For a more exotic alternative to your run-of-the-mill building blocks, how about this pyramid set, complete with a smiling sphinx? So mystical. Find these, as well as Japanese, Russian, or Middle Eastern block sets, $45 each at Acorn Toys.
This is a classic. Their parents might hate you for it, but what little scoundrel wouldn't love one of these old fashioned sling shots? $26, Atomic Garden.
Little girls will love this cuddly Lapin bunny bag. It's the perfect size and so so cute! $34, Catbird.
Fact: kids love shoes. Or at least, every kid I've ever met does. Zara has an especially gift-worthy selection--I wish I owned a lot of these, myself! Get them a tiny version of something their mother/father would wear, and they'll feel so grown up! Starting at around $30 at Zara.
You can't go wrong with legos, and this deluxe Parisian Restaurant is the stuff dreams are made of. See the tiny roast chicken? The croissant-shaped molding on the roof? The man about to propose with the most ridiculously oversized gold ring Ive ever seen? There's even a little rat out back by the little blue dumpster! (I've spent way more time than is reasonable looking at this... I wish I could live in the studio apartment upstairs!) $149.99 (eep!) at the lego store.
But if, like me, you're reluctant to gift a little one who already seems to have an excess of toys, books, and nicknacks in general, my friend recently shared a good idea: buy them a trip or membership to a local museum, science center, botanical garden, anything! The children's museum here in Pittsburgh is supposed to be really cool; we're going next week, and I'm excited!