This post is several years old (my kids are now 9 and 4) and I just went down the list and I still stand by everything I said. These are the things they played with the most and the longest. At 9 and 5, they are still playing with the magnatiles, the gears, the bath letters, and they still love both of those books (even the 9yo). I am adding a few new books we’ve discovered over the last year that SLAY, not only my boys but their classes when I go in to read. I’ll put those at the end or you can click here to see a post about the books and a special trick I did for the kids using only a sheet of paper that had them out of their minds.
It’s that time of the year, and if your budget is limited like mine, you’ve gotta make the most of that dough but still make the area under your Christmas tree look full. Amirite?
I’ve been through this once with the kindergartner, so I have a wealth of knowledge to apply this year when I’m shopping for the little one. I know which toys were worth the money because they held up, were engaging and he wanted to play with them far past Christmas morning, and which ones weren’t.
So I’m sharing them with you.
Just click on the photo and it’ll take you right to where you can purchase the product.
These are so awesome. Probably one of the best toys out there. The tiles are magnetized so you can create designs on a flat surface or in 3D. They help develop patterning, shape recognition, building and motor skills and, while your kids will play with them alone — you’ll wanna play too. They are a little pricier than other building toys but really, they’re worth it. The possibilities are endless so your kids won’t play with them for an hour or two and then be done with them. I’ve bought my boys a set each year for 3 years – and the things they build with them just get bigger and better.
Little Tykes Xylophone
You gotta love it. It was good enough for me when I was a baby and it’s more than good enough for my kids now. I love Little Tykes products and have always found them to hold up so well. The older one can tap out actual tunes and while the baby may not sound so good when he does it, his face just lights up and I see a rock star in the making.
Melissa and Doug Classic Peg Puzzle Bundle
Nice and sturdy, made of wood with great chunky pegs for those chubby little hands to hold onto. When they’re younger, you can do these hand-over-hand with them and as they get older, they’ll begin to find success on their own. Melissa and Doug make great products. Everlasting. Educational. And so much fun.
Quercetti Georello Kaleido Gears, 55 pieces
These things are awesome! Good quality and so many ways to put them together, the kids never get tired of them. I have boys but when girls come over, they seem to like them too. What I like to do is, let the boys play with them for a few weeks, then put them up in the closet for a few weeks and bring them back out again. Repeat, repeat. It’s like getting a new toy every time. This one will last you for years and the kids will stay interested. *Update a year later and the boys still love these. SCORE!
Fisher-Price Disney Baby Amazing Animals Sing-Along Choo-Choo
This was my older one’s favorite toy FOREVER. He pushed it all around the house, taking the two pieces of the train apart and the animals in and out. And he adored pushing that smoke stack and listening to all the songs. It made me a little crazy sometimes but boy, did he love it. And how can you go wrong with Dumbo, Simba and Lucky?
Fisher-Price The Farmer Says See ‘n Say
A classic that never goes out of style. My little one is so into singing and learning the names of everything — especially animals — right now. I never get tired of sitting on the floor with him in my lap spinning this thing around and around.
Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm
My older one got this when he was about 15 months and sshhh! don’t tell any of his kindergarten friends, but he STILL occasionally plays with it. The size is right for your toddler to play while sitting or standing, and it really encourages the imagination. All the pieces store in the silo when you’re ready to tuck it away.
Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
This is just the loveliest little book. Your little one will adore reading it with you and interacting with all the artistic “mistakes” that turn out not to be mistakes after all. A wonderful book to stimulate creativity and teach your toddler that everything can turn into something beautiful. A mistake is nothing but a portal of discovery. Can’t recommend it enough. Have given it as a gift over and over and over again.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
The kids will LOVE reading this for years. Years! Get it in hardcover so it will last. We love all of Mo Willems books but this one was always my older one’s favorite and the younger one now loves it too. Update: The boys now love The Pigeon Needs a Bath probably more than any other Mo Willems book although they still love every single one. The little one is getting Pigeon Wants A Puppy for Christmas but no, he is not getting an actual puppy no matter how many times he asks.
15″ Plush Elmo doll
Soft, squeezable, comforting. When my little one stops sleeping with him, he’s coming to bed with me. A perfect lovey to go along with the DVD collection above. This guy is why my eldest’s 2nd word was “Elmo.” It’s made by Gund and it’ll get loved to death by that little one. Promise.
Alex Toys – ABC and 123 for the tub
We still have this set of bright foam letters and numbers — we bought it 5 years ago! The letters stick to the sides of the tub and the wall when wet. Such a fun way to learn the ABCs and 123s and then even start spelling in the bath as they get older. You won’t believe the ways your kids will come up with to play with these. My baby once wrote WINE on the wall with these letters. He’s clearly his mother’s son.
Alex Toys – My Busy Town
Sturdy, well-made, colorful and has lots of things for the kiddo to do. The older one, who’s now 6 now, loved it for years and now his little brother loves it. The baby moves from one activity to the next like he’s on crack, he gets so excited. The beads are great for fine motor development. The little spinning alphabet letters with matching animals are adorbs and engaging. This toy is always a favorite with every little kid who comes over. It holds up so well, you can’t even tell mine is 5 years old. I’ll keep it forever. Maybe my grandkids will play with it someday. It’s that good.
Small World Young Chef’s Cookware Set
Great for girls, great for boys, endless fun. It’s hard to think of anything more fun to do with my kids than sit at their little kitchen table and have them “cook” for me. The baby brings me “foffee” at least 20 times every morning. Guess he’s pretty observant.
Here are the three books I told you about in the beginning. I’m updating this post with these because they just kill and both of my kids can’t get enough of them – and all their classmates laughed out loud when I went in to read to them. I mean, belly laughed. SO good. One parent even emailed me to tell me her kid was still talking about my “presentation” several days later.
And a little recommendation for Mommy too. Since I had kids, I run, run, run and I’m always so tired trying to keep up with them and do all the other things I have to do. I’ve tried coffee, Red bull, EmergenC…pretty much everything there is to try and nothing works like this. It’s got a little caffeine but mostly it’s just packed with vitamins. This is a great value — it comes with a water bottle to mix and 30 packets — 2 different flavors. May not be a traditional gift but she’ll thank you for it. I promise.
I highly recommend ebates.com by the way. I signed up exactly one year ago – just before I started my Christmas shopping and used it all year long. It was awesome to get rebate checks back all year. There’s really zero catch. You just go to ebates then click through to wherever you want to shop (Target, Sephora, Amazon, Macy’s, wherever). If you use my affiliate link, they’ll send me a little happy and we can both be happy happy.
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