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With the holiday season on the horizon, now is the time to start brainstorming gift ideas. Gift guides for kids of all ages are easy to find. But what if you don’t want to just buy the latest popular toy for a child? Or what if you are a parent who is highly critical of the toys your child plays with? That is where a non-toy gift guide comes in.
(Make sure you read about why I don’t put toys on my kid’s Christmas list.)
This gift guide is designed for toddlers aged 1-3 years. By this age, they are learning to walk and talk. They are also working on independence. Where the baby gift guide was almost designed more for the parents who are caring for the babies, this guide is focused on toddlers who will enjoy opening gifts during the holiday season.
(P.S. If you are looking for gift ideas for other ages, make sure you check out The Non-Toy Gift Guide for Babies, The Non-Toy Gift Guide for Preschoolers, The Non-Toy Gift Guide for Elementary Aged Kids, and The Non-Toy Gift Guide for Families)
I have already written about what kind of books to buy for a toddler, but here are a few more of our favorites.
The Peas Series by Keith Baker is a fun series. We got “1-2-3 Peas” as a gift and I have since gifted it and “L-M-N-O Peas” and “Little Green Peas” to other friends. They are simple books with great illustrations!
Maclaine loves Eric Carle books. Most of them come in board book form. The ones we enjoyed the most were “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, “The Grouchy Ladybug”, “From Head to Toe”, and “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”.
While board books are nice for the toddlers, there are some paper books we enjoyed for bedtime stories. Our hands down favorite is “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. My family is full of construction workers, so I love to teach my daughter about the construction world.
In the Montessori philosophy, toddlers are encouraged to be independent. There are several ways to help this at home.
One of the biggest impediments for a toddler at home is that they simply can’t reach things. Buying a small plastic stool they can carry around will solve many problems.
For the bathroom, consider a more permanent step stool. A two-step, wooden stool like this one from KidKraft can fit in with bathroom decor while also being a functional item.
If you have space in the kitchen, a learning tower from Little Partners is a great investment. Not only is it easy for children to get in and out of, it is also light enough that they can move around. The price tag may seem a bit hefty, but it does grow with the child by moving the platform lower as they get taller. We have been using the learning tower for about a year now and I absolutely love it! Mac loves to be included in our kitchen activities. (Make sure you search around. They make learning towers in tons of color to fit in with any kitchen color scheme.)
The #1 way to make your home more inviting for a toddler is to have a small table and chair set for them. Allowing them to sit at a table their size will make them more comfortable as they snack, make art work, or simply hang out will make them feel like your home is also their home. We have this table and chair set from Ikea. I love the cute, minimalist feel to it. I frequently put some seasonal items on it to decorate it up a little bit. Mac loves to sit there and color or do puzzles.
A nice addition to a living room or playroom is a toddler sized couch set. This takes the comfortable factor to the next level. Is it necessary? No. Is it cute and fun? Yes. Honestly, my small dog Ralph loves our little couch and chair as much as my toddler. I found this adorable armchair/ottoman set from KEET that comes in 4 colors. Love it! KEET also makes this adorable toddler couch that I am actually really jealous of. I’d love one full-size!
Toddlers love to do anything their parents or caregivers do. This extends to household chores. Toddlerhood is a great time to get them helping and set a great precedent for chores as they get older. The usual impediment to this is the size of the supplies.
A toddler sized broom and a toddler sized mop will make floor cleaning much simpler for them. When they are able to securely hold a broom or mop, they will be better able to use it without making a mess. The best way to get them to
A small dustpan set and a crumber are great for the floor and table. It is nice to have specific tools for specific places. Toddlers thrive on structure, so having a separate tool for floor cleaning along with one for table cleaning will make cleaning more enjoyable for toddlers.
Other cleaning supplies include some basic rags you can put out for them to clean up spills, a dish bin where they can either wash their own dishes or at least bus their table of dishes, and a spray bottle and squeegee set to wash windows.
(Just a reminder, when a toddler “helps” you with household chores, it isn’t really help. At this age, you aren’t expecting actual help. You are simply teaching them how to do the chores so they will get better as they get older.)
Toddlers can quickly learn to drink from an open glass. (Yes, one made of actual glass) Buy a set of juice glasses or a set of shot glasses to help them. As long as the glasses are a smaller size, a toddler should be able to drink out of them. (Pro-tip, when they first start drinking out of an open glass, pour just a dribble in there. As they become more able to drink without spilling, increase the quantity.)
They can also learn to pour their own drink from a small pitcher. Toddlers love to pour. When they are able to pour themselves a drink, they will feel so proud because of their independence.
Getting a small wavy chopper will help a toddler start helping in the kitchen. Toddlers can start cutting soft foods like bananas and move onto harder foods like pickles.
Toddlers outgrow clothes like crazy. A few simple t-shirts or pants will be welcomed. A pack of multi-colored t-shirts is nice because you can mix and match with clothes already in the child’s wardrobe. The same thing goes for a pack of pants. Plain colored or “light” patterns like stripes or polka dots can mix and match nicely with shirts.
Also consider a fun t-shirt with a special character. At my house, I don’t buy a lot of “licensed character” stuff, but a few shirts here and there with Daniel Tiger or Curious George are fun to have.
Put together a basket of art supplies for toddlers. Many toddlers start coloring with thicker crayons because they are easier for them to hold. Some even enjoy the egg-shaped crayons. Eventually they will be able to better hold normal size crayons.
Paint is a little iffy because of the mess factor, but if you get the go-ahead, make sure you get some nice, washable paint. Just like with crayons, they also make nice paintbrushes for toddlers to hold.
Sidewalk chalk is always fun! Toddlers love being able to draw on the ground and as a parent, I love that we can just draw and then wait for some rain to wash it away for another day of art. Melissa and Doug makes a great set of toddler chalk that is easier for them to use because they can hold it multiple different ways.
With all of these art supplies, they will need somewhere to create their art. Let me tell you, toddlers are not good at fine motor skills yet, so the bigger the area for art, the better. A large coloring book is great for toddlers who might like a little structure. If you’d like the toddler to practice some more abstract art, get them a large roll of paper so they can create whatever they want!
Stickers can be a little iffy also, but toddlers can do stickers with some help and supervision. Picking an easy sticker book will thrill toddlers. There are even some reusable sticker pads which might take some of the worry about mess-making away.
Not all toddlers like to take a bath, but the ones who do seem to REALLY like taking a bath. So why not treat them to some fun bubble bath? You could buy some regular bubble bath for everyday baths. If you want something a bit more fun, try something that colors the water like Crayola Color Dropz. (Disclaimer: The Crayola Color Dropz have a warning that they are for ages 3 and up. I feel like when toddlers are in the bath tub, they will already be getting good enough supervision that this product should be able to be used properly. Does that make sense? Bathtub = supervision = safe use of product.)
Another fun bathtime accessory are the Boon Pipes Water Pipes Bath Toy. They stick to the wall and your toddler can practice pouring water into them. So fun!