Toddler Gift Guide (or the “toys” your toddler REALLY wants)

Written by Emily

A few weeks ago, I had to buy a birthday present for a one-year old. I shuffled through Target aisles in a kind of catatonic state, hypnotized into submission by the brightly colored plastics and moving parts, the vacant doll gazes and the oddly proportioned superheroes. Staring down the barrel of a sophisticated bubble machine, I wondered: Is this what one-year olds are into?

Later, I remembered the not-too-distant past of one, and to save you the same confusion, I give you…


Packing Supplies

Last Christmas my littlest opened a little rectangular jewelry box and announced with the sincerest enthusiasm, “Yay! Fuzz!” At that moment, everyone in the room knew they had overspent by at least 98% on her Christmas gifts that year. Don’t be foolish. Wrap some bubble wrap or packing peanuts or dryer lint and watch happiness peel across the little one’s face.

A Decorative Basket or Tote

You wouldn’t think twice about giving a lovely piece of home decor to your adult friends, but unlike your friends who wish you would have given good wine, a toddler will use that basket as a boat, a backpack, a hat, a toilet and a hiding place. But it only works if it’s filled with lovely decorative touches that she can remove and litter around the house first. Put the gift just out of reach, so she has to scale dangerous furniture to make this a sure favorite.

An Irreplaceable Antique Figurine

A collectible that’s been painted with lead paint has the most appeal. It really should be the only item you ever liked in your Great Aunt’s house. If it’s anything less than absolutely priceless, your one-year old will be grossly insulted and completely uninterested. Do you want to be the best gift-giver or not?

A Sharpie Marker

He’ll find one anyway even if you’ve never purchased one–ever. He will find it and practice his family portrait skills on the beige carpet. Just give him the marker now and follow him with a Magic Eraser.

Dirt, Sand, Rocks

Don’t bother with a new bag from Lowe’s or Home Depot. Grab some from the backyard and call yourself Gift Giver of the Year. It’s best if you don’t know exactly what’s in the dirt or sand or rocks. If the sand may have been in an uncovered sandbox or the dirt could have been a dog’s potty patch, awesome. She wouldn’t play in it otherwise.

Standing Water

This gift takes preparation, so get started at least a week before the party. Collect rainwater in the lid of a trash can. Wait.

Don’t worry. The mosquito larvae don’t bite, but they will give the water real appeal for the birthday boy or girl. Consider it two presents in one. But do intervene before the little one takes a sip, which you know for certain she will want to do, repeatedly.

Sadly, my aha! moment happened after I had already purchased Legos and some outdoor toys for the birthday boy. Bummer. He’d play with those other things a lot more. There’s always Christmas.

1 comment for “Toddler Gift Guide (or the “toys” your toddler REALLY wants)

  1. July 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Oh gosh, the baskets! Here’s another: rocks. My girls collected a few from around our neighborhood while we were out for our walk with the dog ONE TIME and have since hoarded them in their playroom, proudly bringing them out to show all four of the grandparents their “treasure” whenever they come down to visit. Last year, Nana and Papa took a trip to the Grand Canyon… and brought back rocks. This past May, Grandma came home from her cruise to Alaska… with rocks. Both times, the kids were ecstatic.

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