Lovely Christmas and Birthday Gifts for the Early Years

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What do you give a child who may not remember this holiday? With a child who is growing by leaps and bounds, how do you choose a gift that is going to last longer than their current developmental stage? What toys will encourage creativity and meaningful play?

Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard at each Christmas and birthday to select gifts that will be simple, fun, and grow with my children. In our family, we buy gifts in four categories: one thing you want, one thing you need, one thing to wear, one thing to read. Take a peek at what we’ve given in each category for each age!

(Just a quick note, the following links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you click through, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. In some cases, the original item I’ve purchased is no longer available online, so I’ve linked to a similar product. Here’s my full disclosure.)

Gifts for a One Year Old

Something they want

Cone Sorting Toy

The cone sorting toy by Plan Toys is almost famous among people who follow Janet Lansbury’s blog, where she’s shared a lovely video of a young child play with it. We bought it a bit earlier than the recommended age, and the boys have grown into it.

Textured Sensory Balls

Open ended and fun toys, the starting point for tons of games. The baby can crawl after them, the toddler can toss them and kick them. We’ve found that these balls are great quality.

Rainbow Sound Blocks

These blocks have been a lovely addition to our toys. Each block has a different color, and something in it that rattles and shakes, so they are lovely to look at, stack, and make noise with.

Percussion Instruments

Apparently enabling my children to make noise is something of a theme. We’ve made a point of giving them a few musical instruments to play with, like a drum, a tamborine, and a xylophone which they play with regularly.

Duplo Starter Set

One is a great age to get started with Duplo – and your child will enjoy it for many years.

Something they need

Car seat

Depending on how big your baby is, they may be close to outgrowing their Group 0 car seat around the age of one, in which case you may be in the market for a Group 1 (or beyond) car seat. We opted for the budget-friendly Cosco extended rear-facing seat to keep G safe in the car.

Smock style bibs

By the time we got around to one year old, the little bibs weren’t doing the trick any more – they were pulled off too easily! Smock style bibs stayed on the toddler have been really handy.

Something to wear

Winter Outfit Set

I usually pick up an outfit set for Christmas. We get a lot of hand-me-downs, and so it’s fun to pick out something myself (that’s also new!). Even if it is wintery, I try to pick something that isn’t Christmas-specific, although the holiday sweaters are super cute. I also buy something that will fit on Christmas Day so we can enjoy it, and not wait for the kiddo to grow into it.

Something to read


In the UK, this book is called Peepo, but regarless, it is a precious book. The rhyme is perfect, and the illustrations are detailed and lovely to look at with your child.

Child’s Garden of Verses

There are so many different versions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses. I would recommend looking for one with illustrations that you love and going for that one. We read from this book every week or so – N especially loves asking for ‘a boat poem’.

A Book of Nursery Rhymes

We love reading nursery rhymes together as a family – and now that we’ve read them so often, I’ve been able to memorize quite a few! The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes has a great selection, and the illustrations are beautiful. They really captivate my children.

Gifts for a Two Year Old

Something they want

Balance Bike

Two years is the lower limit on a balance bike, so it’s a great pick for a second Christmas, especially if the seat is adjustable to grow with your children. Balance bikes are great for kids to learn how to actually balance on a bike – since there are no training wheels or pedals, the child can stabilize herself with her feet, and practice balancing as she pushes herself forward.

Large Wooden Dump Truck

Last year, my mom found the biggest, most robust wooden dump truck for my two year old, and it has been an awesome addition to our toys. It’s sturdy enough to be an outdoor toy (as long as it’s stored inside) and has been used to carry everything from Duplo to rocks.

Something they need


I’m using the idea of ‘need’ a bit loosely here, but we always need Play-dough around here. It’s a fun gift or stocking stuffer.

Duplo Storage

For us, it seemed like the time we had a two-year-old, our Duplo selection had multiplied incredibly – far beyond the little plastic bucket the original set had arrived in. Bigger storage, like a bin or a storage mat, will help keep them tidy.

Something to wear

Winter Outerwear

For the budding outdoorsman or woman. We’re always in need of layers that will keep the kids warm, and more importantly, dry, and Christmas is a good time to stock up.

Something to read

The Gruffalo

Perfect meter and rhyme. Perfect illustrations. Perfect child’s book. The Gruffalo is a firm family favorite.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site/Steam Train Dream Train

After reading Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site at a friend’s house last year, we knew we wanted to get this book, full of sleepy machinery, for Christmas. Of course, N loves it, along with the other book in the set which is full of trains.

Gifts for a Three Year Old

Something they want


We’re hoping to get a garden allotment soon, and are hoping that our oldest will get into the spirit of things. A wheelbarrow should help! Even without a vegetable patch, we hope that both of the boys will enjoy carting things around the yard.


We are really excited to give our oldest a proper easel for his third birthday. We ended up getting an Ikea easel, which looks similar to the one for sale at Amazon above. This will be great for emerging writing skills, as well as general creativity.

Something they need

Art Supplies

A budding artist with a proper easel needs art supplies: paint, brushes, chalk, markers, paper.


Lately, N has been super interested in a set of wooden letters that spell his brother’s name – they are meant to be wall decorations. Because he’s so into them, we thought he would enjoy an entire alphabet. These magnets will go with his easel (again, a loose interpretation of ‘need’). The magnet is integral to the letter, so there are no bits and pieces to come off.

Something to wear


Normally, we are loose trousers and tshirts sort of people – at least for the children. They need clothes that are suitable for running, jumping and climbing. However, for Christmas, I like to get them something that’s just a little different, like a nice jumper that can be worn to church.


Anyone else have a problem with kids ripping holes in the knees of their jeans? Sometimes new trousers are the most practical, needed option!

Something to read

The Original Peter Rabbit books

Maybe it’s because we live so close to the Lake District, but I love the Beatrix Potter books, and believe that every child should get a chance to read them and enjoy their charming stories and illustrations.


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