I always love when the time rolls around to curate these gift guides. This is my third year pulling lists together, and you’ll definitely see a few of the same toys again. That’s very purposeful, since I’m a sucker for tried + true classics. These toys are worth your hard-earned dollar and won’t break into a million pieces or give you headaches.
The simple toys are the ones that seem to stick and get the most play time for years and years. As my kids have gotten older – now 3.5 and 2, the favorite toys are the sets that allow for deeper, creative, imaginative play, like a play kitchen or legos. So this year, each suggestion is a “theme” with several toys that coordinate. Kids get overwhelmed by excess just like adults, so pick quality over quantity.
Merry Christmas! It’s especially fun to celebrate the wonder of the season with little ones around the tree.
1. If you have an animal lover, building a collection of Schleich Animals will be like adding a zoo in their bedroom. My two-year-old son plays with these animals daily. They are the best quality, even through teething. You can also find just about any animal – from dinosaurs to dolphins to dogs. We keep the animals in a basket, but you could store them in this cute barn. Animal Orchestra is a fun book to coordinate.
2. A play kitchen is one of the best investments for a toy. When kids are visiting our house, that is the toy they all play with together. It’s a great toy for boys and girls too. Everyone needs to know how to cook! We bought a kitchen two Christmases ago, and I know we’ll keep it for grandkids one day. The baskets of play food from Learning Resources are the best. They look fairly realistic, are durable, and can be cleaned easily (since kids always want to eat the food). Kids love the baskets for picnics or grocery shopping, and I love them because it is instant storage. Also add on a cookware and dish set and some dessert, like cookies!
3. Magna-Tiles® 100 Piece Set. This is our splurge gift for the kids this year. I’ve heard so many moms and preschool teachers rave about Magnatiles. They all also recommend investing in the big set of 100, so we’re going for it! I love that they end up looking like little works of art. I never mind having beautiful toys around our house.
4. Classic Train Set. This is another toy that has endured in my parents’ house, always a good sign. We started with the figure 8 set, but it gets more fun + creative when you add the expansion pack and lifting bridge. A little note: the trains from Brio are really expensive, and I’ve had good luck finding coordinating trains and emergency vehicles at Target for $3 each. Steam Train, Dream Train is a favorite train book in our house.
5. For a really girly girl, you can’t go wrong with a tin tea set in its own suitcase. Add in a dainty petit fours set, and a book that describes the etiquette of hosting a tea party, even in the company of a wild dinosaur – Tea Rex by Molly Idle.
6. DUPLO Starter Set. This larger-scale lego set for toddlers stays in our living room, which is now affectionately called the “Lego room.” The kids go play with the basket of duplos after breakfast almost every morning. You’ll also want a green building plate, and then you can add on fun sets like a number train, a zoo set, or an ice cream set.
7. Our daughter has loved ballet music and dancing for over a year. She even had a Nutcracker ballet birthday party. So this year, her gift includes tickets to see the real ballet in December.* She loves to dress up in a leotard and ballet shoes, and this beautiful copy of The Nutcracker will help her understand the story of the ballet before we go. I’m so excited for her!
8. Outfit a simple art easel with dry erase markers, a whiteboard eraser, drawing chalk, dustless chalk eraser, and a roll of drawing paper. It’s a blank canvas for their imagination to come to life. Harold and the Purple Crayon can jumpstart their creativity.
9. If you’re shopping for a baby this Christmas, Indestructibles books truly hold up to teething and ripping, and the Skwish teether and rattle is the perfect blend of form and function (rare in the world of baby toys!).
10. Bonus ideas: *Experiences make an amazing gift. Think tickets to a ball game, a membership to a zoo or children’s museum, art classes, or swimming lessons. They are invaluable memories, but can be expensive for young families’ budgets. ** Wildly Co. makes durable basics our kids wear constantly – I’d start with the swing tops and sport pants. They’re a family fave.