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Where to Buy a Kid a Gift

11 clothing stores, bookshops, and toy emporiums for children.

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Two cute kids in striped pajamas, laughing Photo: Primary

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Buying presents for babies and kids can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know what items they already have, and especially if you haven’t met them yet.

A couple things to keep in mind: When in doubt, good return policies are your friends. I mean, always, but especially when it comes to gifting. And as a pro tip for the non-parents, small children between the ages of 1 and 3 will probably find the wrapping paper the most awesome part of your gift, so just use something crunchy-sounding with springy ribbons and you’re set.

As for what to wrap, here’s a list of the 11 stores selling plush animals, itty-bitty sweaters, books, and arts and crafts for whatever child you’re currently shopping for.


Clothes and Toys

Acorn

If you’re looking for the handcrafted and unusual, stop here. Need a wooden dollhouse shaped like a pear, or an apple, or an elephant? Check. A build-your-own-dragon kit? Check. Beginner’s loom, felting kit, play fondue set? Check, check, check.

The Brooklyn-based children's boutique also sells baby and kid clothes — which include basics and things like fur vests, drop-crotch pants, and pink lamé leather winged boots in toddler sizes — as well as items like Matrushka dolls, pineapple-shaped night lights, and a play tractor that seats two. Basically, if you’ve ever wished you could shop a Wes Anderson movie, here’s your chance (and on that note, yes: Acorn also sells binoculars).

Norman & Jules

The brand offers tons of brightly colored wooden blocks and stacking toys, Tim Burton-esque handmade dolls, and sweet wee plush creatures. It has baby clothes and accessories (mobiles, teethers, adorable clothes), arts and crafts materials (stamps, wall stickers, colored pencils, embroidery kits), science toys (plant kits, grow-your-own crystals sets, build-a-roller coaster sets), drums and other musical instruments, backpacks, birthday cards, toy-sized tents, toy-sized sleeping bags...

If everything in the last paragraph makes you sigh with longing, you’re probably going to want to buy two of everything and keep one for yourself.

Toys R Us, Target, and Buy Buy Baby

And of course, you can’t really go wrong with any of the mega-chains. All of the above places carry a wide range of things by reputable brands for young humans, including plush animals, scooters, board games, and play kitchens, and in the case of the latter two stores, also clothing, nursery decor, strollers, diapers (for the pragmatic on your list), and the like.

This is where you can find all those brightly colored loud plastic toys that are kind of grating — how many times can you handle jamming out to an electronic version of B-I-N-G-O? — but that kids love (and never get sick of).


Just Clothes

Baby Gap, Gap Kids

This is where you shop for the tried and true. You'll find all kinds of pint-sized versions of the classics, plus some fun branded items that might have your inner 10-year-old (or outer 28-year-old) turning cartwheels, like this Star Wars collection. Other super-cute things: this infant-sized Fair Isle sweater onesie and this toddlers’ faux fur hoodie (it has ears).

Primary

Primary sells a full line of cotton basics for sizes newborn to kids’ 12 in a generous range of solid colors and stripes — making it simple to mix and match shirts, pants, leggings, sweatshirts, skirts, dresses, onesies, etc.

Speaking of onesies, the brand offers three pre-curated onesie gift sets — a baseball sleeve, a long sleeve, and a short sleeve — as well as a set that includes a long-sleeved onesie, a pair of pants, and a pair of zip-up pajamas, all in cheerful color palettes.

Mac & Mia

Voilà! An on-demand subscription box of devastatingly fashionable kids’ clothing in sizes newborn to 6T. All you have to do is answer some style questions with a personal stylist, and your giftee will be sent a box of six to nine items. They can keep what suits and return what doesn’t. Shipping is free, although there's a $20 styling fee for each box. You pay for the pieces you keep, and the fee gets credited back to you when you keep two or more pieces from a given box.

And in case you don’t know much about the personal tastes of the child you’re shopping for, Mac & Mia offers gift cards, too. Brands include names like DL 1961, Egg Baby, Go Gently Baby, Milkbarn, Hatley, and Pink Chicken.


Toys and Books

Lego

If you’re older than, say, 30, and haven’t thought about Legos in a while, its website will blow you away with its breadth of options. The company now has a bounty of branded sets and goes way beyond just blocks in a box, including the Lego Batman Movie, DC Comics, Disney, Minecraft, Star Wars, and Ghostbusters, including figurines from the recent Jones/McCarthy/McKinnon/Wiig remake.

You can also shop by interest (robotics, trains, animals, ninjas), or just order your classic small, medium, or giant box. There are Duplos for smaller hands that aren’t quite ready for regular Legos, and if your child already has a set that’s missing one crucial piece, you can even order one brick at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but the site has a few buying guides to help you get started.

Powell's City of Books

Welp, good luck not buying at least a thousand books for yourself at the Portland, Oregon-based Powell’s City of Books. This independent store carries every book imaginable that is, was, or ever will be, for adults and kids, new or used, best-seller or hard-to find. Plus, the customer service is unparalleled. In this guide, it’s voted Most Likely to Have That Special First Edition of Your Favorite Book From When You Were 11 (a legit award) that you now want to pass on to your favorite tween.

Flamingo Rampant

This small, direct-to-consumer press sells affirming children’s books specifically for trans-identified/gender-independent children and youth and their families. Sweet, accessible stories with lovely art take place at Pride, at Passover, at a pow wow, in a mosque, under a Christmas tree, and on the planet Tenalp (where everything happens backwards), among other places.

Flamingo is currently using a Kickstarter page for retail after an e-commerce hack, but the publisher assures that pre-ordered books will ship within a week.

Want more? Check out our holiday gift guide for few extra ideas.