Since I just celebrated both my children’s birthdays the past two consecutive months, I’ve still got gifts on my mind… and thought I’d do a round-up of some gift ideas less than $25 for the toddler crowd.  Here are some of our favorite toys based on age – from 1 through 3!


1|Drum Set 2|B. Wheeee-Is Cars 3|Kitchen Accessory Set 4|Toy Food 5|Pounding Bench

At Age 1, my kids were finally venturing out of the baby stage and getting better at manipulating their environments in a myriad of ways.  This was when I started introducing them to toys that taught them shape sorting, block building, and a good amount of banging.

1.  B. Parum Pum Pum Drum-Line – What kid doesn’t love to bang and make noise?  I know mine do!  This set comes with a myriad of instruments that are fun for the young toddler crowd.

2.  B. Wheeee-Is Cars – We love these huge cars that zip and zoom as soon as you release them.  Jaren gets so fascinated when the cars just go off by themselves.

3.  Melissa & Doug Wooden Kitchen Accessory Set – Somewhere between the ages of 1 and 2, Noelle started working on her pretend play.  Cooking was the first thing she tried to mimic me on, so why not get them their very own pots and pans to cook their food in?  Comes with cute little oven mitts too!

4.  Melissa & Doug Food Groups – Play food is a toy that will last for years and years.  Even at the age of 3, Noelle still plays with her play food all the time.  Might as well get them early and get as much use out of them as possible.  In the beginning, they make good chew toys. 

5.  Melissa & Doug Pounding Bench – The colorful pegs on this bench go up and down.  It’s great for tots who are just learning colors and allows them to work on their fine motor skills as they pound, pound, pound away!

My toddler’s capabilities seemed to increase exponentially once she hit the age of 2!  She was no longer just figuring things out and exploring her world, but started to really engage with it.  I could see her mind at work more than ever before as she learned her numbers, shapes, colors, letters, and as her imagination expanded.  The possibilities for exploration seemed endless once she turned 2, as I watched my baby transform from human blob to mini wannabe adult.

1|Little People Bus 2|Peg Puzzles 3|Mega Bloks 4|Broom Set 5|Travel Doodler

1.  Little People Bus – I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the Little People toys.  We have a few, but this is one of our favorites.  It comes with 3 little people, and if you press down on the little people in their respective bus seat, it plays sound.  Our absolute favorite Little People toy is the Noah’s Ark one, so if you’re up for splurging a bit more then it gets a wholehearted thumbs up from me.

2.  Melissa & Doug Classic Peg Puzzles – These puzzles are great for teaching them alphabets and numbers, and the pegs make it easy for them to match the puzzle to the right slots.

3.  Mega Bloks  – Noelle didn’t get into building blocks until she was past the age of 2, but once she got into them she really got into them!  She wasn’t quite ready for Legos yet at Age 2, but these huge megabloks were perfect for her at the time.

4.  Little Helper Broom Set – I loved it when Noelle first tried to help me wipe, mop, and sweep the floors.  Our normal sized swiffer was much too big for her little self, but this cute little set is perfect for toddlers who want to “help” you while you clean.

5.  Fisher-Price Travel Doodler Pro – This allows them to draw without making a mess, and they get a kick out of using the erasing function too!  Another perk – it’s easy to take with you for travel, restaurants, etc!

 1|Doctor Set 2|Basketball Set 3|IKEA Art Easel 4|Legos 5|Cash Register

At age 3, pretend play is where it’s at!  Noelle’s imagination is getting increasingly more complex, so we focus our toys on things that allow her imagination to blossom.  Just type in “pretend play” in Amazon’s search box, and a lot of great toys pop up that can support your child’s growing mind.

1.  Learning Resources Doctor Set – I’d say her favorite tool in this set is the stethoscope, followed by the syringe.  She loves checking my heart, and giving me shots to make me feel better – just like at the doctor’s!

2.  Little Tikes Basketball Set – At 3, she is more active than ever and jumping, bouncing, rolling all over the place.  It’s been fun taking the games outside with this little basketball hoop that even she can reach!

3.  Art Easel from IKEA – Her “art” actually looks like something more than just scribbles now.  She’s no Van Gogh, but she is starting to paint, draw, and color identifiable things using a variety of mediums.  This IKEA easel is well-priced – one side is a white board and the other side is a chalkboard.  It also comes with a paper roll attachment piece should your toddler prefer to draw on paper instead.

4.  Legos – She received legos over Christmas, and have been playing with them daily.  She’s finally at an age where her tiny and nimble fingers are able to manipulate these little pieces to create anything she puts her mind to, such as houses and rocket ships.

5.  Learning Resources Cash Register – We found a cash register at a yard sale, and we actually put real coins into it.  We use this as a tool to teach her basic money and counting concepts.  While she’s still too young to understand that a quarter represents 25 cents, she can at least count out 5 coins for us when we ask.  For example, if she begs us to buy her play-doh or go get ice cream, we’ll say, “ok but we need money.  Can you go get mommy 5 monies please?” – and she runs to her cash register and counts out the coins… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… then plops it in my palm!

What are your favorite toy gifts for the 3 and under crowd?