Here are my top picks for gifts for your little ones. We tend towards pretty simple Christmas gifting, so I stuck to toys that seem to be entertaining to kids for a few years, and that encourage creative, independent play.
I made 3 separate gift guides:
*one for babies/ young toddlers (birth-2)
*one for older toddlers & preschoolers (2-4 years old)
*one for gifting experiences
*non toy gifts
Toddler & Preschooler Gift Guide – TOYS
Beads (3+ year old) – My 3 (almost 4) year old suddenly loves beading. The cute butterfly set is pictured above, or this ABC set is fun. Our 2.5 year old likes to put a few bigger beads on to pipe cleaners for about 5 minutes, then she’s bored.
Trains – Our train set is a popular item when friends come to play. Get a few extra bridges if you have more than one kid. Trains totally grow with your kids. First they roll them across the kitchen floor. Then, they drive one train on a track you built. Then they start to figure out how to piece the tracks together. Then they make intricate tracks themselves.
Grocery Cart & Strollers – At 1 1/2, they love to just push them around, crash into stuff, and take things in and out. By 3 years old, my kids love to load up carts and strollers with all their favorite toys and tote them all over the house. They go on all sorts of pretend adventures with them. Also, I forgot to include this in the pretty collage above, but my kids LOVE playing with bags and purses. And dress-up. It all goes along with the pretend adventure type play.
Teepee – Considering this one from Target (currently on sale) as a combined gift for the girls this year. I know it’s kind of the latest trendy toy, but it makes sense that kids love it! The girls LOVE to read and play in makeshift forts and cozy spaces all over the house.
Duplos + Base Plate – These are the favorite duplo sets that my kids have received over the past few years: farm, train, random bricks. Once the newness of creating the set wears off, they really love to build random structures and towers on big platforms/ bases, so if your little one has a lot of legos or duplos, I highly recommend a couple big baseplates.
This kind for 3 year olds
This kind for 3.5-4 year olds
Infant Gift Guide (0-18 months)
We haven’t really done baby gifts for our babes… because we’ve been working to get out of debt since we’ve had babies and they don’t know the difference. BUT people often ask us what the baby needs, and you may be nicer (or less in debt) than we are and want to get your baby something. So here are our most-used baby items and toys!
1 – This rattle is $1.88 and ships free with Prime. How’s that for a bargain baby gift? Any rattle with a super skinny handle/ring is great for a 4-8 month old babe. My kids have also loved these O-balls and those grow with them because by 9-12 months they’re wanting to throw and chase them. I may or may not play ‘fetch’ with my kids…
2 – Our babies have lived on this thing. This one is awesome because it’s not top heavy and it folds up.
3 – Elliot spends 1/3 of his life in a jumper. He’s obsessed. And it’s SO fun to watch him jump like crazy, then start laughing at himself.
4 – This fleece wearable blanket sleeper comes in handy for our 3rd child who sleeps in a pack n play in the middle of the basement. It’s a little chilly down there.
5 – Fleece ZIPPING sleepers. Don’t get me wrong – we put our kids in the snap ones sometimes. But not without a few choice expletives. Nothing like doing a middle of the night explosive poop diaper change on a screaming baby only to get them all snapped up and be one snap off. The zipping ones are SO much better. They’re often $9 or less at Target. Buy them in a size bigger than you think baby is in. And did I mention that zippers > snaps?
6 – Sandra Boynton books. My kids’ favorites are Blue Hat, Moo Ba, Going to Bed Book, Pajama Time, Belly Button, Happy Hippo, & But Not the Hippopotamus. See the rest of my favorite kids books for 1, 2, and 3 year olds here!
7 – This car track is a repetitive activity that is kinda fine motor and also automatic. Any activity like this is fun for 1 year olds! Dropping pom-poms through old paper towel rolls taped to the wall is the same type of fun. They have to put it through, but then it reappears at the other end of the tube. Object permanence toys are the same idea.
8 – Each of my kids has LOVED a toy like this around 14-18 months old. (And it’s only $8!) They usually liked pushing the blocks through the hole with their finger. They’ve also liked putting blocks or duplos or other toys in old baby wipes containers.
9 – By 15 months, my kids have also loved the chunky melissa and doug puzzles. We’ve had a few different ones and would talk about the pieces (i.e. that’s a tiger, the tiger says roar; that’s a yellow square, etc…). But they also liked stacking the pieces, hiding the pieces, and putting the pieces in baskets. Gotta love a multi-purpose toy!
Around 3-5 ish, depending on the kid, kids can start to understand the idea of a gift that keeps on giving, or an experience gift. I’ll never forget the year I got ice-skating lessons and new skates for Christmas. I never made it to the olympics, but it was such a fun thing to go to every week! When I was 24, my mom gave me a sewing machine and came and stayed with me for a weekend and taught me to sew. That was an awesome gift!
These are a bunch of random ideas that I’ve read all over the internet or heard from friends. I can take credit for almost none of them. You could always give the experience with a little something to open too.
* 12 date coupons – they go every other month with one parent; just them, 1-on-1 to do something fun… mini golf, ice cream, goodwill shopping, bookstore, arcade, amusement park, ice skating, whatever | Gift the experience with a new book and a set of hand-made coupons
* Zoo or Museum Membership | gift the membership with binoculars, a relevant book, or a small bag/ purse for the kid to bring along
* Ear piercing | give with earrings
* Book-a-month or magazine subscription | give a couple books or sample issues of the magazine
* Art or music lessons | give with art supplies, a keyboard, or music book
* Sports camp | give with necessary supplies
Other Non-Toy Ideas
My kids seem to get really excited about things that my husband and I think fall in the “need” category. A friend of mine is giving her kids bunk beds for Christmas. They need them anyway to make room for a baby, but the kids are so excited at the possibility.
My 3 year old LOVED getting new sheets and bedding for her big girl bed. This definitely could have been a Christmas gift. I love the choices at Target. A room makeover would be a fun gift too.
A new bike and/ or helmet.
Assemble an art project kit – construction paper, scissors, different kinds of markers, crayons, water colors, stickers, glue, sequins, etc…
Kids sewing machine with some fun fabric for their first project.
This balance beam from Ikea is on sale right now.
Subscription boxes – this is a good review of all the popular ones out there right now.
Membership to an indoor kids gym – this is an especially great gift in the middle of winter if you live somewhere cold! You could take the kids to use it immediately and they’ll want to go back again and again. (Local friends – my kids love going here.)
Remember What Matters
With all the ads and deals and shopping and lists, it’s easy to get caught up in giving perfect gifts and it’s hard to remember that Christmas isn’t about stuff. Heck, I just wrote a whole post on stuff. Let’s keep reminding ourselves that stuff ultimately doesn’t satisfy. The temporary happiness of opening or giving a fun gift is just that – temporary, fun, fleeting.
And when the tinsel is gone, the tree is dead, the lights are down, and the stuff is forgotten… our joy is found in Christ. Not stuff. Give generously and meaningfully if you choose to give gifts this season. But as we give, let’s remember that more is not always better and more certainly won’t make us happy.
What are your kiddos’s favorite toys and gifts they’ve received over the years? Any ideas for outside-the-box gifts!?
p.s. Check out my other gift guides by clicking on the images below.
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