Buying toys for toddlers can be super fun, but the amount of toys can quickly become overwhelming for the parents; here is a list of gifts that you can buy for the toddler in your life instead of a toy.
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Toddlers love to explore and go new places. Give a membership to mom and the little one so they can visit places over and over (it’s nice to get out of the house). Some ideas of places to buy memberships are a local amusement park, the zoo, the aquarium, a local indoor playground/play place.
You can also plan a special outing that you take the toddler on, or a special activity to do with them (this can also give parents a little break which is always appreciated!)
Similar to the suggestion above, you can give a class/membership to the toddler in your life. There are gymnastics classes, mommy and me classes, music classes, art classes, dance classes, and local parks and recreation departments often have classes at parks.
Craft and Art Supplies
My 2-year-old loves to do arts and crafts. We make her artwork using washable fingerpaint (we like Crayola), play-doh, chalk, markers, dot markers, crayons, and stickers. Lily also likes to draw with her bath crayons. A great non-mess craft option are water markers, like these water wow books, or a water coloring mat.
If you want to set up specific crafts without a ton of leftover craft supplies, Kiwi Co may be a good option. Kiwi Co makes scientific craft boxes. Koala Crates are the specific level that targets toddlers and my 2-year-old loved it. They are subscription boxes that come with everything included to do an easy craft (by the time she turned 3 she could do the crafts mostly on her own). Find my review of it here. Click here to save $10 on your first purchase.
These are basically little plastic bins full of rice/sand/beans and little toys hidden in them. The goal is to let the child explore different textures and discover toys on their own. It changes up their playtime and it’s good for them developmentally to be exposed to different textures. It can be intimidating to put boxes together, however (which is why I have never done it – putting it together and the potential mess that happens). I think it would be cool to be gifted a few different sensory bins that are ready to be played with. Pinterest has a ton of great ideas if you need inspiration for what to put in your sensory bin, and Etsy has a lot of pre-made sensory bins (I also found a local mom that makes them in our local facebook mom group).
Clothes and Shoes
Shopping for toddler clothes can be so fun – they can wear outrageously bright and fun outfits, or look like sophisticated tiny adults, but there is a huge selection of clothes out there for them. Matching outfits for siblings can also be super fun. There is also a great selection of shoes, especially light-up ones. Boots have been particularly popular in our household. My husband also found these squeaky toddler shoes that Lily loves.
Outdoor vehicles or Water table
These are technically toys, but they take up space elsewhere and help toddlers with their gross motor skills so I decided to list them anyway. We got Lily her water table when she was about 18 months old, but my 1-year-old nephew also loves playing with it already. It’s great for splashing, pouring, and just playing with water. There are a lot of options as far as size and included accessories go. Lily also enjoys her other outdoor toys now, such as her scooter, a plastic rocking horse, and tricycle. We also had a plastic push car to go on walks before James was born (now we take a double stroller).
My little one loves Pooh Bear, ladybugs, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and butterflies. We recently stuck up some 3D butterfly stickers on the wall of her bedroom and the wall of her playroom, and she was so happy (she has also been pulling them off the wall for the past two days but they’re there for her enjoyment – pick your battles mama). One of my best friends also made a cardboard Pooh Bear cutout that is Lily’s size, and she loves to carry it around the house. It was originally going to be decor but that didn’t last long on her wall either. So take this suggestion with a grain of salt that it’s going to become a toy anyway.
A felt Christmas tree
If you’re looking for an early Christmas gift, a reusable felt Christmas tree is perfect. You can buy one off of Amazon, or make your own specifically for your toddler. You can make or buy felt ornaments with velcro backing that will stick anywhere on the felt tree (most of the trees on Amazon come with ornaments already). Lily loved this tree as a 1-year-old last year, and still loves it this year at 2 years old. Last year we stuck it with command strips to the wall so it stayed still but this year she’s more coordinated so it swings around hanging on a nail on the wall. I love that it will stick anywhere on the tree so it wasn’t too frustrating for a 1-year-old, and that it is reusable and can be played with all month long (as opposed to stickers that run out of stick). It also folds up for easy storage the rest of the year, and it’s felt so it can’t be damaged by being stepped on. Also, it doesn’t take up valuable floor space like other toys (if you saw my living room you would understand that I don’t have any space for more toy sets). If you want to put a different twist on it, you could even make it into an advent calendar. Growing up, we got to place a different ornament every day on our felt tree, and each ornament had a short devotional explaining part of the Christmas story to go along with it. I decided to not go with that approach with Lily, and that we would do advent activities with something else.
My 2-year-old toddler is still rough on our books, so I mostly stick to board books with her. She loves pop-up and lift-the-flap books (I made a list of our favorite lift-the-flap books here). There is also a cute line of books called Indestructibles which are chew-proof, rip-proof, and washable. One of her favorite gifts this holiday season is a Daniel Tiger Christmas book because that is her favorite show (yes, she gets screentime so I’m not a yelling mess all day; we do what works for us).
More boring than any of the suggestions above, but they will appreciate it one day. There are even special college savings accounts that can be opened for your current toddler. Before we know it, they’ll be grown up and needing money for trade school, college, or even a first house. Paying for college can be a lot less daunting if you start now than if you wait until they’re 18. I know some people open CDs or other investment accounts and put away a little bit for their kids every month until they’re adults. I am not a financial expert by any means, so do lots of research about what type of account to open for your toddler, but giving them something for the future is a great gift. During these years, they also enjoy cheaper toys so you can put away a little bit more into the investment account without them missing the money.