This year, my boys’ Christmas gifts were ordered by the middle of October. I’ve never been this prepared for Christmas – ever. When I was working as a teacher in the classroom, I never had a chance to think about gifts so early; teaching kept me crazy busy. Then I had a child – and taught (still busy). And then after resigning from my teaching job, my little guy was still not a year old yet – gifts were still somewhat rushed and last minute.
I thought that I’d post about our favorite learning toys (or learning ‘tools’) for any of you who may be in that place, in a bit of a time crunch but looking for Christmas gifts that will be useful, educational and worth every penny.
All of the toys listed below are favorites in our home and have been enjoyed by both of my boys (ages 2 and 4). They have a place in our tiny home because they are used on a regular (nearly daily basis) and have provided hours of creative, imaginative and educational play.
#1. Shapemags/ Magnatiles
We bought this Shapemag set for my son oldest son for Christmas when he turned two. He has played with them ever since. These magnetic shapes are constantly being transformed to a new creation.
I love that they encourage imaginative play and creativity. When he’s playing with these, he usually adds cars, play people or play animals to the mix.
2. Foam blocks
Foam blocks are another building toy that my son has had since todderhood and that he still shows interest in playing with. I loved that when my child’s hands were little (and he was just learning how to balance blocks), these large foam blocks made building easy.
3. A set of wooden blocks
Wooden blocks, just like the toys above, can transform into any creation imaginable. Sometimes my children play with both the foam and wooden blocks together.
4. Jumbo outdoor wooden Jenga blocks
Before we had kids, my husband decided that he wanted to create a large outdoor Jenga set. He made his own homemade set; however, it is similar to the set below. My boys have now claimed this block set as their own. It has become a fort, a house, an ATV, a ship, a wall, chairs for a performance, etc. It has provided for hours and hours of play. (Just note, parental supervision is required.)
#5. A wooden train set
We purchased the Thomas the Train Wooden Railway set below for my oldest son. It and the additional trains we have also purchased have been played with over and over.
Although a set like this is nice, simple wooden tracks and a few trains are more than sufficient for providing hours of fun.
One of our toy “cubes” is designated for dress up clothes. In it is a pirate costume (pictured below), a firefighter costume, a ninja costume, an astronaut’s suit and a few masks. These costumes are perfect for pretend play.
Over the years, we have been gifted with a few Duplo/Lego sets and these have allowed for hours of building. I only imagine that our love for Lego will continue to grow as my sons get older.
#8. Pretend people/animals/cars
For Christmas, birthdays, and little rewards here and there we have been growing our collection of pretend people, animals and cars. Hot Wheels cars often end up in stockings and a few of our favorite TV characters (mainly Octonauts and Paw Patrol characters) have made their way into our people and animals bins. Toobs have been a great way to grow this little collection over time.
#9. A sensory bin or water/sand table
Last summer I purchased a water table and I often state that it was one of our best purchases. We fill the water table with water, water beads, water and glitter, or water and dish soap. If you search Pinterest for sensory table or water table ideas, there are endless possibilities. A large plastic container works just as well, though, if you don’t want to spend much.
I keep a large Sterilite container under our crib with bags of sensory items in it (a variety of dried beans, dyed rice, corn kernals, etc.) and from time to time, I remove the bags, fill this container with water and let the kids play with it.
Again, the collection of play people, animals and cars always comes in handy.
#10. An art station
To be honest, it took my eldest son some time to develop a desire to “create” with art supplies. The desire (which has been driven by a love of pirates and creating treasure maps) definitely increased when I made sure the supplies were visible and within reach.
Although it can be a nuisance to have the paper and crayons pulled out regularly, my son knows he can always sit as his table and create.
Additionally, he likes to pretend to write words or to attempt to write words now that he is learning more about letter-sound relationships.
Items available at his art station include:
- Paper (various sizes and kinds – including post-it notes, little notebooks, construction paper and index cards)
- Small stamps
- Crayola Slix
- Pencil Crayons
- Safety scissors
- Glitter glue
- An ink jar and quil (the ink is kept out of reach)
- Glue and glue sticks
I hope this list is helpful in providing you with some gift ideas for young children.