Before I became a mom, I remember the discomfort I felt whenever I had to get a toddler a gift, attend a child’s birthday party or get my nieces or nephews a present for a special occasion. The truth is I had no clue what they liked and in many cases their likes changed so fast I’d always just end up asking their parents and then feeling bad I had to ask.
Now that I have my own child and am a part of the secret society, I've realized that there are some staple gifts that all toddlers love and will cherish on their birthday, Christmas and any other gift giving occasion.
Below, I’m letting you in on those secrets, so you don’t have to feel gifting anxiety about the toddlers in your life. Best of all, all the toys/non toys on this list can be easily found and ordered on Amazon. An added bonus is that most of them are under $50, with a few exceptions that are well worth the extra cost.
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1. Kidkraft 2-in-1 Activity Table Espresso
I came across the train set phenomenon at a Barnes and Noble story time that my son and I used to attend each Saturday. He was obsessed with it. No, I mean it, obsessed, as in tearful tantrums when it was time to leave the train set .
I went home on Saturday after fighting my 2 year old to the car, listening to him wail all the way home and began searching immediately for one we could house in our home. The one at Barnes and Noble was bigger and only had the train side, but when I came across this option that had the train side and the Lego side, I knew it was the one.
We presented it to my son at Christmas and it was love at first sight. It’s been almost a year and he still plays with it, almost daily. He loves showing it off when people are over and it has come in handy as we’ve started working on colors, shapes and counting (Lego side). Hence, it makes the list as the first entry in the best toddler gifts ever.
The train side has been great for introducing problem solving because the train tracks have to be arranged just so for it to work. Initially, an adult would assemble the train track, but now my son (at 3) insists on doing it himself and is usually able to figure it out unassisted. Another plus is fits neatly in a corner of our living room.
2. Little Tikes 3’ Trampoline
I was introduced to this wonder at a close friend’s house as we visited one weekend. My son was in awe that their daughter got to play on a trampoline, inside her house, whenever she wanted. Before this, he had only seen one at our fundamentals of movement class.
My friends and I had huge belly laughs watching our 3 and 4 year old try to figure out jumping on a trampoline (I still chuckle at the memory). After the visit, the trampoline was added to Kingston's Christmas list and became a fast favorite after Christmas day.
It especially comes in handy on rainy days or very cold days to help my son blow off some steam and play, when we are restricted to being inside. It also is a hit when we have other children over.
3. Step2 Play and Fold Jr. Kids Slide
My son, like all toddlers, loves going to the park to play. Like all parents and family of toddlers, we know that this is not always possible. What's the solution? Enter your own personal slide. I looked into this item when we were trying to decide on outdoor play equipment that could be easily transported.
We’ve moved the slide into our garage, into our living room and have also used it outside, in the summer, to slide down into an inflatable pool. It is definitely one of the best items I’ve purchased and was under $50, even though it has so many uses. My son also loves to race his cars down the slide and anything else he can get his hands on.
4. Radio Flyer 4- in- 1 Stroll ‘N Trike
I’m sure you probably remember your first tricycle or bicycle. I wanted my son’s first bicycle or tricycle to have good safety specs. and to be able to grow with him, so I did some investigating.
All the research I did kept pointing me in the direction of the Radio Flyer. We have had it for over a year and are very pleased. This gift is perfect for the children in your life, who are between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Before he was old enough, I would push him with the strolling bar, but he still got the sensation of riding. I have loved watching him as he’s gotten older ask me to stop pushing him, take the bar off and let him pedal on his own. This gift can continue to bring them joy until they are 5 years old.The canopy also came in really handy during the summer months too. I especially like this toddler gift idea because it is a non toy option and helps develop hand eye coordination skills and gross motor skills too.
5. First Builders Big Building Bag by Mega Blocks
Hands down, this is my son’s favorite toy and is in my opinion one of the best toddler gift ideas you can select. He found it at daycare and his teacher was kind enough to let me know how much he loved it. As Christmas approached and my brother asked what he should get his nephew, I answered without hesitation, blocks.
My son currently plays with them every day and it’s one of the things we love doing together as a family. He loves to ask my husband or me to make things and then will mimic our designs. Recently, he has started making his own creations and will then leave them on display around the house. He loves it so much that my mother in law has bought a set, so he can have one at her house too. Did I mention this well loved gem is well under $25.
6. Fisher-Price Little People Take Turns Skyway
My son and I actually saw this little gem on an ad on t.v. and at first I was skeptical. I mentioned it to my husband and he checked it out before deciding it would be good. We loved that it encourages taking turns and that it involves a race track and cars, two of my son’s favorite things. It was a definite plus that it is well under $50.
He loves to show it off to his cousins and they enjoy the unpredictability of where the cars will come out. Now assembly did take us a little time, but mostly because my husband does not believe in reading directions. Once I persuaded him to read them, we had it set up in no time. Then we got to watch our son light up as he played with it over and over again.
7. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair
When we purchased the Lego/train set, we realized that we wanted to get a chair to go along with it. We also wanted one that would actually do something and be somewhat interactive for our 2 year old and still be relevant when he was older. We were excited to find this option that plays music, gives instructions and reinforces counting and colors as well. Again, this is another budget saver that comes in well under $50. It is still going strong and my son has two songs, which are his favorites to dance to from his chair.
8. Teach my Toddler
We received this amazing set as a gift from some friends of ours on my son’s second birthday. Prior to that, I had never even heard of it. It is an absolutely amazing toddler gift idea that is under $25 that is a non toy option. The best part is your toddler won't realize it's not a toy because of all the excellent activities.
They have an entire line of products that can be used to start and reinforce skills such as colors, numbers, letters and more. I love all the different options the kit provides. There’s a book, flashcards, a large poster and foam insert boards too!
My son goes to get his kit daily and asks to play with it. His favorite ones in the toddler set are the letters and shapes.
9. Signing Time
There are not enough words to say how much all the members of my family love Signing Time. In my opinion, Signing Times is the best toddler gift idea for Christmas, birthdays for 2019 and beyond. Somewhere during my pregnancy, I remember reading that toddlers primarily have tantrums because they don’t have oral language as yet and are not able to communicate what they want or are feeling.
It made perfect sense to me, so I started looking into things that could be done to help. Unanimously, I saw reports about American sign language and this program, Signing Time. I was excited that it was yet another non toy gift that would help to prepare Kingston as he got older and help him communicate effectively without tantrums and meltdowns. Alex and Leah became our best pals. I started the program with my son at 9 months and he started signing at about 14 months.
His first word in sign language was dog. Shortly thereafter he did bird, milk and more. When my son wanted something, he would tell us using sign language. Now, I’m not saying we never had a tantrum, but I will say they were few and far between and usually for a valid reason.
10.Fisher-Price Think and Learn Smart Scan Color Chameleon
This was another amazing gift from our village of friends that comes in under $50.00 and to me is more educational tool than toy, but don't tell my son that. Initially, Kingston didn’t really get how to use the Chameleon, but now he loves it. He runs around the house trying to find as many things that are red or whatever the color is at that time, before time runs out. Then he challenges me to find more than he did.
It’s a great way to encourage movement and activity, while starting to reinforce preschool skills and/or practice school skills that your child may need support to develop.
11. Books Galore: You Must Never Touch a ..., I’ll Love You Forever, How Does a Dinosaur...? , The entire Elephant and Piggie series, Good Night Moon, I Love You Stinky Face...
It truly make my mama heart smile how much my son loves books. We have been reading to him since we found out I was pregnant, and our house is literally covered with books. Here are some of my son’s favorites that are well under $25 and are non toy options to inspire your Christmas 2019 gift giving. The great thing about books is that they don’t need any batteries, lol. I will probably do a follow up post soon on our most highly recommended reading list.
12. Slime Bonanza Slime Kit for Girls and Boys
If you have any small children in your life, you have certainly heard and been around slime. Inspire the creativity and scientific thinking of the special toddler in your life with their own slime kit.
Words of advice: Be careful with clothes. I have a pair of jeans I am still trying to recover from too much fun with slime. Jeans aside, it is still a worthwhile gift for the curious toddler in your life.
13. Step 2 Shootin’ Hoops Pro Basketball Set
Do you have a budding athlete? My son is competitive about everything, even drinking water. As he has gotten older, he has started being more interested in sports, so we have been trying to expose him to many different sports to give him lots of options for play and exercise.
This basketball goal has been a great addition to our fleet It’s durable, but lightweight enough to move around. We’ve used the set inside our living room, in our garage and outside. We love that the height is adjustable because we can lower it for my son, but we’ve also been able to raise it when we’ve had older children over to play as well.
14. Hess Trucks
This next gift suggestion is a tear-jerker in my family. My husband’s uncle started sending these trucks to my son. I believe a new, limited edition truck is released yearly. One arrived on his first Christmas and they have continued arriving every year since then.
It’s a tear-jerker because this is a tradition that is followed with children in my husband's side of the family and because I can’t wait for my son to be able to pass them down to his own children or simply to prize them because of what they symbolize.
15. Fisher-Price Nickelodeon Blaze and the Monster Machines Transforming R/C Blaze
Any Blaze and the Monster Machines fan? We are in my family. My son had a Blaze and the Monster Machines third birthday party and he was ecstatic when we coordinated for Blaze to call him.
Not sure what to get the Blaze and the Monster Machines fan in your life? How about this amazing transforming car that is controlled on the wrist of your little fan. My son has been amazed that he can control Blaze and make him transform. The toy is well built and holds up to bumps and bruises because let’s face it our children aren’t the best drivers just yet.
16. Utex 3-in-1 Pop Up Play Tent with Tunnel and Ball Pit for Kids
Another huge hit for a gift toddlers will love and cherish would be tents. There is something magical about stepping inside a tent and being transported, by your imagination, to wherever you can dream. Initially, I wasn’t sold on the whole tent thing, but my husband persisted and I must admit, I’ve grown to love it.
We hide from monsters and bad guys in the tent, read in the tent, sleep in the tent and have snacks in the tent. It’s another one of his toys that saves the day when the weather outside is you know, not desirable.
17. Paw Patrol What’s Up, Pups? Over-sized Coloring and Activity Book
It probably comes as no surprise that my adventurous child is a huge Paw Patrol fan. He literally thinks Chase hung the moon. A few months ago, I started working with him more on colors, fine motors skills and creating stories from pictures.
A coloring book is the perfect solution for all those things and of the items you could give, it’s one of the more cost efficient options. Just remember to get some good crayons while you’re at it.
18. Play Dough (10 pk)
We have worked on crafts for as long as I can remember and as my son got older, he became more insistent on doing things himself. Well, play dough is one of the things, as far as crafts go, that makes me more comfortable for him to do independently. It definitely inspires more trust and more comfort than paint.
We’ve made foods, animals, people and as long as you put them back in the container after use, they will hold up pretty well. I have to watch my son closely because lately he wants to mix the different colored dough together (oh, the inhumanity).
19. Kids early Learning 42 Piece Craft Set
Like I mentioned above, we love crafts in my house. Before adding this set to our arsenal, I would scramble for supplies and sometimes not quite have what I needed, but this summer I decided to invest a little into a craft set, and we have been pleased.
The variety of items in the set help us to go where our creativity and imagination takes us. I especially love the apron and the foam cutouts, which help things to move quickly, thereby reducing toddler tantrums of things taking too long. To go along with this set, I also bought multicolored paper and paint.
20. Alphabet/ Numbers for Tub
I think every toddler loves bath time. I know mine sure does. He loves trying to sneak all his toys in there too.
Having this little gem has come in handy to persuade him not to bring some of his other toys into the tub. Of course, it gets extra credit for its educational possibilities and the fact that it has a neat and organized way to store all the pieces.
21. Fisher-Price Power Wheels Dune Racer Extreme
Now, this gift my son received thanks to the best Granna (what my son calls his grandma) ever. He played with one at a birthday party and then while with his cousins and Granna decided he had to have it. I will say this is one sturdy vehicle.
It easily moves over hills and uneven surfaces and has transported my son and I (because he insists on driving me, like I drive him). It is precious to see him get out and check under the hood or the back of the car. He loves parking it next to mommy and daddy’s cars in the garage and taking friends for a ride when they come over.
22. Melissa and Doug Care Kit
I bought this kit as a part of an activity at my son’s Puppy Dog Pals themed second birthday party. His guests got to pick a puppy to adopt and then they got to groom their puppy, pick a collar for it, before finally filling out an adoption certificate.
The party was a hit and so is this kit. We’ve had it for more than a year and he still goes to get Bella (his toy dog) and Tiger (his toy cat) to groom and play with them. He enjoys feeding them and giving them treats when they've done a good job.
23. Doc McStuffins Kit
My niece and the daughter of a close family friend are simply obsessed with Doc McStuffins. We’ve gifted several items to them, from the helpful toy doctor's collection, but this has been a toddler gift favorite, hands down. I love seeing them walk around and try to diagnose others with their medical kit and equipment. This is a great choice for the Doc McStuffins lovers in your life.
For a blazing third birthday party, you need a gift to bring the speed and this one delivered. A few weeks before my son’s third birthday, a family moved in next door and each evening my son would salivate over the children playing outside with their scooters. I tried my best to discourage him from wanting one, saying he wasn’t big enough and that he already had a bicycle and car, but it didn't work.
Shortly after that, I gave in, added it to his birthday list and I'm glad I did. He loves this thing and we have never had any issues with safety. He brings his safety gear to me whenever he wants to use it. The helmet and the knee, elbow and arm pads are well under $50 and more than worth the investment to me to keep him safe.
Even more impressive is that after about the third time using it, he got very comfortable doing tricks, like doing fancy leg lifts.
This is another of his toys that will have a long shelf life, which is an even bigger bonus, in my opinion.
25. Radio Flyer Pathfinder Wagon
This was a first birthday gift from the world’s best Granna and I really don’t know which of us loves it more. It is perfect for trips to fairs and festivals, to the pumpkin patch, for rides in the yard and for imaginative play. Your child can offer a friend or in my son’s case, a cousin, a ride when little feet have grown tired of walking. You will definitely be saving yourself or the arms of your favorite toddler's parents with this excellent toddler gift idea.
26. Little Tikes 3-in 1 Sports Zone
You can tell by now I’m big on toys that are easily moved and that can function indoors and outdoors. I believe active and engaged children are more happy and also use every opportunity to teach and reinforce skills too.
I love this gift because my son got to experience 3 sports in 1, it is relatively compact and had some pretty cool music to motivate him to score the goal, get a strike or make the shot. The game also reinforces colors and counting, which for me was an added bonus.
27. Vtech Sit to Stand Dancing Tower
Do you have a toddler who lives to be the life of the party? Well, this is the gift you should get. They will be sure to love and cherish it. The Vtech Dancing Tower is suited for children from 9- 36 months and offers a variety of functions. It includes a mic, so that your little one can sing along. It also has several amazing songs, in different genres (hip hop, country etc.)
The gripping area has features to keep little hands engaged and working on fine motor skills, and to be honest, it’s just a lot of fun. In my house, we have songs we love that everyone will dance to. This was a gift from my father in law to each grandchild. It was and still is a hit.
28. Mickey Mouse Hot Diggity Dog
This is another must have for the baby/toddler in your life who loves Mickey Mouse, music and likes to dance. My son has had this Mickey since his first Christmas at 6 months old and still loves to squeeze Mickey's hand and dance along to the Hot Diggity Dog song.
It is the cutest thing watching him try to mimic the moves and do what Mickey is asking him to do.
29. Step2 Flip and Doodle Desk with Stool Easel
My last recommendation for an ultimate toddler gift is the Step2 Flip and Doodle Desk with Stool Easel. Santa will be bringing this gift for the sweetest little boy around this year. With all the crafts that we complete, my son’s growing interest in writing/drawing and my husband’s insistence we get off the carpet with said crafts, a solution was needed and this perfectly fits the bill.
Lately, we have been working on coloring in the lines, tracing and writing letters and creatively drawing, so I cannot wait to see his face on Christmas morning when he sees this gift.
Now that I’ve given you the secrets to what all toddlers, and their parents want, go out and win at gifting. Enjoy making the lucky toddlers in your life very happy with the next item they can love and cherish.