With the holidays around the corner, I thought I'd share some of my favorite gifts for toddlers and 3-6 year olds. While these may not be your typical gifts, these toys are well loved by kids and will be used over and over again. When perusing the below gift ideas, keep the following in mind:
All these gift ideas meet at least one of my 5 guidelines. They take kids’ developmental needs into consideration, are made from real materials, promote learning and are genuinely loved by children.
I’ve included my take on each gift and the official item description provided by the seller.
Some of these gifts may not seem super exciting from an adult perspective, but children love them! Children thrive on feeling purposeful when they play. They love toys and work that have a tangible result (like building a birdhouse with their child-sized tools). You’ll see your children happily playing with their news toys and feeling great about what they are making, building and achieving.
I have either gifted these items, own them or have used them with children in the classroom or home. I absolutely love these toys and materials and that is why I am sharing them with you.
I view the recommended age more as a suggestion from the company. Children develop differently, so I do not take these age suggestions to heart. It’s important to observe what your child’s interest and capabilities are. Many of the below toddler materials can be used starting at 18 months. Young children surprise us with what they are capable of doing and older children like to repeat an easier activity as a way of relaxing (the way adults read an easy book or make a simple recipe).
I hope these gift ideas are a starting point for you in finding awesome gifts that your children will love! What are your favorite gift ideas for young children? I would love to hear from you.
Keep well, S
Awesome Gift Ideas for Toddlers
Sandra’s Take: Toddlers love this book! In general they love seeing photos of other children. This book goes a step further by showing them all the fun and productive things that children can do with their hands. It’s also a way to positively reinforce how hands can be used to explore and create. As toddlers are still learning to communicate, this can be a time when using hands unproductively (pushing, pulling, etc.) is commonplace. This is a great way for adults to communicate positively with children regarding how hands can be used (instead of focusing on how they shouldn't be used). Item Description: Charming photos of children, especially the close-up photos of tiny hands working and playing, make this a delightfully engaging choice for the young child. Repetitive rhyming verse “Hands can catch and hands can throw. Hands can plant seeds in a row.” Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award. Board book, 24 pages. Ages 1-3.
Sandra’s Take: This wooden set of blocks is beautiful and purposeful while encouraging independent activity, creativity and group play! It meets all of my guidelines (crazy pants!) and is a fantastic gift for any toddler! Furthermore, there’s a ton of research that shows how playing with blocks helps children develop spatial reasoning, eye-hand coordination, language and encourages social skills. Blocks may be an oldie, but they are most definitely a goodie! Item Description: Dream It, build it! Everything about these blocks is just right for the little builder. They’re all wood and nicely finished with smooth edges. Some are in natural wood tone, some in cheerful colors, and others in playful prints. The 50-block assortment has plenty of shapes and sizes without being overwhelming, and the different colors and patterns add another level of creativity to the play. Ages 2 and up.
Sandra’s Take: This is a great toy for young toddlers. It encourages movement (pushing and pulling) and awareness of one’s body in space, as well as, to a moving object. The noise from the small wooden balls as the cylinder rotates encourages forward and backward movement. Toddlers genuinely enjoy this toy. Item Description: Bring it out again later for imaginative play (lawn mower, vacuum cleaner). Your family will pass this toy from child to child for decades. 7" wide overall; 22" overall. Made of replenishable rubberwood. Parents’ Choice Award. Ages 1 ½ - 3½.
Sandra’s Take: Although this sorting box is recommended for 2-4 year olds, it is perfect for young toddlers (18 months to 2 years). Although toddlers grasp the concept of object permanence, they still love pushing back the wooden lid to find the blocks inside. If you slowly show toddlers how to place the blocks into their respective cutout shapes, they will master it in no time. I recommend showing children how to use this material and then allowing them to explore with it on their own. Item Description: Children will return to this toy again and again. 8 blocks, 2 of each shape. Blocks are about 1⅛". The box itself is 5⅛" wide by 3¼" high. Ages 2-4.
Sandra’s Take: This beautiful book is a reminder to children and adults of how capable kids are! I recommend this book for young toddlers as a fun way to speak about all the things they can do on their own. It’s also fun for older children who can read the book to a sibling, friends or adults, all by themselves. Item Description: Lively illustrations show that not everything is easy (the child struggles to get on his jeans, for example) or perfect (the dog kibble spills on the floor), but every page is a cheerful reminder of how independent your child really can be. The simple rhyming text lends itself to reading over and over again. Includes a fun “What can you do?” quiz on the back of the book. Paperback, 32 pages. Ages 2-6.
Sandra's Take: I love Hape toys. Their toys are made of natural materials, use non-toxic finishes and are developmentally friendly. This easel is half easel (and magnetic whiteboard) and half chalkboard promoting all sorts of creativity! It’s also adjustable and sturdy which is perfect for your toddler and your 6 year old! It comes with paint holders that are inserted into the easel making painting all the easier for little ones. I recommend this easel for children as young as 2 years old. Older children will be able to use this easel independently once shown how. Item Description: This height adjustable easel features a magnetic whiteboard on one side and a chalkboard on the other. It includes: easel, three paint pots and replaceable paper roll. Recommended for ages 36 months to 8 years.
Sandra’s Take: This is an awesome stacking puzzle for children. I have seen toddlers patiently play with it, using their problem solving skills to complete the whole puzzle. It’s a pretty incredible thing to observe! This puzzle promotes eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. For younger children, I recommend the adult shows them how to navigate a puzzle piece around the pegs and then allow them to explore. Item Description: This 16-piece sorter/stacking puzzle is expertly crafted from Baltic Birch plywood and hardwood. Hape finishes are all non-toxic, child safe, and of the highest quality. Ages 18 months - 4 yrs
Sandra’s Take: This sorter is another favorite puzzle of mine. Children younger than 2 years are able to use this puzzle. When using with young toddlers, I recommend separating the base of the puzzle to allow children to explore with one shape at a time. This helps young toddlers master each puzzle shape in steps. The base can then be put back together so that children can master all 4 shapes in one sitting. Item Description: This 10-piece sorter toy is a Hape best seller and a favorite toy for child and parent. It introduces logic, matching, spatial relationships, critical thinking, and an understanding of cause and effect. For ages 2 and up.
Sandra’s Take: Kids love this puzzle. I recommend learning all the names of the pieces before showing your child this puzzle and knowing the function of each vehicle (children love learning all this information). This is also a great puzzle since children use their pincer grasp to remove and return the pieces strengthening the muscles in their fingers and preparing the hand for writing (very cool!). When showing a young toddler how to use the puzzle, remove one piece and slowly return it to its place in the wooden frame. You can then remove a few pieces and allow your child to return them. Item Description: This puzzle includes 10 mighty construction vehicles that fit into a well-crafted wooden frame. The images of the vehicles are directly printed onto the wood base, unlike other puzzles. Ages 2-4 years.
Sandra’s Take: This is a great toy for 12 – 18 month olds. It allows a young child to engage in independent work easily with a very visible goal: pounding the pegs until they are in line with the base. It promotes concentration, eye-hand coordination, gross motor work and repetition of the activity (turn over and start again). Item Description: This little pounder is lightweight, stable and easy for small hands to move. Ages 12 months - 3 years.
Sandra’s Take: This is a simple and fantastic book to teach language to little ones. The photos are real images of objects, which is awesome, since using real and concrete images helps children learn (the abstract is difficult to grasp at this young age). This is a fun book to use with young children and also sparks all sorts of conversations and memories ("remember when we saw…"). Item Description: Your little one will soon learn some essential first words and pictures with this bright board book. There are 100 color photographs to look at and talk about, and 100 simple first words to read and learn, too. The pages are made from tough board for hours of fun reading, and the cover is softly padded for little hands to hold. Ages 1-3 years.
Awesome Gift Ideas for 3-6 Year Olds
Sandra’s Take: This is a great weaving activity for kids. They will need a little guidance at the beginning but then can do it all by themselves. They love weaving something they can then gift to family or friends. What better feeling than making a present that family members love? This activity promotes creativity, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Item Description: Using the metal hook, children weave the jersey cotton loops across the 7" sturdy metal frame. Curved pegs prevent loops from slipping off. Ages 6 and up; younger with adult assistance.
Sandra’s Take: Young children love taking care of their home and helping out. They also love anything with water making this the perfect toy! This is a great activity for children when they feel “bored," are not sure what to do with themselves or seem restless. They will only need you to show them once and before you know it your windows will be spotless (well that’s the goal). Toddlers also love window washing. Just make sure that the squeegee is the appropriate size for their little hands. Item Description: Show children how to use the plastic 8 oz. trigger-style spray bottle (7" high) and where to direct the spray. Mastering the use of the clear acrylic squeegee’s rubber blade provides added challenge (6" x 6½"). Ages 4 and up.
Sandra’s Take: This authentic rainstick is a great introduction to musical instruments for young kids. They love exploring the different sounds moving it slowly and quickly. Children enjoy learning about the history of the rainstick, as well as, other types of musical instruments. It’s also a great gift for toddlers since it’s child-sized. Item Description: The variety of sounds makes this a fun rhythm instrument. Inside the cylinder, tiny pebbles cascade over cactus spines, which have been hammered into the hollow Capado cactus; lightly varnished and sealed. Each of these pieces is unique--expect slight variations. 14" long x 2" dia. Ages 3 and up.
Sandra’s Take: This book makes science fun by turning abstract concepts into something children (and adults) can understand. I love how the activities are simply outlined and include easy to find materials. It’s truly a practical guide to science experiments (I wish science could have been this fun in high school)! Item Description: A broad range of basic scientific principles are presented, including natural science (Make a Wormery), chemistry (Milk Shapes), physics (Surface Tension), light (Pinhole Projector), and more. Step-by-step instructions and a brief explanation of What’s Going On for each. Most experiments use common materials. Spiral-bound hardcover, 104 pages. Ages 6 and up.
Sandra’s Take: I absolutely love Pattern Play! It has to be one of my favorite puzzle activities for children. It’s fantastic for younger and older children, as it includes 40 pattern cards that increase in difficulty. For younger children, I recommend showing them how to recreate a pattern with an easy-to-use pattern card at the start. Older children can create the pattern outside the box for an added challenge. Another fun option is to allow children the freedom to fit the pieces as they see fit. It’s amazing how they can put the puzzle back together without any guidance based solely on their spatial reasoning. Item Description: This award-winning set offers children all kinds of interesting activities. They can fit all the blocks into the tray like a puzzle, build free-form designs, or match a pattern shown on a card. Because blocks are the same shape (only the length and color vary) they’re great for sorting by color or size. Includes 40 blocks (4 each of 10 colors), a 10¾" wooden tray, 40 pattern cards, and cloth storage bag. Ages 3 and up.
Sandra’s Take: Teaching children how to use tools safely is an awesome gift. Many of us didn't learn how to use tools until we were older and some of us are still learning (yes, I’m talking about myself in the third person). Many children are capable of using these tools carefully and with precision once shown how. This activity is a starting place for more complex wood working activities. It promotes eye-hand coordination, reasoning skills and creativity. Imagine all the things that they will create! Item Description: Perfect for little builders, this sturdily crafted, leather Tool Belt is sure to be a hit. The Tool Belt & Accessories includes a Hammer (V508) which fits securely in the loop, and Safety Glasses (V513) which are an essential safety item when hammering. The pockets can hold nails or other small tools. Adjustable belt is 30" long; large pocket is 5" x 5½". Ages 4 – 8 years.
Sandra’s Take: This book is a great step-by-step guide so adults can help children with very cool woodworking projects. I love that the author touches on safety, as well as, woodworking basics before delving into the projects. Children feel so accomplished and proud when they have created a something purposeful with their own hands. Item Description: Written by a master woodworker, this guide presents the skills needed to complete projects, along with tool and shop vocabulary, safety, and skill presentation tips. Simple to quite sophisticated projects. Paperback, 201 pages. Chapters include: Safety; Tools; Wood and Measuring; Nails and Screws; and Projects. Ages 4 -12 years.
Sandra’s Take: This is an awesome toolbox that includes a variety of child-sized tools. This is a great gift for children who are interested in woodworking, as well as, adults who are interested in supervising these projects. These tools are made from real materials (heavy and sharp), so this gift is appropriate for older children who have already been introduced to woodworking. I think this toolbox is fantastic for families who are interested in working together. Safety should be a priority and all woodworking lessons should begin with safety reminders. This is a good gift to buy in conjunction with “Woodshop for Kids.” Item Description: Everything fits nicely in the sturdy plastic toolbox with handle. Toolbox measures 12” x 5½” x 4” high. Set includes: Hammer (V508), Compact Level (V59), Sanding Block (V516), Hand Drill with Bits (V514), Safety Glasses (V513), Saw Set (V560), Stubby Screwdriver (V08D) and Little Toolbox (V527). Ages 5 and up.
Sandra’s Take: This is such a simple yet complex puzzle. There are seven wooden pieces that allow for 90 plus puzzle formations to be created outside of the tray. This puzzle promotes creativity, imagination and an ability to recall shapes and designs. Item Description: The thick wooden pieces are easy for small fingers to remove from the tray and manipulate. Includes 16-page booklet with 90 puzzles and solutions. 7½" square. Ages 4 and up.
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