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Saturday, November 22, 2014

a few of my favorite things - gifts for the littles!

I know so many of you are always seeking out great toy ideas for your children, as well as other unique gift ideas. Pinterest has a ton of ideas, as do craft fairs and other store sales. I hope you've found some good ideas too for gifts through our November series on the blog, Shop & Support Moms. 

I believe wholeheartedly in supporting local business owners during holiday seasons as best you can. That being said, Amazon.com is my go-to shopping location for other types of gifts like toys when you can't think ahead and buy at a craft fair. 

Think outside the toy store
Toy stores are the best. Love them. But it's also fun sometimes to consider giving something different... 

I also am a big fan of giving experiences versus stuff. I think kids these days have too much stuff. I know mine do! Our house is overflowing with gifts, toys, blocks, cars, trucks, dolls, etc. I'm grateful they have these things, they love it! We go through the items periodically to make room for more and give things away to other kids. Still, I believe experiences are the way to go. Think of gifts like giving a shopping day with a little girl, or going ice skating or bowling, or even a movie theater package of taking them out for popcorn and movies and video games. Ideas like painting pottery, going to a Michaels craft store for art session or Home Depot or Lowes for their weekend project days. Kids love your time most. Think about Children's Museum gift cards or swim lessons or something that they can enjoy over and over.

I'm also an educator at heart so I often give a book or five to my children, nieces and nephews. I think reading is fun, a calming thing, brings people together, and of course teaches our kids another world out there instead of just toys. Books are easy and meaningful. 

Clothes are also a great idea for holiday gifts. I know kids aren't always into them, but I know parents always appreciate receiving clothes for the kids. 

For birthdays I always give a couple of my nieces and nephews college money for their savings account. It's nice to get coloring books and dump trucks, but honestly what better gift is there than helping contribute to a child's future?

Think unique also... one of my favorite gifts we've received was two paintings of a lighthouse in our hometown with a lobster boat on it that has my kid's names on the boat. My father is a lobsterman, we love the ocean and lighthouse. These are special gifts! You can find great things like this at craft fairs, summer shops, or even Etsy.com. LOVE ETSY! I'm giving one of my nephews a handcrafted and hand-painted wooden tool box with his name on it! I'm giving another nephew this year a Fort in a Bag that is covered in a superhero cape, found on Etsy, amazing! Try to think of something different this year.


TOYS....
Yes, of course toys are AWESOME gifts for Christmas and other holidays. With so many toys around the house though, it's nice to be thoughtful about what you're bringing into the home. Here are a few of our favorite things from my children - ages 2 1/2 and 4 1/2. 

BABIES & TODDLERS - FIRST TOYS
I absolutely LOVE this toy still all these years later. My kids still randomly play with this mailbox. My mom got it at a consignment store for a few dollars and it's still holding up strong!

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Mailbox  - sings songs, plays ABCs, etc.


All images from Amazon.com

This Fisher Price dog with a pull chain is still another favorite of our kids that's held up a long time. It was one of their first gifts!


Apparently I love Fisher Price, because the first few toys I'm choosing are from there! We LOVED this walker for our kids. I don't think it really matters which brand or style you get, but you must have a walker toy like this for 9 months old + so they can learn to push it to walk. Our kids loved it. The smiles on their faces when using these things was priceless!




This one is a must-have if you have an infant/toddler taking your real remote control! 


Other baby toys that we love are Sophie the Giraffe, rattles, and board books. We also liked balls and anything where they can do shape sorting.

We LOVE Little People toys also!
Everything Little People is awesome, especially for that 1-3 years old span. My daughter is obsessed still a year later at 2 1/2.



We received tons of Melissa and Doug puzzles also for my son's first birthday and Christmas and we still use them. They are so much fun and well-made. EVERYTHING Melissa and Doug is the best!



TRAINS
Our son got a train table for his second Christmas from his aunt and uncle, he was about 18 months old and LOOOOVED it! It was his favorite toy, still is. He literally plays trains daily all these years later (4 1/2 years old). I'd definitely get a train table early on, as it's a good thing for kids to learn to stand up at. My daughter was much younger than a year and loving her train table. I think we have a KidCraft train table, but not positive. It's a smaller one, square size. I honestly don't think it matters much which one you get, as long as it's not too overwhelming with too many pieces if a younger child, and depending on the size of your room.

Thomas the Trains are the best. They are also expensive. I've found good deals at TJ Maxx, as well as on Facebook sale swap sites. I got tons of trains for much cheaper from moms whose kids had grown out of playing trains. 


We also really liked these Town Blocks from Melissa and Doug to go on our train table. They are really cute - fire station, hospital, school, etc.



BLOCKS
Blocks are a big hit at this stage and beyond. It's good to get them early, a great first Christmas gift is a big dump truck from Duplo or Cat or Lego filled with MegaBlocks! My kids love these still. 

AGES 3-5 - BUSY BODIES & CREATIVITY

GREEN TOYS
These are my favorites mostly because they are realistic and also environmentally conscious. These are great for young infants/toddlers but also heading into the 3-5 age range. The items are made out of old milk jugs!





ALL THINGS JOHN DEERE
OK this is for my outside-working-loving little boy... but honestly we love their stuff. Such great gifts! They are toys to last tough boys.



ART
Kids this age LOVE creating their own things! Getting on their level, letting them get messy and have fun is a great gift idea. Smocks are cute. Getting stamps, stickers, and scissors that they can use is also fun.




DRESS UP
My kids looooove dressing in costumes. We have a huge chest upstairs in the hallway between their rooms that is FULL of old Halloween costumes and other dress up shoes, tutus, beads, etc. They both love it , so boy or girl you have to get some costumes. Melissa and Doug has a great line of costumes. I always go after Halloween to Target to get costumes too on a huge discount, give them as a Christmas gift, and voila we have dress up!

We also really like this Dress Up Joey game by Melissa and Doug... wooden Joey, with all the costumes that the company makes for kids sizes. It's an awesome puzzle type game for boys. I always see these for girls, so was really pleased to see one in a boy style also.





COOKING
I think all kids - girls and boys, young and even a little older - need a play kitchen. They love this! I have a boy and a girl who both are in their kitchen almost daily. We found these pancakes on Amazon.com a couple of years ago, which is awesome because my husband makes pancakes on weekends for us and the kids can "help." Playing food and making cupcakes, etc. is the best!


LOVE Melissa and Doug wooden toy foods and pots and pans set. They are adorable and last a long time. The kids love them. I love giving my kids toys that help them be like little adults... learning to do chores and things that we do. They love copying us, it's cute!



We have a version of this KidCraft wooden kitchen, it's all white with reds, blues and yellow knobs and handles. We love it. It's pretty big, but the kids love it, since we have two kids in the kitchen it's a good size for them.


LOVED receiving these next two items as gifts for our son when he was about 18 months old. These are SUCH good gift ideas! My sister-in-law gave them to us. The ice cream colors have words on them and you are to match them up. It's a learning game by Learning Resources Smart Snacks Rainbow Color Cones. 


Also by Learning Resources, we loved these cupcakes. We have an older version but same idea... the bottoms have matching shapes to the tops. 


And more Melissa and Doug... cookie sheets! My daughter loves these.

DOLLS... 
My daughter is obsessed with babies from a year old on. I don't have a preference on which type of dolls, clothing, accessories. They are all cute! We do have a cute wooden high chair from Melissa and Doug that we love (LOVE their stuff!)

THINK OUTSIDE, TOO...
My son's birthday is in February so typically we don't get summer items for him. It's nice to think ahead to other seasons and plan for things they may enjoy at a different time. It's OK to give a gift of a summer item in the winter, especially when they are young and won't really get that they can't use it just yet... or perhaps it's something they could use inside for a little bit and then more fun when summer hits to use it outside also. 

OUTSIDE IDEAS: 
water table
bubbles
hoola hoop
bikes
tricycles
slides
water hose games and accessories
balls
sand toys
rakes, shovels, garden tools, etc.
strollers
beach towels
swim attire, sandals, etc.


Hope some of these ideas helped you to figure out something great for your little ones this holiday season. Giving them something they love - whether time or a gift - seeing their eyes light up - that's what it's all about! Love it.






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