Product Reviews

Personal Elf Shopper: Toddler and Preschooler Gift Guide

*This post contains affiliate links, I may receive compensation from these links. All opinions are 100% my own*

Welcome back! It’s your favorite friendly elf here with more Christmas gift ideas and this time we’re going to shine the spotlight on the other little Christmas elves in your life: toddlers & preschoolers. I understand this can be considered a pretty significant age gap (from about 18 months-4 years old) and there are certainly some gaps in developmental ability. But, rest assured these items are Zolie (my two year old) tried, tested and approved and are versatile in the sense that they will definitely grow with each child as they leave toddlerhood and enter preschool-age.

This guide is arranged a bit differently from our infant guide because just like a child’s needs change as they get older, so do the items they like or need in order to be stimulated and satisfied. For our toddler/preschooler guide we’re going to focus on five topics: Art, Pretend Play, Games, Clothes, and Books.

Read on to find some of our favorite items to gift this Christmas!

Encourage color recognition and creativity with fun art supplies.

If you have a mini Picasso or Kahlo in your life, perhaps your best bet is to check out any of these art activities perfect for budding artists. Children need mental stimulation just as much as they need physical activity in order to have life balance. Arts & crafts for toddlers and preschoolers have many benefits to a child’s development including color recognition, sensory development, and fine-motor skills.

Do-a-Dot markers and activity books

Do-a-Dot markers and activity books are technically designed for ages 3+, but if your two year old enjoys coloring and identifying colors, they will love these. Do-a-Dot markers are just like bingo markers and come in a multitude of colors and sets including a few that are scented.

You can also choose from a variety of coloring and activity books designed specifically for these markers. If you’re buying for a 2-3 year old, I would suggest “Discovering My World” or “Animals,” but if you’re buying for an older preschooler, I would definitely recommend the Play and Learn ABC 123 book. This one teaches the ABC’s, 123’s, shapes and cutting/pasting skills. Do-a-Dots are also great tools for enhancing fine motor skills.

Tots Finger Paint and Finger Paint Paper

Okay, before you click away please hear me out. I know finger paint is a “messy” activity and cleaning up is never fun, but let’s talk about why kids need finger paint. This activity allows for a prime sensory experience for young children. They’re able to engage all five senses while also learning the concept of color and how colors mix together to make new colors.

If this still feels too messy for you, you can click here to see a fun no mess finger paint activity!

Melissa and Doug Paint With Water Activity Pad

These activity pads by Melissa and Doug are perfect if you’re looking for a “less-mess” activity. All you need is a small cup of water to dip your brush in and the water does the rest of the work on each page.

This activity helps children learn how to blend colors together and introduces the concept of cause and effect.

Exercise imagination with dramatic play.

Dramatic play is an important part of child development. Not only does it build imagination and creativity, but it also helps teach empathy, kindness and other characteristics children need as they grow into adulthood.

Dramatic play also leads into the acquiring of essential life skills. When children dress up in costumes or play with pretend food, they are building the foundation they need for when they learn to use these items in the real world.

You’ll notice all three of the ideas listed in this section are by Melissa and Doug toys, this is because they, in my opinion, have the best quality pretend play products and I really want to share them with you.

Melissa and Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop! Set

If your two year old is anything like mine, then you know the struggle when it comes time to clean up and they INSIST on “helping” you. Sweeping up the kitchen turns into an hour long chore because there’s no way you can say no to your child without fearing they will stop wanting to help you. The Dust! Sweep! Mop! Set comes with kiddie sized cleaning utensils perfect to use when they want to help tidy up.

There are also two other smaller sets that would be a perfect add-on: the spray, squirt, squeegee set and the laundry basket playset for more tidy up fun.

Melissa and Doug Pretend Play Food Sets

Here’s a classic you really can’t go wrong with. Take a trip to any children’s library or play zone and chances are there will be a play kitchen fully stocked with play food and it’s more than likely always occupied by children.

Melissa and Doug play food sets are one of my favorites because there is such a wide variety to choose from. Our go-tos right now are the Slice ‘n’ Toss Salad Set and Ice Cream Counter. Each set also comes with a list of different ways you can use the set to play including classic pretend play, color sorting and more.

Melissa and Doug Role Play Costumes

If dramatic/pretend play toys spark your interest the most, then I suggest also gifting one of Melissa and Doug Toys’ many role play costumes. Whether the child you’re gifting for likes to cook, play cops and robbers or fight invisible fires, you will definitely be able to find a role play costume that they’ll absolutely love.

Games are a perfect way to bond with children.

If you’re buying for a family with more than one young child and you don’t want to spend a ton of money, consider buying a game everybody will be able to enjoy. It’s always a good idea to have the classics in the family board game stash, but if one person in the family is too young to fully understand the game, it can be frustrating and stressful for everybody involved. To help avoid that, consider one or more of these!

Roll and Play

This game is designed for children from 18 months up to around 3 or 4 years old. It comes with a giant die with different colors on each side and a deck of cards that correspond to each color. You split the deck into small piles of each color and as each person rolls the giant die, they pick up the corresponding color and have to follow the directions stated on the card.

This game is great for teaching color recognition and matching as well as following directions.

Crocodile Dentist

This game is perfect for children around 3 years old and up. Inside the plastic crocodile’s mouth is a full set of teeth that are able to be pushed down. Each person takes turns pushing down one tooth and keeps going until the mouth chomps down. Whomever the crocodile chomps down on is out and you keep going until you have a winner.

This game is perfect for teaching children to take turns.


Seek-a-boo is best for children between 18 months and 3 years old. Seek-a-boo is a game of memory catered to toddlers and preschoolers. There are two sets of cards, one that you scatter around the room and the other you draw out of. Once you draw a card, you then have to flip the floor cards over to find your match.

This game is perfect for teaching the child how to recognize like and different objects.

Help them become the most stylish kid on the block!

In my previous gift guide I mentioned three boutiques that I absolutely love. I’m going to be linking the same boutiques from that post because they happen to be the fan-favorites in our house. To see a description of each boutique, check out my previous post here.

Encourage early literacy with books.

Last but not least, we come to the best part of the guide: the books. The question to ask yourself when gift shoping is not whether or not you should gift a book, but which title you should gift. You really can’t go wrong with any title, but consider one or more of these for your gift giving needs.

Usborne Christmas Picture Book Pack

I’m a fan of Christmas. I’m a fan of Usborne Books. Put the two together and I cry literal tears of joy and happiness (I’m not kidding). This picture book pack comes with four Christmas Classics: The Twelve Days of Christmas, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and the Nutcracker. The illustrations are adorable and we are excited to have these Christmas classics gracing our bookshelf.

Daniel Tiger Books

You have a lot of leeway with this one because there are so many Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood books available. If you aren’t familiar with Daniel Tiger and friends, he is a character from a TV show on PBS Kids based around the neighborhood of make-believe (yes, from Mister Rogers. It is produced by the Fred Rogers Company). Daniel Tiger focuses on empathy and how to handle big feelings and difficult situations.

Every book is based around a message from an episode of the TV Show and some even come as lift-the-flaps which are perfect for the age group we’re shopping for right now.

Do Crocs Kiss?

This one is a huge hit at our house. It revolves around a group of jungle aimals and asks fun questions in rhyming form. There are also flaps on each aniamls mouth and when you lift them, you see the name of the sound each animal makes like “hiss,” “growl,” or “chomp.” At the end of the story you can lift two big flaps to reveal all of the animals hanging out behind the tall grass.

This book is really fun and helps teach animal names and sounds.

For you Melissa and Doug fans out there, I have some awesome deals for Black Friday-Cyber Monday!

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Now that we’ve gotten through toddlers and preschoolers, what are you planning to give?

Josie Schreiber

Josie Schreiber

I'm a mom first and a writer second. I wear a lot of hats; mom, writer, part-time toy expert, full-time student, mobile library founder, and ugly sweater connoisseur. Are you a parent and have a topic you want discussed? Shoot me an email and I'd be more than happy to write my take on it. instagram: momillennial