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The first in my gift guide series is here! Whether it’s for a special birthday or the holidays, this guide is all Nori and Rio approved items, and as parents, we love that many of these help build motor skills (or burn that toddler energy!) and encourage independent play.
I included a few favorites from years past that continue to be hits in our household, and some items that the kids make a beeline for at friends’ houses or at school. For age reference, my kids are 2 and 4 and both of them enjoy pretty much everything in this guide.
- Local indoor play gym pass
- Zoo or children’s museum pass
- Trampoline park pass
- “Coupon” for a trip to a favorite ice cream / treat shop
For families who don’t want more “stuff.” Here in New England, we’re always starved for indoor / winter weekend activities. So these experience type of gifts that get the kids active AND ensure a good nap, that’s a win-win.
Available at Walmart & Amazon. A teacher-favorite STEAM activity at school. Both my 2 and 4 year old can sit down for a good chunk of time individually and build fun creations with these tiles.
There’s a multitude of brands to choose from, but I linked the one we have that is a great value. Even if you receive another set from a different brand as a gift, you can usually add it on to expand your existing set.
Mini Dyson Vacuum
If only this actually cleaned! The kids have enjoyed this toy mini version of our actual vacuum starting as soon as they can walk, and while it has a voooom sound effect, you can always “lose the batteries.”
While the product page falsely claims this thing actually has suction (it does not), we’re still perfectly happy with it and the kids enjoy detaching the vacuum head and opening up the debris canister just like on our real Dyson.
- To make DIY family photo puzzles for babies 6 months to 1.5 years: use Wooden shapes puzzle or Melissa & Doug puzzle for a puzzle base. Just print out photos of family member faces, trace the shapes onto the photos, cut them out and glue into the shapes on the board.
- For kids 2+: 12 or 60 piece photo puzzle. This one is great quality and comes in a keepsake box. We got the 12-piece jigsaw last year but the kids are now ready to graduate to the 60-piece! We took a photo of the kids with the their favorite toys and stuffed animals which they LOVE to piece together. One tip when choosing a photo is not to include too much blank space or solid colored background, so it’s visually easier for kids to piece the puzzle together.
Gymnic Ride-On Bouncy Horse
Nori’s school has these unicorns, and they’re her favorite thing EVER for getting her wiggles out. When I pick her up in the afternoons, she’s more often than not bouncing away gleefully on one of these, and Rio is clamoring for a turn. I’d say these are sized ideally for kids ages 2 to 4.
For a lower budget, these bouncy animals are under $35 and have good reviews. The Gymnic ones are excellent quality, though, and from the videos of the budget option, it seems to me like the Gymnic ones have more “bounce.” Attesting to the quality, my friend’s family has a Rody horse that’s going on 30+ years!
Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Shop
Available at Walmart & Amazon. Under $35 and makes an amazing gift for the price. It’s solid quality, and the kids absolutely love it. They can spend quite some time taking orders and making pretend cones while honing their fine motor skills. The scoop clicks and releases functionally, and the ice creams stay in place securely when stacked.
Clothing that they actually WANT to wear
These bright, playful favorites are also super practical and comfortable. Nori wears her princess sweater dress to school weekly, and the New Balances are the comfiest kids sneakers we’ve ever purchased! She asks to wear them every day and it’s very easy for little ones to put them on and off.
Small yet useful items with a little embellishment of whatever your kids are into. For us, that means unicorns, unicorns, and more unicorns for Nori, and anything with trucks for Rio.
The kids first got these mismatched Pals socks as babies and I’ve been buying more in bigger sizes. They’re cushy and warm as slippers, they stay on a lot better than regular slippers, the nonskid bottom actually works, and it’s fun to mix and match their favorite animals each day!
Little Tikes 3 Ft Indoor Trampoline
Under $50. We’ve used this exact model at several friends’ homes, and while we don’t have the space for it, we’re told it’s worth it if you need to burn a lot of toddler energy indoors during cold winter or hot summer days. Our kids enjoyed it from ages 2 and up.
Personalized Board Book
This one’s making an appearance again as the kids still love their “day in the life of” story books. Just take photos while doing a favorite activity or family tradition, and make it into a durable story book perfectly sized for little hands.
*UPDATE: Saks also sells this brand and is giving a $75 gift card with a $150 purchase!* This brand is extremely popular around our neighborhood, with many little ones (including my daughter) using it as their mode of transit for getting to and from school. The handle bar extends to adjust as they grow. Our kids started using the Mini at age 2, and it should work well into age 5/6. See their different scooters for all ages; also available at Walmart.
Our mini kitchen gets daily play and doubles as a little toy hideaway cabinet! This exact one is available at Wayfair or Maisonette for the lowest prices (now on sale for under $100!), or you can see all Teamson Kids kitchenettes at Walmart. A few other picks with good reviews: