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Balboa Park Gift Guide for Kids

The holiday season is once again upon us.  For those shoppers who didn’t exhaust their resources (or patience) on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, gift shops peppered throughout Balboa Park offer a welcome respite from the malls, megastores and cyberspace. The shops carry a selection of unique and affordable gifts sure to delight everyone on your gift list--kids, adults, and kids at heart.  Though it was hard to choose, we’ve identified a few of our favorites. This list features fun gift store items for kids; tomorrow’s list will feature gifts for adults.

The North Star Science Store at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center sells Owl Puke Pellet Kits ($6.95) that give new meaning to the term “gross science.”  Owls regurgitate indigestible bits in a compressed pellet—hence the term “puke pellet” (charming, we know).  Each kit contains a pellet and a probe that allows budding kids to extract bones and other materials. Budding archeologists can identify their finds in the included Bone Booklet.


At the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Space Age Crystal Growing Kit makes chemistry fun! Aspiring scientists dissolve chemicals in water and watch as crystals slowly grow before their eyes. The resulting crystals can be harvested and displayed. Even better, the kits come in two sizes to suit a variety of budgets ($6.97-$12.97).

SDMOM gift

Let little fashionistas create a wearable work of art (and learn something in the process) with the Cyanotype Print Cotton T-Shirt ($19.99) from the Museum of Photographic Arts. Kids cover the shirt with the object(s) of their choice, place their creation outdoors, and let the San Diego sun work it magic. The shirts come in a variety of colors and there are sizes to fit everyone on your list.

SDMOM gift

Younger kids will enjoy ringing in the New Year with a Peruvian Pan Pipe (a steal at $3.95) from the San Diego Museum of Man. Or consider stuffing teens’ stockings with a three-legged Good Luck Pig ($3.50). These South American good luck charms are rumored to deter evil spirits and bring good luck—perfect for the SATs!

SDMOM gift

At The San Diego Museum of Art, let the future master in your life play dress-up with the Artist Mustache Kit ($8.95), which features six peel-and-play replicas of the distinctive facial hair of famous artists like Salvador Dali and Vincent Van Gogh.  We’re especially impressed by Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows!


We’re all familiar with "The Night Before Christmas," but do you know the origin of the stories told during each day of the Festival of Kwanzaa? The Calendar of Festivals ($12.99) from Mingei International Museum is beautifully illustrated and provides the origin of annual festivities celebrated all over the world—from Purim to Christmas.

SDMOM gift

Made to resemble pieces of nigiri sushi, the unique and absolutely adorable sushi erasers ($2) from the Japanese Friendship Garden might just make math homework more fun. They are so realistic looking you may just be tempted to break out the soy sauce and ginger!

SDMOM gift

E-Z Build Scale Model Kits ($12.99) from the San Diego Air & Space Museum are a sure bet for fans of aeronautics (and their parents). Choose from a variety of fighter jet models, like the F-4 Phantom II or P-5ID Mustang. Each kit comes complete with a collector’s card featuring vital stats like max speed and wingspan.

SDMOM gift

--Kathleen Bolus, Guest Contributor

Photos by Sterling Poggemoeller and Donald Wills