With Christmas just around the corner (and by corner I mean a full six weeks away, so plenty of time for copious amounts of Heart Christmas radio, mulled wine and mince pies), I thought I’d compile a little present idea list for babies and toddler, based purely on things Atti and his mates have liked over the past two years.
I’ve separated it into different ages to make it easier to shop (although obvs this is fluid) and have kept everything below £100, although the majority of things are less than £20. There’s even a couple of homemade bits in there!
My fave places for toys are John Lewis own-brand (surprisingly good value), HEMA (which also has free posting over £20) and Facebook Marketplace which is bloody wonderful for getting second-hand goodies. Honestly, so many nearly new toys you can pick up on your way home from work.
Aldi also has an incredible wooden toy collection that has just launched in their latest Baby & Toddler event which gives off Melissa & Doug vibes at a fraction at the cost. Take a look at it online here,b ut there are more bits in-store.
Hope this is helpful!
STACKING CUPS. It’s basically a right of passage to have these as your first toy – and wonderfully, you can snap them up for £3 from Sainsbury’s and add to your online shop, or £2.40 from Tesco. Easy peasy. I’ve put these in the bath now and use as bath toys so they’ve certainly got their use!
SOFT STACKING TOWER. I spied this on a shopping trip recently and was gutted I’d never seen it when Atti was younger. He had a wooden stacking tower he loved, but this looks like a great first toy to encourage hand-eye co-ordination whilst still being soft and squishy on little hands. Shop here.
TEXTURE BOOKS. I loved these for tummy time or to have in the buggy/when out and about, to give them something to focus on and feel for. The Jellycat ones at John Lewis are lovely, as are the £11 ones from KIDLY.
TOMY HIDE AND SQUEAK EGGS. Another toy we didn’t buy the first time around but I would definitely snap up if we had another baby as Atti has loved playing with these whenever he spies them at his friends’ houses. It’s basically just a plastic egg box with egg pieces which light up and make sounds. It’s available at lots of different retailers but the cheapest I found it was £7.95 at Amazon.
HOMEMADE BOTTLE RATTLE. This is a great toy to make at home and use even before six months. Take a plastic bottle, fill with fluffy pom poms, beads and rice and beans and voila! I guess the important thing here is obviously to make sure you tighten the lid and then tighten some more and then tighten even more. But babies seem to love that they can see the objects inside the ‘rattle’ as well as hear them – there’s some great ideas on Pinterest.
ACTIVITY BLOCK. I wish we’d bought one of these for Atti but they all seemed super pricey at the time. You can have a bead coaster, abacus, moving blocks etc all in one place – great for hand-eye co-ordination and exploring. There’s a great £24.99 one from Aldi, or a smaller one for £15 from Early Learning Centre.
DOLL AND PRAM. We got this doll from Cissy Wears – it’s £20, comes in both male and female (with accurate genitals rather than a weird smoothed over section) and there’s an inclusive choice of ethnicities. You can also buy the doll direct from Miniland (who make the dolls) via Amazon Prime.
‘LIFT THE FLAP’ BOOKS. Around the year mark Atti really got into more interactive books – ones with flaps he could lifts or things he could feel. Obviously the ‘That’s Not My…‘ range is great for that, but Dear Zoo and the Peppa Pig flap books are his all time faves.
ABACUS. I love the IKEA rainbow abacus for £10 for its simplicity and also how lovely it looks. Morrisons do a double sided one for £12 too, or there is some great second-hand options on Facebook Marketplace.
ANIMAL SET. One of those toys which hopefully grows with the kids. Obviously you can buy these from several places, but there are different themed ‘farm animal’ and ‘jungle animal’ sets from Hema for £7.50 (and they’re in the 3 for 2 offer).
HEMA STACKER. Possibly the most played with toy ever in our house. Although rarely used for actual stacking, or counting. Atti loves all the little wooden circles that come with this and builds towers with them, posts them over the edge of the sofa, collects them in pots, generally transfers them about. Such good value (and also the colours make it a rather pretty toy). Shop here.
BEAD COASTER. Nothing will beat the giant bead coasters (wooden beads on twirly metal wires) you find in doctor’s surgeries, but this £10 one from IKEA has provided a fair bit of entertainment over the past six months. Shop here.
CLICK CLACK TRACK. This is basically like a marble/ball run but uses cars. Atti loved his until eventually the four cars which came with the set eventually disappeared one-by-one (am planning on buying more on eBay to give it a fresh lease of life!). The best value one I can find is Hema (all wooden toys currently three for two).
HOMEMADE POSTING BOX. I used an old Birchbox (although a shoebox would also work well) and cut out a posting slot (same kind of shape as a post box slot) in the centre with a pair of scissors. Then I bought some wooden lolly sticks from The Works for £1 and this kept Atti entertained for an entire ten-hour flight earlier this year. Would recommend as a stocking filler that can easily be taken out and about to coffee shops/friends houses.
STICKERS. Atti got the hang of these around 18-20 months but still can’t peel them from the sheet himself. We bought a pack of ten sheets of vehicle stickers for £1 from The Entertainer (can’t find them online) but have found places like The Works the best for cheap kids stickers (we’ve been using them during drawing sessions). DO NOT BUY THEM FROM PAPERCHASE OR ANYWHERE COOL, THEY ARE PRICEY.
TRAIN SET. We have a toddler who loves playing with his cars every day and identifying vehicles all day every day (makes getting him in the car pretty easy at the moment so it has its plus points), so am hoping he’ll love a wooden train set as his Christmas presents from grandparents. There are SO many of these in various sizes on Facebook Marketplace (some come with a play table too), but John Lewis have a great set in three different sizes if you want to buy new.
MATCHING PICTURE CARDS. I can’t find the exact set we have (it was from Lidl in the summer), but the Orchard Toys picture lotto sets are great for helping them match images together and identify the names of objects. The ‘Red Dog, Blue Dog’ version is a good one for helping with colours. You can get them at Amazon, John Lewis, and all the big supermarkets. We also found a £3 own-brand one in Tiger but it’s not available online.
CRAYOLA MESS FREE. Slightly pricey for a colouring book and pens (around the £7 mark) but these books are great because as the name suggests, no mess! The felt tips basically only work on the paper so leave tables and sofas unstained – particularly great for traveling or keeping in your bag. There’s different options – Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, Cars, Disney Princess etc and are widely available at supermarkets. You can also get them on Amazon Prime.
PLAY DOH. Just make sure they’re obvs not playing with it on the sofa or the carpet or anywhere that isn’t basically strapped into a chair with a wipeable floor underneath. I got a four-set of fake Play Doh from Poundland (but can’t confirm if it’s rubbish or not), but you can get an eight-pot starter pack from Sainsbury’s for £4.50.
BALL RUN. Atti was obsessed with these when he was at nursery, so am hoping he’ll enjoy the one I got him from Christmas. But basically, a marble run, but with balls to make it a bit safer for small children who are inclined to stick things in their mouth. There are a few different designs out there, but I bought this one from John Lewis because it was a good balance of cost and size.
What’s been your best ever baby or toddler toy purchase?