- Longevity. Most of the toys T has received since her first birthday are things that will last. If I can’t see her enjoying it in a year or two, it may not make the list.
- Open-ended. There should be different ways of playing with it. If T can play with it in more than just one or two ways, she’s far more likely to remain interested in it.
- It doesn’t make annoying noises. Because no one needs that in their life. Besides which, I think as a general rule, electronic toys tend to be less likely to fit my first two criteria.
We’ve been building up a collection of these since T’s first birthday. We collect all kinds of animals to create different ‘small world’ habitats which are brilliant for imaginative and creative play and developing children’s understanding of the world around them. Last year I bought ocean animals for my niece and insects for T. I created mini small worlds in a wrapped shoe box which made them look really appealing. Some different animal groups which you might like to collect: farm animals; dinosaurs; tropical fish; sea creatures; arctic and antarctic animals; woodland creatures; insects; jungle animals; and safari animals. You can often pick up some more obscure animals in the gift shop at wildlife parks and zoos – I’ve seen a few places which sell ‘pick’n’mix’ animals, and we’ve picked up animals such as an Anteater, Lemur and Coati!
We recently bought T ‘Camelot Junior‘ from smart games. This is a logic puzzle in which you have to arrange some blocks in order to make a safe pathway for the Knight and Princess to reach other. The puzzle comes with a number of wooden blocks of different shapes and sizes, and a booklet, which shows you some initial setups and which blocks you can use for that particular puzzle. It has four levels of difficulty – at the moment, T can do the easiest ones, and some of the second level, but even I find I have to think about some of the ones in the third and fourth level! This game really develops T’s thinking skills, her concentration, and also her understanding of shape, space and size as she figures out where the blocks could go. Smart Games have lots of logic puzzles for all ages.
Tap A Shape
Tap A Shape, if you’ve not seen it before, comprises of a cork board and colourful wooden shapes (each with a small hole), which can be ‘pinned’ to the board with the pins provided. A hammer is also included to help tap the pins in. One of the things I love about this is that it combines so many different things. Creativity, as she creates pictures or patterns with the shapes; imagination; maths – recognising and manipulating shapes, creating repeating patterns; construction; fine motor skills. Beware if you are getting this for a younger child (3-5) that you need to make sure they have a cork board – some of the sets are sold with a firmer board and younger children could find it difficult to tap in the pins.
T is fortunate enough to have a large collection of books and we love reading to her before bedtime. If you read your child just three stories a day from the age of six months, by their fourth birthday they will have heard over 3,800 stories! Now we don’t have quite that many – regular trips to our library supplements what we have at home! But T always gets a few new books at Christmas – it means we don’t get tired of reading the same ones over and over! Books are so great for developing children’s understanding of language; building their vocabulary as their hear new words in context; and increasing their knowledge of the world. Read about some of our favourite titles here.
Dressing up props
We tend to get hats or other props rather than entire outfits, and we also have pieces of fabric which can be used in different ways. So a few ideas: a crown, a policeman’s helmet, a builder’s hat (can often double as a fireman’s helmet), a pirate hat, some masks, binoculars, a sailor’s hat, a sword, an eyepatch, a telescope, or animal ears (on a headband).
Duplo is a great one and it’s going on T’s list this year. We still have a Duplo dolls house which I was given for Christmas in 1989! Lego is great for older children. I love how you get ideas for using them but they are so versatile. We’ve bought a range of other construction in the past – you can’t beat some classic wooden blocks, but we’ve also got Bristle Blocks and Squigz.
Small world toys
Aside from the animals which I mentioned earlier, Playmobil and Sylvanian Families are great for characters to play with within small world play. But as well as characters, small world play needs items to create the environment – think coloured fabric (for land or sea); model trees and bushes; small wooden houses or city blocks; and loose parts such as coloured glass pebbles, natural materials (collect these when out and about – pinecones, conkers, acorns, sticks, stones, shells) or strings of beads (you can find these very cheaply at the moment with the Christmas decorations at your local supermarket!).
Magnetic numbers and letters
I hesitate to put this in the list because I have one caveat: only put them on the list if your child has shown an interest. Recently T has become really interested in letters and numbers and wants to know what things say. She loves spotting numbers and seeing which match. She received some magnetic numbers for her birthday and we will be putting some letters on her Christmas list.
Role play toys
In addition to fancy dress, T has been building up a collection of various role play toys over the last couple of years. This includes a tea set, toy pans and utensils, some wooden food, a till and some balance scales. This year we are adding some more wooden food to the list, the kind which is velcroed and can be chopped, which extends the possibilities for playing with it imaginatively (creating recipes etc) and also develops fine motor skills. Other items in this category could be a tool set, a doctors kit, or a play kitchen. You could even create some kits yourself – e.g. for a post office, give them a variety of envelopes, paper and ‘parcels’ (boxes wrapped in brown paper); give them some sticker ‘stamps’ and a date stamp or similar.
Everyone knows that most children love to create! A few art materials that your child may enjoy: poster paint (make sure you get white and black for them to use in colour mixing); felt tips; coloured pencils; crayons; dot markers; coloured paper; tissue paper; craft foam; sequins; glitter; googly eyes; stickers; pipe cleaners; matchsticks; or lollipop sticks.
Of course, creating piece of art work isn’t the only way children can get creative! Musical instruments are another fun idea for a Christmas gift. T has a collection of musical instruments, many of which she was given when she was one or under. She still enjoys these, but now she is a bit older I am thinking about getting her some slightly more ‘grown-up’ instruments – I’ve seen some nice percussion instruments which aren’t too expensive in a shop nearby. At some point I’d quite like to get her a set of coloured hand bells – quite fun and simple to use to create little tunes! Music is great for children as it stimulates their brain and improves their memory. It develops their listening skills and builds their confidence. If you don’t fancy letting your child get hold of instruments just yet, you could always find some fun CDs for them instead! We love Jingle Jams.
Disclaimer: This post does include some affiliate links, however, as always, all opinions are my own.