The holidays are here and we’ve got your back for gift giving season! We’ve compiled some of our favorite toys and products on the market to help you find the perfect gift for the little one(s) in your life. Our focus is primarily ages 2-6 years old and our list is organized in two ways. First, you will see our “Walk, Talk, Play Picks”; these are our therapist favorites to purposefully play and address the developmental areas of Gross Motor, Speech and Language, and Fine Motor.
The second half of the list is organized by the types of play related to cognitive development and interaction with objects. We hope you find this helpful!
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission (at no additional cost), which will help us continue to run our site and create content!
Our Walk, Talk, Play Picks:
“Walk”: Gross Motor Picks
These products are great for getting kiddos moving! They naturally challenge strength, balance, and coordination and are overall motivating and fun!
1. Stomp Rockets
Kids love stomp rockets! Whether they’re 2 or 6, there’s something so satisfying about stomping and shooting a rocket into the air.
Our favorite stomp rocket brand is the Poof Strato Slam Rocket pictured above. Read this article for why we love it, and ideas for how to play purposefully to build skills!
2. Stepping Stones
These stepping stones by Special Supplies are great for challenging balance and getting little feet and ankles working. Plus, they are super fun and a great addition to any obstacle course. Go fishing or spread puzzle pieces around and you’ve got a fun, engaging strengthening activity.
We also love this product because it stacks up nicely to save space and looks super cute.
3. Ride-On Toys
The holidays are always a great time to surprise your kiddo with a new scooter or bike. Here are some of our favorites!
Already purchased a bike? Check out our Therapist-Recommended Tips for Teaching Your Child to Ride a Bike.
We love the Strider Balance bike! Balance Bikes allow your child to learn to keep their balance without having to multitask and pedal at the same time.
Not ready for the balance bike? We love the Retrospec Bicycles with training wheels, too!
We are also big fans of the Microscooter Mini! Click here to see a blog post we did on benefits and recommendations of the Microscooter.
“Talk”: Speech and Language Picks
The following picks are great for encouraging development of speech and language skills with your kiddos.
1. Wordless Picture Books
When searching for gifts, you can’t go wrong with books! We love how wordless picture books encourage kiddos to tell their own story using the illustrations, which naturally boosts imagination and promotes language development; some of our favorites are Chalk, Where’s Walrus, and Where’s Walrus and Penguin.
2. Mini Objects
A fun and engaging way to build your kiddo’s vocabulary is with mini objects! You can sort/categorize them, include them in sensory activities, pair them with a doll house… the opportunities are endless! For some irresistibly adorable options, check out SpeechTreeCo and DinkyDoodads.
Check out this cute tactile activity we set up with Speech Tree Co mini’s to work on speech sounds!
3. Play Food Sets
Open-ended play is beneficial for all areas of development, especially when it comes to language and social skills. Play food is the perfect way for kiddos to have a blast while learning new vocabulary/concepts, following/giving directions, and taking turns with others in play and conversation. Any play food will do, but one of our favorites is the “Star Diner Set” from Melissa and Doug!
4. Felt/Flannel Board Story Sets
Let your little one take the lead during story time using felt/flannel board story sets! These sets are the perfect way for your kiddo to expand their understanding and use of language while strengthening their narrative/storytelling skills. You can pair the sets with books and songs, or simply use them on their own to tell classic stories or to create new adventures. KidmunicationFun has tons of fantastic options (plus, they include speech/language extension activity ideas)!
5. Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pads
Does your kiddo love all things stickers? So do we! And we REALLY love when we can reuse stickers over and over again using the Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pads. These pads contain stickers and scenes that provide endless fun… and endless opportunities for language development!
“Play” Fine Motor and More Picks
1. Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
2. Learning Resources Fine Motor Tools
Pictured above, in an ocean themed sensory bin, we love these tools for encouraging fine motor play.
3. Educational Insights Design and Drill
We love how all the pieces fit into a box and that it comes with lots of tools to work on visual and fine motor skills. Get creative and make your own designs!
4. Easy Playhouse Fairy Tale Castle
This castle is great for pretend play as well as fine and visual motor to color.
More Products Based on Types of Play
Below, you will see some of our favorite products based on “types” of play, or how children interact with objects. These products naturally work on many skills in different categories and our guide wouldn’t be complete without them!
Tactile and Sensorimotor Play Picks
Sensorimotor play is essentially when children learn about objects by using their senses to explore them. This type of play matures as children get older and develop improved coordination and cognition.
Here are some of our favorite picks:
1. Wild Dough Co Play Dough
We absolutely love this Play Dough. We love this company because it’s a female-owned small business, their play dough feels and SMELLS great, and it’s long-lasting. Each color has a different scent, which makes dough play that much more engaging and fun.
They also have a super gorgeous holiday collection that just came out! Click our affiliate link to check them out and get some for yourself!
To check out some of the developmental benefits of playing with dough check out this article.
2. Ikea Flisat Table
This table is simple, versatile, easy to use, and budget friendly! You can find it here.
To see activities we’ve done in the past with this table, click here.
3. Wooden Wobble Balance Board
This balance board is great for vestibular input and movement breaks. It can also be a simple addition to an obstacle course. Kiddos can get creative and make a slide off of the couch!
Constructive and Creativity Picks
Magnatiles are great tools for building and creating. They are also a great way for siblings to interact and work together!
Click here for some creative activities to do with Magna-tiles!
2. Himiku Blocks
We haven’t gotten our hands on this set yet, but it is definitely on our list. These blocks are gorgeous and look like rocks, so they are slightly more challenging and should grow well as your child gets older. Check out their website here.
3. Kid Made Modern Arts and Crafts Kit
This kit is all you need for crafting and creating goodness!
Our Dramatic/Pretend Play Picks!
Pretend play is packed with benefits for your little one! It typically emerges in children between 18-24 months and continues to get more elaborate and complex as your child gets older and thinking becomes more abstract. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Melissa and Doug Pet Vet Play Set
This vet set is so cute! It comes with an elaborate set of tools and bottles to practice opening and closing. Check out our pals Chloe’s and Davis’s pretend play set up here.
2. Melissa & Doug Super Smile Dentist Kit
This is a relatively new set from Melissa and Doug and we can’t wait to get our hands on it!
3. Fisher Price Little People School House and Bus
We are big fans of Little People set ups!
The Little People Big Yellow Bus is a great way to pretend play and get mobile! For a closer look, click here.
This school is a great addition to the bus! We love to set up little towns and roads with painter’s tape to encourage movement, fun, and mix it up a bit!
Games are always a fun way to play! Infants love Peek-a-Boo, toddlers love hide-and-seek. Once a child gets older they start to develop an increased interest in board games and games with shared rules. These are some of our faves!
1. Peaceable Kingdom’s Acorn Soup
Check out Peaceable Kingdom’s Acorn Soup. This game is adorable, engaging, and works your kiddo’s matching and counting skills! Stay tuned for more play ideas regarding this game!
2. Educational Insights’ Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
Your kids will love helping the squirrel stock up on acorns to prepare for the cold winter. Help them take turns spinning a dial and using tongs to pick up acorns. See why we love it and some ways we’ve “spiced it up” here.
3. Lakeshore’s Feed the Dog Fine Motor Game
This is a great game to work on tongs and fine motor skills. Plus, let’s face it, kids love to feed things! You can find it here.
4. Pop the Pig
Kiddos of all ages can’t get enough of this adorable pig! They love “feeding” him and watching his belly “grow” until he pops.
To check out why we love this game read the developmental skills of Pop the Pig.
5. Zingo Bingo
Zingo! by ThinkFun is one of our favorite bingo games! While playing, kiddos will build their vocabulary and practice many other skills, such as matching pictures, taking turns, describing pictured objects by category/function/appearance (“A dog is an animal,” “We wear shoes on our feet,” etc.), using negation (“I don’t have a tree”), and asking questions (“Do you need a star?”).
We hope you found this Gift Guide helpful! We truly believe anything can turn into a fun, engaging toy with the enough imagination! But we can’t really deny how great these products are!
We continuously update our blog with “Toys We Love”, and feature an All-Star Toy each month where we bring you fun ideas for playing purposefully with your child!
You can find most of the toys products we feature here, in our shop!