More Birthday Gift Ideas for a 2-Year-Old
Reading and Talking
Reading together is important at this stage, and engaging books are ideal to expand your family library. "Reading aloud contributes so much to language development -- by building vocabulary, teaching children that stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and showing them that words move from left to right and from top to bottom," says Amy Flynn, M.S. M.Ed, an early childhood education specialist with New York's Head Start program. Board books are still ideal, since they're sturdy enough for small hands. Get a mix of classic stories and interactive board books with touch-and-feel pages or flaps to lift and lower. Consider adding longer storybooks to the shelf, as 2-year-olds are starting to pay attention for longer periods of time. Books that illustrate popular children's songs offer a wonderful multisensory, interactive experience, and adding a few instruments will give your storytime a whole new dimension. "It's important for parents to offer a variety of reading materials to children, from storybooks to poetry to nursery rhymes," Flynn says.
Creating and Expressing
As they come into their own as artists, toddlers learn to grasp crayons and markers better. Finger-paints are particularly appropriate for this age group. Consider ones from the company Alex, which also makes a set of Funky Brushes that make it easy for kids to create all kinds of interesting textures (and don't forget a smock!). Museum trips also make a special birthday present. "Exposing a child to art is really important for creating and developing visual imagery in the brain," says Diane Quiroga, a board certified and registered art therapist and mental health consultant in Livingston, New Jersey. But if you can't get to a museum, there are easy alternatives. "I like to buy postcards from museums and laminate them," Quiroga adds. "Or there's a wonderful series of board books that have real works of art combined with textures that children can touch and feel." For your 2-year-old, art is not about the product -- it's about the process. Children get a nice boost of self-esteem from seeing their creations displayed proudly. Use a simple clothesline and clothespins to hang artwork to dry and be displayed at the same time.
Pretending and Imagining
Pretend play is big for 2-year-olds. That block they're holding to their ear? It's a phone. Those apple slices? They're boats! Role-play activities are still basic, but creative thinking comes naturally. Invest in some fun props to inspire your growing toddlers, like a kid-scale table and chairs along with a plastic tea set for make-believe tea parties. Or look for a junior-size chef's hat and apron, which have the potential for imaginative play that feels like the real deal. High-quality plastic trucks, like the Bruder Max ones, have lots of moving parts and cool details but are designed for toddlers. Wooden trains, small plastic people, plastic animals, dolls, and doll strollers can all help spark creativity.
Floating and Splashing
Bathtime can be an opportunity for exploration, as most toddlers are interested with water. Traditional tub toys like rubber ducks, squirting animals, and floatable boats always make delightful gifts, but consider water-soluble bathtub crayons to increase fun without creating a permanent mess. (A sponge easily removes what toddlers draw all over the tub and the walls, but be careful of staining the grout between tiles.) A colorful foam alphabet set can help tots learn to spell out names and simple words, and you can find sets of foam bathtub "stickers," a smart option because foam will stick to the tiles when it's wet but then easily removed. Stacking cups, like the Skip Hop Dunck set, provide diversion as children nest, stack, and fill them with water to pour out. (Bonus: Parents can use them to rinse shampoo from the toddler's hair.)
How to Invest in the Best Gifts
Choosing the perfect gift comes down to a couple of factors. First, remember that 2-year-olds still don't have high expectations for gifts; they're grateful for any presents. Second, consider your budget. Some parents want to get the biggest gift for their money, but it's important to think about value. Toys that will last a long time are the best investment. Look for ones that are made of high-quality materials (wood and high-grade plastic) and that will adapt and appeal to children with a wide range of ages. Third, think about what your child will truly enjoy. "Expose 2-year-olds to new things," Dr. Lewis says. "There's always the opportunity for growth and change at that age, and you want to provide them with new challenges." You won't need to pay too much attention to a child's special interests, but if a child has particular dislikes or fears (like snakes or clowns), stay away from related toys.
Children also learn a lot from playing with adults. While there aren't too many games designed for toddlers, Think Fun has one. Working together with parents and siblings on a game or even a more complicated puzzle presents an opportunity to learn about teamwork and frustration tolerance, both important social skills. Do try to avoid toys with excessive packaging; toddlers don't have much patience for delayed gratification. If you suspect that a gift will take a while to extract from a box, consider unpacking and wrapping it again so it'll be ready to be played with as soon as the paper comes off.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.