Monday, December 1, 2014

Mama Monday: Top 10 picks for toddler christmas gifts

Can you believe it's December?? I feel like it snuck up on me. Then again, I almost always feel that way. And with Christmas less than four weeks away, I need to get my butt in gear.

In case you're a first time mama (or daddy) and trying to figure out some gifts for your little one, I put together a little list of our top 10 picks for toddler gifts. I'd say the age range on these is up to 18 months. I don't have any books on this list because those are always my number one request for any gift. Last year my dad sent a whole box of books that were mine when I was little - totally awesome gift. But besides books, any of these would make a great gift for a toddler.

1. Activity Center 
There are a ton of these type toys out there - they have different activities with shapes, colors, numbers, music, lights, and fine motor skills. 
We picked the Fisher-Price Learning Home and have not regretted it. I mean, what kid doesn't love just opening and closing a door?! She also loves playing with the mailbox, opening and putting in mail, and shutting the door. You can drop balls through a shoot, turn the light off and on, open and shut the window, spin the clock, numbers, and flower, and it has two shape sorters. And the music always makes her shake it. Other kids that come over always love playing with it. Even after a year of owning it, she plays with it almost every day.
Bonus: I saw this on Black Friday sale at Toys R Us for $45. What?! That's a killer deal.

2. Cozy coupe 
This is probably her favorite toy to date. I suppose any ride along toy would work, but there is just something about that red and yellow car that just can't be matched. From day one, she's been in love. I like that you can put the bottom in when they are little so their feet don't drag, and then take it out as they get older. I've found that kids like to both ride and push each other, and it works great both in the house and outside.

3. A walker
Em was just about to start walking last Christmas, so we got her this V-tech walker.
I really think it helped her gain some confidence to take her first steps. You should have seen how proud of herself she was able to cross the room on her feet by herself. We thought this toy would only be good while she learned to walk, but we have been surprised that it's still one of her favorites, even at 21 months. Sometimes she will sit down in front of it and just play with the gears, keys, puzzle pieces and lights/sounds for 15 minutes straight (which is a lot for our kiddo!) And let's not forget running. I think that's been a theme in this list, but now that she has discovered running it's so much more fun to push this thing. I'm very pleased how this one has aged with her and continues to be one of her favorites day after day.

4. Little People sets
We have the Fun Sounds Farm edition and love it. Granted, the lamb bleeting noise is super annoying, but it's bearable. It comes with a farmer and several animals. Em likes to play gallop them across the floor and open the doors to tuck them safely inside. She also loves sending these down the silo to trigger the sounds. And for some reason, she just loves carrying them around everywhere. For the longest time, the farmer (we call him "Farmer Dan") went everywhere with us. She just liked to hold him in the car, at the grocery store, at church. They are the perfect size for little hands.

5. Pull Toys
Another great toy for new walkers! Em has this roll and learn turtle from v-tech. At first, you could tell she was really interested in the mechanics of it all. "I pull this... and he's... following me?" And now she gets sheer joy from rocketing around the house with him flying behind her. Simple toy, great fun.

6. Baby dolls
I'll just start by saying, these aren't just great toys for girls. Little ones like to copy their mommies and what better way than to mimic how mommy takes care of a baby?
We like this rosy cheek baby doll. She's so soft and sweet. When we first received her (Em was only 9 months old) she was fascinated by her little tuft of hair. As she learns words, she likes to point out the baby's eyes, nose, mouth, etc. My favorite is when I see her read to her baby. It's about once a day now that she looks at me and just asks "Baby?" and we have to go find it. I'm not sure this one will ever get old - it's so sweet to watch.

7. Hammer peg toy
What's not to like? Take out any aggression you might have on a little peg! Bang bang bang! But really, it's great for motor development and coordination. And littles love that noise.
We like this one from Ikea.

8. Puzzles
Puzzles make a great quiet time activity and I like that they encourage coordination and pattern recognition.
Em's favorite is this wooden farm one from Melissa and Doug, though they have several others we like as well. It's also great for learning animals (and other skills).

9. Blocks
Not just for kids. What is it about blocks that is just so fascinating? I love playing with them, too!
We received two sets of these B Toys blocks and they are my favorite. I love the colors and the sides of them are covered with numbers, animals, shapes, and patterns. They are soft and rubbery which is perfect for when baby chews on them and when they get thrown at you (as happened tonight, actually...) Since she got them for Christmas last year, she has LOVED the destructive part. We will build a tower and she will crow with glee as she knocks it over. Now she can stack them all up herself so she gets to enjoy both ends of the process.

10. Balls
This one seems almost too simple and obvious, but you seriously can't go wrong with a good ball. Em has so many and we keep them in every room of the house and in the car.
Our favorite is this large spiky ball from Target - she holds it during car rides and it's our favorite one for parks. We have a budding soccer player on our hands. I also recommend smaller ones for summer time. She loves having a ball to play with in the pool or at the splash pad.
There you have it! I'd say these are easily her favorites and the ones that have stood the test of time. She has other toys, of course, that she plays with periodically, but these are the ones I think she'd really miss if we took away. We are still figuring out what to get her this year, so if you have suggestions for tots in the 2-3 year age range, please let me know in the comments below!

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