Toddler and Preschooler Holiday Gift Guide

December 10, 2016 Becky Thada

None of us want our house cluttered with toys that buy us 2 minutes of time and then lay on the floor for the rest of the day. I spent some time evaluating the toys we have in our house and I started to see a common thread between which items got the most use. Much of what we were using the most were open-ended toys.  This is what makes blocks and Legos so great. They don't just serve one purpose. They involve endless possibilities.

When I shop for kids (mine or others), the gifts I buy generally fall into one of the following categories: imaginative play items, high quality books, and loose-parts "toys." For some ideas on high-quality books, take a look here. Below are some toys we have that span several years, so you can keep them around for all your kids and not have to keep purging. I also went browsing to find some items that are on our Christmas list this year, so I provide links to those gift ideas.

***(Just a side note, this is not a sponsored post. I have nothing to sell but my own products in our shop on this site. I have no affiliates).

Here are a few things we have that we enjoy:

Both my girls LOVED the black and white as babies. They were mesmerized! They really like the contrast and sometimes it was the only thing that stopped the crying at diaper changing time (and therefore kept my blood pressure from sky-rocketing!).

They still enjoy playing with them, even at 2 and 5. You can find them here.

Here are a few garage sale finds I bought long ago which have proven to be good buys:

Nesting toys are great for toddlers. Mine is pretty obsessive about these owls. Not sure how the toothbrush got in there.


A classic, and noisy toy that seems to be popular when we have other little ones visit.


This is one item that's worth its bulk. It's a great support for almost-standing babies and entices older kiddos, too. There's a lot happening here and the corners are blunted which helps the inevitable falls. Watch out for climbing toddlers! Mine often climbs on top of it, so I put it away unless I'm playing with them.

Pull toys and toys that can be pushed are great for the early walking and toddling phase. Toddlers seem to love pushing and dragging things. The fun thing about the one pictured below is that the wheels come off and make a great sound when they're wacked together! Zulily has these available.

This vacuum gets a lot of use, especially when I'm vacuuming. And although I want my preschooler and toddler to aspire to more than keeping house, it seems to be a favorite. When other toddlers visit us, it rarely gets put down. I'm fairly sure this was a Walmart buy (thanks Grandma!).

We also keep the following items stocked:
- Play-doh (we often make our own)
-Shaving cream
-Beans, rice, cups, spoons, sifters
-Sand (this stuff is cool! It clumps together which makes clean-up easier)
-Dress-up items
-Pots, pans, spoons for banging
-Water (and sometimes soap to make sudsy water)

There are also endless ideas now for really great loose-part play-things for kids. Legos are just one example. My preschooler can play for a long time with Legos and has learned how to follow the directions in the sets on her own and create her own structures. Here are some other ideas:

For toddlers:

Balance colorful animals on this balancing boat.

Balancing Tree with birds - this can be assemble a few different ways.

Foam shapes for building and learning shapes.

And for preschoolers (my list kept growing...)

I've debated getting a globe for educational reasons, but though this inflatable globe  would be nice for storage purposes! You can also find smaller ones on Amazon.

A Boogie board for tracing over top of pretty much anything you can think of.

This Little Red Ridinghood Game looked really intriguing and creative.

Math link cubes for building number sense with my preschooler.

Magformers for building just about anything you could imagine.

Pattern Blocks with pattern cards for shapes and spatial awareness.

We already have some Tangrams but not many cards to go with it. These help with early math skills and take a little strategizing.

So now if I'm going to spend my own money on something for our kids, I look for loose-parts "toys." I like the play things that buy me more than a minute or two and that grow little brains at the same time!

What are some of your favorite gifts for kids?


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