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If you have a toddler (generally considered between the ages of 12-36 months) or you’re trying to think for a present for one, here are some no-fail suggestions:
A “pounding bench”— also known as a hammer toy. You probably had one as a kid. You show the child how to put in the pegs and then child whacks them with a mallet. Turn it over, whack again.
The “corn popper”— a push toy that makes balls pop up in a little plastic dome. Another classic that you likely remember from your own childhood, and your parents may even remember them– Fisher-Price brought it to market in 1957 and it’s been popular ever since.
Blocks. Good old blocks, with squares and letters or in different shapes, are good for hours– okay, minutes– of building and knocking down. Giant foam blocks are another great pick, if there’s enough room at home to store them.
Art supplies like unlined paper and crayons– kids go through a lot of them. Avoid stamps and stickers, which are guaranteed to wind up where you don’t want them.
A balance bike. These are no-pedal bikes that help kids pick up the basics of riding without falling over. Put feet down to stand, lift feet to ride.Recommended for 24 months and up.
Tub stuff. With at least a bath a day, toddlers spend a lot of time in the tub. Pirate ships, watering cans, bath colors, wacky sponges, expanding washcloths, tub crayons, a suction-cup mirror, wind-up swimming toys, squirting starfish– they’ll all help the kid play long enough to get clean.
Bad buys include:
Plush toys. Ask any parent of an older child– most of those adorable stuffed animals will end up in the closet, chewed by a dog or cluttering the floor until it gets hauled to Goodwill. Unless the stuffed thing is just so cute you can’t stand it, skip it.
Anything with magnets. Most toddlers like to mouth everything, and a swallowed magnet can be fatal.