I may not be breaking out the Christmas tree or festive tunes quite yet, but I have started thinking about Christmas gifts.
When it comes to buying for my kid, I really value suggestions from people who share my philosophies on parenting, education, stewardship, and the like. I try to be very careful in my selection, keeping things simple and to a minimum. So I thought I’d share the best-loved gifts I’ve purchased for my daughter. As many of you know, I’m really inspired by Waldorf and Montessori philosophies of childhood and education, so my gifts are naturally influenced by them.
I only feel comfortable recommending products that we’ve personally tried and loved. These are all gifts that Lydia received for Christmas last year when she was two. So we’ve had almost a year to enjoy and evaluate them. I have no qualms about recommending them! They have gotten much love and use.
I hope you are inspired by them, too!
Waldorf Doll (Bamboletta)
This was our big splurge item last year — by far Lydia’s most expensive gift. But oh, she has gotten a lot of love!
The Waldorf philosophy of education emphasizes open-ended play, natural materials, beauty, and simplicity. All of these elements are found together in Waldorf-style dolls.
They are generally made of natural materials like wool and cotton and have very simple faces so that children can project a wide range of emotions onto them. The wool is naturally antibacterial, and slowly absorbs the smell of home, so that the doll will always remind the child of home. Significantly, Waldorf dolls don’t “do” anything (like cry, drink, pee, close their eyes, etc), unlike many contemporary dolls, because all of those things limit what the child can do and imagine with his or her doll. I find them absolutely beautiful and have fallen more in love with them over the last year.
I did a lot of searching, and have found that I love Bamboletta dolls most. They have, in my opinion, the most beautiful faces. They’re actually on the more affordable side, too. They are handmade in BC, Canada, with natural fibers like wool, mohair, and silk, and stuffed with locally-sourced wool. Every doll is unique, and comes with a name and birth certificate. They generally range in price between $130-$250, depending on size and other details. I decided to go with a Little Buddy since they are more affordable, and a good size for a toddler.
So Etta came to join Lydia’s toy family last Christmas. She became best friends with Lydia’s sock monkey, Present, and their shenanigans together are never-ending.
I completely intend to eventually buy our next baby a Bamboletta as well, even if it’s a boy. Every little boy deserves a huggable little companion, too!
Also: I have since purchased more handmade outfits from Bamboletta, and the customer service is out of this world.
And I just want to mention this tiny, random detail: Etta smells absolutely amazing!! She was shipped to us with a tiny bar of natural goat milk soap in the box (specially formulated for washing her cotton skin), and whatever essential oils they used in that soap make everything that comes near it smell like heaven. It sealed the deal for me.
(Note: I am not affiliated with Bamboletta in any way; I’m just crazy about their products.)
The rest of Lydia’s Christmas presents fell in the Montessori Practical Life camp. This mop is one of them.
The Montessori philosophy, like Waldorf, emphasizes giving children high-quality, child-sized materials made with durable, natural materials. This shows respect for the child and encourages her to care for her materials and her environment. Montessori also emphasizes allowing children to do things for themselves, recognizing that children like to imitate adults and contribute to the household.
I got Lydia this simple yarn mop and she absolutely loves it. (It’s not the most incredible quality, but you can actually do the job with it. Not like many of those cheap play items from Toys R Us.) Mopping is an activity that she really enjoys when she has her own mop. I’m not joking: when I say, “Lydia, do you want to come help me mop?” she runs to get her own.
And importantly, it has stood up to a year of use just fine, and will continue to be used for years to come.
This tool set contains a leaf rake, garden rake, shovel, and hoe. The handles are made of wood and the heads are made of metal. Again, the quality isn’t perhaps the most outstanding, and the paint has gotten some wear and chipping, but overall the items have all held out well, especially for the price.
It is my firm belief that a two-year-old should have her very own knife. (What, like you don’t have any weird beliefs?) Being able to prepare food is an essential life skill that can’t start being practiced too early; and cutting is a vital part of it. Kids need to learn to use knives!
I had a hard time finding a good knife that was small enough for a toddler, high-quality, easy to use, and safe. I tried some crinkle cutters which were decent but I wasn’t completely satisfied. I searched high and low until I finally came across the lovely little cleaver from Michael Olaf (a distributor or Montessori materials.)
This little 6.5-inch stainless-steel beauty only costs $4.50 plus shipping and has been totally worth it. I love the sense of confidence and self-worth I can see when Lydia works with her knife. I hear so much pride in her voice as she says, “I’m going to get my knife!” It’s perfect for her little hands. It’s sturdy and sharp enough to cut things like chicken but not so sharp that I worry about her cutting herself. (AT ALL.) The blunt tip prevents accidents and the cleaver style keeps her fingers out of the way when pushing down.
Seriously, it’s perfect.
Okay, so this isn’t really a Montessori or Waldorf item, though it does have some of the qualities of both: it’s an open-ended toy that promotes a wide range of learning.
It contains control of error because the cups won’t properly stack unless you do it in the right order. Playing with them teaches lessons in spacial awareness, size, geometry, etc.
They can also be used imaginatively: these cups have acted as drinking cups, bowls, caves for toy animals, flippers for her feet (don’t ask), and more. They’re also fun in the bath tub.
She has also played colour-matching games with them, pairing same-coloured cups together or filling them with same-coloured pom-poms.
A friend once described them as “the ultimate toy,” and I have to admit, these stupid cheap plastic cups have been one of the most-used items I’ve purchased for her. I highly recommend them. Babies can enjoy them, and Lydia still plays with them regularly at age three.
And that’s about it! What have been some of your best gift purchases for a toddler?
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