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There is always something magical about toddlers and preschoolers. I spent many hours with this age group in classrooms as an undergraduate psychology major and later through my graduate studies and always appreciated their pure view of the world, honesty, and their ability to bring you into their imaginary worlds through play. Maybe you don’t feel the same way as a parent in the thick of tantrums, potty training, naps, and trying to stick to a routine but when you step back and look at these years from a distance, this age IS fun and gifts for toddlers and preschoolers should be just that.
Kids this age need gifts that will let them explore their curiosities, figure out the world through play, and tap into their imagination. They need gifts that help them develop social and emotional skills and foster a love of learning through hands-on activities. It’s fine to hold off on tech gifts or products involving screens in favor of imaginative play and time outside because there are plenty of years to come where screens will be a part of their lives.
At the same time, technology is advancing and for the first time in 10 years, I’ve finally found products that incorporate screens in a meaningful way for this age group. It’s natural for this age group to be drawn to screens and while you may want to hold off as long as possible the few products on my list combine real world play things with brilliant technology and mobile devices to teach meaningful skills through play.
Best Gifts for Toddlers & Preschoolers
Fantasy Fort Set ($69.98)
Who doesn’t love a good fort? Take your fort building to the next level with a 16 or 32 piece Fantasy Fort Set from Hearthsong. The 22” x 22” square heavy duty cardboard look like wood panels and easily connect with double sided Velcro connectors on any sides so you can build horizontally, vertically, or in both directions. Pro fort building tip: Use the fort pieces to construct sides and then throw sheets on top for the roof and blankets on the floor to create extra cozy spaces that kids will love! For ages 4+
Square Panda Learning Playset ($99.95)
The former teacher in me LOVES Square Panda. Square Panda is a phonics learning system for your tablet that combines early reading skills and multisensory play to unlock learning. The playset includes 45 physical smart letters that interact with learning games all grounded in research-based curriculum and designed to introduce key reading readiness skills. Square Panda’s multisensory playset provides immediate appeal to ages 2 and up who will enjoy learning by playing interactive learning games that are just right for them. As a parent and former teacher, I know the power of multisensory learning when combined with high quality educational games. Kids will have fun playing and manipulating learning while building skills such as phonemic awareness (distinguishing sounds in letters and words), alphabetic principal (letters represent sounds), letter identification, understanding of print concepts (Includes: left to right directionality and the meaning between spaces in words), age-appropriate vocabulary. If my kids were younger and if I was still a first grade teacher, I would absolutely be using Square Panda at home and with my students! For ages 2-8
**Get 15% off when you order a Square Panda Learning Playset through Amazon! To take advantage of the discount, use this link and when you proceed to the check out, enter the code: PANDATTY in the box where it says “Add a gift card or promotion code.” Click to apply the code and get the discount.
Little Passports Early Explorers ($16.95/month)
Toddlers and preschoolers love mail, especially when it’s something addressed to them! This year give them a gift that will help teach them about geography in an age appropriate way each and every month thanks to Little Passports Early Explorers. Every month your preschooler will get a package filled with fun activities, educational toys, stickers, trading cards, and learning games based on a theme like art, music, or food that teaches them about the world. For example, the Oceans package contains an educational fishing game that teaches children about different sea creatures, contains materials to conduct a salt water science experience, and a beautifully illustrated booklet filled with fun facts about each of the world’s oceans. And there are also stickers, trading cards, and other bonus materials in each package to make learning fun and engaging for young toddlers and preschoolers. For ages 3-5
Parker the Bear ($59.99)
What if your favorite bear could come to life? It was love at first sight when I was introduced to Parker, the world’s first Augmented Reality teddy bear. Plush Parker combines classic pretend play with new technology while reinforcing compassion in our kids who serve as best friend and doctor. Kids can use the free Seedling app on a mobile device to give Parker a check-up using a physical thermometer that comes with him. If Parker is feeling under the weather, children can use the included wooden spoon to give him a dose of medicine to feel better, along with lots of snuggles and hugs while he’s on the mend! Cool augmented reality technology keeps child-caregivers updated on how their favorite patient is feeling so everyone can get back to playing. For ages 3-6
SkyCurve Platform Swing ($139)
Encourage outside time even in the winter months with the addition of the SkyCurve Platform Swing to your backyard. With a platform big enough for up to four friends and a sturdy frame to support up to 400 pounds, SkyCurve is a gift that is great for parents and little ones to use together now but will certainly be enjoyed for years to come. For ages 5+
Play-Doh Shape and Learn Texture and Tools Set ($11.59 on Amazon)
You can never have enough Play-Doh and I love that this affordable set encourages curiosity and creative thinking. Kids can begin to develop and enhance sensory-motor skills – while having that hands-on PLAY-DOH fun – with the tools, playmats, and PLAY-DOH compound. Parents can use the Together Time Guide to find fun ideas and skill-building activities to make playtime even more rewarding! Set includes three texture stampers, three rollers, two rolling cutters, scissors, stylus, three double-sided mats, Together Time Guide, and six cans of PLAY-DOH compound. For ages 2+
L.L. Bean Junior Original Book Pack ($24.95)
You can’t go wrong with a classic L.L. Bean backpack in a solid or print (dinos, flowers or sharks!) embroidered with their name! Seeing their name on their very own backpack will make them feel proud and you’ll feel good that the Junior Original is the perfect size for those just starting school. Like all of L.L. Bean’s products, the Junior Original comes with their lifetime guarantee but your child will probably grow out of it and on to the next size before it wears out! For ages 2+
Roll & Play ($19.99)
Encourage little ones to burn off that energy even when inside during the colder months thanks to Roll & Play. Toddlers will have fun rolling the big plush cube, select a card with the matching color and act out the activity shown – “Make a happy face,” “Roar like a lion.” With every roll, there are endless learning opportunities, including colors, numbers and language skills. Roll & Play from ThinkFun is a family-bonding toddler game encourages creativity, active play and gross motor skills. For ages 3+
Best Books as Gifts for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Rescue & Jessica: A Life Changing Friendship ($15.29 preorder from Amazon)— Based on a real-life partnership, Rescue & Jessica is a heartwarming story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her service dog, Rescue. Rescue is Jessica’s service dog and side by side, they work together to accomplish everyday tasks. An endnote in the book tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend, Rescue.
William’s Winter Nap ($12.75 on Amazon)— Everyone could use a new book about winter naps and William’s Winter Nap is the perfect read-aloud for a cold winter night. When a series of animals come knocking at the door seeking a warm place to sleep, kids will learn that there’s always room for one more through playful rhymes and irresistible animal illustrations that will make young readers cuddle up to this book with their favorite stuffed animals at bedtime.
Love Triangle ($10.78 on Amazon)— Ever since they were a dot and a speck, Circle and Square have been best friends…. Then someone new comes along: a cool, exciting Triangle. And three starts to feel like a crowd. . . .With their friendship bent out of shape, can they put it back together again? A punny book about friendship that integrates math through geometry!
Little i ($11.60 on Amazon)— When Little i’s dot falls off, rolls down a hill, over a cliff, and into the sea, Little i sets out on a journey to rescue it. This book focuses on the alphabet, spelling, and simple punctuation, in a charming and suspenseful quest story about letters, self-confidence, belonging, and growing up.
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars ($14.98 on Amazon)— Through playful illustrations from New York Times–bestselling artist Isabel Greenberg and the friendly, straightforward voice of author Seth Fishman this book illuminates some of the biggest numbers in the universe—a hundred billion trillion stars—and the smallest—one unique and special YOU. It’s a great picture book that gets kids thinking from big to small and about space in a delightful way.
2017 Holiday Gift Guides
Age Appropriate Gift Guides:
Specialty Gift Guides:
- Top Tech Toys of the Year
- STEM Gifts for All Ages (preK-teen)
- Best Subscription Boxes
- Gadget Lovers
- Frequent Fliers
- 9 Gifts that Make it Easy for Families to Give Back
- Gifts for Teachers (from the perspective of a former teacher, with input from current teachers)
Samples were received to facilitate this post and affiliate links are included. No compensation was received for this post or hosting this giveaway and all opinions are my own.