Upon reader request we have been sharing holiday gift ideas for young children. So far we have shared our favorite toys for children aged 0-12 months and a list of stocking stuffers that facilitate play and learning. Today, we are sharing our favorite toys and art/craft supplies for toddlers and preschoolers, giving over 100 holiday gift ideas!
Imaginative Play Imaginative play is so very important for young children. A child's imagination peaks between the ages of 2-5. Here are some of the toys and materials we use to try and capture our girls imagination and actively engage them in play.
A Dollhouse We got Rosie and Jewel the Magestic KidKraft Dollhouse, and we could not be happier with it. It is made entirely of wood with intricate detail and design. The house comes fully furnished, too! This is one toy that gets played with every single day in our home. It also looks fabulous, making it one toy that can be left out while adding to the decor and feel of the home. There are tons of dollhouses to choose from and I am sure many are wonderful, but we could not be happier with our kidkraft.
Dress ups Dress up play is so fun for little ones. When young children put on a certain outfit they really believe they are the character they are portraying. It is quite a magical thing to watch. We get dress ups from all over. Some are store bought, some our found at local consignment shops, and some are pulled from our very own wardrobe. If I had to recommend a starter set for dress up play it would be the role play community worker set from Melissa and Doug. This set is a great way to build a quick dress up wardrobe. Rosie and Jewel both love it!
Melissa and Doug also sell an amazing collection of dress ups individually. Some of our favorites include the fire chief , pirate, chef, and beautician role play sets. All are of amazing quality.
Wooden blocks There are so many types of blocks to choose from, but I feel like standard wooden blocks lend themselves to the imagination best. Rosie delights in making houses and barns for her horses. She makes beds for her babies and forests for her fairies... all with a set of wooden blocks. We have also used them as a tool to paint. Jewel enjoys the blocks, too. She stacks a few and then knocks them down... over and over again.
City Road Rug This city road rug is a great facilitator of imaginative play. Not only does it expand on basic block play, but it gives little ones a comfy place to play with their cars and other manipulatives.
Magna Tiles Magna Tiles are another block set that we love. Magna tiles are magnetic, allowing for children to easily build three dimensional designs that won't come tumbling down. We have the clear set, and there are so many fun ways to play with them. Use them on the light table, with glow sticks, or outside in the sun just to name a few.
Puppets Kids of all ages love puppets. Rosie and Jewel loved them as babies, and they love them just as much now. Rosie is really getting into her puppet play, telling us how her puppets feel, when they are hungry, and when they need a bath. We also use puppets to bring story time to life. As Rosie and Jewel grow, we will surely be using our puppets for all sorts of play. We have slowly added to our puppet collection and will be adding more over time.
Play Kitchen Rosie and Jewel LOVE their play kitchen. They can often be found cooking and creating their very own recipes, and they love serving them up to mom and dad. We love our KidKraft kitchen, but there are a ton of other play kitchens to choose from.
Dinosaur Play Set I don't think there is a kid out there who doesn't love dinosaurs. We got Rosie and Jewel this dinosaur play set, and they just love it. It comes in a storage bin that unfolds to become a small world. So many fun ways for kids to play and explore
Keep them Active keeping kids active can be tricky, especially on rainy days and in the Winter. Here are a few toys that keep my girls moving and having fun.
Indoor Trampoline We got Rosie and Jewel an indoor trampoline last Christmas, and they still play with it daily. Rain or shine, this is a great toy to have!
A Play Slide A play slide is great for keeping kids active. We keep ours outside during the Summer and bring it in on rainy days or when it is cold. The girls never tire of going down. Play slides like this one are easy to transport in and out and they are durable, too!
Stepping Domes These stepping domes are one toy we did not expect to love as much as we do. This play set easily stores away and is very compact. Whenever the girls are getting bored we can quickly pull these out and set up all sorts of fun games. Say the floor is lava and the kids must hop from dome to dome without touching. Have kids hop on only yellow domes. Place glow sticks under the domes and play in the dark. So many ways to PLAY!
Indoor See-Saw The activity spiro bouncer is great for both indoor and outdoor use. It moves both up and down and side to side. FUN and great for long days stuck inside. This is just one of many great indoor see-saws available.
Band in a Box Nothing gets kids moving more than making music. This band in a box is great for imaginative play and creative development, too!
Art & Creativity these products foster creativity and creation. These are favorites of ours that we use in play often:
Washable Tempera Paint We use a variety of paints but if I had to recommend one, it would be washable tempera paint. It can be used for practically every project, making it a universal paint choice. Not only can it be used for art but also to make AMAZING wonder dough, decorate the windows of you're home, to paint in the bath, and even for body painting. It is truly 100% washable! Also note, it is much cheaper to buy paint in bulk. One set of this washable paint lasts us about 6 months, and we paint almost everyday!
Sargent Art Watercolors Another art product we love is Sargent Art watercolors. We use these water colors in so many activities. A few of our favorites are bath time bubble painting, to make erupting volcanic art, and to paint the snow. You can also make your own water colors, but the colors won't be nearly as vibrant. These watercolors are so bright and they last a really long time, making them a worthwhile purchase.
Pipette Eyedroppers Eyedroppers are fantastic for fine motor development, and there are tons of fun and educational ways to use them. Use them with liquid watercolors to create beautiful works of art or to make toddler friendly volcanic eruptions. Set up a mad Science lab or simply explore with varying colored waters and practice transfer while building hand eye coordination and dexterity.
Spray bottles Rosie loves these spray bottles! They are easy for little hands to use and are fantastic for developing fine motor skills. There are so many fun ways to use them. Paint the snow, paint bath bubbles, create stencil art, help clean .........
Washable Fluorescent Finger Paint This paint is multi-functional in that it is both a finger paint and fluorescent. Finger paint specific paint lends itself to a whole new creative experience. It has a slick and silky smooth texture. This paint also shines bright in the black light , providing lots of other play opportunities. We have used fluorescent paint to make an array of things glow such as GOOP, bath paint, glue, and slime. We have also used it to paint all sorts of ways under blacklight.
Dot Markers These are especially great for toddlers and preschoolers. They are the right size for little hands, and unlike markers, won't dry out if the caps are left off. They allow for easy clean up, and make very little mess. Oh, and they last forever too! You can purchase them individually at The Dollar Tree or purchase the whole set from a craft store or online here.
Textured brushes Giving little ones a variety of materials and ways to explore facilitates the creative process. One simple way to do that is with brushes of varying textures. We have the Little Hands Funky Brush set and love it!
Art Easel Not only is having an area of the home set up for art a great way to prompt creativity, but there are a variety of ways to use an easel other than painting. Create easel prompts or make a sticky easel just to name a few. We have our easel in a central location in our home and it is used daily. We have the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Standing Easel- it is of great quality at a reasonable price.
Sensory Learning & Exploration- those of you who are familiar with Growing A Jeweled Rose surely know how much we love exploring through sensory play. Not only is it great fun but so much learning takes place during this type of play. Here are some of our favorite materials which facilitate this type of play:
A light table A light table is a great way for little ones to explore their world. There are endless ways to use it, too. Explore with water beads, magna tiles, colored water, translucent letters and shapes, and so much more! This light table is a dream of ours. We hope to one day have one, but in the meantime, we made our own light table. You can see how to make your own here.
Shimmering Water Rainbow Blocks These blocks are so fun! Use them to explore liquid densities. Learn and review colors. Give kids a fantastic visual illustration of color theory. Build with them on the light table...... and so much more!
A Sensory Table Having a confined place for sensory play makes this type of play so much easier. While you could buy an actual sensory table like this one, we have the Step2 Adjustable Sand Water Table. We love that it can be used both inside and outside. It is easy to clean and has plugs on the bottom to allow for easy draining. Because it is made for outdoor use, it is durable and has a secure locking lid. It comes with an umbrella, protecting little ones from the sun in the Summer months. It is also adjustable which we love!
We have used our sand and water table in so many ways! We used it as part of our mud pie kitchen, to create an ice princess sensory world, and for Summer Sensory play just to name a few. Now that it is getting colder here in the states, we brought our sand and water table inside and use it often for sensory exploration. We just had it filled with shaving cream the other day. Just be sure to set it up in an area that lends itself to easy clean up.
Kids Super Scoopers We provide Jewel and Rosie with a variety of different ways to manipulate materials during play. These scoopers are one. They are great for little hands and very durable! They are dishwasher safe too, allowing for easy clean up.
Easy Grip Tweezers Tweezers or tongs are another great way for little ones to manipulate materials. Not only do these tweezers build fine motor development and hand-eye coordination but they are also easy for little hands to use, eliminating some of the frustration Rosie had experienced with similar products. Use these for sorting, transferring and in sensory play.
Alphabet Ice Cube Trays There are so many fun ways to use these ice cube trays for sensory exploration. Use them to make colored ice, for Summer ice play, to paint with frozen paint in the Summer, to chase in the bath and to make edible letters. We have so many more ideas using these trays, too!
Tools for play dough We use these tools for lots of different activities, not just sensory play. Great for pretend play cooking, exploring flubber and goop, and even outside in the dirt or yard.
A magnet board We made our own magnet board and our girls love it so much we just moved it to a more central location in our home. It cost under $20 to make and lends itself to all sorts of play and exploration.
Magnetic Gears These magnetic gears are fantastic for play on a magnet board or refrigerator. Not only do they allow for little ones to explore magnetic force, but they also allow for endless creation and design.
A black light There are so many ways to explore and discover with a black light. We got ours for $10 at Walmart. You can also purchase them online here. For TONS of black light play ideas check out our GLOWING play collection.
Learning Manipulatives- this next set of toys facilitate the learning of basic skills and also help with fine motor development:
Boy and girl dressing dolls These dolls are great for teaching little ones how to dress; Teaches kids how to snap, button, toggle, lace, zip, buckle, hook and loop. Both Rosie and Jewel love fiddling with their dressing doll.
Lacing Beads These lacing beads are fantastic for fine motor development, and there are so many ways to use them other than lacing. We also use the wooden blocks for sorting, counting, patterning, stacking, and matching.
Puzzles There are so many types of puzzles and which ones you want depends largely on the age of your child. Use the pieces for sorting, matching, counting, and more.
Super Sorting Pie Great for sorting, counting, and a variety of other early number learning activities. It comes with activity cards too!
Early Literacy- We try to do everything we can to instill a love of reading in Rosie and Jewel.
Leap Frog Leap Reader Words can not express how much Rosie loves her Leap Reader. She uses in before nap, at restaurants, in the car, and while waiting at the doctor. She uses it almost daily she loves it so much. I was hesitant to buy a reading system, but I am so glad we did. Kids can hear their favorite stories whenever they want, and all while learning to read themselves. Oh, and this system also introduces early writing concepts- bonus!
ABC Painting Sponges Make literacy and letter learning fun by painting the alphabet. These ABC sponges are just like stamps. Rosie and Jewel love using them, and as they paint, I always talk about the letters, sneaking learning into their play. These are also lots of fun to toss into the bath.
Alphabet Peel & Stick Decals We recently purchased these peel and stick alphabet wall decals. We placed them around our play room, spacing placement, and sticking them at Rosie and Jewel's level. Not only are they great for simple letter exposure, but we also made a fun game out of our stickers. How to play- give your child a ball. Ask them to find a letter and hit that letter with the ball. Great fun for a rainy day!
Plastic Magnetic Letters We have used these letters in so many ways. Let your little one try magnetic letter painting or an alphabet sensory dig. There really are endless possibilities for these simple magnetic letters.
Letter Construction Activity Set We just ordered these for Jewel and Rosie for Christmas and I am so excited. These allow for children to build and construct the alphabet while keeping them actively involved and engaged. These will also be great on our light table!
Alphabet Dough Cutter Kit These are fantastic for sneaking learning into play dough play. I carry a few of these in my purse with a ball of play dough for when we are waiting in restaurants. Keeps Rosie and Jewel occupied long enough for our meal to arrive and again, sneaks a bit of learning into their play.
Felt board story sets Another way we engage Jewel and Rosie in reading and literacy is by bringing stories to life on our homemade felt board. I have yet to share a post about our felt board, but it was super simple and inexpensive to make. We essentially covered an old cork board with a piece of felt we bought at Walmart for $5. It works great! While some people make their own felt board pieces, I am not quite that crafty so we buy them. They are reasonably priced, and there are lots of fun ways to use the pieces other than on the felt board. We just took one of our play sets into the bath to create our very first storybook bath.
Bath Time Fun- Oh my do we love bath time! Here are a few of our favorite bath toys.
Water Flutes These water flutes are so fun! Fill them with varying amounts of water to create varying sounds. They come with waterproof sheet music, too!
Rub a Dub Tub Soup Such a fun bath toy! Oh ,and the food doubles as bath stickers.
Science Bath Bomb Factory I have been wanting to put together a mad Science bath for a while now, and this kit is just what I needed to bring the idea to fruition. The kit includes six activities and experiments. It is 100% safe.. but you will want to play alongside younger kiddos.
Color Changing Bath Tablets We color and scent our water for themed sensory baths all the time using food coloring. However, some moms are leery of using food coloring in this way. These color changing bath tablets are a great alternative.
Jungle Waterfall We made our own bath time water wall, but I know that some parents may prefer not to do that. Rosie and Jewel love theirs so much that when I saw this toy I wanted to include it as an alternative for making your own water wall. I also love Alex toys bath time stuff. I can vouch for their product being good quality!
Ariel Fountain Bubble Boat Having a fountain in the bath is so fun. This is the one we have now, but we had a different one prior and it was used so much the motor died. Any bath time fountain is sure to be a big hit! The fountain we had before was the floating fountain frog.
Bath Time Bubble Machine Having a bubble machine in the bath..... now that is FUN!!
There are so many fun ways for little ones to explore at bath time. Check out our bath play collection and also visit our sister site, Bath Activities for Kids for lots of fun ideas!
Gift Ideas for Young Children
I hope you find this a helpful resource while planning and making Christmas magical for your child!
For stocking Stuffer ideas check out our collection of over