Toddler holiday gift that can be used up
November 9, 2013 5:44 PM   Subscribe

My nephew is one and a half years old. (He's a real toddler, not a baby anymore--runs around all over the place.) His grandparents (and other gift givers) inundate him with toys, and his parents are starting to feel beleaguered by the well-meaning deluge. Since he's not quite old enough to be put out if I give him something purely utilitarian, my primary gift this year is clothes. However, I'd like to give him one gift that is purely for his enjoyment, and which can be used up (but isn't food), so it's not just another thing that sits on the (increasingly crowded) toyshelf after the holidays are over. Do such things exist? Can you think of suitable gifts that fit those criteria? A couple more thoughts inside.

One thing I've thought of is an experience gift, but I'd like to explore other options, as I don't live nearby and wouldn't be able to share that with him--what I'd really like is something that will be interesting to him as soon as he opens the gift.
posted by Ash3000 to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I was going to say membership to the zoo or a children's museum, but after reading the last sentence, how about bath stuff? Bubbles & bath crayons!
posted by peep at 5:47 PM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Membership to the local zoo/aquarium/museum along with related stickers. It's a long-term gift that doesn't take up space, and stickers will be used up fast.
posted by chiababe at 5:47 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Art materials come to mind. Age appropriate of course (finger paints, edible paints, thick crayons and paper).
posted by Miko at 5:48 PM on November 9, 2013

If you go with an assortment of either bath or art supplies, include a can of shaving cream - so much fun to play/paint with!
posted by metahawk at 5:56 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Tanizaki at 5:57 PM on November 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Sidewalk chalk is a big hit with my tiny human. They seem to readily break into small, unusable pieces (the chalk, that is) and so would not clutter up the parent's house long term.
posted by sacrifix at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Art stuff. Play-doh. These were a huge hit when my daughter turned two. We subsequently gave them for every gift in her cohort.
posted by gaspode at 6:15 PM on November 9, 2013

play doh has a very limited shelf life so is essentially consumable. chalk for drawing on pavement.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:22 PM on November 9, 2013

"Restickable" stickers. They cling, not stick. Melissa &Doug brand makes a great set of ~100 animal stickers with a few different scenes to stick them on. It's pretty inexpensive ($6?) and more-or-less disposable.
posted by stowaway at 6:29 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dr. Seuss. I know, permanent, but he'll grow into them and books take up little space. Hope on Pop, Mr. Brown Can Moo, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish blue Fish are great for the younger set. Oh, and also Green Eggs and Ham.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Watercolor paints are the best thing ever for toddlers. The cheap crayola kind in the yellow tray. Don't bother with a bowl of water. Just put a drop of water on each color and let him go nuts. We go through a set about every month. The best part is they clean up easily. Parents can set him up to paint when they are cooking and not worry about the mess.
posted by MadMadam at 6:44 PM on November 9, 2013

These things are pretty fun. They can go out on the compost pile after you've built your crazy thing.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:46 PM on November 9, 2013 is filled with disposable what-not that will thrill a toddler. I used to order random what-not for my then-toddler and a day with a tiny parcel from China was always a cheerful thing.

Most of it falls under 'requires adult supervision,' though, but is this a plus here? Because the best gift would be one that included a solid block of attention from Aunty Ash3000. Which makes me wonder why food isn't an option? Bunch of nifty-coloured Jell-O, set of cookie cutters; make "jigglers" -- fun project for the two of you that day, and the remains go to the kitchen, not the toy clutter...

Otherwise, seconding art supplies (don't go cheap, or even particularly high end: Crayola is the only company I found whose "washable" can always be relied upon) or bath stuff -- foam soap? Gelli Baff? (Mixed reviews but most negatives seem to be from people who didn't follow the instructions or who had odd expectations.) But that stuff may not be amazing right as soon as it's opened...

There are companies selling all sorts of ready-made cardboard forts -- like we used to make from appliance boxes. That'll have a limited life span and be obviously cool fairly quickly; they're usually simple to assemble. Some crayons for personalizing would be a nice add-on (Crayola "Twistables" are worth the price). I'm on my phone and can't easily check but DealExtreme might have an affordable solar light for the fort; if not, they certainly have $1.50 cow-shape flashlights to hang from the ceiling.
posted by kmennie at 7:04 PM on November 9, 2013

Response by poster: Aunty Ash3000

While I am amused at this description, perhaps I should make it clear that I am Uncle Ash3000.
posted by Ash3000 at 7:07 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, may not be what I need for this question, exactly, but that could be really useful for other gift giving.

As for my nephew, it sounds like art supplies is a big consensus. I may put together a package with art supplies, stickers, and temporary tattoos.
posted by Ash3000 at 7:13 PM on November 9, 2013

What about MP3s of kid music? Or CD's but you're looking for non-tangible. A bulletproof cheap MP3 player/speaker combo could make it more of a theme gift.

Raffi was a big one for us at that age, but there is limitless kid music out there to meet their specific preference. He'd get to enjoy it but it would not add to the clutter.

A cool bike helmet would be fun but also practical.
A Netflix or other subscription.
Actually, a kid magazine subscription in general maybe when he gets a little older, like Highlights for Children.

A pet? (kidding. kidding.)
Art supplies were huge at that age. A little later, something like an Easy Bake oven or Sno-Cone machine might be cool and consumable.
posted by mazienh at 7:15 PM on November 9, 2013

If you don't have to mail stuff or fly with it, allow me to recommend a pad of the largest sheets of paper you can find. Like, giant artist sketch pads. Little kids go apey for big paper.
posted by KathrynT at 7:29 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Along that line, a roll of brown butcher paper is awesome.
posted by bq at 7:45 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: a kid magazine subscription in general maybe when he gets a little older, like Highlights for Children.

Babybug was a huge, huge hit with my daughter when she was that age, and she still (age three and a half) enjoys having the back issues around -- so, not necessarily all that consumable, but moderately ephemeral and certainly age appropriate.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh wow, Babybug is perfect, I think. Should his parents want to, are the issues recycleable? Are they as sturdy as normal board books, or flimsier given that they're intended to be a magazine?
posted by Ash3000 at 7:58 PM on November 9, 2013

I know they are food, but JELLYBEANS. Many-flavored jelly beans. Their faces as they taste all the different flavors are FANTASTIC. It's also good fine-motor practice!

Chop Chop is probably a little old, but is a cooking magazine for kids and my kids (2 and 4) love it. National Geographic has a "little kids" magazine with very lovable baby animal pictures. Ranger Rick is another magazine possibility.

Another option might be some iPad or Android apps for little kids, if the parents use tablets, since they take up no space.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:04 PM on November 9, 2013

Response by poster: I'll keep those in mind for the future. I've gone ahead and ordered the Babybug subscription. He loves books, and this way he gets a new one on a regular basis that can be kept if he latches on to it or discarded if he doesn't--which takes pressure off his parents for adding yet more things to the shelves in his room. And the website even has an option to send a sample issue to the gifter, for gift wrapping purposes, so I'll get to see him open the gift. This fits my goals perfectly.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!
posted by Ash3000 at 8:19 PM on November 9, 2013

Someone posted a question a while ago - maybe someone else remembers it -- from a woman looking for gifts that her toddler could savage. So like wrapped sparkly boxes filled with colorful paper to throw around -- just things that could be played with and thrown out after one use but would be delightful in the moment. Rolls of crepe paper, that sort of thing. Filled with novelty if you've never seen a roll of crepe paper before.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:20 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

not quite up the alley you were looking at, but you could always do something like make a 529 contribution.

very useful, and is think the parents would appreciate it.
posted by jpe at 7:03 AM on November 10, 2013

I printed out a bunch of pictures of hybrid animals like this one. There's a subreddit devoted to the topic I think but the artist who made the "ducky horse" is the most gifted in my opinion.

He was featured in this Daily Mail article recently. I was looking at it for, uh, research purposes, when my 3 y/o nephew came up and started laughing hysterically.

Later I found Olav's other hybrids and made a little print-out book for my nephew and his brothers. If you are on a budget or want to teach him the value of cheap, do this at some point! They never get tired of the funny animals!
posted by vincele at 7:50 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

use-up-able: playdough, Washable markers*, a big roll of paper, esp. if you can find a very wide roll. It's fun to have a kid (or adult) lay on the paper, and draw their outline. They get to color it.
Things you can't have too much of, within reason: Books and children's music of good quality.
Magazine subscriptions are wonderful.
Send postcards. Whenever or wherever you go, send postcards, also send postcards of where you live. It's soooo much fun to get mail when you're a kid. Bonus - collect very silly kids' jokes to put on the postcards.
Recharge-able flashlight or kid's flashlight. Kids love flashlight cause they're fun, but they will take Mom's flashlight, leave it on and leave it somewhere. When Mom needs a flashlight, unhappiness ensues. My son had a kids' cassette deck that had a microphone. Big fun, must be something similar these days.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on November 10, 2013

Babybug is in between board books and regular books in sturdiness -- it's made of heavyweight paper, with no staples, and should be recyclable.
posted by redfoxtail at 12:52 PM on November 10, 2013

I once upon a time gave my niece, around that age, a fresh roll of toilet paper. I used packing tape to tape around the outside and then carefully removed the inner cardboard roll. Gently pulled paper from the inside to get it started and let the crazy times begin! She and her sister were amused to pull and throw and shred the toilet paper. Her parents got a laugh out of it as well and cleanup was easy.

Otherwise I second water color paints, washable big crayons, pad of paper.
posted by amanda at 9:56 PM on November 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

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