Fun fact: I am a proud auntie and godmother, as well as a fashion writer. This means the bar is set pretty high for gift-giving each holiday season, much to my chagrin. And admittedly, sometimes, I strike out—like last year, when, at my sister’s request, I gifted my then two- and five-year-old niece and nephew clothes instead of toys, much to their chagrin.
So, my solution this year is to make both parents and kids happy with choices that are both fun and functional ... while supporting black-owned businesses, of course. With that in mind, for those of us who don’t have a parent’s benefit of incessantly hearing their child’s wish list on the daily, here are several ideas that might help keep you in the “cool auntie” (or uncle, godparent or grandparent) category this year.
Let’s start at the very beginning: Every parent knows that having kids changes everything, and The Eco Baby Co. is a one-stop, organic, sustainable, ethically-sourced shop for all of a new parent’s needs. Committed to providing all-natural, non-toxic products—right down to the packaging—the company only carries plastic-free toys and products, and are mindful of common allergens. Make a gift basket of your own, or present the new parent in your life with a gift certificate.
Tangled Press is the home of children’s books by author Yolanda King, who remixes fairly tales (and creates a few new ones of her own) to delight youngsters with characters they can relate to (think Curlilocks, not Goldilocks). Buy a bundle for a little one who loves story time, and watch their imagination take flight.
Those of us familiar with the infamous doll test experiment know how important it is for children to see affirmative reflections of themselves early on. Ikuzi Dolls seeks to help by creating a beautiful variety of baby dolls of color with different hair textures. Created by a black mom with her young daughters in mind, each doll comes with an African-inspred wardrobe (with more options available on the Ikuzi Dolls website—and don’t forget the carrying case!
If the little one in your life is more of a fashion doll lover, look no further than Natural Girls United, which makes custom dolls with a variety of black styles, so that youngster know that our black is beautiful, too. Sure, Barbie’s manufacturers finally took a hint and greatly expanded the diversity of their dolls in 2016, but wouldn’t you rather buy black?
Want to help grow a problem-solver? Puzzle Huddle creates ethnically-diverse puzzles in a variety of sizes to help children develop focus, discipline and fine motor skill while having fun! Created by a Howard alum couple with small children of their own, their collection of puzzles provide imaginative play in an affirmative way.
Literacy is a fundamental tool in a child’s success, and cultivating imagination lets them know they have room to grow. Just Like Me book subscription boxes offer carefully curated black children’s books, with the aim of “exposing children of color to literature, characters, authors and stories that are reflective of them. ... The truth is EVERYBODY should read black children’s literature,” their website states. Newborns to 12-year-olds can begin building their libraries—and reading skills—with inspiration arriving monthly.
Know a proud HBCU family—or an aspiring one? The HBCU Kid Company heightens awareness of the unique experience and education available at any of our country’s HBCUs by “encouraging children and teens to consider HBCUs as their choice for higher education,” says their site.
Cultivate a college and culturally-minded kid with one of their branded tees or onesies, or gift a youngster with one of their college tours, giving them early exposure to an HBCU education.
Black Butterfly Beautiful began as a monthly subscription box service for girls, but has since expanded to offer a variety of age and gender-curated boxes, based on a monthly theme. Each includes a book, at least one product from a black-owned business and other items “to help address underrepresentation, uncover black history, and provide inspiration,” says their site. Options are available for girls aged 4-19 years old, and their Black Dragonfly boxes are available for boys aged 4-15.
What are my niece and nephew (now 3 and 6, respectively) getting this holiday season? Kicks and capes from Super Heroic, which combines sneakers optimally designed for kids (their designer is a Nike alum) with imaginative play by including a cape in every order, to remind kids of the hero within themselves, and the “power of play.”
“Play is good for the soul,” Super Heroic’s site reads. “We’ve put all of our passion and dedication into designing footwear that keeps up with their movements, inspires them to discover new places and encourages them to hold onto that invincible feeling of play.”
Young model Kheris Rogers turned the experience of being bullied into a booming business with her Flexin’ in My Complexion-branded apparel, letting the world know that beauty comes in all shades. Available in options from bibs to backpacks, you can help a youngster proudly flex their beautiful brown complexion, too.
Got a robotics enthusiast in your life? Founded in part by a British-Nigerian engineer Mekamon is the first gaming robot available on the market, is usable by ages 8 and up, and has single and group player modes. Of course, this innovative technology doesn’t come cheap: the robots are available in three colors, for a cool $249. But if it’s cool points you’re after, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something cooler.
Young Moguls was created by, well, young moguls. Their apparel brand is streetwear with an aspirational, entrepreneurial bent, reminding young wearers that the sky can be the limit, when it comes to strategizing for future success. And bonus: They’re having a mega-sale right now.
The Brown Toy Box offers “STE(A)M-Play...in a culturally affirming way,” says their site, offering activities and inspiration in science, technology, engineering, art and math to kids aged 4-12. If you’re looking for a fun way to supplement their education year-round, their monthly subscription box is a phenomenal option.
Teenage entrepreneur Zandra Azariah Cunningham created Zandra Beauty, an all-natural beauty brand with a focus on inspiring other teens to become “beauty bosses,” like herself. Buy a bundle of beauty for the tween in your midst, or encourage her to start her own affiliate, getting some hands-on business savvy for herself. All we have to say is, watch out, Avon.
Have we reached our “cool auntie” quotient yet? We can only hope; but we’ll be back (and black) tomorrow with another list of gift ideas for you to consider, so stay tuned!