Updated: Nov 18, 2022
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Holiday time is upon us and many are asking the SAME questions - what on earth should I get for my toddler/put on their wishlist for other family members? I don't believe in lengthy lists just for the purpose of putting things on it. I have truly picked the things that are best for development at this age or that my son particularly loves/loved.
Before I give my must-have list of toddler items, I want to shout out one particular local Toronto vendor, Ode to Toy who sells pre-loved items at a fraction of the cost. Not only is it better for the environment to reuse and upcycle, you can also declutter and offload some of the toys in your home that your kids aren't using anymore. Times are tough right now with rising interest rates and this is a great way to get some money in your pocket or even trade-in for the value of your less-loved toys or items.
For my toddler gift guide, I will break it down into categories by age.
My biggest tip about buying things for this age range are to spend your money on items that are more than just "right now" toys. You want to invest in items that will go beyond the age range your child is currently in. This will include items that are more open-ended and that can be used in a number of ways.
We have this amazing tunnel, tent, ball pit combo up at the cottage. If you have the space, it's worth it for the possibilities! You don't need to have all 3 out at once, but it makes for some really great exploring and playing. We have used it indoors and outdoors! We also love the IKEA one for home, which has a bit less space. At 2.5, my child still loves it!
The time for imaginative play is about to begin! A play kitchen, or other imaginative dramatic play centres, will be a source of inspiration for a long time to come. Ours sits just next to our actual kitchen!
Imaginative play creates opportunity for increased vocabulary, gross and fine motor skill development and life skills practice!
These large-style lego blocks are great for little baby hands! Stacking, connecting, building, sorting and knocking down are all important skills in those early toddler years.
The beginnings of imaginative play can be inspired by YOU! These hand puppets can encourage joint-focus (where you and your child are focused on something together), songs and music, increase vocabulary, inspire conversation (between your child and the animal) and lend themselves to imaginative story time!
Loose parts are an amazing way to inspire imagination and open-ended play in your littles. Get yourself a set of loose parts from the loose parts QUEEN, Erica from Naps and Novels!
I don't know what it is about MagnaTiles (or MagFormers, or any other brand of magnet based tiles), but kids LOVE them. We got our MagFormers at a super great price from Ode to Toy, as mentioned in the intro to the post! The possibilities are endless with these easy-to-use building toys. The schema learning that takes place is limitless as kids can connect and disconnect to their heart's content.
Books are always my #1 suggestion, and the beautiful thing about this is that you can almost always get books second-hand at thrift stores, garage sales or from neighbours and friends who are looking to declutter. I also saw a super cute idea of doing a wall decoration of a christmas tree made out of books wrapped in green paper! Treat it like an advent calendar and have your child open up a new book each day leading up to the holidays.
Here are some ideas for types of books to increase your library variety:
lift-the-flap or pop-up books
books featuring favourite characters
social stories or books that describe real-world scenarios (like visiting the dentist or taking turns with friends!)
books that focus on favourite themes (e.g. construction vehicles)
2 to 4 Years
This is where play gets fun and messy! Kids are in the "I want to do it myself" phase of life and are deep into their peak of curiosity and exploration. The items you purchase for this age group should reflect that!
This is the #1 most commonly used item in our house. My son uses his tower multiple times per day to be at counter height, whether it's to eat, play, cook or clean. With this, kids can build kitchen skills, use the kitchen sink, or if your kid is like my son, make coffee with Daddy. Could not recommend more!!
This is the age where creativity starts to blossom. An accessible, height adjustable easel that has space to hold paint and other craft items is key!
Not a fan of mess? Use these Crayola MESS-FREE paint brush sets! Otherwise, you can use a great starter easel art kit like this one or this one! Sidewalk chalk makes great chalk for the other side of the easel.
My pro-tip for this art kit is to not put EVERYTHING out at once. Put a few colours, one of each type of brush and go from there.
Other things you may want to buy:
Imaginative play is how our littles learn to relate to the world. Pretend play with a doctor's kit can allow them to learn about healthy bodies and also build empathy skills. This Melissa and Doug set is super cute.
Winter is coming and that means a bit more time indoors on those extra cold days. This Little Tikes fold-away trampoline is great to jump out those sillies when you can't get outside!
Trampolines build major gross motor skills like jumping, balance and coordination.
This slide is on major sale right now! It's great for indoor or outdoor and helps build those gross motor skills. This might be a fun one to have in the basement or in the backyard snow!
Wishing you and your families a very happy and healthy holiday season!
The Busiest Toddler