Cool Tools & Useful Toys for CATALYST Kids (of all ages)

By Greta Belanger deJong

You‘re feeling cordial. You have some cash. You’re inclined to buy local, though will sometimes stray to the internet when necessary. Your friends (especially the older ones) already have a lifetime supply of holiday fair knick-knacks. They may delight in the latest electronic what-not—a new FitBit or an arduino starter kit. You won’t find those here, though. This list is for treasures that do not get heralded in Sunday supplement sections—few large ad budgets trumpet the joys of these toys.

Many of my selections are available locally. Some you might even make. All of them are sure to put a smile on the face of the right person.

What, you’re that “right” person? Yes, we’re guessing that you, quirky dear CATALYST reader, just might love some of these ideas. Circle the things that spark your imagination, and casually leave CATALYST in a place sure to be trafficked by your favorite shopper of means. But be sincere, because you never know what might happen. (A friend’s mom did this once, casually, with a Lillian Vernon catalog, and a big box arrived with everything she’d marked.) Good luck!


You can find a good supply at the Salt Lake Arts Council’s December-long arts & crafts sale (54 Finch Lane, near the U of U) and also at IconoClad (Fourth East  at Broadway), all made by Jodi Mardesich Smith, moss maven (@jyotimedia). Instructions abound on the internet if you wish to make your own.

Organic dog & cat pet grass kit

For people who don’t appreciate their pets chewing up the houseplants (which can also sometimes not be cool for the pets). $27 at, located at Mountain Valley Seed Co., 175 W 2700 S. 866-948-4727. Or make your own: id/how-to-grow-cat-grass

CBD for dogs

A splurge for the doggies on your list: Healthy Hemp Cannabis for Canines. CannaBiscuits,

Cannabalm and Cannadrops. CBD-infused hemp products calm aches and pains. $16-60. Utah-owned company. Desert Raw Canine in Foothill Village carries these products.

Mason bee house

Hang this house and the bees will come—these small native bees pollinate your garden way better than honeybees. Hand-cut and locally made, $12-$50 from Mountain West Mason Bees, Riverton Or make your own: For-Wildlife/ Young/Build-a-Bee-House.aspx (Note: house pictured is not a Mountainwest construction.)

Darkling Beetle Lifecycle KIt

The perfect present for curious kids with open-minded parents or someone with chickens—or someone who loves someone with chickens. Darkling beetles are mealworms all grown up. With this kit you can learn about insect metamorphosis and maybe grow up to be another Gerald Durrell. And in the meantime raise fresh mealworms and beetles for your favorite birds. $19 from Educational Science Online Science & Nature Store:; 281-554-9783.  Alternative: Find housing and care instructions online and buy your mealworms from Wild Birds Unlimited in Sugar House. (801) 878-4449

Mushroom growing kits

Shiitake, enoki, lion’s mane and more. Easy to grow. The kits are locally made. $35 from Mountain Valley Seed Co., 175 W 2700 S. 866-948-4727. Also available online:

Kitchen waste composter: Worms + bin

You can buy fancy bins and worms online. You can also find an enterprising fellow selling composting worms and bins in SLC for a very good price via $49 will get you a pound of red wigglers, an 18-gallon bin and bedding. Buy a copy of Mary Appelhoff’s classic Worms Eat My Garbage and you’re good to go. 385-202-4446, Patrick.

Tarot and Oracle cards.

Every year there are more and more to choose from, and they are commonly available. Longtime CATALYST columnist Suzanne Wagner swears by her  Aleister Crowley deck as well as the Osho Zen tarot, Medicine cards, Mayan Oracle, Ancient Egyptian tarot, Healing Earth tarot and Words of Truth.

Victorian magnifier necklace

For reading on the go. Looks good and you never have to say, “Where did I put my reading glasses?” Golden Braid, $21.

Coloring books

They’re everywhere, along with colored pencils and markers. Personally they make itch—so time-consuming! But this one is petite and pleasing in a minimalist way. I found it at Golden Braid. $10.

Fermentation gizmos

You can ferment a small quantity of vegetables and fruits just fine without special equipment. But they do make the process tidier, especially if you have multiple ferments going on. Any kitchen alchemist on your list wouldn’t mind at all to receive a jar-top fermentor (comes with half-gallon widemouth mason jar). $20 at Redmond Heritage Farm Store (formerly Real Foods) in Sugar House. Beermaking supply stores and some hardware stores often carry vegetable-fermenting equipment, too.

Flying Wish Paper

You don’t need this. But it sure is fun. Write your wish or intention, light it, and watch it fly! For indoor use.

$17 at Crone’s Hollow

Vision training glasses

Eye doctors differ on whether eye exercises do any good. Most say no. People who try it sometimes say yes. With little to lose and much to gain, trying a pair of these glasses might prove interesting. Comes with exercise instructions. $20 from Dave’s Natural Health

December 3, 17, 31 Market

The Downtown Farmers Market moved into the Rio Grande building for winter. It is more fun than the summer market—cozier. Buy your produce outside, then come inside and up to the mezzanine for all kinds of goodies. For instance:

Beeswax candles

The tea candles I have bags of are made of paraffin. Paraffin comes from crude oil sludge. Yum. Beeswax candles come from bees. I’ve seen lots of undocumented claims on the internet about beeswax candles generating negative ions (which is a good thing) and helping people with asthma. No confirmed source. But Feldenkrais practitioner and yoga teacher Erin Geesaman Rabke tells me that since she started burning beeswax, she will never go back.

Yes, I will use the candles I have. But I’d never give a paraffin candle as a gift. While beeswax candles are considerably more expensive, they last much longer, too.

Buy good ones from the White Lake Farms folks.

Bitters Lab bitters

The world of alcohol consumption got a whole lot more interesting in recent years when bitters became a thing. An infusion of various barks, roots, herbs, spices, fruits and botanicals preserved in grain alcohol, bitters can be used pretty much as you’d use vanilla extract. Add to sodas (great if you have a Soda Stream) and drink before a meal (aperitif) or after (digestif).

Lots of brands are available around town but why not buy local? Find Bitters Lab bitters at the Winter Market. $20/4 oz.

If you’re equally interested in the process, you may want to make your own bitters. Try

Fountain pen with refillable adaptor

With adaptors, you don’t have to buy plastic cartridges. I got a low-end Lamy fountain pen in a SoHo drug store nine years ago and lasted till last month, when I accidentally melted it. I found a replacement online ( a small, local-to-Boulder company). Tabula Rasa in Trolley Square has lovely, pricey pens. The Lamy works for me, though, and maybe it will suit your giftee. $42, including converter.

All things bicycle

Santa brought many a bicycle in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today he’s hefting electric bikes and scooters.

For the smaller spender, a bike store can still be a delightful shopping experience. What cyclist doesn’t need more lights? How about a bell? And a rear-fiew mirror? (Be sure you’re familiar with the handlebar it will be going on to, however.) My longtime go-to place for all things bicycle: Wasatch Touring on 7th East.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2016.