I’m proud to say that I’m almost done Christmas shopping! We took care of Georgia early so we could get the monogrammed Anywhere Chair design we really wanted from Pottery Barn Kids, and she’s also getting this tunnel and tent play set from Ikea as well as this Little People Play Nativity. Because what my house needs more of is tiny toy parts that don’t have a bin to call home!
Last year, she was so small that I’m not sure she could appreciate what Christmas was all about; that didn’t stop everyone from buying her gifts, of course. So, between these last two years and tons of friends and relatives, I’ve learned a thing or two about buying presents for littles. Here’s my holiday guide for babies and toddlers:
Birth to 6 months
Sophie the Giraffe
Why is this so fascinating? I don’t know. But it smells and tastes good to even the tiniest babies, and it was Georgia’s best buddy for months. It’s a great teether when that time comes, and it basically came on every car ride with us for the better part of 9 months. Plus, it’s adorable and it squeaks. Great gift for a brand-new baby. (Georgia also loved reading the Sophie & Friends touch n’ feel book between 6 and 9 months).
Dangling car seat/stroller toys
We had many options, but our favorites were these owls & birds by Skip Hop. They clip to anything and also make chirping and rattling sounds when shaken. We love all of Skip Hop’s stuff — Mark uses their messenger-style diaper bag and is a huge fan. Coincidentally, we also had the matching crib mobile, too!
These were Georgia’s jam when she got big enough to sit up on her own. Mostly she banged them together or flailed them in the air, but who cares! Stacking itself is overrated. Great options exist by Green Toys and Fisher Price.
My mom got Georgia this last Christmas. It doesn’t look like much, but it was love at first sight for our gal! Fits well into a diaper bag for travel, too. This was handy as entertainment in restaurants and on planes.
Fun food accessories
Can’t go wrong with colorful soft-tip spoons, suction-bottom cups, wipe-able bibs, travel containers with lids and these great spoons that let you take purees on the go, squeezing straight into to baby’s mouth. We also like these spoon tops that attach directly to puree bags, and these fresh food feeders that let baby practice holding a utensil while gnawing on frozen bananas, squash, you name it. My mother-in-law got all of this for Georgia since she was 4 months last Christmas and just getting ready to start solid food.
Mom’s car keys & Dad’s iPhone
Just being funny.
6 months to 1 year
We have two (one for upstairs, one for down): this Green Toys version and this beautiful wooden version. She also has this larger style at school. Georgia loves them all! She went from rattling the entire thing, to dumping out the shapes, then finally putting them through the holes herself around 14 months. Now, she carries around the shapes and puts them in her tea set for lunch.
Baby Einstein Take-Along Tunes
Georgia got this for her first birthday, and has loved it every minute since. I think she would have enjoyed it a few months earlier, too, and at 15 months she now knows how to pick the song she likes best (there are 7 to choose from) and will turn it on and start dancing. Similar options to this include the Leap Frog play phone, which also speaks in Spanish, and the Fisher Price click n’ learn TV remote. I should point out that, while popular, these toys did not make Georgia any less interested in our phones or the actual clicker.
Crinkly books & Peek-a-Boo books
There was a time right around G’s first birthday that a book with “surprise” flaps or which had features that you could touch, crinkle or move were ENDLESSLY FASCINATING. You can get these anywhere, but Lamaze makes some adorable ones that have crinkly covers and peek-a-boo flaps inside. Mom likes them because they are waterproof and soft, so rambunctious babies can’t ruin them in the bath or by throwing across the room (who would do that??)
I’m talking about the ever-popular Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals, or the Poppin “Giraffalaffe” which Georgia sure liked watching us play with at 6 months, but really grew to appreciate on her own around a year.
My brother got Georgia the MOST adorable push toy at an independent toy store — it is in the shape of an elephant! — but you can’t go wrong with this classic version for just $10. She took to it right away at a year when she was just taking her first steps, and still enjoys it at 15 months. At school, Georgia also enjoyed this kind of walker when she was learning to get steadier on her own.
This Fisher Price laptop is still going strong in our house! It does songs, counting and Spanish, and says “hello!” and “bye-bye!” when opened and closed.
Best. $70. Ever. Spent. Because we have a summer baby, these were in high demand when she aged into wanting one, because so did everyone else. So we paid full price on Amazon, but if your child is born at a less popular time of year than August (or you are buying for Christmas), you can definitely find one second hand. I see them on consignment all the time, or you can be strategic with Babies R’ Us coupons!
1 year to 18 months
My aunt got these on impulse for G’s first birthday and had no idea how attached she would get to it…especially the hot pink ones. She builds! She takes down! She sucks on them! She puts them in her pocket! She carries them to the car! And to her crib! You see what I mean. Before you can do Legos, you can do these, and you should.
We saw this one at a friend’s house, and Georgia was obsessed with it…and then we found out it’s no longer made, but does a brisk exchange on Craigslist and Ebay! So we found one just a few towns away and bought it second-hand. They do make these updated styles, and of course you can also just get a regular bench or play table with chairs, too. What we should have bought at 9 months, but dropped the ball on? This sit-to-stand table for pre-walkers. Next time! If there is a next time. Clearly we’re inept.
I would say kids aren’t ready for these until they are really steady walkers, and even then the sense of balance can take some time to develop. Once Georgia’s legs were long enough that she could put both feet on the floor while sitting in the seat, she started to enjoy rocking horses (or giraffes) like this one that sings a lot more.
Sand and Water table
Again, it’s weather dependent, but awesome for kids turning 1 and older. Hours of amusement! We like the one by Step2 and have it on reserve for her to play with when the weather gets warm again in the late spring.
DIY ball pit
I’ve seen lots of folks take a kiddie pool and fill it with plastic balls to make a fun indoor ball pit. I love this idea and am going to copy it ASAP! Look no further than Pinterest for inspiration and instructions.
Picnic Basket & Tea Set
Dang, this picnic set is one of her favorite things in the world these days, second only to this play tea set. She’s definitely in that phase of wanting to imitate us whenever she can, and it’s so cute to see her bopping around “pouring” from the kettle or “stirring” her food in a bowl. Even better is when she uses it to show us that she’s learning how to share with others.
2 and older
OK, how bonkers is this Pottery Barn Kids city train set? I can’t bring myself to drop that kind of dough, though…yet. She’s really not old enough for it this year, but she looks longingly at bigger toddlers enjoying the train table at the library when we go, so I’d say we are highly likely to get her one for Christmas next year. VTech and Melissa and Doug make cute sets for less than $40.
Play kitchen and food
Again, Pottery Barn rules the day with their aesthetic, but it comes at a price. In the mid range, options abound on Amazon, and even better is the $99 Ikea kitchen set which Georgia loved on our last visit (mostly because it’s shorter). A slight tangent here: for some reason, Ikea’s toys and baby products seem to be an unusually great value. We have been obsessed with their sippy cups, high chair and stuffed animals for a while (here’s her BFF), and on our last visit, Georgia gravitated right to the tunnel set, the play kitchen, and the play workbench. I think we are going to get her this easel in the future, which brings me to my next gift category:
Finger paint. Doodle pads. Smocks, paper and crayons. There are even bath tub crayons. The possibilities are endless!
This is a fun one. You can make all different shapes with it! Perfect for little ones eager to imitate an older sibling who’s just beginning to take “real” music lessons.
Ask my mom (please don’t) and she’ll tell you all about how I plagued my relatives with pretend medical exams for years as a small child. Maybe I missed my calling? All I know is I should probably get one of these for Georgia… STAT! (oh, I crack myself up)
DIY Sensory Toys
One thing I like about Georgia being in Montessori is that they are big on sensory play, and last week she came home with a cool toy that she had made at school by filling a plastic baggie with sparkle glue, plastic snowflakes, fleece crafting pom-poms and beads, then sealing it with extra-strong tape (with Frozen characters on it). A friend made her daughter a sensory bin with dried beans, leaves, acorns, etc. and just set her up with a scoop to play freely. Get creative!
Tutus and Ballerina books
Is anybody else left wondering whether their kid can actually dance, or has just fallen under the weird Taylor Swift spell all kids seem susceptible to since “Shake it Off” dropped last month? Hedge your bets by investing in a baby tutu, and just see where it leads. Attempt to make an educational tie by pairing with this book.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now ~ what did I miss? I’d love to hear your ideas, especially as I get ready for Georgia’s second birthday and Christmas 2015. I’ll expand on this each year and I hope you find it helpful!
We just finished up our holiday cards, too, so I can’t wait to post about our awesome photographer and to share our design from Minted. Have a blessed holiday season, everyone! XOXO