Nov 11, 2013

The Ultimate Toddler Gift Guide

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The holidays are my favorite time of year. I love everything about this time: family, decorations, magic, food, and giving gifts. I spend a lot of time researching children's toys, books, and just about everything else before making decisions of what to get for K. Toys are my thing. Before I got pregnant, I thought I would only own non-plastic, non-electronic toys. Though, after over a year of parenting him, I can see that there is definitely a place for both in our playspace. This gender inclusive gift guide is for toddlers 1-3, though some items here will say they are for 3+, we either currently use them or plan on using them for our younger toddler who is 13 months. As always, use your best judgment when giving anything that is meant for older children to your younger child. This gift guide can be used for every holiday and also birthdays! These are all items that I think are amazing additions to a child's toy box and/or environment. I have separated the items into 12 categories for easy navigating! The only category that is missing is actually my favorite - BOOKS. That category is for another guide on another day!

This category is pretty self explanatory and the only one that is super narrow: LITTLE PEOPLE! I gave these toys their own category because we are pretty much obsessed with them. Not only does our toddler love these toys, but the whole family does. We are constantly on the lookout for new Little People, rare Little People, or some new and exciting Little People! I've mentioned the Little People Zoo Talkers Animal Sounds Zoo multiple times before. It is the toy that started it all, and one of the two Little People toys that Kingston currently has in his possession. Between our entire family, he is getting a pretty insane amount of these toys for the next few holidays this year. Two of those sets that he is getting this year are the Little People Fun Sounds Farm and the Little People Lil Pirate Ship. Some of the reasons that I love Little People and think that they have a place in every toddlers toy box, is that they provide some really great toddler pretend play, exercise fine motor skills, and foster imagination. They are bright, colorful, and YES plastic. But we love them! 

Little People are just the tip of the iceberg for pretend play though! There are so many amazing toys that promote pretend play and foster imagination, that is was very difficult to just choose a few. Each of these toys we either have experience with or are on their way into our lives. I have had the opportunity to play with both the KidKraft Majestic Dollhouse and the KidKraft Everyday Heroes Play Set. Both are absolutely amazing dollhouses for boys and girls! They are both super sturdy and made to last. The amount of rooms and furniture that come with each make these dollhouses extremely fun. They can be used from toddler on up. For the quality and the amount of detail on each, the Amazon price is pretty great! 

Puppets are an amazing toy for the toddler set! They can be used for dramatic play and story telling. I ordered these Story Time Finger Puppets for his stocking this year. They are seriously adorable, and seriously affordable! I can't wait to act out stories and sing songs with them. These would make a perfect stocking stuffer for just about any young child!

The Glamparents got this fun VTech 2-in-1 Shop and Cook Playset for K for Christmas this year, and I am so excited to test it out. I really love play kitchens, but did not want to invest in the kitchen of our dreams (description to come) before he could truly enjoy it. So, this 2-in-1 kitchen AND interactive shopping cart is a really cool gift. Little ones love pushing just about anything, and something that they can fill up AND push? Totally sold! It teaches all kinds of things as most Vtech electronic toys do, but it can also be shut off for loads of non-electronic pretend play. From what I've read, it converts pretty easily from shopping cart to kitchen. 

These Kid Galaxy My 1st Rides Mini Go Go 4-Pack - City/Racing are pretty much the best toddler cars around. These and the Chuck & Friends - Mini Trucks are completely awesome. The My 1st Rides Minis are great for small hands to hold, light enough to carry around, super indestructible, and realistic. These make a great addition to the Ikea Lekplats Play Mat Children's Rug, which is a really attractive and durable play mat. Ours is currently on the floor in our playroom. 
Above, I mentioned our dream kitchen. The Kid Kraft Junior Chef's Kitchen sold by One Step Ahead will make a MasterChef Junior out of any kid! We will be purchasing this kitchen next year, and in my opinion it is the most gorgeous play kitchen that I have ever seen. I cannot wait to own it. It comes equipped with faux granite countertops, stainless steal look appliances, a refrigerator chalkboard, and matching island stools. If you are in the market for a child's kitchen, consider staying away from the plastic, electronic ones and getting this life-like one. I think any little one would be thrilled to emulate Mom and Dad in this kitchen!

Dolls are great gifts for toddlers, along with all of the adorable accessories that go with them. Every child wants to pretend to be Mama and Dada and take care of their own baby. I love the Baby Stella Peach Doll and Baby Stella Boy by Manhattan Toys. They are simple, sweet, and soft. They each come with their own accessories, and are a great first doll for any toddler. 

For us, playing "animals" deserves its own separate category too! We love animals. I have never met a toddler who doesn't! So many animal figurines are too small for the 1-3 crowd or aren't built for the abuse that they constantly get at the hands of tiny tots. There are some great animals out there for little ones though. Some of our very favorites are Fisher Price Little People Animals. We love how durable they are. We like these ones and of course the Zoo Talkers Animals also. They are perfect for little hands. Some other sets we love (pictured above) are Animal Planet animals and this Polybag Penguin Collection. This penguin collection is absolutely adorable! I let him have free access to all of them except for the tiny baby penguin. It is the only one that could pose a choking hazard to young toddlers. We like that each penguin has a different appearance and some of them even make noises. We also LOVE Animal Planet toys. K doesn't go a day without playing with the Animal Planet Baby Dinosaur Playset Set of 5 Soft Figures. They are soft, perfect for toddlers, and these things take some SERIOUS abuse! They also make great toddler friendly figurines for small world play. We like to use them with our Zoo Talkers zoo. Dinosaurs can live at the zoo too! That's the whole point of pretend play right?! We also have a couple of the large Animal Planet sets including the Animal Planet Mother & Baby Safari Playset. Animal Planet offers a great variety of animals for all ages. 

You would be surprised how many toddlers love trains! Trains are NOT just for boys. I know many little girls who also love to play trains too. For a first train set, I would suggest the super simple Ikea Lillabo Train Set. This is the set that will be waiting for Kingston under our tree this year! It is so affordable, sturdy, and classic. It gets great reviews from multiple places as a great first train set for toddlers. Also, from what I've read, it seems that most of the Thomas and Chuggington trains also fit on this track. It is so versatile! For a slightly older toddler who can utilize more parts, I would suggest this awesome Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway Set. We played with this at a friends house recently and I must say, it's AMAZING! I prefer the non-character related train sets, and this one does not disappoint. It is well-constructed, durable, and beautiful. It has a lot of bells and whistles too. It is the perfect set for your train loving toddler, and extremely affordable compared to other character themed train sets!

Oh I LOVE blocks and building sets! They are serious fun for little boys and girls, big boys and girls, and even grown ups. This is a must have gift for every toddler. No matter what holiday, you really can't go wrong with a nice set of blocks. Even if they already have a set, you can never have too many. More blocks just equals more opportunity to build elaborate structures and more fun! The Mega Bloks Big Building Bag is awesome first building block set. They are perfect for little hands, safe, durable, and have stood the test of time. These are the building blocks that we will be starting with this year before graduating to Lego Duplos. Speaking of Duplos, they are awesome!! They offer so many great sets for little hands. I am seriously pining after the LEGO DUPLO My First Circus and the LEGO DUPLO My First Zoo. The sets are endless and pretty amazing. For blocks geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, the detail is fabulous. I would suggest Mega Bloks for the younger toddler, then Lego Duplos, and Legos of course for the big kids. You also need to have wooden blocks, preferably lots and lots of them!! A great basic first set of wooden blocks are these Imaginarium Wooden Block Set. Kingston will be receiving these from us for Christmas. They have a mixture of natural and wooden blocks, and come in a container with a shape sorter lid attached for fun and educational cleanup! They sell these at any local Toys R Us and on Amazon. Wooden blocks only get fancier from here. I am obsessed with these Guidecraft Rainbow Sand Blocks as well as pretty much every other filled block. There are Water BlocksMirror Blocks, Crystal Bead Blocks , and more. And, if you are feeling super crafty, And Next Comes L offers a great tutorial on making your own affordable Color Blocks

Speaking of being crafty, what toddler doesn't love to do crafts?! I always recommend an art basket as the perfect gift for any little one. Art products also make great stocking stuffers! This year, the Glamparents are gifting Kingston with his very first easel. We love Kid Kraft products, so we are really excited to receive the Costco version of the Kidkraft Deluxe Wood Easel! If it is in the budget, an easel is a really smart investment in your child's future. They are very advanced now with white boards, chalkboards, storage, and what seems like a million more options. The KidKraft Easel Desk even converts to a desk! If you are looking for a simpler easel for your young toddler, you may want to go with the Step2 Easel For Two. It is durable, versatile, and designed for two little artists to work simultaneously. 

There are so many art supplies that we love. A perfect stocking stuffer is definitely a set of crayons and a scribble pad. We love Crayola Jumbo Crayons and ALEX® Toys - Early Learning First Scribble Pad. These chubby crayons are easy for little hands to grasp, and this scribble pad has fun activities on every page to let your little scribbler go wild! Coloring books from the Dollar Store are also great for little ones who are just learning how to color. Blank notepads are awesome too! For painting, these Melissa & Doug Jumbo Paint Brushes combined with their Spill Proof Paint Cups are perfect for tots. 

I can't talk about art supplies without mentioning Play-Doh. I absolutely love homemade play dough, and encourage everyone to make some of their own. It is so simple and super easy. If you are not interested in making your own, this Play-Doh 24-Pack of Colors is a wonderful classic. I personally LOVE how this Play-Doh smells and love it. To go with either this pack of dough or homemade dough, the Melissa & Doug Shape, Model and Mold tool set is amazing. There also some great Play-Doh sets that really take the clay play up a notch, such as the Play-Doh Breakfast Time Set. So cool!! 

Looking for a place to do those art projects? Furniture is one of those necessity gifts that many people don't consider giving to toddlers, but they can be great and are very much needed. Recently, we received the Pottery Barn Kids Bear Critter Chair as a gift, and while we love it, this adorable Hippo Plush Animal Chair is a third of the price and has excellent reviews. The Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere Chair is an awesome choice. It comes personalized. We purchased one on sale for K for Christmas. Another toddler chair that got amazing reviews is the Harmony Kids Standard Rocker. It doubles as both a standard armchair for young toddlers and a rocker for older children. It comes in a variety of colors and prints too! For table and chair sets, we vote KidKraft all the way! This Kidkraft Aspen Table and Chair Set is gorgeous. It comes in multiple colors and would be a great addition to any toddler playroom. I am hoping to get this set eventually. We have used it at friends houses and can vouch for the quality and durability. It is also a really attractive little set. I like that it looks like an adult dining set, shrunk down. The last piece of furniture pictures above that I feel would make a phenomenal gift for the little ones in your life is the Little Partners Learning Tower. It allows your child to help out in the kitchen, participate in life learning experiences, and learn new tasks my being immersed in what their parents are doing. I can't wait to get one of these. 

We love puzzles! Hmm.. have you figured out by now that we pretty much love ALL toys? Puzzles are wonderful for toddlers in so many ways. They develop spatial reasoning, fine motor skills, and hand eye coordination. They can teach shapes, colors, letter and animal recognition, and more! This Hape Happy Puzzle Alphabet Puzzle Wood Toy has been on our wishlist for quite awhile. This is a wonderful chunky alphabet puzzle for little hands. Melissa and Doug makes amazing puzzles for tots. I love the wooden knob puzzles for babies, and the chunky puzzles for toddlers. This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Safari Chunky Puzzle. For floor puzzles, this My First Sneaky Puzzles - Let's Visit the Zoo! looks like a great choice for older toddlers! It has 24 pieces and is a manageable size compared to larger floor puzzles. 

We love wooden toys for skill building. The best stackers, sorters, and motor skill building activities seem to generally be manufactured in wood. There are so many great learning toys for toddlers because they are learning so many skills. The best part is they are learning things while having tons of fun. My little guy loves to open and close things. This Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board helps develop fine motor skills and helps little ones learn to work different latches and clasps. A DIY latch board like this one would really make an awesome statement gift too! K loves this Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pounding Bench. The friendly little faces on the colorful pegs always seem to get a giggle out of him when they are being pushed up and down. Young toddlers can use the hammer it comes with or even press them down with their hands. We also use this toy to go over colors. Since this toy has proven to be a toddler hit, we got this Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pound and Roll Tower for this holiday season. This one is a little tougher to coordinate, but a lot of fun! Little Destructos like my guy will love pounding the balls and watching them roll down the slide. This toy is wonderful for hand eye coordination. We are pretty much in love with Melissa and Doug, so this Melissa & Doug Geometric Stacker will be making it's way to our house this Christmas too. This is a great stacker that teaches size, sorting, shapes, and colors. Another toy that promotes color recognition and shape sorting is the Hape Color and Shape Sorter. Any of these toys would make a beautiful toddler gift! 

No toddlers toy box is complete without musical instruments! We have a bunch of instruments and can highly recommend all of these products. The Melissa & Doug Band in a Box is an all inclusive set of instruments that truly look authentic. K is partial to the maracas. If you are buying musical instruments for kids other than your own, prepare for their parents to possibly hate you. Check with them first, or include some cotton balls for when little Johnny becomes addicted to the tambourine. Only joking! I love listening to little ones make music. It's pretty magical to see them discover sound. Our friends have this amazing B. Parum Pum Pum Drum  and it is perfect for toddlers. All of the percussion instruments fit inside of a fully usable drum! The Hohner Kids Toddler Music Band is another great choice for durable toddler instruments. To check out even more instrument recommendations for the baby/toddler set, check our our post Creating a Musical Environment for Baby

Nobody quite has as much energy as toddlers do they? Gifts that let them explore gross motor skills are always a hit. At our house, we love tents and tunnels. This Pacific Play Tents Safari Tent and Tunnel got amazing reviews on Amazon and is super cute to boot! By the same company, this Pacific Play Tents Playchute 10' Parachute is awesome for open ended gross motor play. There are so many things to do with a parachute. You can add balls, make tents, and play games. A parachute is a gift that a young toddler can grow into, and a gift that an older toddler will truly love. You really can't go wrong with a ball for any age group. From infant to adult, balls are great for all kinds of game and play. We love the Crocodile Creek Solar System 7" Play Ball. The solar system designs on the ball give it an added learning dimension. Kingston got the Melissa & Doug Happy Giddy Bowling Set for Easter from a family member and loves it. This is a great gross motor gift that can also be used by just about every age group. It is bright and friendly looking. Bowling helps toddlers work on hand eye coordination, gross motor skill practice, spatial reasoning, and counting! Lawn mowers are also so much fun. The younger toddler will get a kick out of pushing this Little Tikes Gas 'n Go Mower, and an older toddler will have fun emulating Mom and Dad outside. These are great for both indoor and outdoor gross motor pretend play. I can't say enough good things about this Fold & Go Trampoline! Both our friends and the gym have versions of this and Kingston loves it. He is now learning how to jump at 13 months, and these trampolines are wonderful for practicing. The safety bar allows even really young toddlers to pull up and bounce. 

The last category I have for you is outdoor toys! Outdoor toys make such a huge statement as gifts. I remember on holidays, the larger outdoor toys were always the last items to make their appearance, but they always packed the most punch! We are really big fans of ride on toys at our house. K has both of the ones listed here, and I am confident that you will love them just as much as we do. The Little Tikes Spray and Rescue Fire Truck and the Little Tikes Cozy Truck are both excellent choices. The fire truck even sprays water, which adds a super fun water play element to it. We also love our sand and water table! It is the Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Center. If you are looking to get your toddler a sand and water table that is large enough to double as a sensory table, this is the one! We use it indoors currently, and when it gets warmer we will move it outdoors. This is a great gift year round though. I guarantee you will get so much use of this. This beautiful Winchester Playhouse is the one we will be getting eventually. It is gorgeous, sturdy, and durable. It looks wonderful in the yard, and is made of natural materials. A super versatile gift that can be given as a large multi-child gift is the Radio Flyer The Ultimate Comfort Wagon. Our friends own this, and we have used it also. It is the best wagon in my opinion. A wagon is a great investment for family events, trips, and a fun alternative on walk. Our very last gift, is the Step2 Naturally Playful Sandbox. We love it. It's awesome! It is an affordable and attractive sandbox definitely. 

So, there you have it! The all encompassing ULTIMATE toddler gift guide! Of course, most of these gifts can also be enjoyed by preschoolers and school age children. I hope this helps you with your shopping this holiday season!

This holiday gift guide is part of the an amazing resource of 50+ gift guides for kids from the Kid Blogger Network!! 

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  1. Wow - what a list! I know a preschooler who would be pretty pleased with some of these things too! :)

    1. Thank you so much Emma!! Most of the items on this list extend well into school-age too! :) I bet your preschooler would love them!

  2. There are some great ideas on the list. Thanks so much. I see many of our favorites and can't wait to add a few of these to our list for this year.

    1. Thank you so much Jodie! So glad that you found a few new items! :)

  3. Great list! I think I just completed my Christmas shopping with it!

  4. what is the sand & water table called? the link goes to the sandbox, but i love the look of the water table and would love to know how to find it!

    1. Thank you so much Katherine for letting me know! I fixed the link! :) It will direct you to all of the information on Amazon. We love this sand and water table. It is the most spacious we have found and the perfect height !

  5. I love this list! I recognize a lot of our favorites here. As the mom of a former toddler, I can report that a lot of these gifts will last for years to come, well beyond toddlerhood! :-)

    1. Thanks Jessica!! I totally agree! Most of these are great investment items that can be used for years to come! :)