If you have toddlers on your list this holiday season, you may find yourself overwhelmed by options in the toy and gift department. Between educational toys or entertaining ones, it’s hard to know what’s best for the 1-3 year old in your life. Toddlers are at an age where play and learning get a lot more fun and interactive, and we all want to give them gifts that will be exciting and enriching, something that will hold their attention long after the holidays are over.
To help simplify your search, we compiled a list of the 20 Best Toys and Gifts for Toddlers this Holiday Season, by polling parents and experts for their input. Here’s what they shared, narrowing the field of complex clutter down to the very cream of the crop!
A study from the University of Toledo in Ohio suggests “an abundance of toys present reduced quality of toddlers’ play.” Having fewer toys can lead a young child to focus and engage in more creative, imaginative play. This year consider gifting experiences rather than toys or gifts. Experiences offer opportunities for learning and growth as well as building memories that will stick with a child far longer than most toys.
For toddlers, the best choices in experiential gifts are children’s museum passes, classes (like dance, art or music), tickets to a children’s play or touring show, or physical outings like indoor playspaces or trampoline parks.
Get them moving
It’s no secret that toddlers have energy in spades, so gifts that encourage movement not only gets their wiggles out but also can aid in improving coordination, balance and strength. Our favorite choices this year include the Geospace Jump Rocket Mini Jump which allows toddlers to stomp or jump on a launcher and send a foam rocket up into the air, a Mini Trampoline on which they can bounce like Tigger to their hearts delight, and The Nugget which may look like an unassuming kid’s couch at first glance, but with a little imagination it can be configured into a slide, a fort, and more.
Toddlers have a strong drive to emulate the real-life activities they see the adults in their lives doing, and playing into that interest by offering opportunities for pretend play can deliver big benefits to their development. According to a study cited in Psychology Today: “An important benefit of early pretend play may be its enhancement of the child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and, ultimately, creativity.”
The most popular pretend play gift items this year are:
- Play workbench, tools with which to build and tinker endlessly.
- Play sink with real running water for endless hand and dish-washing play.
- Play-Doh and tools to roll and cut shapes like they’re baking. A great holiday gift idea is brown play-doh, gingerbread person cookie cutters, google eyes and poms for them to make holiday “cookies”!
Early STEAM gifts
It’s never too early to get a jump start on introducing toddlers to concepts in science, technology, engineering, art and math. These STEAM-friendly options are also great for open-ended play and will grow with your toddler, lasting many years to come.
PicassoTiles and Real wooden blocks are great for building creative 3-D structures, and Matching Eggs offer hours of play matching shapes, colors, and even using the eggs for pretend play. An art easel and supplies will allow your toddler to express themselves artistically and get comfortable with the creative process.
Foster a love of reading and learning early on with books. Whether being read to by an adult, enjoying the act of turning pages and looking at the pictures or playing with an interactive book, children can never have too many books! Some favorites for this age group are Stack the Cats (a charming early math introduction), The Rabbit Listened (a wonderful lesson in empathy), the Poke-A-Dot series (what toddler doesn’t love popping bubbles?) or a Quiet book which are interactive (and great for long car rides or long waits at restaurants)!
We hope this list brings a little more clarity to your search for the perfect toddler gift this season. The fact that you’ve researched this far shows how much you care! With this information, you can feel well-armed with the knowledge necessary to help you find a memorable gift to light up the toddler in your life’s eyes and bring holiday joy to their hearts. Brace yourself: warm fuzzies incoming!