Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What to Give A 3 year-old (Fun gifts both kids and parents will love)

Okay, so maybe this post would be better titled, "What to give my 3 year-old," but I feel like most of these gift ideas are versatile and loved by 3 year-olds across the board (boy or girl), so hopefully this will be a post full of helpful ideas for gifts that are sure to be well-loved rather than a birthday order for the soon-to-be 3 year-old around these parts.

By way of disclaimer, these ideas are my own.  This post isn't sponsored.  And I can't speak for every mother out there.  (Heck, I can't speak for anyone other than myself, period.)  So, you know, take that for what it's worth.  

And before grandparents (I can think of two sets in particular--haha) start gearing up for the argument that they ought to be able to spoil their grandchildren with whatever they want, let me say this: I totally agree.  Any gift giver ought to be able to give whatever it is they want to give, whether it be something handmade or store-bought, noisy or educational, physical or experiential.  Gifts are always best when given in love and enthusiasm and that is definitely the way they come from grandparents around here.  And when a gift may come that we don't particularly love (Thank you, dear sister of mine, for the really annoying monkey toy you gave Olivia when you came to visit), it's important to accept them graciously anyway.  Because, after all, it really is the thought that counts.  And it's awesome to have people thinking of you (and your children).

But maybe you're just plain not sure what to give the 3 year-old on your list.  Maybe you've never had a 3 year-old.  Maybe your children popped out at age 4 and this whole 3 thing is new to you.  Or maybe you're just tired of buying toys off the shelf and hoping the kid will like it and their parents won't think daggers about you every time that stupid song comes on again.  If that's the case, then hopefully you'll get a few good ideas here today.

Okay, let's rock this thing.

1. Experiences

My #1 absolute favorite thing for people to give my daughter are fun, cool experiences.  These are usually more expensive to give, but they certainly don't have to be.

Here are a few ideas for giving experiences:

  • Passes to the local zoo
  • Passes to the local children's museum
  • Tickets to a sporting event you know the kid likes
  • Tuition for a fun class (art, dance, piano, etc.)
  • Enrollment in a sports team (soccer, t-ball, etc.)
  • A trip together into the city
  • A coupon for a play date at your house or the park sans Mom and Dad (free!)

2. Coins

I don't know about you, but I have yet to meet a 3 year old who doesn't love playing with coins.  There's something about those tiny little pieces of metal that just feels special to little kids.

Here are some fun and simple ways to give coins:

  • Get a roll of pennies (they come in 50 cent rolls at the bank) and tie a balloon to it.  Happiest kid ever.
  • Collect the random coins from the bottom of your purse, add in a piggy bank from the dollar section at Target, and you're all set.  But, hey, let the kid put the coins in by themselves.
  • Get a roll of quarters (they come in rolls of $10 from the bank) and give them with the intent that they'll be used for those sketchy rides (see above photo) at the mall.  The kid will love it and it's a great indoor activity/sanity break for Mom and Dad.
  • Put some coins in a zipper pouch.  Then let the kid open the pouch and take the coins out and put them back in and zip it up and do it over and over again as many times as they want.

3. Educational Toys

I prefer educational toys so much more to "just sit and play with it" toys.  Why?  Because toys that kids are just supposed to sit and play with don't hold my daughter's attention span nearly as long as educational toys do.  

(Side note: I have it on good authority that boys will play with cars for hours on end, so maybe this is just a girl thing?  Or just an Olivia thing?)  

Also, I appreciate educational toys more because we're able to put them to use in a variety of ways and for a much longer time than the other stuff.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is that educational toys are more worth the valuable space they take up in my house and they give you more bang for your buck because they'll be used and appreciated longer.

Here are some ideas for educational toys:
  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Stickers (You really can't give a 3 year-old too many stickers.)
  • Matching games
  • Small manipulatives (marbles, fun erasers, etc. that can be used for counting and sorting)
  • Maps/Globes
  • Toddler-friendly art supplies
  • Lacing toys
  • Alphabet-focused toys (alphabet magnets, blocks, etc.)
  • Math-centered toys
  • A big roll of paper (great for so, so many toddler-friendly activities)

4. Food

This sort of falls under the same category as experiences, but there are so many possibilities for giving food that it seemed like it needed its own category.

Here are some ideas for giving food:
  • Gift certificate to a favorite low-key restaurant
  • Coupon for cooking/baking something with you sans Mom and Dad
  • Fun sprinkles (Yeah, just the sprinkles.  It's a win.) 
  • A date to go to a favorite restaurant/ice cream place with you sans Mom and Dad
  • A box of fruit snacks (Pretty sure every 3 year-old is addicted.)

5. Clothes

This maybe one of those controversial gift ideas, but I personally think that clothes are a great gift for a 3 year-old.  Especially if it's a fun t-shirt or a great pair of shoes that the kid can put to good use and wear all the time.  

Case in point: my mother-in-law bought Olivia a shirt with a picture of ice cream on it a few months ago and Olivia loved it.  And every time she put that shirt on she got a big smile on her face and said, "Nana gave me that shirt!"  Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

Ideas for fun clothes to give:
  • Really fun (and good quality) shoes
  • A t-shirt with a fun picture (Pretty sure if someone gave my daughter a t-shirt with an elephant on it she would ask to wear it every single day.)
  • Cool socks
  • Rain boots (These are more than clothes.  They're the ability to go out and splash in big puddles.)
  • A cozy sweatshirt with a fun picture on it

6. The Cool Version of Something They Already Have & Use All The Time

If I go and buy Olivia some everyday item like a water bottle, it's going to be the cheapest and most practical one I can find.  Maybe it'll have a fun picture on it and maybe it won't.  So a fun, cool, (and dishwasher safe, please!) water bottle with dinosaurs or flowers or stars and a cool flip-top lid is a gift that is sure to impress AND get used all. the. time.  And I am all for giving and receiving gifts that get put to good use.

Here are some ideas for giving the fun version of things they already have and use all the time:
  • Silverware in cool shapes or with fun pictures on it.  Or a set with kid-friendly knives.  They always seem to want those so they can be like Mom and Dad.
  • Water bottles that have fun designs (Just please make sure it won't leak.)
  • Plates.  The more compartments, the better.
  • Pillowcases.  Fun pillowcases = happy bed time.
  • Snack bags/containers (especially reusable ones)

7. Something That's Just Plain Fun

And, of course, there will always be a place in our hearts (and the hearts of the 3 year-olds we love) for things that are just plain fun.  

Here are some ideas of gifts that are just plain fun:
  • Play dough
  • Stickers
  • Balloons
  • Little figurines
  • Coloring books
  • Matchbox cars
  • Magic wands
  • Good quality dress-up clothes (I hear other kids like these.  Olivia doesn't.)
  • Baby dolls and their many accessories
  • Play food

What are some things your 3 year-old would love to receive as a gift?  

What are some things you wish people would give them?


Dorothy said...

You've got some good ideas in there Katie! I never even thought about kid plates, etc. Coins, however, brings back memories! My kids had a bucket of pennies that they played with for hours on the hard wooden floors. And coins for mall rides? Great idea!! (Then Mom doesn't have to feel like she is "wasting" money on those things.)

The Jessee Journal said...

I would add to the list: Timeless toys. My kids have a huge box of little people figurines and animals ... and I really would never, ever pare down that box (even though I'm constantly throwing away/donating/simplifying all the other toys in our house!). These toys spark the imagination like no other and with a few houses to go with them and some wood blocks my kids have spent countless hours creating communities and weddings and all sorts of amazing imagination games. So even though some toys (like matchbox cars!) don't appear to be educational, if they spark the imagination then they are worth their weight in gold :)

Tiffany said...

This list rocks! I thought that it was a very clever post. And I'm pumped for some great ideas for my almost four year old. :)

My only other things I would add would be a big box. Sure, you could put something in it too...but you could also just wrap up a big box and it will provide hours of entertainment. (Until Mom and Dad get tired of tripping over it and throw it away...sorry kids.) And then we love board games. But not the lame ones...the super fun ones. There are some really good ones out there that give us hours of family fun time. And finally, I don't know if a three year old is too young for this, but a marker board and markers is another great gift of never ending fun.

But really, your ideas are clever and cute.

I hate getting loud annoying toys. Or toys with a million small pieces. Or toys that break the next day leaving my child sobbing.

I have to add that my kids would probably always say that their favorite presents are some form of junk food: Cheetos or candy. Usually one of those two things. :) That's what they're still talking about years later...

Rachel @ The Philosophers Wife said...

These are great ideas! I love that you include educational toys. My little girl just turned two and she loves just about anything that can be a toy--so if there is anything educational about it bring it on! It doesn't have to just be bright lights and music. (Of course, she likes those too!)

If you're interested I'd love for you to link up at my Toddler Linky!


Bryan Lewis said...

I really do think that Olivia would love a t-shirt with an elephant on it. We would have to force her to wear a different shirt everyday.

This is a really great list though!

Kathy Haynie said...

Hahaha...I'm looking for an elephant tee shirt now...

Seriously, a great list! I love that many of the suggestions here can be low-cost and still be really special to a child.

Allison said...

Great ideas!
I would add Legos. Out of any type of block or building toy legos are on the top of my list. The real (not knock-off brands) ones are sturdy and last forever. I personally love the DUPLOs ones(the bigger Legos) even as Aiden gets older and can use the small ones really well, he still loves the big ones, because bigger Legos means bigger creations. The other really awesome thing about legos is that it doesn't matter if you have big or small ones, because they can be used together! ingenious really (in my opinion). Both Aiden and Annabelle can entertain themselves for quite sometime with Legos and they allow their imagination and creativity to go wild. We get a variety of crazy and realistic creations. As much as I love Legos, I don't love all the sets they have, I am not a fan of things with instructions on how to build, I think the fun is in having some variety but creating your own creations :)
Maybe its just my kids, but out of all the toys I have, or have seen my kids play with, these have proven to me to be the most versatile and long lasting. THe possibilities are endless.

Simplastic said...

Some great ideas there.
I would add seed growing kits or just a packet of seeds which are simple to grow and a watering can.
Edible things are best and lead to some absurd sounding conversations like 'Dont eat the broccoli yet' and 'Cats don't eat parsley' lol.
Also cameras are great entertainment, it's worth investing in a durable one with the highest number of pixels your budget allows or just an outdated model which still works well.