering by Richard Ferguson, this book touches on all five boroughs and a variety of subjects: sports, history, architecture, culture, culinary, the arts and more. You’ll find all of your favorite places in New York within, and a ton of stuff to move, open and read - the pop-ups are even double-sided! From the lush greenery of the High Line and Central Park to the dizzying heights of the Manhattan skyline, this book is really for children of all ages.

The High Line train whistle is a nod to the High Line’s past as an elevated rail line serving Manhattan’s West Side. The wooden toy is made in the USA and in our home is played with daily while the kids are gathered around the train table. It makes me happy to see the boys playing with solid wooden toys rather than the plastic crap that lines the toy aisles these days, and it’s a lovely reminder of our trip to this unique Urban Park.

Dynamic illustrations layered over black & white photographs of Park Slope tell the story of a day in the life of Trixie in Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. Adult readers will recognize scenes from Prospect Park and the streets of Brooklyn while the kids are involved in the tale of a lost-then-found stuffed bunny. We enjoyed the two books that followed as well, Knuffle Bunny Too and Knuffle Bunny Free.

A good friend of Lauris and Mikus spends his summers in New York City, and I consider his mom to be an expert on great NYC gear. It was at their home that we first read Knuffle Bunny, and through her recommendation that we discovered Wow! City! by Robert Neubecker, and I Lego N.Y. - a humorous look at the city through a series of vignettes featuring designer and illustrator Christoph Niemann’s son’s toys.

For the train enthusiasts nothing beats the NYC wooden subway trains from the NY Transit Museum Store. Which rail line would you choose?

As a child I visited the Bronx Botanical Gardens, and upon returning as an adult found them every bit as enthralling as I remembered. This “color-me” Tee from the New York Botanical Gardens shop would be a fun gift for an artist, as it can be colored in again and again with the included markers.

There’s always New York In A Bag, the wooden playset from the Museum of Modern Art featuring NYC icons such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the Guggenheim Museum. The 8 structures and 6 cars are made of wood from sustainable forests, and although not intended for children under 3, would be appreciated by a budding architect or a NY child-at-heart .

So there you have it, an idea or two for a NYC-themed gift outside of the usual “I heart NYC” gear or NYPD T-shirts! The new books have quickly become favorites on our bookshelf, and having a little piece of the Big Apple in our home makes a couple of our favorite people seem closer despite the 700 miles between us. Do you have a favorite New York City souvenir or toy?

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