The Most Beneficial Birthday Gifts for Toddlers

Around Christmas time I decided to make a handy best-gift-ever-list for toddlers to help out all of you bad gift buyers. Just kidding, we all struggle with gift ideas. I got a great response from that post, and happened to refer to it numerous times myself. So, with Luna’s third birthday just a ONE day away (insert crying emoji here), I decided to make a new updated list. The previous list still rocks and holds true, but I’m going to make it even better today and give you some more options. PLUS, I’m giving you all the important developmental reasons to run out and buy these specific gifts! (And by “run out and buy” I clearly mean, follow the Amazon link I share and purchase online. Duh.)

So, because the teacher in me never goes away, here’s my handy-dandy list of toys that you, your kids, your kid’s teachers and even grandparents will appreciate!

The most beneficial birthday gifts for toddlers

Pretend/Dramatic Play:

Dramatic play is so fun! This is when your kid wants to play dress-up and reenact the roles in their life they have experienced, read about or seen. During pretend play they not only use their wild imaginations, but they learn about functioning in the community, use new word combinations and express ideas, dreams and concepts. This is high-level thinking that requires using words and gestures correctly with others.

Toys that reinforce dramatic play? dress-up clothes and costumes! I LOVE the princess outfits by Mom Approved Costumes, but Melissa and Doug also creates really great outfits, like doctors, police officers, firefighter, chefs and so much more!

Constructive Play

Constructive play is all about building, problem-solving, experimenting and figuring out how something best works. Kids use this type of play better understand the world around them and learn basic skills like building, stacking, drawing and more. It’s pretty much the best way to introduce social studies.

What toys are great for constructive play? Blocks, gears, pencils and basically anything they can use to build! I recommend Duplos for the toddler era. They are just big Legos, which makes it easier for their little hands to build and manipulate the pieces. Also, they’re much easier to clean up.

Cooperative Play

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but cooperative play involves playing with others. It involves using social skills, especially sharing and taking turns, which we all know is SO important.

Best toys for cooperative play? Board games, blocks, swing-sets and puzzles! Luna is so into puzzles lately and I think this big Melissa and Doug floor puzzle would be awesome.

Physical play 

Physical play will use both gross and fine motor skills. Physical activities will encourage kids to be active and fit.

Some great toys for physical play? Bikes, balls, jump ropes, hula-hoops and this list could go on and on, but my nephew has this soccer/hockey/kickback set and it’s pretty sweet.

Sensory play

With sensory play you want to engage the five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell. Many schools use sensory tables which they fill with sand, water, shaving cream, water beads or whatever else they have in order to facilitate explorations and the scientific process while playing and using their senses.

So, what can you buy for your child (besides a sensory table)? How about some play foam? Looks fun to me!

Games with rules/Competitive play

Competitive play teaches kids to learn and follow rules, be a good sport, understand limits, concentrate, take turns, play as a team and even patience. The younger your child is the simpler the game and rules must be. Trust me, teaching these games to your little one will take some time and patience of your own, but after a few times, it will be worth it.

Simple games with rules for toddlers? There’s the classics like Hi-Ho Cherry O and Chutes and Ladders, but have you heard of Feed the Woozle?!!?

Social Play

This ties into “cooperative play” and even “competitive play”, but social play is all about learning to follow social rules, like sharing, cooperating and just getting along with others in general.

As far as social play goes…I think the greatest gift would be a membership to a local kid’s gym, dance class, soccer team, music group or something similar. Signing your child up for an activity that involves socializing with children they don’t know and being involved in their community is by far one of the greatest gifts you could provide.

So, tell me, what are some of your favorite gifts for toddlers???



2 Replies to “The Most Beneficial Birthday Gifts for Toddlers”

  1. Great post Hilarie! And what an adorable photo of Luna!

    1. positivelypanicked says: Reply

      Thanks Amy! That’s a photo of Luna chowing down on yogurt in your kitchen!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.