Who doesn’t get giddy opening birthday presents? No matter what age, presents on your special day are a welcome joy. But if you’re the gift giver, it can be a scramble searching for a gift. To make things easier, we’ve scoured the city for presents that suit any lucky birthday boy or girl. Before you know it, you’ll be gift-giving guru of Beijing.
Leave a Paper(back) Trail
Page One, which has various locations throughout the city (a 24-hour one is slotted to open in Sanlitun Village South), is a large bookstore with a wide selection of favorites in English. Its store also has goodies like small trinkets and birthday cards. Although local, Wangfujing Book Store is a multi-leveled store that stocks both English and Chinese books. On the basement level, they carry e-readers and electronic dictionaries. If you’re a treasure hunter, sift through the book dealers at Panjiayuan Market. If you want to give a gift that keeps on giving, The Bookworm has a lending library (individual membership: RMB 200 for six months, RMB 300 for one year; family membership: RMB 500 for one year), in addition to their bookstore. If they don’t have the title you want, both Page One and The Bookworm will special order it for you.
Our recommendations for early readers include The Princess and the Dragon, Where’s Waldo? and The Big Hungry Bear. For slightly older readers (around 10 years of age), consider titles like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amelia Bedelia, Bridge to Terabithia, and Sarah, Plain and Tall. For teens, consider the Hunger Games trilogy, The Book Thief, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth – or old favorites: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Giver, and The Catcher in the Rye.
State of Play
Find Lego sets at Kids Land, and of course, at the Lego Store. These blocks are well-loved by kids aged 5 and up. For younger children (18 months to 5 years old), the producers of Lego offer Duplo – larger building blocks designed for preschool-aged children. Also for the younger set is Muma Smart Toys (RMB 106-228) – simple, colorfulwooden blocks that help children distinguish colors and develop reasoning skills.
Retro favorites, like Nerf (known for their line of soft American-style footballs), are good for active kiddos. They can be found at Kids Land or online at Fushuanglin’s Taobao shop. Sixiren Toys’s Taobao store sells blocks and toys, as well as science kits and educational toys by Brain Box and Learning Age. Also on Taobao, Qise Hua has toys and kits for basic science, including DIY craft kits. The first floor of the New China Children’s Store is dedicated to Lego, Barbie, Play Doh, Hot Wheels, craft, science, and magic kits – while the second floor has clothing for children and the basement floor has baby products. Highlights include a birthday card-making kit (RMB 268), and a Barbie Design & Dress Studio (RMB 199).
For those at a loss, head to any of Beijing’s large markets, which are stocked with a wide selection of toys. Just up the alley from Hongqiao Market is Tianle Toy Market, which has four glorious floors filled with any toy a kid could imagine. Yashow Market has a decent selection of toys, as does Silk Street Market. These markets will have action figures, dolls, electric cars, flying helicopters and more. Some prices in the markets may run on the high side, so don’t forget to bargain, and use your own judgment when it comes to quality.
Nurture the Next Da Vinci
Non-toxic, water soluble markers, colored pencils, and sketch paper bundled together make a delightful gift for creative souls. Across from the China Art Museum is Gehua Baihua, a well-stocked art store that carries the basics (and beyond) for budding Rembrandts. In addition to a variety of baby products, BabyGro sells Crayola items, such as glitter crayons and finger paint (under RMB 100), and larger Crayola gift packs (RMB 159-189).
Crayola-centered Taobao stores like Mianhua Tang and Crayolayj have the dramatic art supplies kids love: glitter pens, paring scissors, and sets containing hundreds of crayons and colored pencils. For young sculptors, canisters of colorful Play Doh can be found at a variety of stores, including BabyGro, Kids Land, baby international, Leyou and New China Children’s Store.
Outside the (Toy) Box
In lieu of video game consoles and computers, consider items that get kids moving outdoors. Strolling on a scooter can be a way to commute in style or a way of making friends in the neighborhood. They come in different sizes, for both adults and kids. Mini Micro scooters can be bought at BabyGro. The store baby international carries Mini Micro 3-in-1 scooters, as well as the ever-popular Wishbone Bike 3in1, which can be converted into three different forms to suit a growing child.
Supplement the gift of a bicycle with safety equipment from Decathlon. In addition to bicycles, they have helmets (for adults and kids), knee pads and elbow pads. This huge sporting goods store also carries equipment for soccer, basketball, swimming, yoga and hiking.