Top Gifts for the Little Ones (birth to 4 years old)

What do you get little ones for their birthdays — both your little ones and all your little ones’ friends?  I have spent hours, combing through others’ blog posts on the best (and reasonably priced) birthday presents for little ones.  I typically purchase at least 6 of one or two toys so I always have  a present ready to go.  There’s no way I can keep up with buying individual toys for each birthday party.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!   I store these presents in a big box labeled “Break in Case of Emergency” (because it’s also the same box we go to when school is closed for the umpteenth time and I need 5 minutes of relief.

Here’s my top list, divided by “normal” gifts you might send for a friend’s birthday and “splurge” gifts you would get for your own child as their BIG present or you’d get for a grandchild or BFF’s child:

Newborns (because you feel weird visiting a newborn empty handed):


  1. Newborn photo session. I didn’t really do a true newborn session with Bri, and I regret it.  C’s pictures were fabulous by Anna Carson Dewitt Photography.



  1. This teether toy set.  My kiddos cut their first teeth fairly early…and chewed on everything in sight.  These are BPA free (can you believe they’re not ALL BPA free?!)
  2. Toys that allow your child to stay occupied when they start sitting and eating like this one (under $8) or this one (again, cheap!).  C still packs the hand-held musical toy in his backpack when we go on trips (creature of habit?).   Solid use of some money right here.

One Year Olds


  1. Cake smash pictures.  We didn’t do a cake smash for C.  I regret that now though because it would have been fun to see C and B’s pictures next to each other to compare what they looked liked as little one year olds.  We got our pictures from Sherry Dornblaser Photography and still cherish these pictures.img_1901


  1. This duck toy (man…the noise can start to drive you crazy, but this toy is money for little ones who are starting to crawl or can walk.  This toy SAVED OUR LIVES while on vacation, at home, at a restaurant (okay…maybe not a restaurant)…you get the picture.  Easy to pack and carry.
  2. Water table for warmer months.  So much joy!
  3. This bubble machine is the best for hot summer days on the patio.  Combined with some extra bubbles, this would make an adorable gift.
  4. Rainbow Counting Bears in Sorting Cups– okay, this is truly the cutest.  Can you tell that I LOVE toys that are educational and aren’t the flashy ones that make all sorts of noises?
  5. Splurge dress. Doesn’t have to be splurge prices though. I found this Lily Pulitzer dress at Nordstrom Rack for $19.00. Yes, expensive for a 18 month old but I bet the person I give this to (cough…Laurel…cough) will wear it all the time and will possibly use it in family pictures because it’s a fancy, absurd splurge!  (No pressure, Laurel…and I swear I’m mailing this ASAP).


Two Year Olds


  1. This is a serious splurge but if I divide up the number of times C has used it, it’s well worth the cost in my opinion (and has lasted us over 2 years).  C’s grin when his Momom and Dadoo had this tractor ready for him when he came to their house one spring day was a smile that I’ll always remember.  He was is King Dingaling when he rides on the tractor.  Sometimes he even takes his sister on rides.  Y’ALL — it has a radio on it, too…and goes in reverse and has THREE DIFFERENT SPEEDS!


  1. Invisible marker books like this are amazing at keeping kiddos occupied.  C still gets into coloring in these books at nearly 4.
  2. Junior Magnatiles.  Magnatiles are really expensive, but these junior ones are a great way to get started.  C loooooves building structures.  Future architect or engineer in the making?  Please don’t let him have my spatial awareness!
  3. Toddler backpacks.  I bought about 8 of these when C and his friends were all turning 2, and it was a HUGE HIT for every birthday party.  C would wear his backpack inside because he felt special and brought it to every trip we took (whether it was 30 minutes away or on the airplane).  We took him to the dollar section at Target to fill up his backpack on long airplane rides.
  4. Okay to Wake Toddler Alarm Clock and Night Light.  This is totally a gift for the parents more than a child BUT IT IS LIFE ITSELF.  This thing is the only reason C stays in bed until 6:52 every morning (don’t ask me why it’s still set to 6:52).  It took some getting used to (and initially some bribery), but this thing is worth so much more than $20 to me.
  5. This tent is magical and is the gift that keeps on giving.  Both the 1 year old and 3 year old love this tent…so it really spans the ages and has held up with lots of pulling and rough-housing.

Three Year Olds


  1. Magnatiles are the bomb.  Expensive but the bomb.


  1. Gears, Gears, Gears toy — Cool STEM toy.  C loved getting this as a birthday present.
  2. Learn to write letters book here.  This really should be moved up in age, but C is really big into practicing to write.  He can write his name all by himself and identify most every letter (which I’m pretty impressed by).  B loves identifying what she sees in the book, with her brother’s help.

Four Year Olds 


  1. We’re buying this 16″ bike for C’s upcoming 4th birthday party.  Don’t tell him. 😉  John did some extensive research and landed on this one for a kid’s first bike.


  1. Zingo is a great game for kids at this age who are starting to understand rules of games.
  2. Calendar like this one might be my next birthday present for 4 year olds.

That’s all I’ve gotten to since C isn’t 4 yet. I’ll keep adding as I learn more about what 4 years are into! 🙂

What are some staple toys you buy for each age range?  Would love to hear some of your ideas!

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