Young children are notoriously fickle when it comes to playthings – just because your preschooler is fascinated with a toy at a friend’s house, there is no guarantee that he will like the exact same toy in his own living room. This makes holiday shopping for preschoolers very tricky – they want something one minute, and they move on five minutes later.
Beginning in late October, my house is deluged by an onslaught of holiday toy catalogs. In an effort to discover what toys my young children wanted, I would gather my little ones and we would sit down and look through together. Inevitably, my son wanted every single toy on the page. My daughter wanted anything her brother did. These forays into the preschool mind yielded nothing useful when it came to holiday shopping.
Now that I have six young child Christmases under my belt, I can look back and identify the toys that were not only popular on Christmas morning, but continue to be used often in the years to come.
- Dress-up costumes. Small children love to dress up. The costume parts do not need to match – they rarely wear a “complete” costume anyway. Try to stock a chest of hats, dresses, costumes and accessories. Right now is a great time to shop – I stocked my dress-up chest with Halloween clearance items that would be the right size for my children in the year to come.
- Blocks. Kids love to build stuff and then knock it down. It doesn’t matter what sort you buy – wooden blocks, foam blocks, plastic blocks – they are all wonderful. Children use blocks in all kinds of play. They don’t all have to be compatible sets either, as children mix and match very happily.
- A pretend kitchen. Our kitchen is going on its fifth year of steady use. My son used it as a toddler to “cook” and “serve” us play food, and my daughter now uses it to prepare meals for her doll family. A pretend kitchen and play food will give a family years of steady use.
- Outdoor play. Young children have great imaginations, and any type of toy that can be used outdoors is wonderful. My kids have created amazing games using balls, jump ropes, and toys that fly through the air. Very young children will chase bubbles for a long time. Sidewalk chalk will add to the fun.
- A season pass to a children’s museum. This might not give you a fantastic gift-opening photo op, but a season pass to a children’s museum is a gift you will never regret. I am lucky to live near one of the best children’s museums in the country, and even though we have been going regularly for years, it never gets old. This is always a good option to have in my back pocket when the weather gets nasty and my kids are getting stir-crazy at home.
- Art supplies. A well-stocked art cabinet will give a preschooler hours of fun. Good options include crayons, markers, paint, watercolors, stickers, pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes, feathers, and beads. Purchase washable options if you can, and watch the small parts for younger children who might be tempted to eat the supplies.
May your holiday season with a preschooler be merry!