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Small Business Saturday + Experience Gift Guide

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Our community is aware by now our curiosity for play extends beyond the outdoors. I’m a realist who admits, begrudgingly, that sometimes the weather is not conducive to outdoor fun. Playing in the rain? No problem. Freezing rain? No, thank you. A snowy walk and building snow friends? Yes, please! A polar vortex? See you in spring. My dirty little not-so-secret nature secret is that if it’s over 80 I want to be siting in a pool, at my imaginary beach house (ha!) or inside where it’s cool.


We aren’t a screen free family and I’ve never claimed to be. We enjoy family movie time and Clifford after lunch so I can get a few things done (like this blog post) but it’s easy to get into the routine of putting the TV on when it’s unsafe to get outside and it can be tough to break that cycle. I’m hoping these resources will offer inspiration to maintain play during indoor days and learn that nature play can be accomplished indoors when necessary!


Rambling continued but getting closer to my point, this post is a compilation of small businesses to support year-round. There are resources here for experience gifts for explorers, and family gifts that won’t add clutter to your house (and some that may for a short time like art supplies and others that are our favorites for open ended play.) This isn’t an exclusive “nature play” experience list but a combination of a variety of ideas to keep our explorers thinking freely, exploring creative outlets, offering opportunities for movement as well as quality, locally made goods and experiences from talented artists.


All websites are linked below. This is by NO means a complete list but I did my best to gather experiences we love to revisit, have on our list of places to go or have been recommended by our community! We are not affiliated with any of these organizations (besides our own) so please contact the business individually if there are any questions regarding experience, product or gift certificates. There are no affiliate links.


Special Features – Willowdale Community Members

Kathleen Jablonski Photography – Kathleen Jablonski

Instagram: @kathleenjablonskiphotography

Maternity/Newborn/Family photography – Request a session as a gift for your family or add it to your calendar for this holiday season and beyond.


Easy Dyes It – Michayla Hernden

Instagram: @easydyesit

One-of-a-kind tie dye pieces for everybody

Michayla specializes in dying bamboo apparel for babies and kids using an ice dye method. She uses procion dyes, which do not fade or run in the wash!


4B Construction – Tara Badger

Remodeling and home building!


Nan'Seas Creations

Unique creations made from sea glass + beach rocks for any occasion including art + jewelry and gifts!


Outdoor Experiences (Memberships and Admission can be purchased)

Audubon (MA + NH)

Ecotarium – Worcester (indoor + outdoor)

Zoos - Roger Williams (RI), Zoo New England (Franklin, Stone, Southwick)

Maudslay State Park ($20 parking for out-of-state guests) - trails + nature walk, worth the drive to pack a lunch and spend the morning exploring!


Indoor Experiences (Memberships and Admission can be purchased)


Classes/Lessons

Tinkergarten/Willowdale - we now offer gift cards!

Palace Theatre - classes, musicals + more

Swim Lessons

Ski Lessons and/or Tickets – McIntyre, Bradford


Music


Subscriptions


Play Spaces (gift certificate options vary, please contact company for further details)


Art


Locally made items + shops

Felt the Food - Phebe is a local, curious Mom turned passionate business owner who creates DIY Felt Food Kits! Detailed instruction including videos will help even a novice sewer put together the most beautiful + unique felt food items for open ended learning + play. You can learn more about Phebe, her family + business on her website and be sure to follow her on social!


Sponsor Wildlife

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – Elephants, Giraffes and Rhinos one of my favorite gifts to give.


Open Ended Play

Craft bucket filled with crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, paintbrushes, glue, string, mediums like blank paper + canvas. Stamps, stickers – anything your explorer loves. At our workbench we keep the art supplies, misc. wood pieces, nature treasures and stubby hammers + nails to create with.



Nugget Play Couch - endless opportunities for fort building + cozy time!


Toddler Tower (example) Many others available in a range of prices. Google “toddler tower” or “learning tower.”





Bear with me on this one…a kids knife. Kimmie loves this and with supervision and instruction is able to cut soft foods safely. Pair with Raddish Subscription!


I could go on for days and add ALL the outdoor experiences in New England but that would take forever. What did we miss? Comment below or email us willowdalenh@gmail.com!

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