Recently, I’ve really been in the mood to put together more original gifts for my friends and their toddlers. Gift cards and toy store finds are the norm in my social circle, and while those things are always appreciated, nobody really needs another plastic tractor to throw in the toy bin after 20 minutes of playing! I kept looking for ways to make my gifts more practical, functional, and memorable. With a little bit of thought into what my own young family enjoys, I started putting together more creative gifts for baby showers, holidays, and the never-ending slew of birthday parties.
If your little ones are currently in the stage of life where there’s a birthday party every month and you simply can’t show up empty-handed, I feel your pain. I actually have a small shelf in my linen closet dedicated to spare birthday party gifts (because one always comes up when you’re not expecting it!). I’m proud to admit that not one item in my well-stocked “gift closet” is a plastic toy! With a little preparation and a spoonful of healthy creativity, you can do the same! From small birthday tokens to big holiday presents, here are a few of my best gifts for toddlers that aren’t plastic-y clutter-y playthings.
Silly Sharks Sherpa Blanket by Emily Dove
I got my first hint of creative gift inspiration while giving my youngest girl a bath one evening. She absolutely adores putting on her hooded bath towel every night and parading herself as “Mary the Mermaid.” That towel has become our favorite of all the mermaid bathroom accessories I purchased. I’d love to give that same bathtime joy to another child. If mermaids aren’t your thing, an adorable bumble bee hooded towel is a gender-neutral winner.
Soft Sherpa blankets are some of my very favorite gifts for toddlers—they’re delightfully artistic and 100% useful. For the little builder in the family, I love packaging up the Construction Vehicles Sherpa blanket featuring art by Brett Blumenthal—a fantastic children’s artist with a real heart for involving little ones in the world around them. Our family has about five of these illustrative blankets floating around already, and we could always use one more!
As a serious book-lover, I am always up for spreading the love of reading with my own children and any other toddlers that come within a 20-mile radius. I absolutely love wrapping up a new storybook or two for the toddlers in my life to enjoy. Choose uncommon books by new authors, with tons of colorful and detailed illustrations. A good choice, and one of our recent favorites, is Hugs for Daddy—a sweet animal story illustrated by P.S. Brooks. Try wrapping up a couple stories in one of the cozy Sherpa blankets I shared above for a more substantial present!
Throw Pillows by Mouse + Magpie
Next up is my favorite gift for toddler birthday parties: new art supplies. There is nothing more fun than finger painting with a little one or exploring sidewalk chalk for the first time. I love giving my friends the gift of creative play! If you’re feeling super inspired, you can hand-pick supplies from a local craft store and put them together into a bucket or basket for display—but Crayola has done us a huge favor and compiled a toddler-friendly art supplies set in an adorable backpack carrying case. Easy last-minute gift? Check.
I’m always in search of open-ended gifts that enable little ones to use their imaginations for play, and interactive decor is a perfect choice. A toddler teepee turns the playroom into a smaller, secluded play space perfect for quiet mischief. I also love the idea of gifting a tiny toddler chair—perfect for reading—especially when it’s adorably soft and comfortable! This little fox armchair is one of my favorites and would be absolutely ideal in a woodland-themed nursery. Large decor items can get expensive, so these gifts are perfect for that special toddler in your life who you really want to spoil a bit!
Finally, I present to you the most surprising gift of all—a cute, kid-friendly throw pillow. These seemingly-inconsequential decor gifts are incredibly versatile and can be used as floor cushions during an imaginary train ride, can serve as backrests in a cozy kids reading nook, and can be snuggled up with at night. You never know what fun a toddler can have with their imagination and a throw pillow. Right now, I have a Dolores the Donkey throw pillow tied up with a sweet satin ribbon in the gift closet, just waiting to be loved by a child. Sometimes the simplest gifts really are the best.
One of my favorite things about giving creatively to toddlers is seeing the pleasantly surprised look on a fellow parent’s face when their gift is unwrapped. As parents, we are so used to an overload of toys. It’s all too easy for toys to totally take over the house, and after a certain point, we start looking for a graceful way to back out of that particular gifting category.
I always feel proud to do my part in helping other families enjoy simpler, clutter-free gifting occasions—and I know that the open-ended gifts on this list will probably be used, and loved, far more and far longer than another plastic plaything in the toy bin. Creative and thoughtful gifting is so rewarding. I’m excited for you to give it a try with the toddlers in your life!
You can find all of the products listed (and much more) in the Mouse + Magpie collection.Visit the Mouse + Magpie Shop
Become a Mouse + Magpie insider and get exclusive offers, details on new product launches and updates from our independent artist community!