Finding trinkets and treasures for your child's Christmas stocking is a cinch when you know what to look for. We've picked 10 items that typically cost $5 or less and don't pose a choking threat (no small or loose parts) to children ages 3 and under. Look for the items online or in stores like Target and Wal-Mart.
Strike the right note with a mini tambourine, the perfect size for little hands. No musical aptitude is needed -- just a willingness to shake, shake, shake the instrument and dance around the room. When kids actively use their arms and legs, it helps develop their gross motor skills, necessary for big movements like running and jumping.
These colorful roly-poly toys, which were introduced in the 1970s, come in different characters, like singers, skateboarders, and soccer players. Because of their egg shape, the wobbly creatures always pop right back up, no matter how hard you push them. It's a simple concept that makes toddlers howl with laughter.
Give a tub of this classic modeling compound and your tot will be a happy camper. Soft and squishy, Play-Doh has a texture kids love. Bonus: Stretching, pounding, and molding it into different shapes improves hand strength and dexterity. Worried your curious sculptor will be sick if he takes a nibble? Don't be -- Play-Doh is made of nontoxic ingredients. You can make some at home with this easy recipe from Cooks.com: Mix and knead 1 cup each of flour and boiling water, 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar, 1/2 cup of salt, 1 tablespoon of oil, and a few drops of food coloring. Store in a sealed plastic bag.
How-To Board Books
Pick one that tells a tale about a tot getting dressed on his own, sleeping in a big-boy or big-girl bed, or using the potty -- whichever milestone your toddler is approaching. With simple language and step-by-step illustrations, these books, with their peppy "you can do it!" attitude, make any new experiences less scary.
Like a theater that fits on your hand, these tiny puppets -- animals, people, insects, you name it -- entertain youngsters and adults alike. Take turns with an older toddler making up silly stories about each one, or use the puppets in conjunction with reading a story to your child -- they'll make the book's characters come to life.
Jumbo Washable Markers
The washable variety lets Picasso Jr. create masterpieces without your worrying that he'll use the wall as a canvas. For toddlers still developing their fine motor skills, these thick markers are easier for their small hands to grasp. Try Crayola Washable Triangular Markers, which come in a box with five primary colors and are capless to prevent choking.
Coloring Books With Stickers
Double the fun when you include a mini coloring book that comes with a sheet of stickers. These books can be found in many kid-favorite themes -- fire trucks, horses, princesses. By using their fingers to remove the stickers and place them in the book, little ones are giving their fine motor skills a vigorous workout.
Who says your stocking stuffer choice can't have an ulterior motive? Whether your child already brushes her teeth regularly or is about to start (usually by age 2), a toothbrush featuring her favorite cartoon character (like Dora the Explorer or Elmo) will amp up her interest in getting the job done. Having her brush twice a day by herself will not only promote good oral hygiene, it'll also provide a lesson in independence.
Bathtime is infinitely more fun when there's something in the tub to play with, like a whale that squirts or letters that float. Sitting in a tub filled with bright blue or green water, courtesy of color tablets or bath tints, is also pretty awesome. Throw a few primary colors into the water and watch a new hue appear -- instant art lesson! (Read the package label to make sure the tablets or tints are non-staining and have FDA approval.)
Toddlers love making things crash, and stacking cups in different sizes delivers in a big way. Imagine your boy's or girl's delight in sitting on the floor, putting the cups one on top of each other, and then... crash! Look for cups that display letters, numbers, and animals, or have holes in the bottom for bathtime fun.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.