What to get the toddler who has everything? Ideally something that inspires her budding sense of independence, captures the imagination, and challenges him to learn new skills, all while having fun.Here are our top-five picks for the season:
1.) Run/Balance Bike ($69.99 +)
What toddler wouldn’t squeal with delight at the sight of a shiny new bike under the tree? I take intentional detours through Target specifically to avoid the bicycle section, but when we do stop to look at the shiny yumminess, it’s obvious that bicycle riding is a long way off for my little guy as even the tiniest bikes tower over (and threaten to topple on) him. Not so with a run bike, the hottest new development in kids’ cycling. Unlike tricycles and training wheels, run bikes teach the most critical component of bicycle riding first: balance, only without those pesky pedals that are always gumming things up. Check out runbikes.com for both wooden and metal balance bikes, including LikeaBike ($192.00+), KaZAM ($99.00), Strider ($95.00) and Kettler ($110.00).
2.) Dress Up Box ($9.99 +)
Watching as the apple of your eye develops a sense of humor, self and imagination is an experience like no other, so foster your kiddo’s penchant for imaginary play with a dress up box. There are a number of pre-fab dress up kit options out there that run around $100.00 – $150.00, but most tend towards professions or princesses, and, I feel, are too rigid and generic to be fun. Check out this post on Martha Stewart for ideas on how to stock your dress up box with items you most likely have around your house or can pick up at Goodwill, throw in some fun career hats available from Amazon ($32.99) and a bunch of Waldorf-inspired play silks, fairy wings and soft swords ($9.99+) from Three Sisters Toys and you’re all set.
3.) The Learning Tower ($190.00)
I love love love the Learning Tower ($190.00) for kitchen and creative play. This is truly one of the best tools for helping your child become independent and do it, whatever that is, for himself. Not only can your little guy or gal safely help out whilst you whip up and burn a batch of cookies, s/he can also use The Learning Tower as an easel with the attachable, reversible dry erase/chalk board ($69.99), as a playhouse with the company’s playhouse kit ($34.99), or, again go Waldorf and throw a night sky silk scape or similar ($34.95) in the mix to make it even more fun.
4.) Sticky Fingers Kids Cooking Kits ($27.00 – $52.00)
Kiddos love to do things themselves, and nowhere is that more true than in the kitchen. Case-in-point: my picky eater will gobble virtually anything he’s had a hand in making and while it’s a tad freaky to watch him teeter atop our kitchen step ladder, the cold sweat is worth it when he chirps “Aye didit!” and then noshes happily on whatever we’ve made. With the focus on getting kids to eat more wholesome foods in school and out, the more our babes are in the kitchen the better. But how to scramble, stir and slice with the giant-like utensils found in the common household kitchen? Enter Sticky Fingers kids cooking sets. These high-quality utensils actually work, unlike play sets, so your honey bunch can get elbow-deep in the flour without frustration.
5.) Hohner 1/2 Size Classical Guitar ($49.00)
I don't know a single child who isn’t fascinated by musical instruments of all shapes and sizes. I’m not a musician and don’t have a strong interest in trying to make my boy a prodigy, but his all-out obsession ("Taaaar. Tar tar tar.") with our otherwise un-played full size guitar made me think—why are we always pushing drums and not other instruments on babes when they can play them just as easily? Save your sanity. Skip the drum kit and get your dumpling an actual, tune-able guitar he can hold and strum, but save yourself some trouble: resist the temptation to go with the cheapest option. Every kids’ guitar I’ve seen in stores like Target and Toy R Us is junk. Junk junk junk (you can see where my boy wonder gets his emphatics from, no?). If they’re 1/2 size, which is appropriate for small kids, they’re toy guitars that can’t even be tuned, or if they’re somewhat decent, they’re 3/4 size, which is more appropriate for the 6-and-up-set. Whether or not your musical monkey ever takes a single lesson, this guitar will prove to be a toy with staying power because it's not actually a toy, so check out the Hohner 1/2 size classical guitar at Active Musician, which has nylon strings that are easy for little hands to strum, but skip the pick if you have wee ones under three about the house.
Happy holiday shopping, Mamas!