Create a Thoughtful Holiday List with this Simple Phrase

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
February 20, 2023

Something they want
Something they need
Something they wear
Something they read

With the upcoming holidays and young kids at home, it can become overwhelming to figure out how to navigate this season of giving and receiving with your children. It is easy to get caught up in the idea of more being better and comparing yourself to others and how much they are giving to their children. In our house, we try to live by a “less is more” philosophy and look to get high quality items that will last for years and grow with our little ones or find things second hand to let the item live on and reduce waste. As the holidays approach, we want to begin instilling these values in our daughter, while still letting the fun of making a holiday list be a part of our family tradition.

toddler gift guide

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We are creating a thoughtful list by making sure our children’s gifts fall under these four categories:

Something they want
Something they need
Something they wear
Something they read

I love that this simple rhyme will allow our daughter to take part in the fun of wanting and wishing for special things during the season, but help her to learn self-control and limits.  Will my 14-month-old be taking part in this now? No.  But we are going to use this guide to help ourselves find special items for her.  I expect that as she grows up we will include her more and more in this simple list-making tradition to aid her in decisions and ideas.

How to Choose Gifts for Your Toddler

When thinking about the something they want category, especially if you are buying for a toddler, take some time to observe your little one.  What interests them.  Do they love to be outside?  Perhaps a yard toy or wagon is the right choice for them.  Maybe farm animals are there thing, dogs, instruments?  What kinds of toys do they gravitate towards at the library or a friend’s house?  Asking yourself these questions will help you purchase something that you know they will love.  For me, I know N is interested in anything she can manipulate and helps with her fine motor skills.  See the suggestions below for some toys that fulfill this desire for her, and will continue to challenge as her development interests shift.

The need and wear category is a chance for you to splurge on something that is going to make your day-to-day as a parent easier, get something that is going to aid in your child’s daily routine or development, or keep them comfortable and clothed.  For me, this means items that help with life in the kitchen and outdoors.  Living in New England, my something they wear will be warm, quality clothes, shoes and outerwear.  See my ideas below.

The read category is another chance to think about what your toddler is already interested in and expand their library.  For a toddler, this probably means a board book meant for little hands.  I recommend some great “interactive” books below that I know N will read again and again.  In addition to a book (or two) that is meant for them to enjoy right now, I like to select a high-quality hardcover children’s book for N.  Since before she was born, and for most holidays and special occasions, Patrick and I enjoy choosing a book for N and inscribing a special note on the inside.  This is a tradition that I look forward to continuing in our home.  I love the idea of N one day having a collection of illustrated children’s classics that we carefully chose just for her.

Without further ado, I bring to you my Toddler Holiday Gift Guide.   Every item on this list is something we are already using and loving in our home.

Something They Want:

Haba Wooden Sensory Blocks

toddler gift guide

These are a current favorite of N’s.  She will sit and play with these independently for lengths of time.  I love that there are only 6 of them because they actually keep her more engaged than when she is presented with a large quantity of blocks all at once (dumping and throwing tends to ensue).  These six blocks all make a different sound and have different textures and colors.  They are well made and perfect for little hands to practice stacking and knocking, banging, sorting, putting in and out of boxes and baskets and more.  I have only good things to say about this toy!

Hape Wooden Pull Along Snail

toddler gift guide

This is an adorable wooden snail that will grow with your toddler.  Right now, N is pre-walking but still loves this toy.  The snail’s “shell” is removable and she loves to practice taking it off and balancing it back on the base.  There is a built-in shape sorter on the shell.  One side has an elastic band across and provides the perfect challenge for little fingers to take the wooden shapes in and out.  As she become more skilled and interested in sorting, the shell’s other side features holes with different shapes.  The eyes of the snail bobble around making them a fun source of play and the red string to pull it along is perfect for practicing fine motor grasping and then gross motor movement as she begins to walk.  This is a much beloved toy in our home.

Melissa and Doug Cutting Food Set

toddler gift guide

This has been a hit in our play kitchen.  It is a nice set because it meets different interests as she grows.  At first, she was really interested in pulling the pieces apart and putting them back together (the Velcro fascinates her).  She is just starting to show some interest in using the adorable play knife and cutting board and as she grows into imaginative play the set will continue to serve her.

Ukulele – Alvarez Soprano Ukulele

toddler gift guide

My husband is a talented guitar player and N has always had a strong interest in his guitars and other musical instruments.  For her 1st birthday we purchased a Ukulele for her and it has been a huge hit.  Patrick wanted something that was high quality, and we found that spending just a bit more we could get an actual instrument for her instead of a toy version.  We do hang this out of reach in her room and use it under supervision, but it also wasn’t so expensive that we are afraid to let her explore it in any way she wants.  It has been a good exercise in teaching some limits, and we expect to give her more free use of it as she gets older.  I love that this is something that will last her entire life and will hopefully be a hobby she always shares with her dad.

Avery Barn 10-Pack Magnetic Clear Photo Pocket Picture Frame

toddler gift guide

I recently purchased this pack of magnetic photo frames to put on our refrigerator and N’s eye level.  I fill them with pictures of our family, dogs and extended family members.  N loves to look at them on the fridge and identify the people she recognizes.  She also enjoys removing them and re-sticking them, carrying them around and sharing them with us.  This is a great gift because the photos can be changed out regularly keeping interest high and keeping little ones occupied in the kitchen.

Something they Need

OXO Tot Training Fork and Spoon Set

toddler gift guide

These have been amazing for helping N eat independently.  Your toddler is probably very excited about feeding themselves and these are the perfect tool for the job!

Guidecraft Heartcraft Kitchen Helper (solid maple)

toddler gift guide

We received this learning tower for N’s first birthday and I can say without a doubt this is my most used toddler item (aside from our crib and hiking back-pack).  It has made meal-prep, kitchen chores, snack time, and mornings in our house go so much smoother.  I love the sturdy construction of this model and the natural wood look.  It features different standing levels to grow with her and is something I know we will use for years to come.

Kelty Tour 1.0 Child Carrier – Hiking Backpack

toddler gift guide

We absolutely love this hiking backpack and use it every morning to hike or dogs with N.  She loves the high vantage point and it carry kids up to 40 lbs.  Bonus is the extra storage space and ability to adjust to fit all different body types, heights and frames.

Something They Wear

TOMS Kids’ Cuna-K – Soft soled “crib shoes”

toddler gift guide

These are our go-to shoes for our beginner walker (14 months) I love that they have a soft-sole to support early walking, but that they have proven to be super durable.  They are holding up to lots of play in our backyard and “walks” on clear trails.  They are lined with a faux-fur making them warmer than most soft-sole options out there.  And the cute factor is high too 🙂

Smartwool Infant Socks

toddler gift guide

These have been excellent for keeping N’s feet warm so far this season. We sized up to get more than one season out of them.

Carter's One Piece Fleece Jumpsuit

toddler gift guide

I love this for chilly days.  It is versatile enough to layer it for whatever amount of warmth you need.  Size up to fit more clothes under it, or use it under a bulkier water-proof snowsuit.  I could not find the exact link for the pattern we have (purchased in Carter’s store Fall of 2017) but this one is very similar.

Snowstoppers Kids Mittens

toddler gift guide

Mittens that will actually stay on your toddler’s hands, yes!  These mittens feature a long sleeve to keep the snow out and the mitten on.  I used these as a nanny and recently purchased a pair for N.  We sized up so that they will last more than one season.

Something They Read

toddler gift guide

N is loving interactive board books (think lift the flap, sensory etc.) These are some of her favorites:

And the book lover in me wants to include some gorgeous seasonal books to treasure:

Hopefully this guide has inspired you with some gift ideas for your toddler this holiday season and maybe will even be the start of a holiday giving tradition in your family.

For more gift ideas check out Trina's post on 11 Classic Toys to Create the Ultimate Playroom.

Gift Guide Checklist

Have some additional ideas or questions about products on this list?  Let me know.

If you found this article helpful or you think you may be starting a tradition of something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read please share it on Pinterest or Facebook and with family and friends.

toddler gift guide
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