I’m certainly not claiming to be a mom blogger about all things toys, activities, how to keep your toddlers and little ones occupied, etc – Busy Toddler and Days with Grey are my go-to’s there!
But I am a mama of a 4 year old and 2 year old, I babysat my way through middle school and high school, I’m a former elementary teacher, and I hate things that don’t have a use and love pitching things whenever I can. So when it comes to gifts for kids, I want whatever they have to be meaningful and also practical!
I’m not into trinkets for the sake of trinkets, things for the sake of things, presents for the sake of presents. I want them to be good! Which has its pros and its cons.
When Great Grandma gets something for the girls and it’s either a battery operated light up machine or something I know they’ll never play with, or it will regularly be a tripping hazard for Jason and me, I need to work on simply being thankful she thought to get them something.
But when my sisters, mother-in-law, or aunts ask for a birthday or Christmas list for the girls, I am READY! And I know they appreciate having an idea of what the girls are currently into, or what we already have. And that’s not just toys!
So I’ve compiled quite the list for you, based on how I think through what to gift the girls. Things that they will continue enjoying for years, things they need (or I need for them!), things we can do together, etc.
If you looked around our house and looked at the current lists I have going for the girls this holiday season, here it is, all categorized for you. And just because I have two girls doesn’t mean this list is for girls only – I believe these are all great gifts for both girls and boys!
Don’t forget to pass this post on to family members or friends who are already asking for ideas 🙂
Timeless Toys and Add-ons
When I say “timeless,” I mean they will love it when they’re two and when they’re five, and maybe even when they’re ten. I’m all for the gifts that keep on giving!
And when I say “add-ons,” I mean your child loves it so much, you buy another set next birthday or Christmas. Why get another toy or game when you can give them more of the thing they already love?! Taller towers, bigger cities, more shapes, easier to share, etc.
I can’t say enough good things about Magna-Tiles. We LOVE them! Our first set was a hand-me down from a former student of mine, and it was this set. Well, we all loved them so much (yep, Jason and me, too), that we bought another set. Olivia started building taller towers and often ran out of tiles, so the following Christmas, we got more (this time with cars!)!
These DUPLO LEGOS are our favorites. Jason’s parents got this for Avery for Christmas last year, and it was our girls’ first experience with Legos. They quickly fought over them and it’s a small set, so I don’t think it was even a holiday or anything, we simply ordered them this set, and quickly ordered these little boards, as well, to make it easier to build on carpet.
Now this year, we have some more add-on Legos sets on their list, like these:
You could even get a Lego table!
Shockingly, and sometimes to my dismay, we don’t have any good old, standard blocks. I know they are SO good and my girls love playing with them at grandma and grandpa’s house (ours from childhood…they last forever!), but we live in a small space and have other building things the girls enjoy, so this will stay on a “someday” list for us.
My siblings gifted the girls (woohoo for group gifts!) this dollhouse last year and we love it! And then when we were visiting my brother-in-law’s parents this summer, his mom pulled out their old dollhouse and she had bins of extra people and accessories.
Which gave us the idea to put some extra dollhouse accessories on Olivia’s birthday list just a few weeks later, like these:
I can see them playing with this dollhouse for years, and I can also imagine it being a special toy we keep around one day for grandkids!
I think every kiddo, girl or boy, needs a baby doll! Or several. A fun accessory we then added to Avery’s birthday list this year was a baby bed, so now they can put their babies to bed before they go to bed! They’ve also been gifted baby strollers, which they love, these baby doll bath accessories, and I’ve even thought about adding a baby doll carrier to their list.
Jason’s mom even sewed baby doll sleep sacks for the girls last year because they love putting their babies to sleep! (Can you tell their mom is a sleep consultant??)
Dress-up clothes and accessories
We are a big fan of Melissa and Doug dress up clothes, like these:
Whether it’s a classic barn and farm animals, woodland creatures, safari animals, etc., your kids can let their imaginations run wild! Our girls sometimes build Magna-Tile “zoos” for their animals.
Play kitchen and food
I was so excited when we finally had space for a play kitchen two years ago and it is still used just about every day by both girls. I’ve even seen some pretend food trucks or grills that look fun, too. A nice add-on by a family member would be food for the kitchen, or pots and pans.
This year I’ve also asked my mother-in-law to make the girls some little aprons with their names on them. I think they’ll love them!
This could be connected with a play kitchen or totally separate. We had a shopping cart about two years before a little kitchen, and the girls have loved it! They both basically learned to walk with the shopping cart and still use it every day.
Whether it’s a little instrument set your child can play with, a toy guitar/ukulele, or a keyboard/piano, allowing them to explore music is great!
I know some people aren’t fans of Play Dough because it can be a mess, while others make their own…I’m all about the ease! Someone gifted Olivia with sparkly Play Dough last year, which was something different we hadn’t seen. And getting some Play Dough accessories to stamp or cut and roll with are a great add-on!
The peg puzzles or chunky puzzles are best for young toddlers as they’re learning how to match shapes and spin the pieces around to fit them properly. These puzzles were Olivia’s favorites when she was 2 and now Avery is getting excited about them!
As Olivia was getting older, I wanted to get her started with puzzles that didn’t require aboard, but didn’t know where to start. An OT I follow on Instagram recommended these starter puzzles to us (I didn’t even know they existed!) and they were perfect! Now she’s starting to get the hang of larger, 20 piece puzzles, too.
The train set we have is a handy-me-down from friends, but something like this looks awesome! And you can keep adding on more trains and tracks as your child’s interest grows.
Table and Chairs
Whether it’s for snack time or craft time or for doing puzzles (or for the dollhouse to sit on!), I love having a little table and chairs just for the girls.
Foam Toddler Chair or Bean Bag
We don’t have any comfy chairs like this, but if/when we have more space I will probably get one or two! Any time we hang out with people who have one our girls sit in them, and an extra special part is you can get them personalized with a child’s name.
Bean bags are also a great addition to a reading corner!
Activities and Games
Water WOWs are so great to stick in the diaper bag for car rides, doctors office waits, sitting in church, etc. No mess and lots of fun!
We love this one and also take it on long road trips.
Family friends got Olivia some kinetic sand for her third birthday and we had never seen it before. Highly recommend! We let our two year play with it, too, but she of course has to be more highly supervised so it doesn’t end up in her mouth.
One Busy Toddler activity my girls love is a glow stick bath…give it a try!
Board Games (best ages 3 and up, in my opinion)
Here’s a blog post by Busy Toddler about the best board games for young kids…this is where I looked for most of the games we have! And here are our current favorites for three and four year olds:
Candyland was Olivia’s first board game! Although it can feel like a never-ending game (my husband avoids playing it at all costs!), I think it was a great first to teach her how to take turns, move on a board, follow directions, and win or lose.
This is my current favorite! It’s kind of like a group game but there’s also a winner at the end.
Yeti in my Spaghetti
It’s kind of like Pick Up Sticks with a fun twist! Even Avery (2) attempts to play.
I would say this is great for kids four and older. It’s Bingo with a math twist!
We love crafting in this house (well, I do…Jason, not so much. But he’s a girl dad, so he happily obliges)! I recognize not every parent loves doing crafts, and that’s okay! Lots of these supplies are still great for you child to use independently.
Or if reading this section makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, just skim right past it.
Every few months my 4 year old and I do a little joint painting project on a small canvas. I like making them seasonal or holiday related so I can pull them out the following year for some personalized home decor. She also feels extra fancy painting on a canvas rather than just paper.
Whether it’s just for coloring on a different piece of paper, painting (or painting with water!), or for colorful crafts, construction paper is a hot commodity in our house!
Jumbo crayons were great starters for my girls.
Color Wonder Markers
I do let my girls use normal markers, too, but I always have to brace myself. Color Wonders, however, are awesome! They are markers, but the tips are clear, so kids can essentially color them anywhere and nothing will happen. Unless they color on the Color Wonder paper, then that color will show up…pretty magical! Extra nice for waiting at the doctor’s office or sitting in church.
D0 A Dot Markers/Paints
I used these Do A Dot Markers (they’re really more like paints) in my classroom all the time and my girls now love them! They make very little mess and dry quickly!
We love these jumbo coloring pads by Melissa and Doug, as they are bigger for little hands to learn to color, and there are so many options!
Glitter or Glitter Glue
Definitely a craft that requires supervision, but glitter makes everything more exciting!
Fine motor skills and accessorizing, win win!
You could get dot stickers (for more Busy Toddler activities!) or shapes or characters, etc. These Puffy Sticker Pads have also been fun gifts the girls have received recently! I think these would be key on airplane rides, especially.
Stickers are just fun!
An Easel and Smock
A neighbor handed their easel down to us and the girls see it as such a treat! We can paint on it, or just use chalk and dry erase markers. As soon as they got the easel we bought a smock to go with it, so saves the hassle of scrubbing paint out of clothes! And old t-shirt would work just as well.
I taught k-2 for 8 years, so children’s books are my thing. I love them and our girls have quickly taken to a love of reading, as well. Our bookshelves overfloweth and will continue to do so, because we always have books on our list!
These are some of our girls’ favorite authors and series right now:
Have you read the Pigeon books? Elephant and Piggie? The Knuffle Bunny series? ALL of his books are so good! YOU will even love them.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear Series
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is of course a classic and must have (we have this one – it’s a “slide and find” which makes it hands on!). There’s also:
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?
- Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
- Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
We love them all!
Pete the Cat
I have started getting into a routine of having a tub of books that are sorted by season or holiday, so they’re only out a few months of the year. We have our Fall books, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Winter, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring books, Easter, etc.! And then since my daughter just started preschool, we also have some back to school books.
Most of these are from my teaching days, but my mom has also gifted the girls with some Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas books, and she writes a little note and the date each year. I even have some holiday books my mom saved for me that were gifted during my childhood, and now my girls can enjoy them. A special little tradition to continue!
Poke-a-Dot books are so fun, as there’s a direct “cause and effect”…you poke the dot and it makes noise, and you keep doing so throughout the rest of the book! And there are so many options.
A friend introduced Me Readers to us and they’re awesome, especially for car rides or quiet time! Each set comes with eight books and a little electronic reader that reads each story to the child as they push a button to connect to the story and page. Our preschooler loves it!
Books about Faith
A great reference we have used when looking to buy our girls children’s books about Christianity is the Risen Motherhood resource page…we’ve purchased quite a few and have loved them all!
I love when my girls get gifts that aren’t necessarily a toy, but a keepsake. I still have some from when I was little and they’re so meaningful. Here are some ideas:
Mug or Tea Cup Set
Someone gifted me a tea set when I was very young (I was so young I don’t remember getting it!), but I do remember my mom pulling it down every once in a while to have a special tea party…those memories stick!
My sister got Olivia a snow globe with her name on it for her first Christmas and I thought that was such a sweet idea!
These name puzzles are a hit in our house! Both girls enjoy doing each other’s name puzzles, and it’s great for learning to recognize their names. I actually still have my name puzzle at home from when I was little!
My mom still has all of our first piggy banks on display at home, and one of her close friends gifted Olivia with a piggy bank when she was born, engraved with her name and birthday. My sister then gifted Avery one last year with her name on it. Those will last a life time!
My grandparents gave us each ornaments several years in a row as we were growing up, and my mom kept them all separated and organized for us. She also wrote who they were from on the bottom and what year they were given. When I got married and started decorating a tree of my own, she gave me my collection and those are such sweet ornaments to put on the tree! I’m excited to have the same to give to my girls.
I’ve heard of families who gift their child with a little part of a great nativity set each year, so as their child grows, the nativity set can, too. We also enjoy this Nativity play set! We just keep it out around Christmas time and then put it away so it’s new and exciting each year.
Needs and Practical
I told you I was practical! Don’t forget to add things that you will by buying for your little one anyway, so why not call it a gift! Or ask someone else to gift it.
For girls, especially, we need hair ties, hair clips, bows, headbands, etc. Jason’s mom actually just got the girls each their own hair brush with their names on them…I never would have thought of that but they love it!
Bubble bath soap
Because every once in a while you just need a good bubble bath! And pictures of those bubble baths.
Bath towel or robe
When they start growing out of those baby towels and you want something bigger, you can find some super cute bath towels and robes according to what your child’s interests are! Or even get one personalized with their name!
We’ve not loved all the bath toys that are tough to get water out of and therefore become moldy and end up in the garbage down the road, but these foam numbers, letters, and animals have been a hit in our house.
Kids feet grow SO FAST! Does your little one need new sneakers, fancy shoes, summer shoes, snow boots, etc.? Birthday or holiday list!
Rain Coat and/or Rain Boots
Because every child loves playing in the rain! In our house, rain boots and rain coats are a must after 18-24 months!
Don’t be afraid to tell relatives what kinds of clothes your kiddos need right now! Pants, dresses, bathing suits, etc.
Socks and/or Underwear
We all know kids need socks and underwear, and I don’t know about your kids, but mine are not old enough to think they’re a “lame” gift yet, because they’re fun colors, have different shapes, pictures, frills, etc. So if you’ll be getting them anyway, why not wrap them, or stick them in a stocking!
If your child will be starting a sport or group activity soon, do they need gear for it? Shin guards and cleats? A leotard? A yoga mat? Ballet shoes?
The Christmas when Olivia was about 16 months old, we legitimately bought her a water bottle and filled it with water before we wrapped it and stuck it under the tree. We knew the instant she opened it she’d try to drink it, and she certainly did! She needed one so why not wrap it up? These water bottles are our current favorites.
CDs for the car
Call me old school, but I don’t have music on my phone, so having a few CDs the girls enjoy is clutch for us in the car!
Not just because I’m a sleep consultant, but because there are actual sleep items your child may need or want, so let’s gift them!
Whether you have a preschooler or just a kiddo who loves carrying things around, having a little backpack is so fun!
If you travel a lot or pack your child’s clothes separately, maybe they need a new suit case to call their own.
- Soccer balls
- Trampoline (large or small)
They’re not ready for Razor scooters yet, but there are some great toddler scooters out there to teach them scooter technique and start balancing.
Tricycles, balance bikes, and bikes with training wheels are perfect for this age group.
Our two year old needed a helmet this year anyway, so birthday present it was! We like the Joovy Kids Toddler Bike Helmets for our girls.
What child doesn’t love bubbles? Maybe even get a bubble machine to keep the fun going!
It’s so easy to get caught up in things, but remember, experiences are awesome, too, whether it’s special for one child or for the whole family. Here are just a few ideas:
If your toddler’s room is still a little “baby” focused, maybe you can pick out some new wall art together, or wall stickers – you could even paint a picture together to frame in their room! You could also “gift them” with painting the walls a new color, exchanging the rocking chair for a bean bag, and turning the changing table into a bookshelf or something.
There you have it! Happy shopping and don’t forget to pass this on to any family or friends asking you for gift ideas!
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