Last week while I was trying to cook dinner, my two-year-old climbed onto the back of the couch so that he could use a broom to sweep dust off of the ceiling fan.
What could go wrong?
In a moment of sheer exhaustion, I pulled out the iPad and let him watch two episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba.
I got so much done in that 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, I now have a tiny iPad addict.
He now asks to watch the iPad at least twenty times a day. No matter where I hide the tablet, he will sniff it out like a bloodhound and bring it to me saying, “Yo yo gabba, please?”
We do our best to limit our kids’ screen time. There is a growing amount of literature pointing to problems with letting kids plugin too much. Plus, our own experience is that when our kids use technology they employ more whining and rebellion than when they do low tech activities.
Here are nine non-tech gifts for preschoolers.
All of my children have loved building with Duplos.
They’re smaller than Mega Bloks but much larger than regular Legos which can pose a real choking hazard.
Because we’re on child number four, our Duplo collection is pretty large. For years, we’ve been pretty specific with family members about what toys our kids want. Although they don’t always listen to us and sometimes we have aunts that give us 6,000 stickers (not an exaggeration), we have amassed a fairly huge Duplo collection, and our kids love them.
2. Dab and Dot Markers
My daughter got these as a gift for her third birthday. She has played with them every day for a year. My son used them to make it look like he had a massive, bloody scrape on his knee.
So you really need to know your kid (and your own tolerance for bloody knee pranks) before you give these as a gift.
If you have a child that will sit and color nicely, these are perfect.
If you have a boy like my two, you’d probably do better with more Duplos.
3. Watercolor Books
This is another one that may not be for every child, but even my rambunctious two-year-old will sit for 30 minutes to paint.
These cool books from Melissa and Doug have the paint at the top of the paper which really cuts down on the mess.
Another way to reduce the mess is to give the kids water in a medicine cup. I got this tip from one of my friends, and it has improved our home life so much.
If a kid spills 15 mL of water it’s really not a big deal.
And I know, it shouldn’t be a big deal if they spill an entire cup, but multiply that by four and it gets pretty annoying.
Kids love playdoh.
There are tons of great homemade playdoh recipes out there. I’ve never actually tried any of them, but I have friends who are way more fun/thrifty/crafty than I am who love homemade playdoh.
My kids are the ones who mix all the colors together until every container of Playdoh is just gray.
That would really bother me if I’d gone to all the trouble to make that stuff homemade.
So knowing myself, I just buy Playdoh to prevent a total meltdown when my hard work goes gray.
My favorite thing about Playdoh is how creative kids can be. Although all the Playdoh tools are cool, my kids have a blast with some old cookie cutters and plastic knives.
5. Hot Wheels
My kids all love playing with Hot Wheels.
They’ve done races, car shows, trading events, car washes, counting activities, homemade ramp and track competitions, and color sorting activities with them.
And please don’t think I’m doing some sort of fun homeschool activities with Hot Wheels.
They came up with all those things on their own.
We bought them this cool case to store them last Christmas, but they mostly just keep them in plastic tubs.
They also really like the basic ramps. The really cool ramps have a ton of pieces and end up broken rather quickly in our house.
6. Cutting Food
We bought our four-year-old a toy kitchen for her birthday and while she plays with it fairly often, her favorite thing is cutting food.
I thought maybe she was just on her way to being a chef, but all of the kids really like using the little wooden knife to slice the velcroed food apart.
And after a very involved pretending session in which I was a student learning to cut, I sort of get it. It’s rather therapeutic to see that perfect slice and hear the soft separating of the velcro.
However, if you don’t like pretending to eat wooden food, you should NOT get these toys for your child. Every piece of food that is sliced, must be plated and delivered to an adult. The adult must then pretend to eat the food and compliment the child on their excellent cooking skills.
I don’t make the rules.
I just pretend to eat the wooden food.
7. Tiny Trampoline
If you’ve never seen a kid on one of these, please google a video.
It is pure joy.
All of my kids, ages 2-10, love this trampoline.
The only problem with it is making them share and take turns like polite children instead of feral animals.
But honestly, that’s true of every single thing we own.
My youngest two started jumping on this trampoline as soon as they could crawl up on it and stand up holding the bar.
And with it being so close to the ground, any falls are fairly harmless. Although, we do keep ours on top of the foam floor tiles just to be safe.
8. Musical Instruments
If you are a relaxed and patient mom, this is a great gift for your toddler. They will have so much fun playing with these adorable, tiny musical instruments. This gift will probably foster a lifelong love of music that could possibly blossom into a career as a concert pianist. Plus it comes with an adorable tiny backpack to hold all 24 of the pieces.
I am not a fun mom, so my children do not have this toy.
However, I am friends with many fun moms and my children love playing with their musical instruments at their house.
These would also make a great gift for a sibling or friend with a toddler.
Just remember that saying about payback when your child’s birthday rolls around.
9. Little People
All but one of my four children have loved Little People.
They’re the first toys that my kids have done that adorable pretend play thing where they make two inanimate objects talk to each other. I’m sure there’s a developmental stage I could reference here, but I don’t know it. Feel free to Google it and tell us all in the comments.
Another great thing about Little People is that they live up to their name making them small enough to take places.
They’re a little pricey, so I usually try to find them on the Facebook Marketplace.
In conclusion, there are a ton of really great non-tech gifts for preschoolers.
The biggest downside is that they are a lot messier than a single tablet, but with the mess comes an opportunity to teach them about cleaning up after themselves, right?