Holiday toy guide for kids

I am always looking for new or different gift ideas for my kids. I love a good gift list. Seriously, I read every one of them; it is a problem! I wanted to make a list of toys that my kids love and that have held up well over time. The majority of the toys on the list we own and love; a few are ones my kids will be getting for Christmas that we have tried out somewhere else.

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Babies/young toddler

tunnel mat

Foamnasuim Mats

We love these mats. I got them right after Titus’s 1st birthday. He loved climbing on them then as much as now at age 2. What surprised me is how much my older kids play with them. The mats get used almost everyday in our house. There are a bunch of options to choose from— we have the tunnel, the wedge, and the stairs.

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bug jug

Melissa & Doug® Bug Jug

What baby doesn’t love putting things into a container and pulling them back out? The bugs also have different textures and some rattle or make a crinkling sound.

View this item: Melissa & Doug® Bug Jug


I like that these are very easy to build with. They don’t have to be perfectly stacked to stay together, which is perfect for little hands.

View this item: Tobbles
piggy bank

Piggy Bank

I will be honest, I didn’t think this toy would get played with very often. Turns out I was wrong. It was Titus’s favorite toy for quite a long time. He just loved fitting the coins into the bank.

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Fisher Price Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin Surprise Gumballs

Fisher-Price® Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin Surprise Gumballs

Pulling the lever and watching the balls roll out is a great way for babies to learn cause and effect. I have the Fisher-Price version pictured that I got at a yard sale, but there is also a cheaper version.

View this item: Fisher-Price® Roll-a-Rounds Swirlin Surprise Gumballs
Pound and ball

Pound and ball

Hammer the balls through the holes and watch them go down the ramps.

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Little Tikes Ball, Drop and Roll

Little Tikes® Ball, Drop and Roll

I am noticing a ball theme, but all of these were very popular with my kids. There is something about watching a ball roll and fall down different courses that intrigue babies and young toddlers.

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A slide is always a huge hit!

View this item: Slide


What baby doesn’t like toys that suction to things?

View this item: pipSquigz
shopping cart

Shopping Cart

I loved using a sturdy shopping cart for my kids’ first walking toy. Sturdy is the key word if you are using it to help a new walker. The great thing about using a shopping cart is that it is also a fun toy as your child grows.

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Dramatic play

You will notice my list for dramatic play is longer than my other lists. I think there is so much value in creative, pretend play!

Playfully Delicious - Gourmet Kitchen


There are probably hundreds of kitchens to choose from; many of my friends have made their own. Our kitchen is hands-down one of the 5 most used toys in our house. It always surprises me how early my kids started playing with the kitchen. I think a kitchen is a great gift starting at 18 months.

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Little Tikes Backyard Barbeque Get Out 'N Grill

Get Out 'N Grill

Along the same lines as a kitchen, a grill is a great option for a smaller space or as an outside toy.

View this item: Get Out 'N Grill
Learning Resources New Sprouts Complete Play Food Set, Assorted

Play Food from New Sprouts®

There are so many options when buying play food. Personally, I love New Sprouts play food. We have quite a few sets, but if you are looking for something a little different, check out some of our favorites — waffles, soup, and seasoning set.

View this item: Play Food from New Sprouts®
pots & pans from Melissa & Doug

Metal Pots & Pans

I have had a variety of pot and pans over the years, but these are by far the most popular. I think it is because they look like real pots and pans. We also really like this cooking utensil set.

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toy vacuum


A toy vacuum is always popular with the toddlers and preschoolers in our house.

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lawn mower from Little Tikes

Lawn Mower

A toy lawn mower is one of my boys’ favorite outdoor toys.

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mailbox from Melissa & Doug


Not only is this mailbox great for imaginative play, it also has slots to sort the mail by size which is a nice feature for younger users.

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costumes from Melissa & Doug

Costumes by Melissa & Doug®

We have received many of these for gifts over the years and they are the only costumes we have owned that are still in great shape despite their daily use. They are super easy to put on, which is also a big selling point. There are many choices available. We have the chef, fireman, knight, pirate, veterinarian, and construction worker.

View this item: Costumes by Melissa & Doug®
Cash Register

Play and Teach Cash Register

I have been through far too many cash registers. This is the only cash register that has held up to my kids. It also counts the change you put into it, and you can even use real coins.

View this item: Play and Teach Cash Register
lottie dolls

Lottie Dolls

These dolls are on my daughter’s list this year.

View this item: Lottie Dolls


Puppets are a great toy to encourage imagination and storytelling.

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wooden castle from Melissa & Doug

Wooden Castle by Melissa & Doug®

All my kids enjoy playing with this castle. It is sturdy and great for creative play.

View this item: Wooden Castle by Melissa & Doug®
camping set

Camp Fire Kit

This one is sort of random, but I think it is cute and different. If you are a family that camps, it would be a great gift. My kids like to set up their play tent and roast marshmallows.

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doll house


I like this dollhouse for its simplicity and the fact that it comes already furnished.

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My boys create elaborate stories with their dinosaurs and blocks.


View this item: Dinosaurs


There are so many Toob options. They are great for creative play and a good addition to any sensory bin or sandbox.


View this item: Toob®
calico critters

Calico Critters or Li'l Woodzeez®

I love these playsets. There are so many options to choose from you can set up a whole town! Calico Critters are great quality but very pricy. Li’l Woodzeez are the Target version and significantly cheaper. My daughter has sets from both brands and they work really well together.

View this item: Calico Critters or Li'l Woodzeez®
playmobile animal


Oh, I love PLAYMOBIL!  A lot of the sets are recommended for ages 4–10, and they do have lots of little pieces. These sets are so well made and so detailed. They also have SO many options! No matter what your child is interested in, they probably have a set for you. We have one of the PLAYMOBIL Castles and the Animal Care Center.


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Lego® Duplo®

Duplo blocks are a great first-building brick set.

View this item: Lego® Duplo®
lego figures


Everyone know Lego is extremely popular. I prefer my kids spend most of their time creating their own ideas, so we don’t have a lot of kits. Instead of investing in building kits, I have bought sets of Lego figures,  Lego wheels,  Lego doors and windows, Lego building plates, and boxes of just bricks.


View this item: Lego®
magnetic tiles

Magnetic Tiles

I put off buying these for quite a while because I wasn’t sure they would be worth the money. They are worth every penny. These babies get used every day in our house! We have Magna-Tiles® brand.

View this item: Magnetic Tiles

Kid K'NEX®

This is another building set that is great for older preschoolers and elementary school. We also have a transportation set that includes wheels and instructions to make different kinds of vehicles.

View this item: Kid K'NEX®


These K’NEX are a great next step for older builders.

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wooden blocks

Wooden Blocks

A nice wooden block set is a great classic toy. My kids use their set often for building towers, as well as accessories when playing with animals or cars.

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castle blocks

Wooden Castle Blocks

Last Christmas, my kids received two sets of castle blocks, and they use them often as an addition to their regular wooden block set. Add in a Toob® of knights and dragons and your kids will be set.

View this item: Wooden Castle Blocks
bristle blocks

Bristle Blocks

Bristle blocks are great for toddlers and preschoolers. They are super easy to stick together and give your kids the ability to make all kinds of things. My 2-year-old loves building airplanes and cameras.

View this item: Bristle Blocks
straws and connectors

Straws & Connectors

Straws and connectors are nice for building large structures. My kids use them for other things as well; I often find someone using them in a pot while they are pretending to cook.

View this item: Straws & Connectors
trix track

Trix Tracks

This is what I put on my son’s Christmas list this year after seeing him play with them at a friend’s house. They’re like a new take on wooden marble runs.

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Go Go Smart wheels

Go! Go! Smart Wheels

I am not typically a huge fan of toys that make noise, but I really do like these sets. My 2-year-old can put the track together himself, which is a huge selling point. He loves to make a track himself. You can also buy extra tracks, which makes building much easier and more creative.

View this item: Go! Go! Smart Wheels
flexible track

Neo Tracks

We love these tracks and cars. They snap together, so they don’t fall apart every time someone bumps them; and they are flexible, which makes the tracks very versatile. The cars are motorized and put on a great light show in the dark. My kids can spend large amounts of time building tracks and then watching their cars run.


View this item: Neo Tracks
contrustion truck from Caterpillar

Caterpillar construction vehicles

These construction vehicles are great quality. My boys use them with “balls of dirt” made of crumpled torn paper. I am always amazed by how entertained they are with these.

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Individual play/learning toys

Stacking pegs & peg board

Stacking pegs & peg board

This has been popular with all my toddlers and preschoolers, it really is one of my favorite quiet activities for that age group.

View this item: Stacking pegs & peg board

My Little Sandbox

My kids received two of these as gifts a few years ago and it is still one of their favorite toys. I love it because it really isn’t very messy and it keeps them entertained for a long time. There are many themes to choose from— fairies, dinosaurs, pirates, princesses, construction, a farm and more.

View this item: My Little Sandbox
kinetic sand

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic Sand is a great sensory option, although I find it messier than regular sand.


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Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits

Snap Circuits comes with pieces to make a variety of electronic projects by just snapping the pieces together. It is a great introduction to electronics. Snap Circuits is designed for ages 8 and up; for younger kids check out Snap Circuits Jr.

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science lab

Science Set

Mixing water with a little food color is a great learning experience for preschoolers; or use them for experiments as your kids grow.

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Active play toys

I am always looking for active play ideas, especially ones we can use indoors in the winter. Anything to get some energy out!

tumbling mat

Tumbling mat

This is one of the best purchases I have made for my kids, it gets used constantly! It is great for practicing gymnastics, wrestling or my kids even stand it up on its side to use it as a wall when they are building a fort.

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Gamewright® Boochie

I really like this game, we use it as an indoor game during the winter. You throw the target ball and then throw your ring and bean bag balls to earn points. It even comes with a score keeper to wear on your wrist.

View this item: Gamewright® Boochie
Spooner Board

Spooner Board

This board helps to simulate many boarding sports, like skateboarding. My kids love balancing and spinning on it and I am pretty sure it indestructible.

View this item: Spooner Board
balance bike Strider

Balance Bike

I love balance bikes so much, someone should really pay me to advertise for them! All 3 of my older kids started riding a balance bike around age 2. During bike rides, people have often stopped us to ask about the balance bike and commented how impressed they are by it.

My kids each transitioned to a regular bike in one day with no issues because they already learned how to balance on their balance bike. I should also add that my kids also rode theirs in the house, which helped get their energy out in the winter.

View this item: Balance Bike


There are many kids’ trampolines to choose from; I like this one because it is large enough for 2 kids to jump at a time.

View this item: Trampoline
river stones

Gonge Riverstones

These stones are great for building an indoor obstacle course or playing “don’t touch the floor.”

View this item: Gonge Riverstones
balance blox

Balance Blox

This is on my list for my kids this year. I love the idea of a slackline we can use in the house.

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table tennis to go

Table Tennis To Go

I like the convenience that this set can attach to any table.

View this item: Table Tennis To Go
indoor gym

Doorway swing set

I think an indoor swing set is an awesome idea! I know someone who has one and they rave about it. If you don’t want one with multiple attachments you can also get a Doorway Swing. One of these is high on my list for us this year.

View this item: Doorway swing set


knock hockey

Nok Hockey®

Think air hockey without the air.  I like that I can slide this under my couch, and my kids can really get into their hockey games.

View this item: Nok Hockey®
spot it

Spot it Jr.®

The regular version of Spot It is great for older kids or adults.

View this item: Spot it Jr.®
photo discovery game

Fisher-Price® Photo Discovery Game

This game is geared toward toddler and younger preschoolers.

View this item: Fisher-Price® Photo Discovery Game

Richard Scarry's Busytown

Busytown is a cooperative game, which means everyone works together to win. This is one of my favorite preschool games.

View this item: Richard Scarry's Busytown


I love Parcheesi!  I like that it is simple enough for my kindergartener and first-grader, but still requires a little strategy.

View this item: Parcheesi®
connect 4

Connect 4®

Connect 4 is also great for toddlers and preschoolers. They love lining up the different colors.

View this item: Connect 4®

Arts & crafts

dot a dot markers

Do A Dot Art® Markers

I love these for toddlers and preschoolers! It is the fun of paint without the mess. You can also get activity books that are designed to go with them.

View this item: Do A Dot Art® Markers
paint with water books

Paint with Water books

Another non-messy activity. I like to have these put away for times when I am sick and need an activity to distract my kids, but with no mess to clean up afterward.

View this item: Paint with Water books

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