I'm not much a a shopper, unless it is a thrift store. So talk about Black Friday and Christmas gifts kind of freaks me out. But many people love the gift giving aspect of the upcoming holidays, so let me make some suggestions that won't add more plastic crap to a household and might boost the economy of enterprising individuals rather than major corporations.
First suggestion is of course, make things yourself. I personally think that the idea of a home-made Christmas is the best. No one has to buy anything at all! Getting a gift you know was made just for you is truly heartwarming, as anyone who has ever hung kid's art on the refrigerator knows. Cards, cookies, homemade books about some event you enjoyed together, pictures in decorated frames, whatever. The list is endless. And they will like it because they like you, and you made it just for them.
Second best is to buy local. Not local as in your nearest shopping mall, but local as in the one-of-a-kind shop owned by someone who lives near you. You'll have to walk around your own neighborhood to figure out what remarkable items are hiding inside...
Third, buy stuff that is handmade and sold by the maker themselves. Going to craft shows is always fun, but you can shop handmade from bed, via the internet. The most well known handmade shopping site is etsy.com. You can find anything, and I can guarantee that you will find the perfect gift for even the most difficult to shop for person. They also make it easy to search by location, so you can buy homemade and local. Chances are, someone you know uses etsy to sell things they make. Many people I know do. Here's a sampling of creative folk I personally know and love:
My brother Orien sells handmade tools, kitchen utensils, and archery. Link to his shop here.
Tracey makes amazing jewelry here and here:
Or check out lovely Megan's wonderful bags here and here:
The samples above are grown up presents, but Etsy has tons of amazing and unique toys and kids items, too. For example:
Aside from Etsy, try the websites of some of these amazing craftspeople:
The pottery of Kate Brown can be seen here:
The metal work of Ginger Meek Allen (she made our wedding rings!)
The Handmade Toy Alliance has a long list of links to independent toy makers here.
Kid's music by original artists (that is pleasant for adults too) can be found here.
Magazines make great gifts too. Try these:
Cricket Magazine (award winning, no advertising!) and their other magazines for kids from toddlers to teens:
For ladies, Bust Magazine is way fun. And everyone loves National Geographic, including kids.
See? There are lots of fun ways to shop that let you avoid long lines at chain stores on Black Friday! Enjoy!