My husband and I try to toe the edge of minimalism (he more than I, but we both loathe clutter) so we try not to bring too much into the house if we can avoid it. We have a small house built in 1906 so storage space is at a premium, which can be a helpful forcing function for us to get versatile products that are either multi-purpose or can continue to be used long-term. This practice is also applied to our approach with gifts for Sophie.
In the spirit of quality-over-quantity, I wanted to share some items that Sophie already has and loves as well as a few items that we are considering gifting her this holiday season. Please keep in mind that she will be 18 months in December so the age range that we are shopping for is 1-3 years (thinking toys that can grow with her and be used longer-term than just for now). I love following @thebusytoddler on Instagram and she calls one year olds “tabies” (or toddler babies) and I think it’s the perfect description because they’re in that in-between stage where they don’t quite fall into either category completely.
I wasn’t convinced that Sophie would even be interested in this chair, but OMG she absolutely loves it and uses it all day long. She’ll lounge in it (lol — for about 30 seconds at a time 😂 #babyenergy), “read” her books in it, climb on it to look out the window, etc. We also decided to get the larger size because then she can use it for much longer.
I’m really interested in getting this little table and chair set for Sophie, but we don’t really have the space for it right now. It would be the perfect size for her to use for arts and crafts activities, imaginative / pretend play, and even eat snacks at when not in her high chair. For now, we’ll just continue using her activity center (which she has LOVED) and have converted into a table; maybe we’ll just buy a couple of little chairs to go with that.
This one is especially great because it can convert into a baby-sized table and seat which is especially helpful if you’re short on space like we are! I also really love this option and my friend Jess Keys has this awesome multi-purpose one for her daughter (who is the same age as Soph) and their family absolutely loves it for their Chicago condo.
I love open-ended toys that teach practical life skills, but also encourage imaginative play. A great example of this would be some faux food items + a grocery store checkout (or just a grocery cart / basket), market cart, a picnic basket, or even a mini kitchen. With these toys and tools, kids can learn words for foods, colors, pretend to “shop” at the store, etc. Bonus points for the food toys that can be “cut” (held together with Velcro) for learning practical kitchen skills like “cutting”, etc.
LITTLE PEOPLE PLAY SETS
Continuing the imaginative play toy suggestions, the Fisher Price Little People toys are always so cute and great for open-ended play! Sophie was gifted the dollhouse for her first birthday and it’s been a HUGE hit! We’d love to expand her collection to include the schoolhouse / bus and farm! There are a ton of adorable options to choose from; I’ve linked my favorites below.
Montessori “PRACTICAL” Toys
(Get Ready Station, Kitchen Helper Kit, CLEANING SET)
Now that Sophie is getting more cognitive + muscle control I love the idea of involving her in practical activities that will help to give her more independence. I have seen so many Montessori experts encouraging parents to give their littles more control over small, yet practical activities such as hair brushing, teeth brushing (with mama following up afterward 😉), pouring water into a cup, etc. Of course, some activities won’t be possible until Sophie is a bit older, but it’s never too early to start familiarizing them with these tasks!
For example: If your little one likes to help you in the kitchen, there are some adorable kitchen tool sets (made to be baby-safe) that they can use to help you cut real veggies, etc. (and if you have a picky eater often times this can help to encourage them to try new things!).
I have nothing against using screens (this is a judgment-free zone!), but sometimes you just need to give their tiny eyes a break so I love the idea of these little music and story players! I’m sure you’ve seen them around, but I think the top three contenders are: Toniebox, Yoto Player, and StoryPod. They all seem to be pretty equal in their value, it just depends on which option’s features and functions are going to serve your child / family best.
I don’t know wtf took me so long to pull the trigger on this toy subscription. My only regret is waiting for as long as we did to get started! These toys are beautifully made, both in quality and in design (no garish colors or patterns) and meet kids at their developmental stages to help boost their cognitive play. Sophie gets SO excited when her Lovevery boxes arrive!
We received this gift from one of my mom’s best friends (basically an aunt to me) when Sophie was born and I can’t tell you how much Sophie loves them. These little booklets arrive monthly and have such cute activities and things to read / look at inside. I adore reading them with Sophie, but she also enjoys flipping through them by herself and I have total peace-of-mind allowing her the independence to do that because the coated pages are basically indestructible. They’re also super slim so they’re great to tuck into your diaper bag or into a travel bag for easy entertainment on-the-go. Highly recommend!
If you need more suggestions, I highly recommend searching Melissa & Doug as well as Fat Brain Toys. They both sell high quality toys and each one offers the option to search for products by age on their respective websites so you can search specifically for your gift recipient! You really can’t go wrong with any purchase from either retailer so you can rest assured that whatever gift you choose will truly be enjoyed.
Our family is going through a particularly busy time right now so I’m going to go ahead and say that this is probably the only gift guide I’ll get out this year. However, I stand by all of my previous recommendations so if you’re on the hunt for more gift ideas, I’ve got you covered here.
Happy [holiday] shopping, friends!
Sending hugs —