holiday gift guides for toddlers

Are there small people in your life that you’re shopping for this holiday season? For ideas for infants, check out this post. For ideas for toddlers, here are some of the things the Bufflo Gals are into lately, and some of the things on their own wish lists. As always, these toys follow my “rules,” are wooden or metal instead of plastic when possible, don’t require batteries or make noise, and facilitate imaginative play that stimulates development. Also: this post is not sponsored or full of affiliate links or anything. It’s just stuff I think kids will like or stuff my own kids like.

One thing the girls are definitely getting for Christmas is an Ikea play kitchen that I bought while we were on vacation and shoved in the trunk with our luggage– it barely fit! But if you can’t access an Ikea, the other one in this set is available on Amazon, along with zillions of other options. Kitchens and play food are great for toddlers of all ages and genders.

Food Play Gift Ideas for Toddlers

Another great area of play for toddlers is babies and baby dolls. After I noticed the girls fighting over one random little dollar store baby doll, I got them a couple of real baby dolls, and they have LOVED them. They are getting these Land of Nod prams from one of their grandparents, but the one below is a great choice too. I really covet these Moover ones, but they’re twice the price. Along with baby dolls go cradles, high chairs, and doll carriers. Note: you may think baby dolls are for girls, but the baby dolls are by far the most popular toy with kids of all genders in Claire’s preschool classroom. They like to mimic their parents, and they want to care for the babies like their moms and dads care for them.

Baby Doll Toddler Gift Ideas

And finally, there are a few other great types of toddler toys you might consider: blocks and building toys, bath toys, active toys like slides and rockers, puzzles, cars/trucks, and creative toys like easels.

Toddler Gift Ideas

bufflogals in toyland

20130712-152806.jpg
The picture of the girls playing that inspired this post. Etta is playing with a Janod pounding toy, and Claire is playing with a Plan Toys shape sorter.

A friend asked on Instagram if I’d consider doing a post about the bufflogals’ toys, and her wish is my command.

She noticed that the gals’ toys are generally wooden and rather atypical from what is generally on the market for babies and toddlers. This is by design. I want our home to be peaceful and happy, stimulating but not overstimulating, full but not cluttered. And if it’s not too much to ask, I want the stuff we bring into it to look good! This extends to the choices we make for our girls’ toys. While I have only begun to educate myself on things like Montessori and Waldorf, my general inclination and instinct is that their toys should be about them using objects to educate and enjoy themselves, not just being entertained by lights and music and bells and whistles. For us, this means nothing that lights up or makes sounds, pretty much nothing battery operated, and very little plastic. Again, this isn’t because of any particular ideology, but just the result of me following what feels right for me and my kids. I’m not in any way saying other sorts of toys are bad, but this is just where we’re at and what we want for our home.

Etta and Claire have two main play spaces, their room and our den. In each space, it was important to me that the toys be arranged where they could get them out themselves (and eventually, put them up themselves), and to have things displayed and accessible rather than buried in a bin under a million other things. Things they can see actually get used, whereas things in a giant pile get forgotten.

20130712-152752.jpg

Here you see the girls’ play space in our den. The shelf and tent are both from Ikea, and my mom found the chairs at a flea market. They have a little white table that goes with them, but it’s being used as a side table until we find an actual side table to go next to the couch. Also pictured is the Little Wheely Bug, which I found for a steal at a local consignment sale. Etta’s just now able to really start to use it at 15 months, and it’s the smaller size. The green-sided walker was a Christmas gift, but I have to say, I’m not as crazy about it as I thought I’d be, as it seems more prone to tipping, though they still sit in front of it and play with it. I REALLY love the walker wagon Claire’s kneeling with, which is a brand called Janod from Oompa.com, which along with Amazon is one of our main toy sources.

20130712-152818.jpg

Here’s a closer view of the toy shelf. You can see the small Plan Toys shape sorter, a Janod puzzle, a couple of Melissa and Doug sorters, some Ikea pots and pans, and our collection of musical instruments. Etta demonstrates one of her favorite activities, taking all the books off the shelf.
20130712-152826.jpg

This is the contents of the musical instrument box. Most are Hape, purchased via Amazon. The shaker eggs aren’t actually toys but legit musical instruments, but the girls love them.

20130712-152853.jpg
I really love these alphabet blocks from Janod.
20130712-152911.jpg
The Janod walker wagon in action. As you can see, it can support Claire’s weight, and even without anything in it, is super stable for kids just starting to walk, not prone to tipping.
20130712-152938.jpg
We’re big fans of this collapsible tunnel, a gift, which folds nicely when we’re not playing with it.
20130712-152959.jpg
Here the girls are playing with our one and only noisy toy, the flowers, which are Lamaze brand. You can see the Hape shape sorter and some Melissa and Doug food. Our Ikea baby gym, now useful as an object to pull up on, is in the background.
20130712-153027.jpg
Little Wheely Bug in action, with a push from sister.
A rare exception to my no-plastic rule: this Little Tykes rocking horse. It's perfect for little toddlers because it's low enough that they can get on and off themselves, and the seat has a back, which keeps them on it. And I think it's not bad looking.
A rare exception to my no-plastic rule: this Little Tykes rocking horse. It’s perfect for little toddlers because it’s low enough that they can get on and off themselves, and the seat has a back, which keeps them on it. And I think it’s not bad looking.

IMG_5596

Here you can see the girls’ very messy room, and the toy shelf their daddy built for them. In the bin on the bottom left are wooden blocks that belonged to me as a child, and in the bottom right are little things we’ve collected along the way, like Ikea stacking cups, a Melissa and Doug pull toy, their Kathe Kruse dolls, and their Taggies toys. You can also see some soft books, a Melissa and Doug bead maze, a Skip Hop stacker pull toy, and an Ikea stacker toy. (Also, please note that Claire has pulled herself into a kneel, a big deal, which is why this picture was snapped in the first place.)

Basically, what I look for in a toy is this:

  • Is it kid powered? If it requires batteries, I don’t want it. (I took the batteries out of these toy keys before I ever gave them to the girls. They still love them.)
  • Is it used BY the kid, or does the kid just watch it go?
  • Does it help hone skills or encourage creativity or imaginative play?
  • Does it make noise? I’m fine with instruments the girls use to generate noise, but I don’t want to hear bad midi files of classical music. I’d rather put on my old iPod, which I’ve loaded up with tunes for the kiddos.
  • Is it possible to find this made of wood or other natural materials?
  • And, generally, is it fairly gender neutral? I’m fine with the girls playing with dolls, etc, as they get older and ask for such things, but in the meantime, I see no reason to push them toward gendered objects.

Some brands we like: Hape, Manhattan Toy, KidKraft, Plan Toys, Janod, Melissa and Doug, Haba.

A few people who have visited our house have asked how we got all the grandparents and other relatives on board with this plan. The truth is, I grew up with these sorts of toys, so my parents were all about it from the start, and everyone else has been pretty happy to shop from the Amazon wish list I keep constantly updated for Christmas and their first birthday.