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Theo's Gift Guide for Toddlers

I can't wait for Christmas this year! I'm writing this over the Thanksgiving holiday from sunny Arizona, where we are here visiting friends. But as soon as we get home, we're launching into full Christmas mode. Many of my favorite childhood memories come from Christmases past, and few of them involve presents, except for the Christmas kitten I found meowing under the tree when I was seven. I just have this visceral memory of joy, of music and laughter and the smell of pies baking and the warmth of the wood stove warming the kitchen. Christmas is magic.

And speaking of magic, toddlers are magical! Theo is 21 1/2 months old right now, and it's all I can do not to hug him and squeeze him and kiss him all day long. He's quick to laugh, has a funny sense of humor, and loves to play games (like hide-and-seek). I love to watch his imagination develop as he plays make-believe with his construction Duplo men or pours us pretend coffee and brings us cup after cup. He's starting to speak new words every day, but we still have to decipher what they mean most of the time. 'Milk' and 'man' and 'meh' (what a goat says) all sound very similar to each other. But his vocabulary grows each day.

He's started to play independently, and sometimes I'll just stand behind the counter in the kitchen, chopping vegetables, as I watch him 'read' his books to his bear or load animals into his dump truck and take them on an adventure. Often, he'll come running over to help me cook. One of our best purchases this year was this kitchen step stool that lets him safely be a kitchen helper. If you've seen my Instagram stories, you've seen him cracking eggs and rolling cookie dough, which feels like something I've been waiting my whole life to do.

I love this toddler stage. Don't get me wrong, we're not without tantrums over here, and just in the last few weeks, it feels like an enthusiastic 'nope!' has become his favorite word. But seeing him learn and grow and imagine and laugh and love is just the best. Elie and I went for a hike today amongst the red rocks of Sedona, and he asked me to tell him my favorite part of being a mama. I went on for 15 minutes about hugs and laughter and kisses and snuggles and reading and learning and cooking and imagination, until I finally said, "Just all of it, I guess."

It's the BEST.

Other milestones at this age, just so I don't forget:

He can finish the sentences from the stories in his favorite books.
He drinks out of a glass and uses a fork and spoon (messy, but adorable).
He still sleeps through the night, generally from  7 or 7:30 to 6:00 or 6:30. Although we have seen signs of the two-year sleep regression.
He's started running, giggling the whole way.
He's become more of a picky eater, saying 'yuck' when he doesn't like something. But these days, his favorite foods are almonds, apples and olives. And he's like his mama--he always likes bread.

But enough about us. You're here for the gifts.

Even though Christmas isn't about the presents, the presents do make it fun. And if you're a parent of a toddler, you know that successful toys or fun activities can bring hours and hours of happiness, whether that means you're building construction sites with your little angel or you're watching him from across the room while you prep for dinner. If you're buying presents for a toddler this year, here is Theo's gift guide, from inexpensive stocking stuffers to bigger gifts.

Theo's Gift Guide

Theo can play with his construction Duplos for hours. They are great for fine motor skills, developing independent play and imagination. Theo already creates stories with the Duplo 'man,' as he calls them. It makes it fun for us to play as well. We have this set and this one.

Theo loves imaginative play, and he loves to cook, so I think he is going to love this play kitchen with this refrigerator, which is on our Christmas list for him this year. We chose the Hape kitchen, because it's sustainably built and non-toxic, and we love the other Hape toys we have. Although not all of Theo's toys fall into this category, we try to choose sustainably made toys when possible.

Along with the play kitchen, we're getting these pots and pans and this play food. A friend gave us a similar set of the play food when Theo turned one, and he loved it. We're adding to the collection, and it's great for coordination, fine motor skills and imaginative play.

When Theo turned one, another friend gave us a subscription to BABY BUG Magazine, and Theo loves it. The seasonal stories are really sweet, and each magazine contains an original song with hand motions. Since they are paperback and really lightweight, it's easy to toss a bunch into your diaper bag for entertainment, or to take on trips.

I didn't grow up with matching family Christmas pajamas, but I'm a fan. Not necessarily of everyone being matchy-matchy, but of everyone dressed in the spirit of Christmas and being super comfy. I love pajama days. These adorable Softsie pajamas are the ones I got for Theo this year, and I love them. I keep asking Softsie to make the pajamas in my size, because they are so cozy, comfy.

Theo's favorite toy is an antique John Deere tractor that Elie found in a local thrift store. To go along with it, we got him this barn set, which not only stimulates imaginative play, but also fine motor skills with the latches. When we travel, I take the Duplo construction vehicles and the animals from this barn set, and he is all set for playtime.

We spend hours every day reading, first thing in the morning, whenever he needs some quiet time, and before naps and bedtime. It's some of my favorite time together, curled up in our swing or in bed, reading a book. Some of Theo's favorites right now are the Usborne 'peek inside' collection. We spend lots of time making up stories about what we find inside.

That's our toddler gift guide for this year. While we don't believe that Christmas is about getting, we do know how wonderful it feels to give. And how good it is for us to receive, especially when gifts are given in love and joy. We hope you all enjoy a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones.

Lisa, Elie & Theo

Photos by Matthew Land Studios, from the Christmas when I was still pregnant with Theo.

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