I had a list in my head of handmade gifts I wanted to make for my toddler, Anneliese for Christmas this year.
Then I kept adding to it, so I had to jot it down on paper, but after a bit the list was quite long, and some of the projects were a bit complicated for me to do on my own or in such a short period of time… so those would get moved until her birthday, or next Christmas (several of these are great for a wide range of ages)… so I thought I’d make a blog post for myself (and you!) to reference whenever we’re looking for a handmade gift for toddlers or preschoolers
This list contains some affiliate links.
25 Handmade Gifts for Toddlers (or Preschoolers)
Coiled Rag Bowl — tutorial by Wee Folk Art (there are LOTS of great tutorials on this site for free, so be sure to check them out!)
Tree blocks — simple how-to by Crafting a Green World. Yes it’s as simple as it seems. And while I LOVE unit blocks for more architectural building and naturally absorbing math concepts (My kids have 2 sets of these awesome and affordable unit blocks)… there is something perfect in the imperfection of these natural blocks too.
Wooden Peg Doll Family — inspiration by ColorFool (no longer online). What a sweet idea, to make a little doll family modeled after our own! I’ll try to make a Zora (dog) peg too.
Get wooden pegs here in lots of different shapes and sizes, for making your whole family. Share them with some other crafty mama friends and have a family-peg-people-making party. Sounds fun to me!
Rainbow people matching game – So simple and adorable, and keeps little ones busy for a while. (Throw a few in your purse to take to restaurants too.)
Since I made these, Martha Stewart came out with the most gorgeous set of craft paint colors… I’m definitely using them for my next kiddo-gifts.
Busy Bottles — from Pink Pistachio. LOVE this idea. I was also a fan of the “glitter wand” as a kid, and this is a similar, homemade idea. You could make bottles with different themes or color schemes.
But actually, if you can’t find sweaters to upcycle, you can just buy high-quality wool felt on Amazon. Easy!
Crocheted tea set — I saw this in the Land of Nod catalog. How sweet would this be? This is theirs:
And this is the one I made (late night photo when I finished). All you need is a crochet hook and some yarn. I used this yarn, which comes in a billion vivid and fun colors:
A Play Kitchen (unlinked because the post seems to have been removed) — I love the “hacked” Ikea kitchens floating all over the internet. This one is probably my favorite though. I love how it’s simple but “complete” and has real touches like an actual faucet with knobs, and how it doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Here’s a really inexpensive but great-looking faucet with knobs to use to make your own.
I would be remiss to not include my girlfriend Kim’s play kitchen she and her husband made for their daughter. Everything Kim does has such CHARM that it’s impossible not to fall in love.
Family Book (the hudsonandco.blogspot.com blog post has been removed)— I’ve been meaning to do one of these for a long time, but maybe I’ll actually get one together for the holidays. I just need to find a good picture of each of us — my husband, me, Anneliese, Zora, our parents, our siblings and their spouses and kids… that should about cover it. I’ll probably order through shutterfly or picaboo or one of those types of book printing places.
But even if you don’t feel like ordering, if you have photos already printed (or a printer), you could just stick them in a brag book and you’re good to go!
Some sort of Mobile — there is a hook in the ceiling in Anneliese’s room and it would be the perfect place for a lovely-to-look-at mobile, but I haven’t made one yet. Add it to the list. This one is precious.
Make a similar one with these wooden birds that are only 99 cents each, and paint them however you like.
A gorgeous fabric memory game — Tutorial and photo from purlbee.com. I love the idea of this and think it would also be great with different textures of the same color fabric too for an older child and a bit more of a challenge (imagine all in royal blue, but pairs of felt, velvet, cotton, chiffon, wool, lace, etc.) and for more of a Montessori element (only one variable).
These charm packs of fabric are perfect for this project – you get a lot of different fabrics, without having to buy a ton of each. And they all coordinate with each other – perfect.
An activity board (the blog post is no longer online) — For now I’ll stick with the Melissa and Doug Latch Board that we have, but I would love a more exciting version with more types of “goodies” on it when she gets older. This is something I could enlist my husband’s help with I’m sure.
Wall Abacus — From Anything Pretty. Another thing I’d rather have my husband build than do myself. But this would go perfectly on the wall in the play area of the living room. hmmmmmmmm…. just need to grab a few packs of these large wooden beads (they’re super cheap) and pick up some dowels.
Fabric Card Table Playhouse — From Bargain Hoot. Something I’ve been eyeing for years, since before I was even pregnant with Anneliese. I probably won’t make it for Christmas, but maybe for her birthday next year or even Christmas next year. She doesn’t really “pretend” yet but I know she’ll be into it soon!
Quiet Book — My sisters and I had a quiet book when we were kids, and I vividly remember a page with flowers we could button onto stems in a vase, as well as a page with shapes to match (I’m not sure if they were button-on, snaps, or velcro).
Painted Step Stool — Photo by Remodeling this Life. As Anneliese gets more sturdy on her feet and more independent with tooth-brushing and such, I’d like her to be able to reach the bathroom sink safely and easily. I have a little step stool but it’s not tall enough for a tiny toddler… it’s only one level like a tiny milkmaid stool. Ikea has some great-looking wooden step-stools with two steps that are perfect! And if you’re not near an IKEA you can grab one on Amazon.
(And how about this adorable teal chalk paint?)
Painted Matryoshka Set — I got a set of 7 blank nesting dolls earlier this year so that I could do the rainbow (including indigo). I wanted them to be relatively simple and modern, and had so much fun making them.
Inspiration picture from ecrater — gorgeous, but a bit elaborate for me to make (and $95+ to buy!)
And here are my handpainted matryoshka dolls for my daughter!
Handmade growth chart — here are two versions I LOVE. An embroidered quilted one (blog has been removed), and a jute/safety pin/tag one – make your own with inexpensive jute webbing. Totally different looks but I love them both so much. The doorframe thing doesn’t really work for military families!
Baby underwear — Since we’ve been ECing (Using elimination communication)since Anneliese was about 6 months, she is quite used to the potty. Now that she’s walking and also happens to be telling me (with sign language) more often that she needs to use the potty, I’m thinking it’s almost time to ramp up to actual “potty training/learning” instead of the casual EC we’ve been doing for nearly a year.
But no one makes underwear for a less-than-20-pound baby. Well, some people do, but it costs $10+ per pair. Making my own would be much more economical. Maybe not “Christmas gift!” material, but something to do soon in any case.
Photo from Noodle-Head. Pattern from That Darn Kat on etsy. Zaaberry also made a trainer/pull-up version which is a great idea. I’m planning to continue using cloth diapers during naps and at night, but maybe when she is more reliable a “pull-up” like this would be good for naps.
Note: The pattern only goes as small as a size 2, but I figure it can’t be too hard to scale it down further.
It’s definitely helpful to have a good easy to use serger like this Brother one, for sewing curves in jersey fabric!
Fabric “Paper Chain” or Advent Chain — I know people use these to count down (or up) to Christmas, but I think they would be a fun year-round activity for toddlers to do (akin to the plastic linking chains, or the beads that snap together). They’re quick and easy to make using fusible webbing, pinking shears, and velcro.
Roll-Up Play Kitchen – In case you don’t have the space or money for a bigger play kitchen, or if you’d prefer to have something portable (toss it in your purse when you visit a friend who doesn’t have kids, or take it on a road trip, or whatever), this is the perfect mini-kitchen.
Just add some realistic metal pots and pans, and you’ve got a hit on your hands.
What handmade gifts have you made for your toddler or preschooler lately? Leave a comment to let me know!
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Note: This post was originally published in November of 2011, edited for broken links October 2015.