Saturday, December 2, 2017

The ONLY gifts for babies & toddlers you'll need this Christmas!

I've had lots of people ask my opinion about kid's toys and Christmas gifts.  I'm not sure I'm the most knowledgeable source on the topic but I do know two things:

1- I know that I (and most parents) don't want a billion toys lying around the house. They get left everywhere and more importantly, kids don't really care about most of them.  This brings me to my next point...

2- I know what toys my kids like.  Every kid is different but I think there are general types of toys that seem to be "winners" across the board.  There are also toys that are good for kids because they teach life skills, motor skills and encourage imaginative play.

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links pays me a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me to continue bringing you new blog posts & stay home with my babies. Thank you for your support!]

Gifts for Babies:

{Photo credit: Shania Bordner}

Let's be real.  Babies don't need a lot, but everyone insists on buying them things anyways.  Put these items on their Christmas list and make everyone happy.

1. Wood Blocks

This is #1 on my list for a reason. These blocks are perfect for little hands to pick up, roll and stack. They are made of a soft wood and safe paint so baby can chew on them.  They come with multiples of each letter and number so baby can learn and you can use them for photo props! Blocks are also a Montessori type toy so your baby isn't going to "grow out of" playing with it for years and years. Similarly, Stacking Cups are perfect for helping babies learn colors, shapes and fine motor skills- and they cost less than a cup of coffee.

2. AlphaPup

This toy is a little more electronic without being too stimulating for little minds (read more about delaying screen time here). It's also a personal favorite in my house. My son received this for his first birthday and 2 years later STILL loves it! My 9 month old is currently obsessed with it. Why do I love it? Alpha pup is teaching letters and sounds without any electronic visual stimulation.  It's also says very cute things ("E is for Elephant *elephant sound* Elephants have a funny bark!") and can be pulled behind your child like he is being walked.

3. Books

I am a big believer in the power of books. Reading to your child from the beginning is critical for language development, exposes them to visuals, encourages imagination and is a perfect opportunity for snuggles! Although all books are good, I've become obsessed with Usborne Books, (link to my consultant's wesbite who I buy from) especially for little ones. Their "That's not my" books are the best sensory books out there because the "textures" are LEGIT.

4. Clothes & other things they "need"
{Get matching clothes to make it even more fun!}

Some people *cough cough my dad* can't help themselves and buy toys even when told not to. However, babies are the ideal age for this because they don't realize what this whole "gift" thing is all about. Seriously, my 3 year old enjoys opening gifts but still said that all he wanted for his birthday was "candles" (on the cake) Take advantage of this while you can. I'm putting a fitted sheet on my daughter's Christmas list.

5. Basic puzzles.

Hear me out: I'm not talking a 20 piece puzzle here, I'm talking a Melissa & Doug Mini-Puzzle Set (we have a few of these, they are our personal favorite) or something similar. Something that baby can easily pick up and learn the animals, shapes, etc. and start to practice hand eye coordination. They also come in a great storage box that travels without spilling!  Magnetic Puzzles are also awesome for babies & toddlers and can become a "refrigerator" toy too! Disclaimer: Both puzzle suggestions have small pieces so babies do  need to be supervised when using them.

Gifts for Toddlers:
{Photo Credit: Shania Bordner}

1. Books

Do I need to repeat myself? Besides the obvious classic reading books, search and find books are awesome because they get your child thinking, are perfect for car rides or other times that you can't be reading to them and I like to use them to prompt my toddler to make up his own story using elements from the page. Very First Book of Things to Spot is my personal favorite for this age group (links again to my Usborne Consultant's page) If you have an older toddler or one who loves to learn, you can't have enough Preschool Activity Books. Just pick up a handful of them (only a couple bucks each) and stock up!

2. Imaginary Play Items.

This can be superhero costumes (inexpensive and tons of options), Workbench & Tools (under $20 for the whole thing!) or the favorite at our house, a Play Kitchen *this is not the play kitchen we own. My husband DIY ours. I'll link the post as soon as I write it up! But this one has great reviews!*

Let be elaborate on the play kitchen. It is THE. FAVORITE. TOY. in our house. It is played with by my 3 year old and 9 month old constantly through the day. I love watching my son play out things he sees us doing in the real kitchen (he washes his grapes in the sink y'all. And pretends the water is too's adorable.) I also love that you can have one stationary item full of other smaller items. It allows for lots of different play with one big storage box for it all! My favorite play kitchen items that I would recommend are the Melissa & Doug Grocery Cans (way more sturdy than any others I've seen), the Melissa & Doug Cutting Fruit (or really any of the food that "cuts" apart), the Melissa & Doug Stand Mixer the Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans and the Melissa & Doug Ice-Cream. Uhh, I didn't realize that all my favorites were M&D until just now. I might have an addiction. 

Learn how to DIY a custom apron for just a few bucks & in just a few minutes in this post.

3. Little People

It doesn't matter which ones, they are all amazing. The size is perfect for their hands and they open themselves up to a whole world of imagination and story telling. Some of my son's favorites are the Camper, the School Bus and the Photographer & Police Officer people. But we also have barns and tractors and a few dozen animals that he loves as well.  Bonus: Babies love these too so if you have more than one kid- dual gift!

4. Anything Creative

Some kids like drawing, some like painting, some like directing stories, some like creating music. Whatever your kid is into- find something that gets them involved in that creatively.  If they like to draw or paint, pick up an Easel (3 in 1) or simply stock up on Markers (40 pack!) and paper. If you're feeling creative, make a DIY Dry Erase Table! If they like creating stories, get them a Puppet Theater of their own!  If they like creating music, start them out with their own Toddler Drum Set, or Keyboard Playmat.


There are lots of random toys I could tell you about but nobody wants me chattering on and on and on and on and... oh- what was I saying? Really though, this Christmas (or whatever holiday you might be buying for) consider getting toys that aren't just going to wind up in the never-ending toy pile. Find items that the child isn't only going to play with but something that will help them learn and grow, use their minds and imagination, interact with others and learn about who they are and what they like. That is the best gift you can give a child.

I hope this list was helpful for those who have wanted my opinion. If you or your kids have a favorite toy or gift, share in the comments below!

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