Here are my disclaimers first: Obviously different kids have different interests, some hate colouring, others have no love of board games. I haven’t mentioned any “character” toys here, the shops will show you what’s in this year (Jake, Doc McStuffins and Sophia the First) and for the most part these toys are unisex (I think, but my little girl isn’t a preschooler yet).
Also, and alas, we (or kind friends or relatives) paid for all of these toys, no freebies, which means that the recommendations are unbiased. Most of these things are generally available in local toyshops and discount stores, in Smyths, Tesco, Argos and online on Amazon. To get the best value shop around.
The boys LOVE dressing up at this age- you can pick cheap dressup clothes up lots of places, Dunnes and Tesco are particularly reasonable. The superhero and princess licensed ones tend to be more expensive and the “real life” doctor, garda, nurse etc a lot more reasonable. These really give hours of fun and let their imaginations run wild.
Duplo has been around for years, and it’s easy so see why. It only entered our house this year when Grandad gave Cathal a fabulous Duplo firestation set for his 3rd birthday and both boys absolutely love it. It’s a step more advanced than Megablocks and bigger and easier to use than Lego. The blocks are solid and sturdy and the sets really are a great gift.
Magnetic Drawing games
I have been a fan of these since the beginning of time. Well, maybe not that long, but I did get Magna Doodle from Santa when I was 16. (By means of explanation, my younger sister has asked for one for Christmas and I complained that I’d never had one. Isn’t Santa the smart fella all the same).
Drawing is such a creative pastime and kids love the stamps to make patterns too. You can pick up less sturdy versions for around €7 in the discount shops, with the branded versions around the €20 mark.
Games mean teamwork and spending time together, and most games at this age will need adult help which is a lot of the attraction. For his “4” Christmas Ciarán had a long list of games that he wanted, they really were his favourite thing. We loved the following:
For his “3 Christmas” as he called it, the only thing that Ciarán wanted was Hungry Hippos, and he just loved it. Cathal was a bit small to play with him so Mammy and Daddy had to be very involved. The game is noisy so not ideal if there’s a sleeping sibling nearby and very annoyingly it doesn’t fit back into the box once it’s assembled. The little balls need to be minded too and kept away from younger siblings. Nevertheless, it gave us hours of fun.
A word of warning- this game is flimsy but it’s quick and easy to play and the boys just love playing. I used to let them play before bedtime to tire them out when I tired after a long work day.
Cathal LOVES his scooter, it was a hand me down from Ciarán and he zooms around the house on it, there are lumps out of some of the door frames and he often has “assidens” when he crashes into the dishwasher but that’s the fun of being a three year old.
My boys love jigsaws, Ciarán got a fabulous gift of a map of Ireland wooden jigsaw when he was 4 that he really treasures, it’s been great to help him not only learn geography but to help his reading too. For a 3 year old you’re looking at about 24 pieces up to 48 pieces for a 4 year old.
At this age we’re all about simple stories, preferably with a funny theme, and repetitive.
The Julia Donaldson books are very popular, our (my) favourite is “What the Ladybird Heard” but Cathal currently loves “A Squash and a Squeeze”. On a Christmas theme “Father Christmas needs a wee” was a well received gift here last year. Again the Usborne range have some lovely keepsake books and the Apple Tree Farm series are much loved by the boys. (Here’s a lovely blog all about them from Musings of a Hostage Mother).
You could consider a children’s cookbook for this agegroup too.
Other books to make your preschooler laugh include “Giggle Giggle Quack” and “Click Clack Moo”. These are comic masterpieces, which involve the farm animals giving ultimatums to the farmer and they really engage the children (and their parents).
Mammies and Daddies will be delighted to receive hats, scarves and gloves which children lose weekly. Pyjamas are always welcome too.
Sports bottles and arts and crafts supplies are also very welcome, but be careful giving glitter as it’s banned from many houses (including mine)
If you’re buying Christmas themed clothes it works better if you give these before Christmas to increase wearing opportunities, that cute Christmas jumper won’t get much wear if it’s not opened til 25th.
Any other ideas?