These gifts for toddlers are sure to be a win-win — a win for your toddler and a win for you!
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Before I was a parent, any time I had to buy a gift for a child, I pretty much just got whatever looked fun and would make the kid like me a little better (#honesty).
Now that I am a parent, I have a very different perspective on kids’ toys — they can be the most frustrating thing I struggle with on a daily basis. Especially large toys and toys with a million pieces. I constantly feel like we are overrun with toys, and I threaten almost weekly to give them all away.
So now when I buy presents for kids — my own and others’ — I am much more selective about what I choose. I still buy toys here and there, but I try to choose ones that a) are versatile, b) are educational/enriching, and/or c) will take up very little space. I have also become a big fan of gifts that provide a service or experience.
Today I’m going to give you a list of ideas for gifts that won’t be a waste of your money. (Like a toy that gets used for about a week before it lands in the bottom of the toy bin. Or one that’s so obnoxious that it gets “accidentally” donated to Goodwill. 😉 )
Some of the items in this list are toys and some are not, but all are practical, and none will be a waste of your hard-earned Christmas budget.
I have a one-year-old and a three-year-old at home, so those are the ages I know the best. Today I will focus on toddler gifts, but you can also check out my favorite preschool gifts!
25 Favorite Gifts for Toddlers (That Won’t Waste Your Money)
These OXO snack cups are the bomb, and the closest thing to no-mess that you can get with a toddler.
My kids have both LOVED their ride-on toys, and in fact, my 3-year-old still plays with them! We have a car a lot like this one, but there are tons of options to choose from!
Books are always on my list of gift ideas, and I love to give them! For ideas of books your toddlers will love, check out my posts Why Board Books Rock! and 5 Children’s Books That Will Inspire Your Kids to Greatness.
We love LEGOS, but they can be a bit small for toddlers. Especially ones (like ours) that like to put evvverrrything in their mouth. The Mega Blocks are perfect for the toddler age. They’re easy to grip, and they’re not a choking hazard. And our 3-year-old still plays with them, so they have a long lifespan!
LEGO Duplos (older toddlers)
For the older toddlers who are ready for something bigger than Mega Blocks but not quite ready for regular LEGOS, the Duplos kits are perfect! There are TONS of different sets you can get: farm sets, construction sets, Disney princess sets, airplane sets, you name it! We have the cars & trucks set, and the boys have both loved it!
I don’t typically like toys with a bunch of pieces, but blocks are one of my exceptions! I talk more about why I think blocks are amazing brain-boosting toys here. This is our favorite set.
Bath toys make great gifts. They’re super fun for the kids, they make bath time a little easier, and they stay contained in the tub, caddy, or tub toy net! (Word of caution: steer clear of squirt toys – they easily grow mold inside. Yuck. Or you can plug the holes with a hot glue gun.)
I have boys, so we have a LOT of cars, trucks, and vehicles here. And I love them because they provide hours of fun, are versatile, encourage imaginative play, and aren’t very hard to pick up. I have a basket that they can toss them in, and even Andrew is able to help pick up at 1 year old!
I don’t know what it is about dumping things out (any developmental psychologists out there that can help me out??), but kids this age love it! We have a simple dump truck that the boys love to fill and dump. But Melissa & Doug has a lot of Fill & Spill toys that are lots of fun, like this fill & spill purse for little girls!
Outdoor slide/jungle gym
If you have the room and the budget, you might consider an outdoor slide or jungle gym. It would be great for some outdoor exercise (which kids need daily!), and won’t clutter up your living room!
This is an exception to my “no big toys” rule. Aidan LOVED his shopping cart (and still does!), and Andrew is starting to get a kick out of putting things in it as well. Ours has gotten a lot of use, and has been a lot of things as Aidan used his imagination to transform it. And we don’t have pretty things like this in our house yet, but I think this tea party cart is absolutely adorable.
Stacking cups are perfect for this age. And bonus — they can double as a bath toy!
If you’ve read my brain-boosting toys post, you know that I think simpler is better when it comes to toys. It fosters creativity, imagination, and independent play. And this toy animal set would be the perfect gift for the animal-lover in your life.
The nice thing about this age is that they really don’t know what’s going on yet. They haven’t had time to grow tired of clothes for Christmas or birthday gifts! So now is a great time to round out their wardrobe and buy some of those items they’ve been needing. They don’t really care – they just love opening the presents!
Piggy-backing on to that, I think pajamas are a fun Christmas tradition, and now is a great time to start. I knew friends in college who still got a new set of pajamas for Christmas every year and loved the tradition.
Christmas may seem like an odd time to give outdoor toys, but it’s a good time to get some of those larger-priced items that you’re hesitant to buy the rest of the year. And again, they encourage outdoor time and exercise! (Also, we have the large waffle blocks and use them indoors!)
Play-Doh or Kinetic Sand (older toddlers)
Your younger toddlers may not be ready for these yet, but Aidan started playing with kinetic sand at two and LOVED it! (And it’s no-mess, so parents will love it, too!) And if you’re really brave or your toddler is very neat, you might consider Play-Doh, too!
These car rugs are so much fun, especially if your toddler is into cars. When they’re not in use, you can easily roll them up and store them out of the way for later.
A toy piano is a great way to introduce them to the wonderful world of music.
Only a couple times have I seen Aidan as proud as he was the day he got his very own backpack. Oh my, the strut on that kid. And it was quite handy, because he could start to carry his own diaper/pull-up, water cup, snack, etc.
Kiwi Crate is about to launch a 4-36 month crate
I’ll be honest, I have not tried Kiwi Crate, but I am seriously considering doing it for Aidan (my 3-year-old) this year for Christmas. I just love this idea for a subscription box of science and art projects that come in the mail. And I recently saw that they are about to launch a 4-36 month crate, which would be perfect for the toddlers on your list!
Another great non-toy gift idea is music CDs. I know we could use a new one to listen to in the car! (Veggie Tales is starting to get a LITTLE old.)
Pretend sets – food sets, tool sets, cooking sets, etc.
I’m a sucker for pretend sets. I love watching kids play with them – my own kids, my nieces and nephew, the kids at church … they all LOVE to play with pretend sets. And I love to see their imagination come alive with them! There are a ton of them out there – food sets, tool sets, cooking sets, hair-styling sets, mechanic sets, and more!
I hope that gives you a few ideas of practical gifts for toddlers that will do them some good and last longer than a day. These are gifts that they will play with over and over again or will enrich their lives in some way. Trust me, as a mom of two, I would be happy if my boys were on the receiving end of any of these gifts. And you will be happy that you will not have wasted your money!
Do you have any favorite toddler gifts that didn’t make my list? Share them in the comments below!
For more gift ideas:
- The Best Brain-Boosting Toys You May be Overlooking
- Aidan’s Favorite Things: A Master List of Toddler Top Picks
- 25 Gifts for Preschoolers (That Won’t Be a Waste of Money)
- The Best Gifts for the Whole Family