Every Christmas, I look for toys that I know my kids will not only love, but are a little more educational than watching TV for hours at a time. Don’t get me wrong – TV has been my “babysitter” while I make dinner more than once, but I always want to give my kids other options, especially when other people are looking for gifts to give.
My husband and I are lucky enough to have a toddler who loves books, almost to an extreme. This gave me the idea to look for more toys that could be used as extra props in story time. Unfortunately, most toys associated with books are either for an audience older than toddlers or come in stuffed animal form – cute, but not very educational. Luckily, Etsy sellers also seem to notice this lack of educational toys and have created their own options perfect for the young readers in your life. Here are a few of my favorites:
Learning Letters: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Felt Story Board
Price: $10 to $16 (dependent on size)
My two-year-old loves “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.” When we’re not reading it to him, he’s begging us to watch the YouTube video or stacking his magnetic fridge letters up only to scream “OH NO!” and tear them all down. This is why I can’t wait for Christmas to give him his own portable “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” felt board story that he can take with him wherever he goes.
The set includes 33 felt pieces that kids can use to learn and/or identify letters, retell the story or make their own words. There’s even a moon and sun piece! The only thing it’s missing? An actual board. So, make sure you have one ready, or you can purchase one from the same seller starting around $16.
Lacing: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
For young fans of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” this lacing toy not only helps little ones with their counting, but with fine motor skills as well! To be clear, this toy doesn’t exactly follow the story, but it’s close enough to give kids the right experience with one pear, two apples, three lemons, four tangerines, and five strawberries. Please note: this is an international seller, so order early to ensure you get it on time!
Animal Sounds: Dear Zoo
“Dear Zoo” was my son’s first favorite book. We would read it over and over again as he learned how to pull open the flaps and reveal the animals. Once he had that down to a science, we practiced animal sounds the animals made before he opened the flaps. These adorable little finger puppets would add a whole new level of fun to the book with both the flaps and the finger puppets popping up!
Fine Motor Skills: Goodnight Moon Building Blocks
These two-inch-cube blocks are perfect as a gift for a little one with a favorite book, or an expecting new mom with a nursery theme in mind! While the link is specifically for “Goodnight Moon,” the seller specializes in made-to-order sets, just choose your story and send a private message! Toddlers can practice fine motor skills by using these personalized blocks as building blocks, while older children can follow along with the book matching the different blocks to the pictures.
Counting: One Fish, Two Fish
Dr. Seuss fans will love this counting game for snack time! Based on the book “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” This downloadable fish place mat features eight empty fish bowls that your child can “fill” with cheesy fish-shaped crackers. While the sheet is downloadable, the seller recommends laminating it for repeated use, allowing it to be easily be wiped off with a wet towel. Did I mention this is the perfect stocking stuffer?
Bonus point for the parents who buy the multi-colored fish for counting AND colors.
Colors: Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Acting out the classic “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” has never been more enjoyable with these adorable headbands. Designed as party favors, I think these headbands are even more fun for play dates or story times with kids who just can’t sit still! There are nine headbands – one for each animal allowing you and your children to act out animal sounds and practice the colors of each animal.