It’s that time again! Holiday shopping is already well underway for many because after all, it is the most wonderful time of the year! Those who know me personally know that I can be a bit of a toy snob. I love researching and reading reviews to find the best toys out there and I am happy to return the favor by sharing my top picks with you this year in hopes that I can help you check your toddler off your holiday shopping list early.
What Makes a Great Toddler Gift
As I mentioned above, I love finding the best toys out there. Toys are more than “just toys” to a toddler. They are creative outlets, tools, manipulatives, a way to help understand and learn about the world around them. Playing is learning for toddlers and toys are their school supplies in a way. Toys that are not open ended or well made will inevitably end up in the trash or remain unplayed with. I have found that investing in high quality, beautifully made toys makes me happy as well as my toddler. Not only are they not an eyesore to look at, but my toddler loves playing with them day after day! Here are a few of the questions I ask myself when looking for toys for my toddler:
- Can it be played with in more than one way?
- Will she be able to use her imagination with it?
- What can she learn from it?
- Does it help refine her fine or gross motor skills?
- Does it help foster a fun and playful environment?
- Is it well made? Will it last?
- It is beautiful?
Cuddle + Kind Dolls
There is SO much to love about these beautiful dolls! We’ll start with the obvious. They are adorable! The sweet animals and magical creatures will be hard for your little one to resist! Here’s what is truly amazing about Cuddle + Kind dolls- for each doll you purchase, 10 meals will be donated to children in need. There aren’t many toys out there that give back to the community at the same time as providing endless fun and love for your little ones, but these dolls do!
Hand knit by “incredible women artisans in Peru, providing them with a sustainable, fair trade income” these dolls give back in more ways than one. Perfect for playing house, pushing in a stroller or wearing in their own mini baby carrier, Cuddle + Kind dolls make the best, cuddly companions for your little ones. They are heirloom quality and if there is ever an issue, their customer service is amazing!
Antsy Pants Gym Mat and Balance Beam
Cold temperatures are upon us (at least where I live!) and although we still try to get out as much as possible, sometimes it’s just not happening. That’s why toys from the new active gym line from Antsy Pants make the best holiday presents for toddlers. The gym balance beam and gym mat are part of their exclusive line for Target and I’m obsessed! They are super small-space friendly with how easily they fold up and store. Plus, they are bright and cheerful without being loud and obnoxious like some toys can be that are geared toward the toddler and preschool age group.
Although there are a lot of great things about the Antsy Pants gym line, the thing I love the most is that it encourages active play and helps little ones develop their gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are those which that require the whole body or large muscles in the body. Standing, running jumping, etc. The gross motor skills required of a child when walking on a balance beam or log rolling on the gym mat are laying the foundation for being able to complete more difficult physical tasks as they grow. Plus, it’s a GREAT way for them to burn off the limitless toddler energy they seem to have! You could set up a fun obstacle course or have them complete mini gym challenges. Or, just let them use their imagination, I’m sure they’ll come up with something!
If you haven’t seen or heard of Picasso Tiles then you may be living under a rock! Ok, that may be a little extreme but these toys have blown up recently and for good reason! Although they offer a wide range of educational toys, the most popular seems to be magnetic tile sets which have a five star rating on Amazon with close to 2,000 reviews by the way! So, what’s all the hype about? Well, besides just being really fun for all ages to enjoy (I’m not kidding, my husband and I play with them even when my daughter is not! haha) they are great for learning critical thinking skills and so much more.
STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) is a huge area of focus with children these days as these are the skills that will make them prepared to enter and excel in the workforce one day. The kind of critical thinking, creativity, imagination, and spatial reasoning encouraged by playing and building with magnetic Picasso Tiles is a great starting point for exposing toddlers to STEAM from an early age so that they can begin to hone in on these skills, all while having fun! Plus, they are just really cool! My toddler loves building with hers and they can keep her attention for quite some time- definitely something that can be hard to do with toddlers! This a a toy that will not grow out of for a long time either!
Lakeshore Learning Sand and Water Table
Exploring with their five senses is something toddlers love to do and it helps them learn as well! That’s why sensory bins are so popular with little ones. It gives them a chance to satisfy their sensory needs and at the same time practice other skills like hand eye coordination. It’s a win-win! We had been using a plastic tub on the floor and although it was ok, it was hard for my daughter to get comfortable and it was always kind of awkward for her. That’s why I was so excited when I came across the Sand and Water Table by Lakeshore Learning. Although you may know them for their supplies, manipulatives and toys for schools and day cares, they also have toys that are great for home.
This Sand and Water Table makes the perfect toddler sensory table! Lightweight, portable and adjustable, this table can easily be stored away when not in use but sturdy enough for your toddler to enjoy and explore with. Fill it with rainbow rice, water beads, dry pasta, or water and these great Float & Find Alphabet Bubbles from Lakeshore for a fun game and introduction for letters and sounds. Give your little one a net or large kitchen spoon and have them find the bubbles as you call out the letter or object on them. Just throw down a beach towel underneath and the clean-up will be a piece of cake. They also sell a lid that goes with the table in case you want to keep your sensory fun for a few days. Your toddler will LOVE this!
Green Toys Sesame Street Line
Want to get your toddler a toy that is great for the environment, made in the USA and free from any toxic chemicals? Then you’re definitely going to want to check out Green Toys, especially their new line of Sesame Street products. Green Toys has been a favorite around our house since my toddler was a baby and people who come over or see us with them out and about always comment about how cool they are, and I couldn’t agree more. These toys are beautiful and aesthetically pleasing yet sturdy enough to last through any toddlers antics.
I was so excited to hear that Green Toys had partnered with Sesame Street to create toys to help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder! We are huge fans of Sesame Street around here and I knew any of the new Green Toys line would be a hit with my daughter! The Elmo & Friends Dough Activity set comes with safe, non-toxic dough is made in a food-safe facility from organic flour, so you don’t need to worry if some accidentally makes it into your toddler’s mouth, which let’s face it, will probably happen! This fun Sesame Street set promotes sensory exploration, develops fine motor skills, and encourages creativity and imagination. A toddler’s dream come true!
I hope I’ve given you some great ideas for what to add to your toddler’s Christmas list this season! As a self-proclaimed toy snob you know I’ll only recommend toys that I truly believe in and all of these amazing toys made the cut, so you know they’re good! Do you have any of these toys for your toddler already? Do you have any other great gift ideas? Let me know and have a wonderful holiday season!