Update: I wrote this post in 2021. My kids are now 6 and 4.75. We still have all of these toys.
Have you started your holiday shopping? I try to get as much of my Christmas shopping done BEFORE December as I can so that I can spend more time enjoying the holiday fun, and less time shopping. BUT, it doesn’t always work out.
If you have young children on your Gift List, I hope that this gift guide will help with your shopping. My kids are 5 and 3.5 (really more like 3.75), and I really try to balance gifts that are their obsession of the moment with gifts that I feel like will outlast any trends. I know how frustrating it can be to get a gift that your child outgrows quickly. So the purpose of this list is to give you some ideas of presents that your child can grow with – things that they can enjoy as a toddler, but they’ll still love (and possibly get even more out of) as they get a bit older. These are all things that we have in some form in our house, have enjoyed for a year or so, and confidently escaped my recent donation purge!
*As an Amazon Affiliate, I receive a small commission if you purchase through one of my links to an Amazon product. But I promise to always be honest about where I find the best prices!
1. Magnetic Tiles
If you have a child above the age of 2.5 (I think we actually started at 2) and you don’t have magnetic building tiles yet, get them in your house. These are probably the MOST used toy by both of my children over the longest number of years now. They’re gender neutral, encourage shape and color recognition, teach kids about building, coordination, and more. We have several brands in our house and they all get played with, but if you’re only getting one, I’d suggest going with Piccaso. I think they’re the easiest for young children to work with, they’re larger in size, which makes more impressive structures (and also makes it easier to hide little toys in the structures they build. Plus, Picasso has quite a few build-on sets, which makes for great additional gifts over the years. (Magnatiles are also a huge name for these and have kind of become the generic name even, but I find that they’re usually more expensive and I haven’t noticed a difference in quality.)
Picasso 50-Piece Race Car Track
Picasso 30-Piece Race Car Track Set
2. Stuffed Animal Storage Bean Bag Chair Cover
This one isn’t a toy, but it’s a gift to both kids AND parents. Like most kids, mine LOVE stuffed animals, but we were just out of room to display them all. They have piles of them in their beds, we have baskets around their rooms, but there were still too many. Instead of donating some (I grew up super attached to stuffies, so I really don’t have the heart to do that), using these bean bag covers helps get the situation a little more under control. And as a bonus, it provides a comfy seating option in their room. We have a lot of “seasonal” stuffed animals, so I tend to rotate those using the bean bag cover. And then we just pick ones that aren’t being played with as much to put inside. Since it’s just a zipper opening, my kids don’t get upset about this like they would if I actually boxed them up. You can even use these to store extra bedding or pillows. We’ve had two of the ones I’m linking below since last Christmas, and they’ve held up great. They jump on them all the time, and they look brand new. Nice, thick fabric and a quality zipper.
Stuffed Animal Storage Bean Bag Cover
3. Marble Run
Once your kids are past the age where they’re constantly putting things in their mouth, you’re ready for Marble Run. As they get older, the structures can get more elaborate, but my kids got the set linked below last Christmas (then ages 4 and 2.5) and they both love playing with it.
4. Fort Building Kit
This is a rainy day favorite around here. At 5 and 3.5, my kids are now getting the hang of it that they can build some of the structures on their own. Younger than that, they will need assistance, but they’ll still love playing inside. My kids like for me to get out big sheets to cover them up. Or, we’ll leave one side open and make a fort for movie time. We have the set sold at Lakeshore, linked HERE. I’m linking a similar Amazon find below because it has good reviews and is actually a better value for the number of pieces you get.
5. Duplo Blocks
At 5-years old, my son is REALLY into LEGO right now. (He had a LEGO-themed birthday in October.) I thought that he might start to lose interest in his Duplo blocks now that he has “big boy” sets, but he still likes getting them out. I love it because he doesn’t need my help at all, and he and his 3.5-year-old sister can both play with them. They actually still play with their Mega Bloks that Henry got for his first birthday on occasion, but if your child is close to 1-1/2, I think you can skip right to a basic Duplo. You’ll likely get more years of consistent play. I’m linking some of our favorite (or similar) Duplo sets here.
6. Small Trampoline
This was a pandemic purchase when I was desperate to find something to excite the kids and burn off some energy. When they’re acting really wild in the house, I’ll often send them over to do some jumping. My son also recently discovered my old wii system, and his stance of choice is playing Super Mario World while jumping on the trampoline. I find it a little odd – but hey, at least he’s getting in some exercise while playing video games! I like ours because it has a hand bar, which was great when they were beginners.
7. Name Puzzle
I bought two of these puzzles for gifts this year, and I’m excited about them. I love personalized gifts, and these are multi-purpose. They’re nice for little ones that are just starting to figure out puzzles. They can be used for letter recognition and learning to spell their name. And, there’s the option of adding on a wooden puzzle stand, so it can be used as room decor, too.
Tip: While it’s a bigger splurge, I’ve also bought a wooden puzzle stepstool like THIS as a gift. It’s great for using in bathrooms for that needed boost up for hand washing.
8. Little People
Fisher-Price Little People are great for babies all the way through … I don’t know, 6? My kids are 3.5 and 5, and they still enjoy getting out the bin of Little People. We love the seasonal sets that I switch out for each holiday, but then they have other sets that are accessible all of the time. They’re perfect for little hands, encourage creative play, easy to clean, and pretty much indestructible. Linking a few sets below that we’ve received or given as gifts over the years.
Little People Musical Christmas Train
Little People Cuddle and Play Nursery
Little People Caring Animals Farm
Little People Disney Princess Set
Little People Big Helpers Home
Psst … and they even make really adorable pop culture Little People sets, like THIS one for fans of The Office or THIS with Buddy and Jovie from Elf.
9. Train Set (And Accessories)
We’re a big “train family” here, so it was a no-brainer that we’d be getting my son a train set for his 2nd birthday. Three years later, and it still gets played with often. We were lucky enough to find a train table at Facebook Marketplace that came with a ton of pieces, and my husband had a lot from his childhood, too. But the set I’m linking below has great reviews. What’s fun about the wooden train tracks is that they make Thomas trains and accessories that are compatible as well as other things you can get for additional gifts to grow your child’s collection. (One year, my son insisted he needed a train shed with opening doors, another time it was a turntable …)
Tip: If you do get a train table, try to get one with built in storage underneath – it’s a life saver.
Thomas & Friends Tidmouth Shed
Wooden Roundhouse and Turntable
Obviously, I’m not telling you anything new here. Dolls are always popular. But I thought I’d share a few links to dolls that have been great for us. The first doll I bought for one of my own children was a doll for my son when he was 1, and I was pregnant with my daughter. I later bought the same one (but with a different outfit) for my daughter because it was loved so much. Unfortunately, I bought them at Toys R’ Us, and it must’ve been an exclusive brand because I haven’t been able to find them since Toys R Us closed. But the kids and I also really like the Perfectly Cute line from Target and the You & Me collection on Amazon is also similar. For kids 1-5, I think the best dolls are ones that are on the smaller size (14″ is a great size), have soft bodies, and don’t have TOO many bells and whistles. (Although if you’re getting a food set, you’ll want to get a doll that can sit on its own, OR get a highchair. Toddlers get mad if their babies keep falling over!) Now that my daughter has a collection of dolls, it’s fun to get her accessories that aid in her creative play: baby food, bottles, pack n’ play, stroller, etc.
Note: A lot of the dolls I’m linking below are available with a variety of skin, eye and hair colors. I’m just linking to an example, but if you search the brand, you’ll likely find a lot more!
Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Twins
Doll Magic Bottles and Feeding Set
Melissa & Doug Time to Eat Set
Tip: My daughter loves to have matching nightgowns with her dolls. I usually get these sets at Kohl’s!
We might have more cars than any other toy. About half of the collection is strictly Disney Cars, and then there are the Hot Wheels and others. My son was playing with cars before the age of 1, and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. His setups just get more elaborate as he gets older. Here are a few more basic starter sets.
Little People Sit n’ Stand Skyway
Hot Wheels Blast Way Track Set
12. Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
This is a great one that seems special, but it takes very little effort. Get it out on a rainy day, snowy day, or just when you need to keep them busy while you make dinner. It’s a big mat that you put on the floor (or a table), and then they use water-filled brushes and pens to reveal designs on the mat. For toddlers, they can just explore with holding the tools and making marks on the mat. As they get older, there are stencils they can use, too.
13. Crafts/Art Supplies
Most kids love to create, even as little toddlers, but a lot of crafts require little pieces or coordination that they need to grow into. Here are a few crafts and art supplies that are great to have on hand as your little artist is able to do more. Tip: I almost always have removable stickers, Crayola Color Wonder, or Sticker Doodle book in my bag when we’re going to restaurants!
Melissa and Doug Stain Glass Stickers
Melissa and Doug Removable Sticker Scene Sets
Melissa and Doug DIY train and race car
Melissa and Doug DIY Treasure Boxes
Crayola Mess Free Color Wonder BLIPPI
Looking for more gift ideas for kids? Here are a few more posts that might be helpful:
Keeping Kids Busy MVPs: Toys for Creative Independent Play