Holiday gift guide: 12 locally-made gifts that make family life easier (and more fun!)
Photo above courtesy of love, Pittsburgh.
After the challenging year of 2021 (which followed the crazy year that was 2020), we’re all ready for some peace and joy. We’re also ready for life to be a little bit simpler, and maybe more fun, as we shepherd our kids into 2022. So for Kidsburgh’s holiday gift guide, we went looking for locally-made gifts that make life easier (and more fun) for Pittsburgh families.
We’ve gathered below a list of lovely things by Pittsburgh makers and artists and authors. It’s kind of nice to live in a place full of so much creative energy and so many people who want to make life better for the families of our region.
Parents are always glad to find toys that encourage kids to step away from screens and enjoy hands-on play in the physical world. One of the loveliest items we found for little kids was this: the simple and beautiful wooden incline cars toy from John and Millie Muse ($16). This handmade toy is a great way to get tiny ones curious about shapes and motion, setting the stage for plenty of STEM learning in the future.
For kids who are a bit bigger, the checkers-to-go rug (just $9) will keep them strategizing no matter where your family travels over the holidays. And for kids 8 and up, the Expedition role-playing game from Homewood’s Todd Medema will spark imaginations and get them thinking about creative storytelling.
All of these items are available at love, Pittsburgh.
Picky Eaters were designed by Karen Krieger and Stephanie Fedro-Byrom, two Pittsburgh moms who wanted to help kids explore new foods and eat healthy without stress. These brightly colored, animal-themed food picks can help young kids, picky eaters and kids working with speech and feeding therapists.
We love that Krieger and Fedro-Byrom encourage the whole family to play with their food and find joy in mealtime, and also love that Picky Eaters are BPA-free and manufactured nearby, up in Meadville, Pa. Order one for $8.95 or a pack of two for $15.95.
Another mealtime favorite: Local crafter Kara Hohn has designed bibs that are as pretty as they are practical.
Sew Appealing bibs in a range of prices are large enough to fully cover a child’s shirt, and they have a food-catching pocket that unsnaps fully, so it gets completely clean rather than trapping crumbs. Find your favorite designs on Hohn’s Etsy shop or the Sew Appealing website.
Pittsburgh-based crafter Tabitha Reed makes a ton of beautiful things at her Missy Mae shop, including baby blankets, hats, tutus and customizable linen dolls.
But this year, it may be her child-sized masks in lovely patterns ($10 each) that help parents motivate their kids (who are likely tired of masks by now) to keep on making the wise choice of masking up. From whimsical black cats to joyful Santas, she has Pittsburgh’s kids covered.
Looking for more wearable gifts? The beautiful Birthday Skirts made by Pittsburgher Christiana Dukes can be customized for grandmas, moms and daughters, or for a group of friends to wear together at a special birthday party. Prices begin at $25 for smaller kids’ sizes.
The story behind the skirts is lovely: The first Birthday Skirt was made for Dukes’ daughter as a gift from her grandmother. And the impact of you buying one is lovely, too: Dukes gives a portion of the sale of every Birthday Skirt to Beverly’s Birthdays.
The brilliant Joe Wos wrote and illustrated the “Three Little Pigsburghers,” available via the Heinz History Center, offering the classic story with a decidedly Pittsburgh twist. It’s also told in classic Pittsburghese. (Spoiler alert: the Big Bad Wolf, known here at the Big Bad Wuff, roots for Cleveland.)
It’s perfect for adding a joyful and very local vibe to bedtime storytelling.
And once the kids have gone to bed and parents have a chance to read, they’ll find inspiration and encouragement on the pages of “When You Wonder, You’re Learning.”
Jointly written by two longtime Pittsburghers, Ryan Rydzewski and Gregg Behr, “When You Wonder, You’re Learning” is a parenting book with a uniquely Pittsburgh-centric heart. It explores the teaching and messages of Fred Rogers in ways that inspire and help today’s parents navigate a host of challenges.
Parents who grew up watching “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” will discover the research and learning science that quietly fueled the show behind the scenes. And the foreword by Fred Rogers’ wife, the late Joanne Rogers, will help remind frazzled mothers and fathers that nobody — not even the beloved Mister Rogers — is a perfect parent.
Parents need an incredible amount of energy to get through their days. Coffee is often our energy-booster of choice, but the local matcha tea purveyors at Mosaic Leaf tea bar in Lawrenceville offer us another option: healthy and delicious matcha tea, which energizes without adding the nerve-jangling, sugar-laden buzz that tends to come from your typical Frappucino.
And once a warm cup of matcha tea has relaxed the grownups, one great way to relax the kids is with a quiet bath using handmade, gorgeous soaps crafted locally by Tim Kapalo-Allen at Sleepy Hollow Soaps. Calming scents like French lavender start at just $8.
We all know people (teenagers, included) who would rather receive gift cards for the holidays than specific presents. We also may want to give gift cards to teachers, coaches and others we’re thanking for all they’ve done for our families this year. FindUrHappyPlace gift card holders, made locally by Kim Tranquilli, make gift card giving just a little bit more personal (and prettier) with designs for everyone from dance teachers and mail carriers to karate instructors.