Gift ideas for two-year-old's birthday?
April 23, 2020 5:36 AM   Subscribe

What are your suggestions for a birthday present for my downstairs neighbor who's turning two in early May? (I am close with the whole family.) So far, I've come up with the idea of creating a box of at-home activities the family can do together -- ingredients for play dough, jars of vinegar & baking soda for volcanoes, that kind of thing. I am not sure if this is a good idea or should wait until the kiddo is older. Notes under cut. Thanks in advance!

- I'd rather not buy toys or other stuff; the kiddo has a generous family and an abundance of toys.
- I'm okay with buying a book through a local independent bookstore, which is my usual go-to gift, but the kiddo has quite a lot of books already.
- There's an older sibling who may get jealous, so if there are multiple components to the present or some way they can share, that would be great.
- We live near a grocery store, drug store, community garden, and woods, so anything that can be found at those places is great.
posted by wicked_sassy to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you know if they have a toy kitchen? You could make "food" for it - cut and tape together some boxes and make labels (like spaghetti and cereal), make bread and veggies out of salt dough, use felt for things like a pizza crust with separate pieces of cheese and pepperoni the kid can assemble.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:16 AM on April 23, 2020

Best answer: Mixing playdough is a great two-year-old thing; volcanoes are probably best for older kids because all the toddler will get out of it is that there's this delightful fizzy messy thing they're not allowed to touch. You might be interested in looking into Montessori toddler activities (link has some nice examples but is by no means definitive) for other little kit-type things you could put together, but the playdough idea really would be lovely just by itself. Honestly my go-to gift for that age is a set of beeswax crayons and a pad of construction paper! Don't think you need to give a bunch of different things. :)
posted by teremala at 6:33 AM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One more idea (was interrupted by MY 2 year old!) - make a texture board (link is to image search results) using things around your house and from outside. You can use a piece of cardboard from a box as the background. Glue pieces of different materials or objects to it and write the texture underneath, like bumpy, smooth, fuzzy, etc. Ideas for items: bubble wrap, tree bark, piece of clothing. Similarly, you could make a box with a hole in it big enough to put a hand in, and put items like pine cones and rocks in there (as long as they are not choking hazards).
posted by beyond_pink at 6:42 AM on April 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

There is generally...never a good time for my kids to play with anything messy or requiring a lot of parental involvement. This was especially true when they were 2. I found myself saying, "We can open that slime mixing set some other time" a lot.

Reading a story is the kind of parental involvement that I could handle, though.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:43 AM on April 23, 2020 [10 favorites]

I'd go with something simple and immediately useable by the kid without parental involvement. I understand not wanting to add to the pile of toys, but I've noticed that there's this new tendency to go overboard with craft or experience kits. It's also hard for little kids to open something and not be able to experience it immediately.

If the child has a favorite animal/theme/character, just get something simple for them related to that. Small stuffed animal, coloring book and crayons, or picture book are all great things.
posted by stowaway at 7:37 AM on April 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

I know you said no toys, but if they already have duplo, then more duplo is always appreciated. You cannot ever have too much duplo or lego.

And two years old is perfect for duplo. It's a toy that can be played with alone, as well as with others (adults or big siblings). It is endlessly versatile, and not messy.
posted by EllaEm at 8:08 AM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also, I heartily agree with the comments about how kids are a bit overloaded with craft and messy activities at this point. Honestly, the novelty of a new toy to play with (that doesn't require adult supervision or mess clean up) will be sooo appreciated, even if it gets donated to a second hand store in 6 months time. Half the point of a gift is that someone else did the work of thinking about it, acquiring it, and presenting it. The parents may have the money to buy new things, but think about it this way: you are giving them the gift of your time/energy to acquire something that will entertain the kid for a while, which is more important than money right now.
posted by EllaEm at 8:12 AM on April 23, 2020 [9 favorites]

Not something messy; the parents are probably already going crazy trying to clean everything up.

The "texture board" idea is a good one. My kid (who turns two next week) has something similar that a friend made, except it's not textured things. He just screwed a bunch of light switches and other things with buttons onto a board and covered it with soft fabric. One great thing about it is that it is a single, self-contained object.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:13 AM on April 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

My toddler loves dancing to Raffi. Maybe a music purchase for his best hits and some homemade shakers and scarves or something.
posted by inevitability at 8:32 AM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

My almost-two-year-old is obsessed with stickers. We have a little activity book with re-usable animal stickers that gets played with a lot right now. She also loves markers (washable ones) and crayons. It's nice to give her an activity like that, that she can do in her high chair while she watches me cook dinner.

If the family spends much time outside, maybe a nice floppy sun hat or some kid-sized gardening tools? My kid loves to go dig in the sandbox with a little bucket and scoop.

A book is always a great gift, even if they have lots already.

It's good to keep it simple - everything is amazing when you are two!
posted by beandip at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Dress-ups. Hats, vest, scarves, especially a few that are glittery or shiny, and something that can act as a cape. A firefighter helmet, hard hat, cowboy hat, and any other occupational headgear is popular.

Some large hemmed pieces of fabric and some clothespins for making forts.
posted by theora55 at 3:11 PM on April 23, 2020

The best messy thing from this parent's perspective is bath paint or bath crayons. They can go absolutely nuts painting the bathtub, feel a thrill as if they are doing something naughty, but it wipes off easily.
posted by gatorae at 5:59 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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