Great Holiday Gifts for a 4 and 2-year-old?
November 9, 2013 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Great, possibly homemade Hanukkah/Christmas gifts for a 4-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy? Homemade/crafty suggestions very welcome.

I want to be the best aunt ever! I am starting to think about holiday gifts for my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew.


- I don't have kids, and only vaguely remember what I would have wanted at 4 years old.
- The girl takes dance classes and the boy likes Hot Wheels.
- I would like to stay away from gender-stereotyped toys
- I want them to be super excited about their presents
- I would prefer separate gifts (rather than 2 identical gifts in different colors or something)
- Obviously, nothing that is a choking hazard

I like doing crafts and am reasonably able to make things. What have really wowed your young kids or relatives? What is super popular right now? What makes a good gift for kids this age?

Secondarily, I'd like these to be something that doesn't make the parents want to kill themselves (no loud noises, tons of batteries required, lots of little parts, etc).

posted by amicamentis to Shopping (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Well, it's not homemade, but... marble run. Huge hit with kids of this age.

If the 4-year-old knows her letters, then a personalized T-shirt with her name + a special picture (of her favorite animal, whatever) might be fun. Google "freezer paper stencil" for a solid, pretty easy technique. Bonus if you can find sparkly fabric paint.
posted by Bardolph at 7:19 AM on November 9, 2013

Non-homemade options:

I have just been informed that Beanie Boos are the popular faddish toy. 4 is just the right age for Lil Woodzeez. Toys R Us also has these dolls called Journey Girls that are about thirty dollars and, I think, way prettier than American Girl dolls. Maybe a pirate ship? Or a big bucket of fake food?

Mostly, I wouldn't stress too much about this--I'd search on amazon or toys r us for toys in that price range, write down a few options, go out to stores to check them out. At that age, encouraging imaginative play is good--but any toy that doesn't light up or regulate play (talking to you) can do that, from plastic food to dolls to stuffed animals. Plus, toys are super fun.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:20 AM on November 9, 2013

Don't get them any clothes! I remember being a kid quite vividly and I dreaded any gifts from my aunt Mil because they were always some stupid sweater or dress. Of course nowadays I love clothes, but when I think back to how I felt about receiving that as a gift as a I remember how bored and disappointed I would be. The only exception might be if it's a shirt or blanket with their favorite character on it. When I was little I loved She-Ra and I loved unicorns because she rode one.

I'm not sure what you're willing to spend, but at 5 I received a kids-cassette recorder that had a microphone attached to it and I LOVED it soooo much. :) I have fond memories of that thing. It didn't get loud enough to bother my parents and 25 years later my grandmother still plays back those tapes of me and my little brother's recordings (he was 3 at the time) for a good laugh and fond memories.

I suppose now-a-days the equivalent to that would be something like this Kids, usb recording microphone.
posted by manderin at 7:25 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, if you're nearby, don't rule out experiential gifts:
--taking each kid out to a movie of his/her choice
--an hour or two at the local bouncy gym
--a trip to Chuck E. Cheese
--or the zoo
--or (for the 4-year-old) a local ballet or dance performance.

Frankly, these kinds of presents can be more merciful to parents, particularly if their kids (like many these days) are already buried each holiday in avalanches of Stuff. Don't forget to stop on the way back for ice cream!
posted by Bardolph at 7:27 AM on November 9, 2013

If it will be warm enough to go outside:
Stomp Rocket Jr
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ride-on toys are a big favorite in the bigger-ticket (over $20) category. The ones with caster wheels allow more flexibility of movement, which is more fun for the older kid.

Possibly those gymnastics ribbons for twirling. (example)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Play food set is a great idea too.

Also Take-Apart Toys are super fun for the right kid (I like the crane one, but they have others).
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:50 AM on November 9, 2013

At that age, my brothers and I always enjoyed toys in the "big bucket o creative stuff" category. That could be a dress up box, or a big kit of blocks or legos (they're probably still in Duplo territory, or at least the 2 year old is). Or a 64-pack of crayons and a big sketch pad. Things that were simple, not terribly branded, and involved open-ended play.

We had a set of these that got years of heavy use. Awesome for blanket forts, building a house for your imaginary dog, etc. I feel like we must have had more than 40 of them, and assembly must have been a bitch, but seriously great underrated toy.
posted by Sara C. at 7:50 AM on November 9, 2013

Could you do that thing where they draw you an animal or person and you make it into a plush? I think that would be really neat!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:52 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

For the 4 year old girl:
Can't even tell you the hours of intense involvement 4 year old girls can have with Woodkins

These are very simple toys (they were developed in Colonial times). But something about the transformation of random bits of cloth to actual outfits -- the satisfaction of the visual framing that happens just from closing the top of the wooden toy -- just DOES IT for them. Make sure to get a Woodkin that has a figure whose whole body takes the clothing, because putting cloth down and seeing how it looks to be arranged into tops and bottoms is the fun part -- don't just get the fairies where the top is set and you only play with the skirt half.
*AND* since you are crafty, you could add a whole lot of cloth samples to the gift -- things you've colored, embroidered, sequined, etc -- and give her a little jewel box size "trunk" to keep the cloth bits neatly.
Two year olds like these as well, but not as much as 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds.
posted by third rail at 7:53 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

That link above is not to the good Woodkin, especially because I think you don't like the princessy stuff. This one is better. Sorry my actual linking does not work but here's the website.
posted by third rail at 8:00 AM on November 9, 2013

I love open ended, non-defined play toys, and my kids and all the other kids I know do too. One of the favorites is the bilibo:

(sorry for the ugly, long url: I don't know how to do the link thing).

This is a plastic, bowl-shaped thing that kids like to sit in and spin, use as a boat, stand on, tie things to, etc. My kids used it for many years, from toddler-hood through elementary school.

Another great, really long-lived toy is a plain rope: Still being used occasionally by my 16 year old!
posted by primate moon at 8:49 AM on November 9, 2013

For store bought things, I always recommend items from HearthSong.

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posted by ocherdraco at 8:54 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know you wanted them to have their own presents...BUT if you thought they might share, putting together a diy lightbox and some things to use with it would be so cool. Here's how to do it with an Ikea box. There are all kinds of colored translucent things you can put on the box, like plastic cups, water beads, bags of gel with glitter in it, clear alphabet letters. You can even switch the lights out for black light and get stuff glowing. Search pinterest for "light table" or "light box" and you'll get all kinds of ideas. I am seriously considering making one for my 2 and 4 yo niece and nephew.
posted by Biblio at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2013

My 4- and 6-year-old girls both love Melissa & Doug magnetic dress up sets. They're like paper dolls, but easier for little kids.

We have the Princess set, but they have lots of other options, including a Ballerina, girls, & a boy (costumes include fireman, superhero, etc.)

The wooden trays they come in don't have covers, so I'd suggest including a plastic shoebox with snap-on lid to hold the pieces. Otherwise they get lost really easily.
posted by belladonna at 9:42 AM on November 9, 2013

DIY gifts that have been successful: initial superhero capes, Monster stockings. They can be really individualised, with sparkly pink initials or toes and ruffles, etc (I am a fan of not gendering but 4 - 5 is the developmental age when kids typically become little gender fascists and stick to it most rigidly, and if she likes ballet... sometimes I just roll with it.)

Alternatively: Goldie Blox for her (it's an engineering game) and DIY felt food for him.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I feel like you haven't gotten a lot of crafty answers so I'll focus on that.

For the 4 year old: dress up clothes would be great. Etsy has patterns for wonderful felt masks, capes, tutus etc. Ribbon wands are not hard to make and don't have to be pink and sparkly and there are dozens of tutorials on the internet. I recently gave a 3 year old boy a set of rainbow play cloths that I had dyed (total time: about 2 hours) and they were the hit of his birthday party, with all the little kids taking them to sit under, tuck dolls in, repurpose as wings, capes, etc. A sarong-sized scarf has become a tent, lawn, river, ballgown, etc. I have also recently had success with giving art supplies-- the art store near me has cheap papier-mâché animals to paint/decorate along with unfinished frames, boxes, and the like.

For the 2 year old: my son (2.75) has been obsessed with the magnetic "fishing" games for months and spends a lot of his time pretending to fish so I am going to make him one of his own--laminated paper fish (likely printouts from the computer) with paper clips glued to their noses and a fishing rod with a magnet on the end. Felt food or felt finger puppets would be great too.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:46 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, capes. Those would be amazing.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:05 PM on November 9, 2013

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