by Paula M. Riley

When parents and grandparents shop in Chestnut Hill for children’s gifts, they generally start at O’Doodles. The landmark toy store with its “unplugged fun zone,” where children play while grown-ups shop, is a popular destination.

As it always does, O’Doodles is stocking some of the hottest gifts for Christmas. “Spot It,” by Blue Orange Game, is a new party game in which players find the one matching symbol between two circular cards. Perfect for children 6 and older, two to six players can play this game that requires great concentration.

Blue Orange Games' Spot It!

Another big seller at this family-owned toy store is the eco-aquarium, complete with two live frogs, glass tank, bamboo and living gravel. This is sold for $24.

O’Doodles, however, is not the only shop on the Avenue offering wonderful gifts for children. Many of the area’s boutiques and institutions offer interesting presents for the youngest to the oldest child. You may be surprised to learn that children’s gifts are sold all over the Avenue.

The Tangled Web, known for its extensive collective of yarns, needles and patterns, has “The Little Experience” kits targeted for boys and girls ages 4-12.

Visitors to the store will also find the “Build-It Space Rocket Kit,” a wooden rocket kit that lets children create their own cool wooden rocket. Everything is included in the kit – just glue, paint, and blast off! Inside the canvas bag, the packaging cleverly recycles into a coloring sheet too! “Build-It Space Explorer” and “Build-It Steamboat” kits are available as well.

Creative children will enjoy other craft kits cleverly packaged in a drawstring bag. “Create-It Prima Ballerina” includes a peg doll, tutu, felt pieces, ribbon, pipe cleaner, glue and stickers, as well as a coloring sheet. Other kits sold at The Tangled Web include “Create-It Flowery Jewelry” and “Learn to Sew.”

The Shop at Woodmere Art Museum also offers playful toys to help children learn about art and more! “Modern Artists Go Fish For Art” is a different approach to the old card game. Children don’t need to know anything about art to play (and win) – all they need to know is written on each card. By playing this game with large cards displaying the works of art, children learn to recognize the paintings and styles of some of the greatest artists of all time. Also available is “Impressionist Artists Go Fish for Art.”

Modern Artists Go Fish for Art

Art games are not the only interesting gift option at the shop. The boutique is full of wonderful gifts such as Pemba Sherpa, a delightful hardcover picture book by Gary Bernard that tells of a young woman who wants to become a Sherpa (a male-only job). Your tween and teen will enjoy the shop’s wide selection of diaries and journals, and adults and kids alike will love the hand-carved, hand-painted wooden Noah’s Ark by Dona Dalton.

Local spas are another spot to get a great kid’s gift. Your little princess will love Fringe Salon’s “Princess Pedicure and Manicure.” Treated just like grown-ups, young girls will enjoy a relaxing pedicure and manicure including the deep massages and lotion (no cutting of cuticles).

Whether your child spends Saturdays in the field or Sundays on the couch, Chestnut Hill Sports has just what your sports fans will love. The Flyers, Eagles, Phillies and Sixers logos are all over the store – on clothing for infants to adults, as well as balls, hats, stickers and magnets (perfect stocking stuffers!).

“My First Team Book” (featuring the Phillies, of course) is a popular item this year. Toddlers and preschoolers are introduced to the Fightin’ Phils through colorful photos including great shots of the Phanatic.

In its 25th year, Chestnut Hill Sports sells a variety of age-appropriate-sized balls, including basketballs, footballs and soccer balls. Older kids and parents will love the NHL Stanley Cup Hockey tabletop hockey game as well as the air hockey tabletop game!

Parents of wee ones should be sure to stop into The Happy Butterfly – located in the old Women’s Exchange building across from Bird-in-Hand Consignment. This lovely little shop sells colorful bibs, hand-knit infant hats and other infant clothing. There is a nice collection of Melissa & Doug wooden toys, as well as clothing perfectly sized for your child’s American Girl dolls.

Surprisingly, at the Kevin O’Brien Studio, where a sample sale of pillows, scarves, fabrics and bedding is temporarily being held at 8428 Germantown Ave., you can find a great kid’s gift! Children will love the stuffed animals (owls, elephants, ducks, turtles and bunnies) made from repurposed fabrics.

“We haven’t thrown away a scrap in ten years,” said Kevin O’Brien fabric artist and owner. “We finally got the brilliant idea of making them into stuffed animals for children!” Each child-safe animal has a unique collection of fabrics and colors and is available for $19.99, only at the studio’s Chestnut Hill location until the end of the month.

Fairly new to the Avenue, but here to stay is the Nichols Berg Gallery. One of co-owner Steve Berg’s goals is to get children excited about original art. The current show at the gallery is geared for all ages but includes very reasonably priced pieces for children. Berg hopes that parents consider giving their child his or her first piece of original art for Christmas this year. The show includes work by Melissa Lomex and others.

A variety of other children’s gifts are available in the shop including Storypeople art, creatures on cork, old school balloon cars that are propelled as air is released from the balloon, and mini-Lego iStereo docks for iPhone, iTouch and iPods. These docking stations look like a 12-dot Lego and come in red, black and yellow. The most popular at The Gallery this year is the Bucky Ball, which appeals to children and adults. They are small magnetic balls that make great desk toys and are sold for $25.

Mini Lego stereo dock for iPod

As you complete your list, be sure to save time for a stop at Chestnut Hill’s newest toy store. Oxford Circus, opened in September at 8127 Germantown Ave. Owner Martha Konilian, described the hottest high-end item she is selling this year.

“It’s a ride-on toy – a curved piece of wood with big beautiful wheels,” she said. “Truly, it’s like a work of art children can push with their little feet.”

There is a whole new cast of characters for those who love Moulin Roty’s charming and whimsical plush toys. Oxford Circus also stocks European wooden toys, trains, rockets, castles, Erector sets, jewelry-making kits and whimsical fairy tutus.

Regardless of the ages or interests of children on your list, Chestnut Hill’s boutiques and institutions offer an array of options. Keep an eye open as you shop on the Avenue – many of the local shops sell gift items perfectly suited for the children on your list!