Great stuff for a preschooler's Amazon wishlist?
December 11, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Populate my kid's Amazon wishlist: what are some great, sure-to-be-loved games/ toys/ objects/ clothes/ accessories that I can suggest for gifting to a preschool-aged child?

A First World Problem: the needs of my almost-4-year-old daughter are small, but our (awesome!) extended family's holiday gift-giving desires are great. In the past, we've found that having an Amazon wishlist handy has helped us to avoid a December avalanche of stuffed Disney-branded character merchandise and awful attention-span-destroying beeping stuff. But this year, baby B really seems to have... everything. Lots of books, plus multiple great local libraries. Lots of blocks, dress-up stuff, stuffed animal friends. And she doesn't watch TV, so no urgent commercial-generated requests from the toddler herself.

I'm all out of ideas for stuff to put on her wishlist this year; and yet I know that if I don't make suggestions, it's back to the LeapFrog beepies and Bratz dolls for us. (Alternative plans, like skipping the gifts/donating to charity/donating to a college fund, have been suggested in previous years without luck, and relatives would be horribly hurt if we tried accepting and then regifting or donating their presents). So I'm wondering, HiveMind: does anyone have any ideas for useful and/or cool gift suggestions I can make? Doesn't necessarily need to be toys or games; ideas for interesting or useful around-the-house stuff are also welcome. Preferably NOT skewed toward electronics and screens, or Princessy/ballerina/fairy items, as the extended family has those angles amply covered already.

Additional specifics: she's really into dress-up, music (classical/choral/G&S especially), the human body, and dancing; we'd like to get her a bit more into science/nature and math. But really, anything cool would be great!)

Lastly, I am SO AWARE of how horrible and entitled-sounding all this sounds, on some level; we really have tried our hardest, in previous years, to get out of the whole commercialized holiday cycle entirely, but at this point we're exhausted enough to opt for making the best of a bad situation.
posted by Bardolph to Shopping (28 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I think every child needs a good collection of musicals on DVD!

Mary Poppins
The Wizard of Oz
The Sound of Music
Gypsy (what's that you say? a musical about a stripper isn't for children? nonsense!)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you checked out Melissa and Doug's play food? Solid wood and for the cutting sets, the pieces are held together by velcro; cutting into it with the toy knife provides a very satisfying sound and feel.
posted by neilbert at 7:54 AM on December 11, 2012

Melissa and Doug toys are a favorite of preschoolers I know. The magnetic dress up toys might interest your daughter, as well as some of the math toys, like the shape clock and the calendar. Top Holiday Preschool Toys

I feel strongly that every preschooler should have a run-in with Pete the Cat, if your daughter hasn't already. Angelina Ballerina is also a favorite in our house and there's a whole slew of books, videos and toys to choose from (thought she might already have them, since you mention she has lots of ballerina stuff).

Nature-based: Butterfly houses, small terrariums, ceiling star stickers, art books like this.
posted by weeyin at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2012

Play silks? Those are very very popular with both our 2.5-year-old and her 5-year-old cousin. Usborne sticker books like these also seem to hold their charm across the preschool-kindergarden age range.

Art supplies are handy because they get used up (or at least some of them do) and can be as plain or SHINY SPLANGY as you like. Fancy paper? Rubber stamps?

Around the house: nightlights, glow-in-the-dark stars for the ceiling.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:05 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would she be interested in learning an instrument? 4 is on the young side, but she might be ready to start on a ukulele, keyboard or violin. Maybe relatives could get together to gift her an instrument and/or lessons?

Everyone could also go in on getting components for an aquarium or plant terrarium. I absolutely loved that sort of thing at that age and it might fit in well with the science angle.
posted by susanvance at 8:06 AM on December 11, 2012

Seconding play food--any and all of it, really. My daughter started acquiring it at about 18 months. She's ten now, and she and her eleven-year-old best friend still frequently make me go and be a customer in their diner.

It was also around that age that she got very into Polly Pockets. Assuming that your daughter's past the putting-things-in-her-mouth stage, these can be fun. Pleasingly, they're also made of squishy plastic, so there's no three a.m. Lego-under-your-foot element.

A bug-catching kit (with a bug house and magnifying glass) might be cool, if possibly somewhat difficult to populate at this time of year. Still, a few pet store crickets would cover that. Alternatively, a butterfly life cycle kit could be awesome.

An easel and accompanying art supplies are always big hits, in my experience.

What about a marble run? You might have to help her set it up, but again, my daughter was *wild* about these at her age, and could happily drop the marble, watch it fall, and drop it again for hours.
posted by MeghanC at 8:07 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have room for it outside, maybe a water/sand/sensory play table like they frequently have in preschool and kindergarten classrooms?
posted by Safiya at 8:08 AM on December 11, 2012

Oh, and you may already have one or more of these, but preschoolers all seem to love Skip Hop lunch bags and they are useful and sturdily made.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2012

Magna tiles! Or other blocks we prefer the magna tiles and plain blocks to the Legos.

The Melissa and Doug play food is also a big hit.

Does she have a doll house? We actually broke down and got the plastic fisher price one, and she loves it. It's also helpful for family because there are so many things that go with it.

Big box of arts and craft stuff!
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I try to steer people to art and craft supplies, Play-doh, silly putty - stuff that gets used up. My 4 year old really loves an old caboodle my sister handed down to her. I only let her have a little bit of makeup - lots of lip gloss/Chapstick and a thing of pink eyeshadow - not sure how you feel about that - but she has the thing filled up with littlest pet shop animals, tiny dinosaurs, purple and green clip hair extensions, play jewelry, quarters and pennies, whatever. I think that'd be a fun gift for someone to do - the case and an assortment of tiny junk. She organizes and sorts the stuff way more than she actually uses it.
posted by artychoke at 8:10 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Favorite games when my daughter was 4:
Hoot Owl Hoot (similar to Candyland, but with strategy
Richard Scarry's Busy Town game

Other fun stuff that gets played with a lot in our house:
play silks
window markers
Usborne sticker dress-up books
a kit to watch a caterpillar turn into a monarch butterfly
her very own flashlight!
a ukelele
posted by belladonna at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2012

My kids also like Scrapbooking scissor sets and hole punch sets. Some of those and some nice paper. They don't ever do any Scrapbooking, but the stuff is nice to have a generic art supplies.
posted by artychoke at 8:31 AM on December 11, 2012

I wish I had a four year old to gift this to: Perplexus Rookie
posted by jvilter at 8:31 AM on December 11, 2012

When my brother was about three, we got a marble run set, and everyone in the family (including my cynical late teen self) absolutely adored it. Hours of fun, used it for years.
posted by Specklet at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

We are in exactly the same boat as you, with a kid who has too much anyway, and relatives and friends who love to give her more. Anyway! My 4 and a bit year old is *heavily* into board games at the moment. Here are the ones she loves:

Puppy pursuit
The Greatest Day Ever
Busytown game

She also just got some paper dolls and loves them, as well as the above mentioned magnetic dress up ones. (examples)

art supplies because you always need them.

She loved this rubber duck that she could paint and have for another bath toy.

fancy bubble blowing things.
posted by gaspode at 8:37 AM on December 11, 2012

My 4-year-old's faves right now:

- Magna-tiles
- Marbles/marble runs
- Art supplies
posted by k8t at 9:11 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're probably right on the verge of being able to play games, so an assortment of simple games (like Hiss) and especially cooperative ones (since strategic understanding usually precedes... willingness to lose -- see Hoot Owl Hoot) might be good. Throw in some classics that can be adapted over time, like maybe Yahtzee, and you'll have a game shelf you don't mind revisiting.

Also +1 for consumable crafts, always good for a rainy day, some solo time, etc.

Also, depending on how much you read together, she might be ready for some very early chapter books, like LeGuin's Catwings books, or the Magic Treehouse series -- again, even if they're a little ahead of her current state, they'll become valueable later in the year and save you buying your own.

My daughter is a few months short of 5, but a bit precocious, so your mileage may vary. We've been giving Hiss or a set of stomp rockets for many recent birthday parties though!
posted by acm at 9:18 AM on December 11, 2012

Oh, didn't see your request about science, so let me add that almost all of the books in the series "Let's Read and Find Out Science" are great and lead to lots of discussions. You might try "The Skeleton Inside You" if she's really into the body right now -- we paired it with this neat puzzle last year and she loved them both! Anyway, that's my best suggestion in that direction...
posted by acm at 9:22 AM on December 11, 2012

If she loves music, how about Fantasia (I'm linking to a collection, but you could find either the original or Fantasia 2000 separately)?
posted by marginaliana at 9:24 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a four year-old daughter and I also have a children's illustrated book recommendation site, so I know a lot about books for this age. Here are my suggestions based on your description of your daughter.


Crafty Chloe
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match
Ella Sarah Gets Dressed


Sequence for Kids


You could look at some movies from this and this AskMeFi thread.
posted by Dansaman at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2012

Nthing Magna-Tiles magnetic building tiles. They are irresistibly fun. The adults will be competing for who gets to play with them with her. They're sort of spendy, and it doesn't hurt to have two sets. I've linked the clear set, which are nice; they also come in opaque and in larger sets.

Also seconding stomp rockets.

For science and nature - a visible farm? This is a clear plastic container that you fill with dirt, and press some radish or carrot seeds into the dirt. The seeds grow, you watch, and eventually you can see the whole root system against the clear side of the container. (Example: Root Vue farm, sold out at the moment)

Big bubble wand? Some fun stuff for the bath to experiment with buoyancy etc? They have marble runs and spinning waterwheels that stick to the tub wall, those are fun.

(A fun way to get little ones into nature stuff is by going geocaching - short hikes with a mystery element, gets you all outside observing and talking about local nature spots.)

She's a little young for most boardgames but: Max the cat (cooperative game), Hissss, Gulo Gulo, Go Away Monster, Chicken Cha Cha Cha, could work. Big floor jigsaw puzzles are nice.

For dance, lots of great children's ballet and orchestral stuff - Peter and the Wolf, classical ballets on dvd.

Animated movies - My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Ponyo. Shaun the Sheep is fun.

Consumables can be holiday themed too, eg Decorate your own gingerbread house kit.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:39 AM on December 11, 2012

Suggestions off the top of my head, you may already have some of these:

Pattern blocks
Microscope and slides (she is definitely old enough with your help)
Playing cards (I recommend starting with "Crazy Eights")
National Geographic subscription
Stationary and a commitment to be a penpal
Kid-sized tools (hammer, wrench, nails, screws, blocks of wood)
A journal and fancy pen(s)
Acrylic paint, watercolors, oil pastels, paper, easel
Hama beads
Duct tape and large wardrobe/moving boxes for fort-making
A roll of "caution tape"
Glow in the dark stars
A planetarium visit (might be too young)
Membership to science museum
DK Eyewitness science books (human body, rocks & minerals, etc)
Set (the card game)
A large abacus
Crystal growing kit
Handwritten letter for a time capsule
Magnetic compass
Hourglass with sand
Mastermind (for in a year or so)
A book of mazes
Letter fridge magnets
Box of magnets
BRIO train set
Face paint
Temporary tattoos
Origami paper
Jump rope
posted by harmonia at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something that also gets used up besides art stuff is science stuff. Baking soda volcano kits. Growing bean sprout kits. Etc. You wouldn't have a 4 year old do it herself, but she can certainly play with a stomp rocket outside, or have you/your spouse play with her. Outside toys are good because they wear out fast, too.

As for the exactly will the family know that you maybe regifted/gave away some extra toys? Will they be over a lot and ask to see her play with them? If not, I wouldn't feel any guilt about maybe holding on to a few things in the closet and then giving them away. One kid only needs so much stuff!
posted by emjaybee at 12:02 PM on December 11, 2012

Spot It (or the junior version) is great too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:03 PM on December 11, 2012

Every Mo Willems book. All of them. Well, maybe not the board books, but the rest are awesome, and you should have them if you don't. Elephant and Piggie are some of my son's favorite ones. There is a whole series of them. These fall into the "books he repeatedly wants to hear that I cannot seem to get sick of reading to him" category. Also there are dolls to go with them and I would LOVE to see my son get an Elephant and Piggie doll to play with.

Lego blocks are great; his day care has a box of them (the 6166 set, $30) and the kids (boys AND girls) keep busy building and destroying entire worlds together. (Kids in his room are aged 3-4.) There are now "girl-specific" Lego available, but I have no experience with those other than to ask what's wrong with a box of random parts rather than having to use a box of mostly pastel bricks. Apparently toy manufactuers are under the impression that small girls are allergic to colors found outside of Barbie houses.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:04 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Other use-em-ups: Grow-a-crystal kit, or solargraphics paper (changes color when exposed to light, so you can make a print of eg a leaf silhouette).
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:04 PM on December 11, 2012

On a recent trip I picked up two make your own snow globes from a New Zealand company called Seedling. My 4yo and my 6yo loved them, and I am now in love with Seedling's other toys. Many are available at Amazon. They are a little pricey, perfect for a holiday wish list.
posted by Cuke at 6:04 PM on December 11, 2012

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