The gift-giving season is upon us! We all want to give the children in our lives something they will love and enjoy for a long time to come, but it can feel overwhelming to actually find that right gift! We enjoy buying handmade, crafted, and local items as gifts when we can, but it seems those gifts are mostly for the adults on our lists. Young children want toys (surprise!) – and that’s great! You can find some great recycled and wooden toy options out there, but I’d like to also offer a re-frame about some of the more conventional toys you might not think of as “green”. We try our best to make thoughtful toy purchases that are interesting and sturdy enough to last years of play, and have a second life traded on a toy exchange message board or lovingly gifted to our favorite preschool or childcare program. We want games that inspire family togetherness as well as learning, and art supplies that can turn an old cardboard box into a castle; we want toys that grow with our children and become interesting in a new way with every year. When we make these choices we know we are bringing something sustainable into our homes that will be used, reused, and shared. Here are 10 of our favorite choices for young children this holiday season:
K’NEX Education sets are designed with the fine motor skills of younger children in mind– larger, more flexible pieces (the regular K’NEX pieces are beyond tiny… some even minuscule!) that are easier and safer for small hands. My preschool age son loves these and this particular set makes our own list because I’d like to expand the smaller set he’s had for about a year. Be careful to order a K’NEX Education set for small children since there is a big different between the size and ease of use of the pieces in these sets versus the traditional K’NEX sets.
These vibrantly colored magnetic building pieces connect on all sides and make for easy and fun construction play. I’ve seen school-age children build exciting structures both solo and in cooperative groups in childcare settings, as well as my own preschool-age son play with these for hours at a friend’s house. This one tops our own Christmas wish list this year!
Do a Dot Art Markets
These paint/marker hybrids are great for young children since they are easy to do and make little or no mess. Older children will like them for making posters, banners, and school projects because they are fun to write with an make clean lines and clear letters. These make our own list too because we have a few of the colors and want to expand our collection.
My son’s 4 year-old friend has Monkey Bingo and she taught him how to play it at a play date. He borrowed the game in-between their play dates and taught me how to play it as soon as he got home! The tile dispenser is easy to use and the animals on the cards are recognizable to preschool age children. We played it daily until he gave it back – and since he’s still asking to play it regularly, we not only recommend it, it also makes our list as a must-have! We also really enjoy playing Zingo and Zingo 123!
This was our in our top gifts received at Christmas last year (Thanks, Nana!). It was on our wish list last year and I think it should make yours this year! We have so much fun building structures with this rod and connector set. The recommendation for this set is five years old and up, but when we first received this set as a gift my son was two years old. I had to do most of the connecting of the rods to the soft ball-like connectors, but almost a year later we are still creating with this set with him building much of the structure. You can cover your creation with a sheet or blanket; old crib sheets fit perfectly over many of our forts!
Tegu Magnetic Blocks
Tegu blocks have been a great investment in this household. Tegu Blocks are fully enclosed magnetic wood blocks so no chance of small magnetic parts being swallowed. Just like regular blocks the possibilities are endless but the magnetic ends help keep their creations together. We’ve built bridges, ramps, “castles” (a house) and “Monster-truck eating T-Rex”! I love how these blocks spark his creativity.
Step2 Splash N Scoop Bay
A water table is a necessity for every toddler! There are so many alternative ideas that you can use these tables for. In fact, we haven’t even used sand in ours yet. We have set up sensory play mostly, with colored ice, jello, colored rice and noodles and glow in the dark bubble parties with glow sticks.
Strider Balance Bike
We’ve been using our Strider Bike since our son was 2. I was totally skeptical at first since he was moving at a snails pace when walking with it. After about 6 months of using it he was way more confident and has learned to run while sitting on it and steers like a champ! I highly recommend a balance for your toddler’s first bike!
Bruder Toys Side Loading Garbage Truck
The Bruder line of trucks are the most “life like” trucks we’ve found. We got this beauty for our sons 3rd birthday and he has done really well with it. He’s probably a little on the young side for this particular Bruder truck but this thing can sure take a beating. We started off with this Bruder Trash Truck when he was two and it sure held up to the destructive tendencies of a toddler. Both of these trucks have delivered hours of open ended play and have helped a great deal with fine motor skills.
Little Tikes Tire Swing
This tire swing offers the nostalgia of the traditional tire swing but way easier to keep clean AND its not hollowed out for (I’m gonna go there) for spiders to hide! That was important to us since we have a lot of them here.
Lifetime Geometric Dome Climber Play Center
Who here has a climber? This is for sure on my climber’s wish list for Christmas! We were debating about getting the toddler size climber but our 3 yr. old is pretty tall (40”) for his age and it just didn’t seem that challenging for him. I was a little intimidated by the size thinking it would be a little on the dangerous side but we got to play on one at a friends house and he just LOVED it! He challenged himself a little but I could tell he was really using his problem solving skills to get him out of a pickle.
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