100+ Fun and Practical Gifts for Small Children

I can’t believe it’s already the week of Thanksgiving!

Or that my youngest will be celebrating her first birthday in a few more weeks!

We’ve had a pretty busy year around here, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do many blog updates but I’m really hoping to figure out how to devote more time to this little passion of mine in the new year. (Anyone with little ones who wake consistently through the night want to share any tips? I swear they can sense when I’m not within 10 feet while they’re sleeping.)

I did want to go ahead and release a gift guide prior to the holidays though, as well as tell you about a couple family projects we will be undertaking in 2018. I’m really excited about both of them!

In this gift guide I’ve included some of our favorite toys and materials that we’ve enjoyed in our home over the past several years as well as some items that are on the girls’ wish lists this year and some other fun and practical things that your children may enjoy.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of things included in this gift guide. We personally limit toys and materials in our home for everyone’s well being, so we’ll never have anywhere near the amount of things listed here — but, more importantly, children most definitely do not need this much! We mostly utilize the popular “4-gift rule” since it encourages us to be very intentional with our gift giving. When it comes to purchasing items for our home we prioritize materials that will be used for a number of years and that truly fulfill a specific need of our children based upon their own unique character, interests, and development.

For convenience, I’ve separated this gift guide into different categories that are based upon our children’s interests this year, or, as briefly mentioned above, related to a couple specific family projects we’ll be working towards in the new year.

This post is pretty lengthy so if you’d like to skip ahead to a specific subsection just click one of the below topics:

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. This means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.

CLASSIC FUN

These are the toys that will never go out of style. Most are open-ended and foster a child’s creativity and imagination and are sure to bring countless hours upon hours of deeply engaging play into your home.

1 // Wooden Doll Pram — I really adore this wooden doll pram from Elves & Angels. It’s on the girls’ wish list this Christmas since our old IKEA push wagon broke this summer. Push-and-pull toys have been a favorite in our home for more than 3 years now. I love this pram’s simple, open-ended design and the heirloom quality.

2 // Grimm’s Large Rainbow Stacker — A hugely popular open-ended toy and for good reason as the possibilities for play are endless! Plus, it looks beautiful sitting on a shelf when not in use.

3 // Schleich North America Farm Animals — Schleich animals are definitely a favorite toy in our home. We use them in a variety of homeschooling activities, too. We started purchasing them when Lilly turned one and add a few new ones each year. They make a great little stocking stuffer or bundle a few of them together for a larger gift.

4 // Wooden Nativity Stable — I love how this can be used as a stable or a small cottage for dollhouse play throughout the year and then used as a Christmas Nativity even after your children grow older.

5 // Miniland Newborn Baby Doll — One of the gifts our 1-year-old will be receiving is this anatomically correct doll. Alice has loved on Lilly’s baby doll for months now, and Lilly insists Alice needs her own this Christmas. Baby dolls and stuffed animals are a great way to foster empathy among young children.

6 // Schylling Children’s Ceramic Tea Set — This tea set has been played with several times a week for nearly two years now. At under $20 dollars this is a great gift option for any child. Tea parties are wonderful ways to introduce grace and courtesy lessons as well as foster practical life skills such as pouring and wiping up. They also encourage the very important mathematical skill of one-to-one correspondence.

7 // Playsilks — These magical little squares of cloth provide years of open-ended play opportunities. In our home they’ve been used for peekaboo games, doll blankets, headscarfs, dress-up clothes, kites, and many other things. They look beautiful draped on a nature table as well. You can either DIY them using plain silk squares of cloth like these or thrift old silk scarves from consignment stores or invest in these lovely ones from Beneath the Rowan Tree. I especially adore her playsilks of the month.

8 // Basket — Yep, a simple basket. Seriously. Baskets and boxes make the most versatile toys and are much loved in our home. We have a variety of different sizes and shapes of baskets in our home, and they are all used frequently in imaginative play.

9 // Blackboard — Montessori encourages using a slate chalkboard when children begin to write since it provides greater tactile feedback. I adore this quaint schoolhouse blackboard from Nova Natural, and it’s been a great addition to our home this year. Lilly enjoys using it with her dollies to demonstrate to them how to write numbers.

10 // Small Vehicles — A small collection of pullback vehicles such as these have provided hours upon hours of open-ended and imaginative play in our home through the years.

11 // Jumbo Hand Spinning Top — We love this top for its focus on fine motor and sequential thinking skills, and it spins extremely well on our hardwood floors. A wooden top is definitely a toy that will never go out of style. It’s a really fun stocking stuffer for kids.

12 // Wooden Slingshot and Felt Balls — I don’t recall ever having had a slingshot, but my husband played with his for years. According to him they’re a lot of fun and great for hand-eye coordination. At almost 4 years old I know Lilly would really enjoy having one now.

13 // Skipping Rope — Here’s another classic toy that’s been a playground favorite for decades, and it’s one of the gifts Lilly will be receiving this December. She’s been asking for one ever since she saw her father’s new one arrive in the mail earlier this year, and I was finally able to find one that’s specifically made for kids ages 3-6 rather than ages 5-8.

14 // Melissa and Doug Standard Unit Wooden Building Blocks — Standard unit wooden building blocks are in my unofficial ‘Top 3 Toys Every Home Needs” list. We’ve been very satisfied with this set, but do make sure to closely watch the price as it fluctuates throughout the year.

15 // Jenga Classic Game — I can’t say I was very good at Jenga as a kid, but it’s definitely a fun family-friendly game that’s perfect for a rainy day afternoon or an informal gathering of friends.

16 // Puzzle — Puzzles are a classic toy for children and help them develop both fine motor skills and spatial reasoning.

17 // Wooden Toy Cash Register — One of Lilly’s favorite things to do when Alice lays down for her nap every day is to play shop so I know she’d really enjoy receiving this cash register for her storefront. If this one is too expensive, IKEA offers a more budget-friendly option.

18 // Marble Run — Eventually I really hope we are able to invest in some of the Cuboro marble runs, but they’re not toddler-friendly. I put this one from Vermont Toys on Lilly’s wish list since the marbles are self contained so Alice could enjoy it as well. I think a toy such as this would be a nice addition to a ‘calm down’ spot within a home or school as well.

19 // Wooden Cable Car Kit with Baskets — This cable car kit looks like a lot of fun. It’s designed for younger children and can be used both indoors and outdoors.

20 // Ping Pong Catapult — Pair it with some modular castle walls like these and then watch as the fun begins.

21 // KEVA Maple Planks — I know these will be a popular gift in our household for years to come. I really like how they foster creative building skills and collaborative play. They can also be used to enhance culture studies by recreating different housing structures and architectural landmarks.

22 // Balance Pods — A more budget-friendly alternative to the popular Gonge Riverstones and Hilltops. Use them to create indoor obstacle courses so your little ones can burn off some energy when they’re stuck indoors.

23 // Charades for Kids — If this isn’t purchased as a Christmas gift it’ll definitely be a 4th birthday present for Lilly next year. Charades is just good, old fashioned silly fun. This would be a perfect gift for family game nights.

24 // Gamecraft Safety Guard Scooter — Here’s another inexpensive option for indoor gross motor fun that helps strengthen a child’s core muscles.

25 // Sweeper — Both my kids love to sweep. This one features an adjustable handle and works well over both carpet and hard flooring.

26 // Bicycle — We introduced this balance bike to Lilly at age 2 and now she’s ready for her first pedal bike. She really wants this one because it’s her favorite color green, but the price tag doesn’t fit into our budget. We’ll probably opt for the more affordable Norco Blaster or Sprinter bike for her 4th birthday in February. She loves bicycling every day. If your child already has a bike you could purchase accessories for it such as a bike basket or a bicycle bell or compass as a gift.

27 // Rocker Board — My husband thought I was out of my mind when I first talked to him about buying Lilly a balance board. He was adamant that it would never be used. Fast forward two years and it’s still in daily use. It’s been used as a slide, a rocker, a doll cradle, a bridge, a surfboard, a stool, a chair, and a tunnel among countless other things. For us it’s definitely been worth the investment.

28 // Timberworks — These large-scale construction kits are made in the USA and are sure to be wildly popular with kids who love to build.

29 // Bubble Bear — I have a love-hate relationship with bubbles. I love seeing the sheer joy on my daughter’s face as she blows bubbles and chases them around the yard. But I hate, hate, hate the slimy bubbly liquid-y mess. I’m not sure how well this bubble bear actually works, but I’m definitely willing to try it out this summer.

30 // Auto Bingo — Here’s a fun gift for family road trips that even young toddlers can play.

31 // Train Set — We selected this simple train set for our daughter’s second Christmas so she could set it up independently and then purchased a bunch of track pieces secondhand to extend the layout possibilities.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

“A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.”

Maria Montessori

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, our family will be embarking on a couple year-long projects in 2018 and one of them will be nature journaling.

In his book The Dream of the Earth, cultural historian Thomas Berry states, “Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.” Aside from its educational benefits, ample amounts of unstructured time spent outdoors is integral for children’s overall health and development.

We spend a lot of time in our backyard and try to go on a hike at least once a week, but next year we would like to be a bit more intentional about fostering a deeper connection to the Great Outdoors, so I thought nature journaling would be a really fun and engaging project for us to undertake together as a family.

Since we are making a commitment to get out every week, rain or shine, we’ve included several outdoor clothing items on the girls’ Christmas wish lists this year (e.g. a wool bunting and wool overalls for cold weather; flexible rain boots for hiking along muddy trails and playing in creek beds; merino wool base layer sets and merino wool socks, etc.) because as the popular saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothes.” We’ve also asked for things like vacuum insulated Klean Kanteen water bottles for the girls, a basic First Aid kit, and a child-friendly pair of binoculars.

My husband will be crafting us a leaf and flower press so the girls will be able to preserve any botanical treasures they collect throughout the year.

In Lilly’s stocking we plan to include the following: a thermometer so she can begin tracking the daily temperature as she moves into learning her teens and tens; a compass; A Walk in the Woods: Into the Field guide; and Go Fish: Untamed America. Alice will be receiving a new Schleich woodland animal in her stocking and her ‘need’ gift this Christmas will be a rain suit.

Here are several other gift ideas for young naturalists:

1 // Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game — Each Christmas our family chooses a new board game, and based upon Lilly’s current interests in administering first aid and her desire to become a doctor as well as her love for hiking, Wildcraft is a no brainer this year. Made in the USA, this cooperative game helps players learn 25 edible and medicinal plants.

2 // Sakura Watercolors Field Sketch Set — A compact watercolor set to take along on nature walks. Our 3-year-old loves it.

3 // Nature Walk Journal — We’ll be using this nature journal in 2018. It also includes illustrations of leaves, cloud formations, and animal tracks for easy reference — perfect for us since we are nature journaling beginners.

4 // 52 Activities in Nature — If you’re feeling overwhelmed by searching on Pinterest for nature activities to do with your kids, purchase this deck of cards for an easy prompt each week.

5 // Binoculars — One of our must-have items for Lilly at age 4. Binoculars are a fun and practical gift for any small child.

6 // Fundana — These “fundana” bandanas feature a variety of nature scavenger hunt or bingo games for kids and adults to play while outside. Some of the options include Knee High to Nature, Night Hike Quest, Pond Bingo, Star Quest, Tree Cookies, and Winter Ecology among many others.

7 // Sunprint Kit — A nifty way to combine nature and art. Sunprint paper is a great gift option for a stocking stuffer or an Easter basket.

8 // Magnifying Glass — Because what kid doesn’t like to look at bugs and worms and rocks up close? This is also a great stocking stuffer for kids.

9 // Flower Press — My husband is making us a flower press for Christmas, but this one from Etsy is gorgeous and has received rave reviews. It’s a great hands-on way for a child to preserve flowers and leaves they’ve collected during their outdoor adventures.

10 // A Walk in the Woods: Into the Field — A beginning field guide for kids. Store it in your child’s backpack so it’s readily available if you need to reference something while hiking.

11 // Compass — As part of our geography/culture studies with Lilly at age 3 we’ve begun discussing the cardinal directions. This compass is high on our list for fun and practical gifts this season.

12 // Tuffo Muddy Buddy Rain Suit — If you’re apprehensive about getting outside in wet and/or muddy weather, then you’ll definitely want to invest in a rain suit. We purchased this one for Lilly at age 3 and will be gifting Alice one this Christmas. They make clean up after muddy play a breeze as you just have to take the suit off and throw it into the wash or spray it down outside. If you’re on the go, simply take it off and stuff it back into its carrying case until you get home to rinse it.

13 // Go Fish: Untamed America — For animal-loving kids who are beginning to play card games like Go Fish or Old Maid you cannot go wrong with this Untamed America deck. It features beautifully illustrated North American forest animals. Use them during family game night or take them along with you on family camping trips. There’s a Go Fish: Untamed Oceans deck available as well.

14 // Dynamo Mini Flashlight — Flashlights are really popular in our home. Even Alice at 11 months loves to play with our IKEA hand crank one. Our older daughter loves to explore the backyard at night with the aid of a flashlight. I really love this mini hand-crank version that can easily attach to your child’s backpack, making it perfect for families who like to venture out on night hikes or who go camping regularly.

15 // Fjallraven Kanken Mini Classic Pack — These Fjallraven backpacks will be included on future wish lists for our girls. Both durable and versatile, the Kanken Mini classic pack can be used for backpacking or simply an overnight stay with the grandparents.

16 // Klean Kanteen Insulated Water Bottle — At 12 ounces this water bottle is sized just right for kids and since it’s vacuum insulated cool drinks will stay cool and hot drinks will stay hot no matter the temperature outside.

17 // UNO: Wilderness — UNO was a favorite game of my husband’s as a young kid. This wilderness-theme deck would be a great gift to kids who enjoy the great outdoors.

18 // Carson BugLoupe — This magnifying glass is enough for a young toddler to use and small enough to throw into a backpack for hiking expeditions. We use it to get an up-close view of bugs and worms in our backyard, too!

19 // Mineral Science Kit — A nice gift for kids who love rocks. Pair it with a nice book about rock collecting such as Rhoda’s Rock Hunt, and you’ll have an easy, fun, and educational gift package that’s perfect for a preschooler.

21 // The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs — Featuring recordings of 12 bird songs from some of the most common species in North America, this is sure to be a hit with little ornithologists. I think it’s a great first book towards working on bird identification with young children. Once your child has mastered identifying these birds, you can try the more advanced The Backyard Birdsong Guide. Pair it with one of these lovely handcrafted bird calls to create a special gift package.

22 // 123 Nature Activity Cards — These cards feature beautiful illustrations and simple, beginning math concepts for children.

23 // Camp — A simple board game designed for the entire family to learn fun facts about the great outdoors.

IN THE KITCHEN

Lilly is now almost 4 years old, and like last year she still loves to help out in the kitchen. She’s begun to experiment more with cooking and although she sometimes prefers to work on her own culinary creations, she’ll still lend us a helping hand with family meals. Besides cooking, she also greatly enjoys hearing family stories.

So a few months ago I decided to combine these interests — cooking, family, and storytelling — and start compiling what I hope will become a family treasures book, filled with favorite recipes, cherished memories, family traditions, and photographs.

I reached out to our family members by mail and asked them to contribute to our cookbook project.

And then we waited. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure if we would get much of a response.

But I hoped and prayed…and then we received a letter back from my grandmother…and then another letter from my aunt…and then more letters from other family members began arriving in the mail.

Lilly’s been excitedly collecting the letters and safeguarding them in her desk, while I work on transferring the recipes onto cards that I’ll laminate so they’ll be a bit more kid-friendly in the kitchen.

Then in the new year we’ll begin our “Project 52” undertaking: cooking one family recipe each week together and documenting it with the goal of one day having a printed cookbook that’s special and unique to our little family. (Anyone have any recommendations on a book printing service that’s both affordable and good quality?)

Since I’m arranging the cookbook seasonally, my hope is we’ll be able to reference it throughout each year and incorporate little pieces of family history and tradition into the girls’ daily lives.

In addition to the recipe cards, the girls will each be receiving a handmade cooking apron along with some child-friendly kitchen tools: for Lilly, a new knife and peeler, a cut ‘n roll slicer, and an electric skillet or a hot plate. Alice, having just turned 1 at Christmastime, will still be really young at the start of the project. For her, we are gifting a mini masher, mini pinch bowls, and a small colander.

1 // Flicka, Ricka, Dicka Bake a Cake — There are several wonderful children’s books about kids helping out in the kitchen, and any of these would make a wonderful gift to a child who is interested in cooking. Some of our favorites include Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park, Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack, Henry Helps Make Cookies by Beth Bracken, and The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman.

2 // Cookie Cutters — Cutting shapes from dough is somehow very satisfying and always a favorite activity with Lilly. If you prefer baking pies to cookies, Crate and Barrel offers several pie crust cutters.

3 // Mini Masher — Mashing is a safe and easy way to get young toddlers involved in food preparation.

4 // Wooden Spoon — Ours is used for everything from stirring and mixing to ‘Walking the Line’ games to a makeshift drumstick for creating music with pots and pans.

5 // Measuring Beakers — These little beakers pair nicely with a funnel for pouring and filling exercises.

6 // Flour Sifter — I can’t remember the last time Lilly’s allowed me to sift flour. ‘Nuff said. But seriously, if you regularly bake or have a weekly ‘pancakes’ day, I’d definitely go ahead and purchase a flour sifter. It’s fun for all ages.

7 // Rolling Pin — Lots of big arm movements are involved in rolling out dough. It’s a great way to help your kids expend some energy.

8 // Measuring Bowls — Okay, so these are technically on my wish list. They have silicone on the bottom to prevent slipping, easy pour spouts, lids for easy storage and portability, and they’re made in the U.S. The smallest one is a nice size for a child.

9 // Pinch Bowls — One of the best tips I could give (and somehow fail to follow) is to prep as much as you can from the recipe before involving young kids. We’ll be purchasing these pinch bowls to mainly prep small ingredients and crack individual eggs, but the reviews say they work well for serving small snacks or as dipping containers as well.

10 // Small Whisk — Whether it’s used to whisk eggs, or prepare Cream of Wheat, or stir up bubbles when hand washing delicate clothing items, a small whisk is definitely a must have in our home.

11 // Mini Spatula — Flipping eggs, pancakes, grilled sandwiches and other food items is actually pretty difficult. It’s made less difficult with a properly sized spatula.

12 // Electric Skillet — I’ve been going back and forth on whether to get this electric skillet or a hot plate, so if anyone has any pros and cons of each I’m all ears! We’re prioritizing this for Lilly because we both feel it’s safer for her to cook with heat with her feet firmly on the ground and not perched on a stool bending over the stove.

13 // Mini Scrapers — Children can use these for spreading or scraping jelly or nut butters from the bottom of a jar without getting their hands a sticky mess. If you have a child like mine who absolutely hates being sticky, you’ll understand their necessity.

14 // Eat Your Way Around the World — There are a lot of cookbooks available aimed toward cooking with children. One such as Eat Your Way Around the World by Jamie Aramini could be paired with culture studies for kids ages 3-6 or 6-9. We’ve also included The Tickle Fingers Toddler Cookbook: Hands-On Fun in the Kitchen for 1 to 4s on the girls’ wish list this year.

15 // Juicer — I’ll admit, I purchased this little glass juicer for Lilly a few years ago, and it quickly became a favorite tool of mine as well. It’s the perfect size for juicing a lemon or lime.

16 // Glass Butter Churn — Homemade butter just seems like it’d be so much fun to make!

17 // Mortar & Pestle — We mainly use this for egg shells and herbs. My daughter loves to hear the shells crunch and smell the herbs.

18 // Knife and Peeler — We’ll be purchasing this child-size set for Lilly this year. Although she’s been using our knives safely for the past several months, I’d still prefer her to have one that’s more ergonomically designed for her small hands.

19 // Stainless Steel Spreaders — Lilly’s first knife was a simple child-size spreader like these. We paired it with a banana for a safe and simple introduction to slicing.

20 // Crinkle Cutter — Another great first knife for small children who are learning to chop fruits and vegetables.

21 // Apple Peeler — A fun tool that speeds up the process of peeling and cutting apples. Children love cranking the handle.

22 // Cut ‘n Roll — In our Montessori home, we actively try to encourage independence and remove barriers that impede development. Lilly doesn’t like the crust on bread. She’s able to use a knife to cut it off, but it’s incredibly frustrating for her. I hope this little cut ‘n roll slicer will facilitate her independence in this task more joyfully. Furthermore, I’d love to start a tradition of family pizza night at some point so this slicer should remain in frequent use for many years. (Anyone care to share a child-friendly pizza dough recipe that’s super tasty? I’m still on the hunt for the perfect dough recipe!)

23 // Chopping Board — Lilly picked this chopping board out herself and it’s still holding up really well. We’ll need another one for Alice soon.

24 // Popsicle Molds — Both our daughters love popsicles so these molds are high on our wish list for next summer.

25 // Egg Slicer — We have a slightly different one that both slices and wedges, but an egg slicer is lots of fun for small children. I like to hardboil eggs at the beginning of the week so Lilly can easily grab one when she’s hungry, peel it, and then slice it herself. Egg salad is a child-friendly recipe, too.

26 // Small Colander — Useful for washing berries and other small vegetables.

27 // Compact Brush & Dustpan Set — There will be messes. Rather than viewing them as inconveniences try to see them as learning opportunities. When a spill happens show your child where the dustpan is kept so they can clean it up themselves.

MUSIC

“We are the music-makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

Arthur O’Shaunessy

Music is fundamental to humanity. As Maria Montessori astutely pointed out, “Every human group loves music. Each creates its own music, just as it does its own language. Each group responds to its own music by bodily movements and accompanies it by words.” Introducing children to music has been shown to aid in their ability to learn language, mathematics, and improve memory. More importantly, however, making music gives children a medium for creative self expression and serves as an important conduit for cultural awareness.

1 // Remo Rhythm Club Kids Konga Drum — We’ve had the Remo Floor Tom Drum for almost 3 years now, and it’s still a favorite with both our girls. With the neck strap, this Konga Drum extends play possibilities by allowing kids to easily march through the house while playing music.

2 // Nino Percussion Small Natural Wood Claves — A fun addition to a toddler or preschooler’s musical collection.

3 // Miniature Music Boxes — We’ve purchased one of these for the past two years and absolutely love them. My oldest daughter would play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ to Alice during the early newborn months prior to naps. Be still, my heart! They are a unique and special gift for small children, and since each one is under $10 they are a wonderful stocking stuffer.

4 // Melody Harp — I’ve always loved harp music. Incorporating this into morning time would be a lovely way to start the day.

5 // Woodstock Pipedream — We purchased this instrument last Christmas when I managed to find it on sale for $26 dollars! It produces a lovely and pleasant sound and has been greatly enjoyed by both our girls this past year.

6 // KidsPlay Combined Bells — This combination band bells package is on the girls’ wish list. I think it will be a great introduction to learning to recognize musical notes and begin to read music as well. Plus, the bells can be used collaboratively and that’s always a positive in our home with young children!

7 // Harmonica — Here’s another great musical instrument that’s inexpensive yet sounds wonderful. My daughter received hers at age 2 and not a week goes by where she isn’t playing it. It would make a great stocking stuffer!

8 // Pan Flute — This pan flute is beautiful. It’s definitely an instrument we hope to acquire in the next few years.

9 // Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra — I’m not normally a fan of books that feature buttons that play ‘music’; however, this one has received great reviews and may be a good accompaniment for children learning about different instruments. We also really enjoy listening to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf conducted by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s available through Amazon’s Music Unlimited service.

10 // CD Player — A gift our oldest received last year for Christmas. She is able to select a CD and listen when she chooses. It can also be used to play audiobooks as well. If you’re looking for a beautiful holiday CD for children, I highly recommend Elizabeth Mitchell’s The Sounding Joy. It’s one of Lilly’s favorite albums and can also be found through Amazon’s Music Unlimited service.

11 // Ukulele — The ever popular ukulele is reportedly a hit with children of all ages. This will be our family’s music gift under the Christmas tree this year.

12 // Accordion — This child-size accordion looks like it could be a lot of fun for kids who love to create music!

13 // Jumbie Jam Steel Drum — This authentic steel drum instruments is made in the U.S.A.

14 // Wonderworld Rainbow Sound Blocks — A great first set of ‘shaker’ toys for infants that can also be used for stacking, color mixing and matching, and spatial reasoning for toddlers. It seems the price fluctuates greatly on these, so you’ll definitely want to check back often before purchasing.

15 // Casio Keyboard — This keyboard is a great budget-friendly alternative to a piano and sized perfectly for children. The best part is it actually sounds nice, too!

16 // Boomwhackers — These seem like they’d be a lot of fun. We’ll probably include them on a wish list when the girls are a little older because I don’t want everything in our home ‘whacked’ right now. If you have a music spot set up outdoors these would be a great addition, too.

 

ART

“The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.”

Maria Montessori

Here are some of our most used art materials in our home. We emphasize process over product and simply provide the blank canvas and supplies and then step aside and allow our children to explore and create as they wish. Art supplies are a fantastic gift option for any small child.

1 // Block Crayons — Great beginning crayons for a young toddler. They’ve held up really well in our home for a number of years.

2 // Chalk — Did you know you dip chalk into buttermilk to create a more pastel-like application? I can’t wait to try it out next year!

3 // Watercolor Pencils — I remember using these when I was a teenager, and they were a lot of fun.

4 // School Glue — Pasting is a favorite activity here. Pair regular school glue with cut pieces of paper for collage-making or provide glitter or sand for a more tactile experience.

5 // Small Porcelain Dish — We use this for pasting and polishing activities. It’s also frequently used as a small plate for dollies and stuffed animals, too.

6 // Glue Spreaders — Lilly loves to use these in free imaginative play as well as with kinetic sand.

7 // Oil Pastels — We love the rich color of pastels.

8 // Tabletop Paper Holder with Cutter — This will be one of our homeschooling purchases in the coming year. Lilly does most of her artwork sitting at the dining table now since it’s out of Alice’s reach. This will provide her with a large working surface to draw and color.

9 // Modeling Beeswax — We have this on our wish list for future years.

10 // Watercolor Paper — We are very satisfied with this brand of watercolor paper. I usually cut each page in half to extend its use. These watercolor paper postcards would also make a wonderful gift that keeps giving as you could send the completed postcards to family and friends for birthday wishes.

11 // Art Smock — A Velcro fastener on the back of this art smock helps children use it independently. The long sleeves can easily be pushed up to make handwashing a breeze. Since it’s made of 100% cotton it’s easily machine washable as well.

12 // Pencil Sharpener — Pencil sharpening is a great activity to introduce to 3-year-olds.

13 // Colored Pencils — These Lyra pencils are shortened, making them a great first pencil for small children. Their triangular shape ensures they won’t roll off tabletops. We’ve yet to have had any break in nearly two years of regular use.

14 // Tabletop Easel — We opted to purchase this tabletop easel due to both space restrictions as well as length of use. Children can choose to paint on the easel, or simply remove the painting board and use it for a flat drawing surface. Since it easily folds up we store in our coat closet when not in use.

15 // Eyedropper — These small eyedroppers are perfect for color mixing activities and really help strengthen a child’s pincer grasp and improve fine motor skills.

16 // Spray Bottle — Fill these spray bottles with watercolor to provide children with a different painting experience. Or you could use these smaller fine mist spray bottles. Spray bottles can also be used for cleaning activities in a Montessori-inspired home.

17 // Washi Tape — Lilly enjoys using this tape to hang her paintings and other artwork up on the wall. It comes in a variety of fun colors and patterns and should be regularly available in local craft store.

18 // Watercolor Paint — Stockmar watercolor paint is beautiful. We chose to follow the Waldorf method of introducing painting when Lilly turned 2 years old. Once she learned how to clean her brush between colors we then provided a regular washable watercolor tin for Lilly to use every day. These paints are now reserved for our special painting days together or for color mixing activities.

19 // Paintbrush — This type of paintbrush is recommended for a child’s first exposure to painting when following the Waldorf methodology. We now provide a variety of brushes for Lilly to use when painting.

20 // Wiki Stix — A small canister of Wiki Stix makes for a great stocking stuffer or small gift tucked into an Easter basket. If you have multiple children you could opt to purchase a large box instead.

21 // Stamp Pad — I hope to do more stamping work in the coming year with Lilly. Ink has always scared me, but this pad contains washable ink.

22 // Plasticene Clay — This clay is great to use when making the geographic landforms as well as free creative modeling play. It’s in frequent use in our home.

23 // Scissors — A perfect first pair of scissors for young toddlers. We introduced these at age 2.

24 // Chain Strips — These strips are great for cutting practice as well as making paper chains.

25 // Paint Scrapers — These will be included in the girls’ Christmas stockings this year. They can be used with paint, clay, or sand.

26 // Tempera Paint — We’ll be using this tempera paint outdoors this summer on a large easel.

27 // Stickers — Always a favorite in our house! First, our daughter learned how to peel them off by herself and then she realized once they were stuck onto paper she could then cut them out.

SEWING + WEAVING

These gifts are a great way to introduce basic sewing, weaving, and knitting skills to older toddlers and preschoolers. Handicrafts such as these are great for developing both fine motor skills and project skills (those really, really important traits such as self-motivation, organizational thinking, perseverance, problem-solving, etc.).

1 // A Hat for Mrs. Goldman — A sweet story about a young girl and her determination to knit the perfect hat for her friend. The book includes patterns for both a knitted hat and pom-poms.

2 // Woody Lacing Sheep — One of the cutest lacing toys I’ve found. It would be a lovely quiet activity and a great fine motor exercise.

3 // Wooden Knitting Needles — Pair these with a beginning knitting book such as A First Book of Knitting for Children and some yarn for a fun and practical gift for your child.

4 // Knitting Board — Supposedly easier than manipulating knitting needles, this board can be used to create leg warmers and headbands. It’s on our daughter’s wish list for age 4.

5 // 2018 ‘Fruit of the Month’ Calendar Kit — Celebrate the beginning of each month by embroidering a new picture with your preschooler. Several different themes are available, including Stitch the Stars, Fruit of the Month, and a Year in Bloom.

6 // Finger Knitting Fun — I don’t remember finger knitting as a child, but when I took it upon myself to learn the basics of creating a knit rope earlier this year I had a lot of fun. It provided some good exercise for Lilly’s fingers, too. We hope to use this book in the years to come.

7 // Knitting Fork — Another beginning knitting option for kids is this beautiful knitting fork paired with organic rainbow yarn.

8 // DJECO ‘So Chic’ Wooden Lacing Clothes — I love this gift for kids ages 2-3.

9 // Peg Loom — A simple peg loom to introduce weaving.

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