I'm a father of five who works from home with my wife. We review products, run boutiques, and take care of our crazy kids together!
Why Buy Fewer, Higher-Quality Gifts?
While some may think that $200 is a lot for one gift—especially for a young child—I've found that buying just a few, high-quality gifts that cost a little more results in a better experience for both parent and child.
When my wife and I first had kids, we bought them lots of small toys, as I imagine many parents do. After all, children seem to respond more excitedly to quantity than quality. They would enjoy their toys at first, but then they would begin to toss them around more casually until they became bored of them altogether. As these small toys accumulated, the kids treated them more callously and used them to make a big mess of everything. Eventually, it reached a point where we decided to donate most of the smaller toys we had purchased for them to charity and start over completely.
How We Fixed the Problem
I thought back to my childhood. My parents were good at getting me gifts that required me either to be active or to take time building something or putting something together. We didn't have a lot of toys, but the ones we did have were engaging and allowed us to use our imaginations.
Fast forward to today: I'm now the father of five children ages two to eight. Instead of burying our kids in a mountain of small, cheap toys, we choose to buy them things that are a little more costly but of better quality. In turn, our kids are finally starting to play like they should be!
In this article, I list my six favorite high-quality gifts for younger children. They may be more expensive than small plush toys or action figures, but they're also a lot more interactive. Engaging products like these seem to hold our children's attention longer than cheap, simple toys.
1. Step 2 Up and Down Roller Coaster
This super fun toy comes with interlocking pieces that can be assembled to create a small track to ride a small car on. There are two non-slipping steps that lock onto the track so the child can safely climb up and onto the car. The track is designed to keep the car in place while your child climbs onto it. When they're ready, they simply push off to begin soaring down the bumpy road.
This gift is great for toddlers and preschoolers and can be used either indoors or outdoors. The car has a high back and front to cradle a child along with a handle in the front for security. Small footrests are stationed next to the front of the car for added stability. The manufacturer states that the recommended age range for this product is 24 months to 5 years old. I found this age range to be accurate—my six-year-old was just a bit too big for this toy.
I like this roller coaster set because it can keep multiple kids entertained at once—assuming they know how to take turns. It's very easy to move and put together, which makes it simple for you and your kids to use anywhere. Overall, I think this is a great gift for a young kid and one that will last them a few years if you get it early on. You can usually find it for under $100 when it's on sale.
2. Strider No-Pedal Balance Bike
A balance bike is a great prerequisite to a traditional bike. They're lightweight and easy to maneuver, even for a young child. My spouse and I were wondering whether to get our daughter a bike with training wheels when we found out about balance bikes. Once we did a bit of research, we decided to give them a try.
You don't have to pay a whole bunch to get a quality balance bike. Children 18 months to 5 years old that want to start learning how to ride a bike will love this Strider ST-4 No-Pedal Balance Bike. It is ideal for children that are between 30 and 44 inches tall. There are several colors to choose from, and the handlebars can be adjusted as your child grows. My kids and their friends love to roll around like they own the neighborhood on their balance bikes, and I love that they're having a ton of fun outside.
3. Kidkraft Vintage Kitchen
This KidKraft Vintage Kitchen is a great gift for a child between 26 months and 7 years of age. In my experience, both boys and girls love playing with this set. We purchased it in blue, but the manufacturer makes other styles and colors if the blue is not to your liking. Admittedly, this gift isn't for every child, but those who like to use their imaginations seem to love it. If you do decide to get it, then I recommend getting a few pretend plates and food items to go along with it.
Almost every child loves to pretend to cook and copy mom and dad in the kitchen. This wonderful kitchen has everything they could possibly want. It includes a fridge, a sink, a stove, an oven, a microwave, and some shelving. The fridge even has a mock water and ice dispenser. All of the doors open and close and are fixed with silver handles. The only drawback I noticed about this kitchen set is that the paint scratches somewhat easily.
4. KidKraft Majestic Dollhouse
Along the same lines as the kitchen set is this KidKraft Majestic Dollhouse, which is perfect for children aged between 36 months and 7 years. What little kid hasn't dreamed of having their own miniature house to play with? This darling set comes with 34 furniture pieces and accessories.
What I like about this set is that it comes with almost everything, so you don't need to buy any additional pieces to make it fun. There are eight rooms to decorate as well as a working elevator and garage doors that open and close. The only drawback that I noticed is that it does not come with any dolls. That said, any doll or action figure up to 12 inches tall can easily make their home in this house, so your child will likely be able to use it with some of their existing dolls and figures. The house stands 53 inches high, so there is plenty of room.
5. Magna-Tiles Construction Set
If your kids are builders like mine, they will love these construction tiles. In my opinion, these are the latest and greatest children's toy for creative building. The thing that I like most about these tiles is that there is no specific thing that the kids have to build. They can create whatever they choose! I like seeing my kids' creativity when they play with them—they all come up with something different. These tiles will definitely help your kids develop and use their motor skills.
This set includes 50 small squares, 4 large squares, 15 isosceles triangles, 11 right triangles, and 20 equilateral triangles. The pieces are magnetic, so they are very easy to stick together. This eliminates the frustration that children experience when trying to build with blocks that tip over easily. The manufacturer recommends this set for children aged 36 months to 8 years.
6. Jumbo Block Learner Set
When I was a kid, there was nothing greater than getting an awesome LEGO set. I remember spending days on end putting my LEGOs together and playing with them with my friends. Unfortunately, when kids are young, the small pieces often get lost. Enter these giant jumbo blocks. While they're not made by LEGO, they work in the same way.
We recently purchased two sets of these, and now my kids can put together things that they can sit, play, and ride on. They're a lot of fun, and like the tile set above, they're great for early builders. Best of all, they're nearly impossible to misplace due to their jumbo size. I personally think that you can never go wrong buying toys that require creative assembly.
© 2013 Brandon Hart