'Tis the Season for gift giving and I thought it would be great to get a different perspective on kids/baby gifts from my one and only big sis Laura. She has 2 little ones, Amelia 4 and Lucas 2, and she is an 'in the know' mommy. Below, she has comprised a list of $20 and under gifts that would be great for the sweet kiddos on your list. Thank you Laura for taking time out of your hectic mommy schedule to do this! These gifts are awesome and I have seen Amelia and Lucas do some hard core playing with most of these items - they are kid certified!
Below is the gift guide for little ones. Expect more gift guides to come!
It's not always easy or inexpensive to buy gifts for little ones. Once they reach a certain age, they can tell you exactly what they want, but before then, it's everyone for themselves. Here are some fail-safe ideas under $20 for the littles on your list!
Infants 0-12 months
This is a tough category because a lot of modern parents are of the "no plastic, no noises" variety, but you can buy a baby all of the natural wooden blocks you want (and I have) and it doesn't mean they are going to play with them. Here are a few ideas that won't bust the budget and will make the wee ones very happy.
1. Sophie the Giraffe by Vulli - $20
Sophie turns 50 this year! And there are lots of reasons that she's been around so long. She's made with natural rubber and food grade dyes, so she's totally safe for a teething baby. She is light, easy to hold onto, makes a quiet squeak, and teething babies LOVE her. I have never seen an unloved Sophie in all my momdom. Other rubber-bodied characters are also available by Vulli. Not recommended for families with dogs that like chew toys. Historically only available in trendy baby boutiques, now you can pick one up at places like Toys R Us and Amazon.com.
2. Take Along Tunes by Baby Einstein - $10Lisa Marie calls this the baby iPod and she's right. It has it all and babies know it. Volume control, moving lights, pleasant classical music controlled by a nice big button, and movable beads all make this one a winner. This is small enough to stuff in a diaper bag, light enough for baby to hold, and it has a volume control. Plus is available in-store at about every retailer that carries baby items. W-I-N; win.
3. My Phone by Sassy - $6
New this season from Sassy is the My Phone. I already bought one for my niece. It has colorful, textured buttons that make all kinds of low-volume different noises (including cute voices), it's super light and packable, and it has a clear dome with rattling beads. And, no roaming charges. This is a teething baby's dream phone.
I've got good news. Most 2-5 year olds are easily pleased. Generally, they can give you a pretty good idea of what they like, but when in doubt, go gender neutral; not every little girl likes dressing up and not every little boy likes cars (I think). There is a tough spot between the time they start cruising (walking with help) until full mobility where they are beyond "baby" toys but might be too small for things like matchbox cars. If you are at all unsure about the appropriateness of certain toys, fabric or board books, bath toys (especially by Alex), and small stuffed animals are always a winner.
Legos/Mega Bloks - starting at $6
The only thing you have to watch with building blocks is the size. The smaller the child, the bigger the block. Legos are available in Duplo (2-4 years) and regular (5+). Mega Blocks are available in Maxi (1-2years), Mini (2-4 years), and Micro (5+). The Lego isle can be really overwhelming, but usually they are stocked by size and there should be an illustration or a loose block out to show the overall size. When in doubt, buy a Lego Duplo Set. The logo is a red bunny (see the picture above) and they come in all kinds of scenes, from Disney Cars to farm animals, and dollhouses to construction vehicles. You will rarely find a set of Legos at a discount retailer, but you can find all kinds of discount Mega Blocks sets at places like Ross or Marshall's. And the good news is that the two brands fit each other, so mixed sets are not an issue.
2. Zhu Zhu Pets, Xia-Xia Hermit Crabs, and Teacup Piggies - starting at $7.99
These tiny creatures are all awesome choices. Kids love toys that respond to their touch. And these are all nice, small sizes that kids can take along with them and don't take up a lot of room in the toy box (though you'll rarely find these put away).The Xia-Xia Hermit Crabs are new this year and are silly little crabs that love to dance and play. Zhu-Zhu also has a new line of puppies (same size as the hamsters) that are super-adorable and scoot across the floor the same as their cousins. The Teacup Piggies are talkers! They say things like "that tickles my nose!" All of these lines have a ton of color options and additional accessories available (like outfits, cars, etc.). Toys R Us has the best selection of Xia-Xia and Teacup Piggies I've seen.
3. Junior Racer (also called a switchback racetrack) by EverEarth - $20
This little racetrack is a real gem! It's made from sustainable wood and safe dyes. It's also lightweight and easy for littles to carry around. It comes with 4 cars that race down the track, flipping with each level, and then shooting out onto the floor. This is by far one of the most popular toys in my house, with kids of all ages and interests. This company makes many other cool, sustainable toys.
4. Calico Critters (aka Sylvanian Families) by International Playthings - Starting at $6.99
This is a toy that stands alone or in a collection. Calico Critters come in singles, twins, triplets, and families (mom, dad, brother, sister). There are all kinds of different animals, houses, and accessories available. Meercats, deer, dogs, hedghogs, bunnies; you name it. They are small, fun to play with on their own, outfitted in cute clothes, and very popular with littles. We collected a few as kids and after my daughter took them over, I thought it must be a genetic thing, but EVERY kid who comes into our play room loves these things. I could snap a picture of my friend's 7 year-old son playing with them if you want proof!
5. Matchbox Cars by Matchbox - Starting at $1
Too easy, right?! Nope. While more popular (in my experience) with little boys, these little cars are worth their weight in gold. I recommend purchasing singles because you can really customize the gift. With a constantly rotating set of vehicles, which always highlight classic cars in an array of beautiful paint jobs, you can't go wrong (and are highly unlikely to purchase one that a child might already have). Camaros, old Ford pick-ups, fire engines with moving ladders, Batmobiles, and Deloreans; you cannot make a wrong choice.
6. Dress-ups - starting at $1
Every store that carries toys has a section with dress-up stuff; high heels, necklaces, purses, swords, and shields. Most littles love imaginative play and there's no easier way to be someone else for a moment than dressing up. From the smallest trinket, to the fanciest outfit, you can't go wrong.
7. Imaginext by Fisher-Price - starting at $7.99 (sets available this year at some Costcos)
A triceratop with a guy that rides on his back and shoots stuff for 17.99?! Imaginext knows what they are doing. Previously the makers of the awesome and retired large Rescue Heroes (smaller, less awesome versions are still available), the current Imaginext line has Marvel Heroes, fighter planes, Pixar Cars sets, etc. They are well-made for littler hands and withstand lots of impact. A two-year-old can operate all of the action pieces easily, though there are some small pieces to wrangle.
8. Best All Around - Tea Set by Green Toys
Lightweight, colorful, indestructable, and made from recycled materials, this tea set is a hit with boys, girls, babies, and littles. Easily transfers from play in the bath to play on land and almost always available on amazon for less than $20. This is a toy with appeal and longevity.
I hope this helps you out with your Christmas list! Please leave comments if you have any questions and I'll follow-up. For great deals from websites, don't forget to use retailmenot.com for discount codes at thousands of retailers. Also new is the Toys R Us "pick-up in store" feature. You can make any minimum purchase online and pick up at your local store with no shipping fees and no roaming the isles. Happy spoiling and Merry Christmas!