For the past two and a half years, we have chosen to live more intentionally and sustainability, which also means limiting the number of things we own, including toys. This doesn’t mean we are anti-toy, but we are pro-child, choosing only to add to our children’s collection items that are timeless and will grow with them. The toys I shared in my Baby Gift Guide are still ones my children continue to play with today.
Around toddlerhood, I noticed a huge step-change in the way my eldest played, which coincides with the time when we started switching from plastic to sustainable toys. He was particularly fascinated, engaged and experimental with his toys and as a first-time mum, my immediate reaction was to introduce more toys to encourage his development. But I realised that he just needed the right type of open-ended toys that encouraged free exploration. A piece of research from 2017 actually indicated that fewer toys improve the quality of play in toddlers, which is just what I needed at the time.
So with this in mind and a philosophy of fewer, better, here is my toddler gift guide, again with a lens of holistic play through our eight play categories.
My kids are super energetic, so I like to invest in gross motor toys as I know they will get a tonne of use. A favourite is the Wishbone Flip. We’ve had ours since Ethan was around 9 months, in the mode of a rocker, but he used it as a walker, a pull along toy, a toy chest to transport his toys around, well before he mastered walking at 11 months. When he started walking, he was zooming around the house in no time. My favourite thing about the flip is the 360 swivel wheels, which allow toddlers to be super agile and go super-fast (if you see my stories, you will see Ethan spinning on the spot on his flip nonstop!). We keep ours for indoor use on hardwood floorboards, so if you have space in your home, I’d highly recommend this. Both my kids have been loving their flip for more than 3 years now.
We also love the Wishbone original bike for outdoor use, which converts from a trike to a balance bike. Every child must have a bike and with all the choices available on the market, we went for the eco-friendly version. It also happens to be one of the largest models available, suitable from 12 months- 5 years.
Another toy I highly recommend is the Wobbel Board, which is features a lot in our playroom. It’s hands down one of the most versatile toys we own, you can check out my video on the Wobbel Board for some of the ways my kids play with theirs.
My children’s’ other big obsession is birds, they love watching birds, reading books about birds, chasing birds… in fact ‘bird’ was amongst both my kids' first words, after mama and dada. These birdcalls come from the sunny mountains of France, crafted by Monsieur Francois. These simple and elegant bird calls imitate the sound of a range of different wild birds, toddlers can easily start playing with these from the age of two. We started with the cuckoo and keep them in a basket when we go out exploring.
On another note, a little explorer basket, I’ve found to be absolutely essential. Not only did we use these around our home, so my kids can practice packing away their toys, but we also took them outdoors on nature walks. My kids love collecting treasures… anything ranging from sidewalk flowers, leaves, nuts, rocks, sticks, feathers, and dead insects!
Children are generally fascinated by animals. During toddlerhood, they start to learn to distinguish and categorise animals, being able to tell a dog is different to a horse, which is different from a cow. Then they start grouping dogs into the “dog” category and horses into the “horse” category. Of course, the older they get, the more information you can share about the animals, for example talking about what the animal eats, how their coat feels, where they live, etc. So pretty soon, we started adding more animals to our collecting, which allowed them to categorise based on other characteristics mentioned before.
Ostheimer might be at a higher price point, but they are heirloom pieces and worth the investment. I’d always recommend starting your collection with a couple of special pieces for birthdays and Christmas, choosing your children’s favourites. It’s not about how big your Ostheimer collection is, but how well-loved each piece is.
Another versatile toy we love is silks. They can be used in so many different ways from being a cape, to landscape as part of small worlds, a blanket or as they grow older, materials for building a cubby house. My kids absolutely love them.
Toddlers are still in the early stages of block play. They might use blocks to position horizontally or vertically. More advanced builders may even start to build bridges. I’ve already recommended a set of Grimm’s wooden cubes but to further extend a toddler’s block play, I’d suggest either additional Grimm’s building pieces, in particular the building boards, or semicircles and a set of wooden peg people, either Grimm’s or Grapat are both excellent.
If you have older toddlers or they already love building, then I’d recommend a set of Grimm’s large building sets. These have the added benefits of providing new shapes and sizes to experiment with.
Our vehicle obsession started in 2014 and it’s still going strong. Any of the Grimm’s vehicles are great for kids, but the ones which you can carry people or blocks in are even better! Alternatively, with summer approaching, I’d recommend investing in a little boat, which you can take to the pool, the lake or the beach (they actually float)!
A note on Waytoplay tracks, whilst they are super popular, they are quite challenging for young toddlers. Think of them as a rubber puzzle, which is slightly trickier than wooden puzzles to connect. My toddler does play with them, but he takes a while to connect two pieces and can get frustrated. That being said, I’ve always preferred having toys that my children can master independently. However, if you like setting up play scenes, then these are a wonderful addition.
I’ve already mentioned our love of Green Tones, the ecofriendly children’s instruments in my last post. My toddlers went through stages when the liked to bang things…so a good set of drums helps. We carry about four varieties of drums, the simplest and most classic being the tom tom drum with a single mallet, to these unique tone drums, which sound
There are so many classic books and I could probably write a whole blog on this topic. However, I’ve talked about animals so much, that I thought I’d mention one of our favourites: “the illustrated compendium of animal facts”. The illustrations are whimsical, fun and quirky and the facts are quite remarkable, even I’ve learned so many things from the book. This is one of my go-to gifts for kids.
This one is again more a gift for parents, documenting children’s first 5 years. However, the great thing is that you can engage your toddler in conversations when you are diarising.
And that’s it! These are the eight categories of toys I believe encourage a holistic play experience for toddlers. You can shop for our Toddler Gift Guide collection here.
What do you own and what don’t you have? I’d love to hear your recommendations too.
Thank you for reading!