I think 2018 will go down as the year of the gift guide! It feels like every blogger I know published multi holiday gift guides this year ranging from kitchen favorites to what to get your man who loves to camp (which I definitely peeped for my mountain man Ben.) I’m going in a slightly different direction and publishing a gift guide for kids ages 1-4. Slightly…random for a gluten-free food blogger? But hey, I’m a Mom first and foremost and had tons of requests for this particular topic, so here we are. ;)
A topic of conversation that always comes up when I’m with my Mom friends is how our children’s favorite toys are random things like $2 plastic swords or like, a piece of string. Or the box that the string came in, right?! Definitely not the VTech Discovery Home you spent way too much money and time slapping tiny little stickers onto. D’oh.
That said, over the past five years, we’ve collected at least 10 toys that Lincoln has not only played with consistently but Cam, at 2 years old, has happily played with too. You know what we call those kinds of toys? WINNERS. And 1-4 year old gift guide list-makers!
I love the following toys not only because they have the stamp of approval of two of my children, but also because they’re not insanely inexpensive, are for the most part no batteries required, and are educational too. I hope you find a couple of items that your children, nieces, nephews, or grandkids will love this holiday season!
More Gift Guides:
Gift Guide for 1-4 Year Olds
Melissa & Doug Reusable Water Activity Books
For the messy child (so I guess all children?!) :) These reusable board books use water only to uncover pretty colors and images on all the pages. I often set the boys up with these while I make dinner as they require zero supervision. They’re great for car trips too.
Since we are a play dough-less household (it contains wheat) we’ve had to look elsewhere for similar-type products. Gluten-free play dough – both store-bought and homemade – is awful, and Floam is great for Lincoln but too sticky for Cam right now. That said, Kinetic Sand is AWESOME. It doesn’t stick to hands, never dries out, feels great when squished and pulled, and is super fun to mold. We’ve had the same kinetic sand for 3 years and it’s still going strong. I like this particular product because the sand comes in a case.
The best toys for little minds are open ended toys that encourage free play. Hello, Doctor Kit! My kids have used the items in this kit to pretend to be everything from doctor/patient, to VIP business men in a very important call with the phone and glasses. The sky is the limit with toys like this!
At 5 years old Lincoln is Lego OBSESSED, but before Legos were Mega Blocks! These chunky blocks are great for little hands as they’re easy to put together. I cannot tell you how many towers, castles, and cars I’ve built with the boys using Mega Blocks over the years.
I am of the belief that simple is best, which is why I love this Melissa and Doug Play Kitchen. It’s half the price of other fancy play kitchens and guess what? My kids could care less that it doesn’t have a pretend ice maker or granite counter tops – they adore it as is! We have this play food set, and this velcro food set.
A friend gave Lincoln a Poke-a-Dot Book a few years ago and it’s been such a hit with the boys. The pages are filled with dots that make a satisfying pop when you press them, keeping the child engaged. Love ’em.
We don’t have an iPad or other “smart” device that we let the kids play with, but all bets are off with the Leap Frog Scribble and Write! It has the feel of something important like an iPad but is strictly for practicing letters and numbers. Cam loves it too!
I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but the boys fight so hard over this digital camera! They feel very important and professional taking pictures that they can review, and Lincoln occasionally takes pictures of his food like his Mama which is equal parts hysterical and heart warming. Trust me when I tell you this thing is totally indestructible.
Sesame Street Elmo’s On the Go Letters
Another fun, educational toy that has gotten plenty of use over the years (and Cam pretends is a suitcase – his favorite!) ;) I also have to mention that the letters in this ABC puzzle make a very satisfying snap when pushed in, which both boys have really liked.
For your little adventurers. :) The kids LOVE these binoculars that actually work great! Lincoln takes them on all his nature walks with Ben, and both the little boys get a kick out of turning them around so things appear very close to them instead of far away. Shrug. In fact, Lincoln recently took the binoculars for show and tell at school and apparently all the kids thought they were the COOLEST.
Got to have a place to put all those toys, right?! We have two of these toy organizers which hold SO. MANY. TOYS. and puts them all on display at eye level and within easy reach. We used to have two big baskets of toys when Lincoln was little but you could only see the toys on top and he was too little and young to know to dig. You can pick between a few colors that match best with your home decor too, which is nice.
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Totally agree on the kinetic sand! It has made for many hours of entertainment (and quiet!) in our house.
I don’t think the elefun popper is widely available anymore. It is not on the target website and $115 on Amazon.
Megan W 12.08.2018
I have a 3 and 16 month old and I just added ALL of those to their lists for relatives! Except the Water Wonder because we have 5 of them already! Thanks for the awesome ideas!
How timely, google searching today was going to consist of gifts for a 1 year old! These are some great ideas for our 1 and 3 year old. We have the Melissa and Doug play kitchen too and absolutely love it! Our 3 year old “cooks dinner” all the time.
Perfect!! Hope you find something they’ll love! :)
We have the camera for my 4.5 year old. Her dad “invented” photo hunts – he tells her to photograph 5 squares or 1 triangle in every room. Then they go through the pictures together. It buys us 15 mins of independent play and forces her to use her creativity! Just an idea for another way to use the toys!
Totally stealing this idea – so fun!
Love these suggestions! I have been looking for a good toy storage system. Is the one you listed sturdy?
It’s very light weight so I wouldn’t say its the sturdiest piece of furniture in the room but we’ve never had a problem with it falling apart or anything.
YOU ARE MY HOLIDAY HERO!!! Literally just added all those toys to my Amazon gift list for my almost-two-year-old. I have SUCH a hard time buying toys for him, because who KNOWS what will hold his attention. We’ve had dollar-store toys entertain him for hours, and expensive toy store toys be donated a few weeks later because he showed zero interest. It’s SO great that you put together this list of tried-and-true favorites that both your sons have loved. So thank you thank you thank you for this list – you’ve basically saved Christmas :)
Oh my gosh!! So glad this post came at the right time for you and your little guy!! <3
Allison Frederick 12.04.2018
Mega Bloks for the win. My 2 yr old girl and 4 yr old boy, who have completely different personalities, have both loved those.
We’ve had our VTech camera for SIX years, and the kids still fight over it (they’re 7 & 9 now).
So funny – I imagine mine will still be doing the same in 3-4 years!
You are a lifesaver! I’ve been looking for gifts for my boyfriend’s two nephews (4 & 2). These are GREAT!
PERFECT!! So glad this is timely for you!
I have three boys ages 4 and under – a few of these I hadn’t heard of! I will also suggest Magnaformers. They aren’t cheap but my boys play with them for hours. Thanks!
Allison Frederick 12.04.2018
I agree. There are Magnaformers at my 4 yr old’s preschool, and he is obsessed with them.
I kept reading this as 14 year old guide and kept thinking wow, these toys seem a bit young for a 14 year old ?