Providing toddlers with child-sized versions of adult tools helps them to process and fully experience what they see every day. Child-sized versions of things like brooms, rakes, and shovels also help them gain the fine and gross motor skills needed to excel at not only at daily living skills, but the fine and gross motor development will also help their cognitive development as well as different parts of the brain are used to mimic and problem solve.
When choosing holiday gifts for toddlers this year skip the busy distracting toys that will be played with for a few days and then left to clutter the playroom floor, and consider items that they will be inspired to play with every time they see you rake the yard, make a pot of soup, or sweep the floor.
When child-sized tools are provided for children to work with, they gain healthy self esteem as they are able to do real jobs that make a difference in the home. When items are specifically designed for their size they reduce frustration and feel competent. They also learn that a job well done is the best reward.
When pretend play items that mimic what they see adults using every day, children are encouraged to pour, stack, inspect, process, and learn kinesthetically about what is happening around them.
Some of these are appearing under the tree for our little guy this year, which ones do you think your little one will enjoy the most?
- A balance bike: If the family takes bike rides often, even if baby has his own bike seat (mine has this seat on my bike) he most likely will be motivated to try it on his own. A balance bike is a great way to make an easy transition to a 2-wheel pedal bike a couple years later and to encourage indpendence in a toddler who isn’t quire ready for the whole pedals but wants a 2-wheel bike like mom, dad, or older siblings.
- Broom, mop, and dust pan set: Mimicking cleaning rituals is a favorite, and they really can get a good amount up as they start to learn how to direct their sweeping into a pile. If you’ve ever wrestled your toddler for your broom so that you can finish sweeping, you know this will be a hit. Not really a gift idea, but I keep my rags in a low drawer and have taught my little guy to also mop up spills with a rag and then throw them near the washer in the laundry room when he’s done. More independence, low cost.
- A play kitchen: Nestled in a corner of the kitchen or just outside of it, little ones will surprise you with their imitation of you cooking different meals. Scrambled eggs and soup are on our toddler’s menu most often, and he gets to practice stacking his play dishes and serving things on plates to carry around without breaking our real dishes or dropping food on the floor. A must for boys and girls, encourage creativity in the kitchen early for healthy families in the future.
- Fruit and veggie sets with a wooden knife: If you can’t do a whole play kitchen, just a fruit and veggie set with a cutting board and wooden knife encourages hand-eye coordination, cooking readiness, and interest in preparing food. A great addition to a play kitchen or something to keep in a bottom drawer or low shelf for your toddler to access whenever they want to work alongside mom or dad in the kitchen.
- A doctor set: Especially if you are visiting a doctor or midwife for prenatal appointments, or the child has health issues that cause them to be in the doctor’s office often.
- A tool set: For older toddlers who are careful you may be able to get them some real tools, but most will not be ready for sharp hard instruments. If Dad or Uncle is in construction or works around the house a lot, or if there is a lot of construction going on in your neighborhood children will enjoy ‘fixing’ and ‘building’ with their play hammers, screw drivers, and drills nestled in their utility belt.
- Garbage trucks or tractors: The equipment and trucks that kids see passing by their house or in their neighborhood inspire them to play through imitation. At this age they are much more interested in imitating what they see around them than exploring a new fancy or unknown tractor that might cost twice as much. This garbage truck is my toddler’s favorite toy, and is a favorite among all who visit us as well (I’m glad we have 2! I bought them for my older kiddos).
- An adjustable Stokke-style high chair: By the time they are toddlers most kids are able to climb in and out of these high chairs on their own. They push up to the table just like a regular chair, and come in a variety of finishes so they match your kitchen set. A little more modern-looking than I prefer, but everyone that comes in my house comments about how useful and good-looking this chair is. It promotes indpendence because it is so customizable. It allows babies who have just started sitting all the way through older children who can’t quite see over the table on a regular chair to eat ergonomically
- The learning tower or a stepping stool: Allow your little one to reach whatever you’re working on to give them real-life experience and quality bonding time… while you get your chores done.
- Lacing cards: Your little one who wants to start sewing but isn’t coordinated enough or ready to use a real needle and thread, lacing cards and a little sewing basket of their own
- Rake and/or snow shovel for children: Don’t limit the mimicking behavior to indoors, allow the little one to help and work alongside you outdoors too.
- A baby doll: Encourage little ones to nurture. This is something they especially useful if you’re expecting or just had a little one, but even toddlers who aren’t around other babies much love to mimic the loving care that you show to them by patting, rocking, and singing to their own doll. Priceless.