Gift Ideas: Stacking, Sorting, and Collecting

This year, I am having a hard time coming up with Christmas gift ideas for Bean. He’s in that in-between age where he’s too old for toddler toys, but he’s not quite old enough for preschool toys. I’m also stuck because he has strong preferences for a few different kinds of toys (mostly match box cars and little figures he can carry around) and I don’t know if I want to just buy more of things he already has because I know how much he likes them, or if I should branch out and try introducing him to new toys.

The solution I have found to these predicaments is to just shop more for Gracie.

If Bean is at an awkward age for buying toys, Gracie is at the perfect age. She’s easily entertained, infant and baby toys are widely available, and they are usually pretty inexpensive. I had a few key things I wanted to get her, though. And, so far, I’ve found just what I set out to find.

Fisher Price Bright Beginnings Stacking Action Blocks, $10.99

First, at Gracie’s age, she’s all about picking up things and manipulating them with her hands. She’s working on that eye/hand coordination and so she really likes picking things up, waving them around, putting them back down again, then doing it all over. She’s also really close to the age where she’ll start stacking things. For those two skills, I got her a set of brightly colored stacking blocks. I liked these because they had bold colors. And I really liked the mirrored sides of the blocks and that there were sides with things that popped out, giving her more to manipulate with her hands.


Fisher Price Friendly Firsts Turtle Shape Sorter, $12.99

Along with her new interest in waving things around and working her hands and fingers with smaller objects, I also got Gracie a shape sorter.  It will be a long time before she is able to figure out the shape part of this toy, but I think she’ll have a good time banging on the turtle and waving around those shapes until she’s ready to put the pieces in the correct place.  Plus, every kid needs a shape sorter, right?  It’s, like, a law of parenting.



Fun Ballz, 100 piece, $17.54

This is Gracie’s “big gift,” though it isn’t very expensive and it doesn’t do anything really flashy or showy.  I actually got this idea from (where else?) Pinterest.  I ordered a set of 100 ball pit balls for her.  I thought about getting her a ball pit to sit in, but they are so darn expensive for what they are and I don’t have room in my house for a big ball pit!  Shoot, you can sit Gracie in a laundry basket and she’ll play happily for an hour (which she did this weekend when I sat her in a laundry basket while we cleaned out the garage…).  She won’t even know where she is, so I opted out of the ball pit idea.  Instead, a Pinterest user suggested using a Pack ‘n Play for a ball pit.  You just fill the Pack ‘n Play with balls, set the baby in there, and – voila! – ball pit!  Santa is going to set up the ball pit on Christmas Eve so that Gracie can jump right in on Christmas morning.



Gracie is also getting a few board books, some new bottles and binkies, and a really cute plastic purse with these plastic accessories that you can put in it, like money, lipstick, and sunglasses.  As for Bean, I’m still at a total loss.  Any ideas out there for a two and a half year old boy?????

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38 Thoughts to “Gift Ideas: Stacking, Sorting, and Collecting”

  1. Cindy

    Duplo blocks, Fisher Price Remote control car (I don’t know if they still have this but they did when my son was little and he loved it), Battery powered car for the outside, a play work bench (fisher price I think has one).

  2. Haha! We were just wandering around ToysRUs wondering WHAT in the world to get our son (Bean’s age). It is hard. Duplo opens up a WORLD of teeny tiny little toys that I’m not sure we want to venture into yet. But the beginner remote control cars are a hit (he got one a few months ago) and we just got him a cheap IKEA train set that he loves (and can put the track together himself). So a little train set might work. But we have the same problem with not wanting to buy MORE cars and Little People. My mom bought him a battery-controlled car and we’re looking at a mini indoor trampoline for the basement (cold northern winters). You know the ones they can bounce on while holding onto a bar? Good luck!

  3. Gin

    I want a ball pit for Christmas and I’m 25. As for Bean gifts, I’m not sure what to suggest for you. I know my little brother loved his Tonka dump truck. Does Bean have big toy trucks like ?

  4. Erin

    My daughter is 2 1/2 and loves vehicles. She’s getting the Little People Safari Truck. Target also has a super cute Little People rocket ship. We are big Melissa and Doug fans. Does Bean like food? Their sandwich making set is super cute. The cutting food kits are fun and durable, and encourage fine motor skills and counting. Here’s my daughter’s favorite:

  5. Miriamyd

    I have a boy 2.5 yo and a girl that just turned 1 yo. It’s funny we have the opposite problem. I was stuck on baby girls gifts but found a million things for my boy. We do…. Something to wear, something to read, something they want and something they need. Of course at this age want and need are at parents descretion.
    For our boy his big gift is (as others have said) duplo blOcks. He has a cars and zoo set already and he loves building other objects. We got him the dump truck and front loader. I also thought about the cars guitar Walmart has for $12 and a set of tools with simple blocks. If money was no option I would get him the tool bench by step 2 (?) with tools and with “wood” pieces you can build into things. But I just couldn’t find a good deal on it.
    We also got him an alex’s toys telling time clock. I bought it would be a good way to learn his numbers with association to what goes on in our day. I thought about pairing it with an alarm clock so he can start to learn to not come downstairs in the morning until a certain time is on the clock.
    Hope this helps! I’m sure he will love whatever, this age is so fun, right!?! Ps: are you doing elf on the shelf? Our boys living it and I think bean would love it too!

  6. Sheila

    Do you have any wooden puzzles? There are some great Melissa and Doug ones that make noise when you put the shapes in the right places (the cow moos, the lion roars…). Also, there are some Shake n’Go cars that my kids and nephew love…. buzz, woody, lightning mcqueen. I think Bean would probably love them! Do you have a doctor’s kit yet? And I’m not sure if you want to get into it yet, but my nephew loves dress up and has a few outfits (pirate, cowboy, astronaut) that he wears often!

  7. Melissa and Doug have some great things for this age and toys that they will stay interested in for many years. We have the food cutting set and that was something we got for our son for his 2nd b-day and he still plays with it at almost 4 years old. I think one thing to keep in mind is getting something that he will grow into. They really start taking gigantic developmental leaps as they get closer to 3 and certain things like legos (duplo ones) and puzzles start to click. Our son loves music, so we have gotten him a variety of guitars and drums and other musical things. Melissa and Doug have a great little music set with maracas, tambourine, etc… These are not for the parent who likes peace and quiet though. 🙂 You will definitely find that his interests will change dramatically as he grows and that once he hits 3 he’ll be doing so many more things that will open up a world of possibilities in the toy department. I honestly came up with so many ideas this year for our son that I was surprised…last year when he was 2.5, not so much. Also, if you are looking for a bigger gift, maybe you could get him some things to play outside (a ride on toy, basketball hoop) since I know it stays pretty warm there in Florida.

  8. my son is almost the exact same age as Bean and he is getting wooden trains and tracks. Not the Thomas stuff, that’s crazy expensive, but IKEA. I highly recommend it. My son plays trains all day every day 🙂
    He’s also getting playdoh sets, wooden building blocks, some fake food since he loves to play kitchen with mommy, and a set of duplo blocks.
    I also think sports balls and a hot wheels car are great for this age if Bean doesn’t already have that type of stuff. And seeing as how you don’t live in the arctic tundra he could use it right away. For me, I’m waiting until spring on that stuff since it’s too cold to use it outside now.

  9. If Bean is anything like my 2 year old he will want to climb into the ball pit with Gracie!! I know everyone has already said this but Melissa and Doug toys are super nice and durable. All three my children like them.

  10. Jocelyne

    Duplo. Duplo trains. Marble Run. A nice set of wooden tools that let you hammer things and screw things and put nuts on bolts. A ramp for dinky cars. A three wheeled scooter and helmet. Mr Potato Head. Soooo many good toys for that age…. I miss that in the sea of Beyblades and Lego spaceships that is 8 and 5.

  11. Great idea for the ball pit! Little Man is 2 1/2 and he’s really into construction vehicles, like in a major way! Big, miniature, doesn’t matter! He also likes matchbox cars and trains. He’s recently gotten really into a Tonka Construction computer game, and a Tonka Search and Rescue computer game. They are really old, but he loves them and can play them all by himself!

  12. kerri

    GEOTRAX (Fisher Price)… My son was 2 1/2 when he got his first set from Santa last year. Now 3 1/2, he can snap the tracks together by himself. SUPER Durable & the trains even self align. You can either get trains to push and/or trains/cars that come with a remote. Down side: Batteries! Each train/remote takes 6 AAA batteries(3 for train, 3 for remote)…so either stock up or get rechargables. AND Space can be an issue too. We have started adding to his set and it pretty much takes up an entire room, but loads of entertainment. My 8 year old daughter even likes playing with him. I cannot say enough about these trains… many of the sets are retired, however, I frequent ebay & get lots of great deals! It can be rather pricey, but at their ages, you don’t have to start with a huge Geo World set. Check them out…. Toys R Us has some of the sets available. They have now added “Cars” & Toy Story sets that you can add on…. as many years as GeoTrax has been available….ALL Sets are compatible. Google “GeoTrax” & you will be amazed at the websites for them… people really can go overboard:)
    Merry Christmas to your sweet little family!

  13. Knock Knock has some really cute stuff for little ones now too. Super fun and interactive notepads and books.

  14. We’ve got tons of ideas for Tater! His super big presents are Tinkertoys (they are ridiculously expensive — $50! — but they last forever – we’re getting the wood ones) and a basketball hoop. We’re also getting Nate a bunch of toys for use in therapy that increase gross and fine motor skills and are highly motivating. We created an Amazon registry so family members get him productive stuff to work with! They include:
    Penguin Race 2: This one is just fun. Both Chad and I had it as kids.
    Melissa & Doug Magnetic Puzzle Board (it’s self contained! Nate has one of these and LOVES it):
    Melissa & Doug Magnetic Counting Maze:
    Alphabet Puzzle Boards:
    Number Puzzle Boards:
    Shape Bingo (which can be a puzzle when played alone):
    The classic game, Cootie!
    The game, Find It! It’s a giant shaker filled with rice and hidden inside is stuff and kids have to, well, find it. Our boys might be too young for the actual game but I expect the shaker will be a favorite of Nate’s:
    Ravensburger Colorama: It’s a game / puzzle. Highly ranked on a lot of the autism gift pages but is appropriate for kids of every ability. It’s a shape matching game but each space/shape is slightly different, so kids really have to pay attention to get it right:
    Melissa and Doug Sort and Snap: Nate already has this but LOVES this puzzle. It’s got about eight pictures that are two-sided – colors and black and white. So kids can either match colors with the pegs or they can create their own design. We use this in therapy just about every day:
    Melissa and Doug Magnetic Pattern Block Kit: Nate has this one too and loves it. They’re wee (but not too wee) geometric blocks that stick to the included magnetic pictures/board. Kids re-create the pictures with these wood mosaics.

    Make sure to tell us what Bean gets. Nate needs some ideas for his birthday in May! 🙂

  15. Katie

    We did the Radio Flyer 3-wheeled scooter for our big present for Logan ($35-50). He’s 2 months younger than Bean. He also got the Elmo guitar, doctor kit, play food, movies, etc.

  16. Christine

    I have a 27 month old–and like you said, he is diffcult to buy for. He likes what he currently has and even enjoys playing with his “old” toys that his 10 month old sister is now playing with. We ended up buying him a plastic tool bench and toolset since he keeps getting into his dad’s real toolbox! And he has a ton of hand me down remote control trains (geotrax) from his cousin that we might start to give him. He has sort of outgrown his wooden trainset (Does Bean have wooden trains? Target has an affordable set).

  17. Last year, when my son was 2.5 at Christmas, we gave hima dump truck filled with MegaBlocks, and a Big Wheel. Granted, he was a little young for the Big Wheel, but he LOVED it and “drove” it around all season long. Now he can ride it, which is actually even more fun. And for $20, how can you beat that!

  18. Oh my gosh, I need pictures/video of Gracie playing in the ball pit. It sounds precious!

  19. Paige

    Gracie and my baby were born a few days apart. I love all your ideas. Thanks!

  20. Santina

    I second the GeoTrax set. We got the remote control train set for my son last year for Christmas when he was 2 and he LOVED it. This year he is getting additional items, and the Cars race car ones. I know Bean would love those!

  21. Joanie

    go to and you can look at toys organized by age. They are high-quality, educational toys!

  22. Amy VH

    My son is 2.5 as well. He is OBSESSED with trains. So we are doing a lot of train things: Train Table, Thomas the Train trains and tracks (like $20), Train underwear and jammies. It is all trains all the time in our house. Good luck!

  23. My son is a day younger than Bean (and I’ve been reading your blog long enough to totally remember that). We are going Duplos/Megablocks, a Big Wheels bike, a Pillow Pet, some movies, a scooter, Toy Story PJs that look like costumes, a few books, and lots of preschool board games. I tend to “buy up” in age, so anything that said 3+ I went for. Some of it he will be ready for right now and others he will grow in to soon. I actually wrote a post about his gifts ( and got some other ideas from the comments.

  24. Sara M

    My youngest is a few weeks younger than Bean. He is getting one of those Sit N Spin toys, which I think he will love. He is also getting puzzles and a Melissa and Doug car hauler truck thing.

  25. Jen

    My 3 year is obsessed with Cars…but since at this point we owe most of them we were stuck on what to get him for christmas…then a friend suggested Blu Tracks….so amazing. They have a website to check out but basically it is a race track that has two lanes so cars can race side by side and comes in 18 ft or more length. The cool thing is that is all one solid piece so you dont have to worry about it coming apart and it is bendable so you can make jump and loops.

  26. Eli is a year younger than Bean, but we’re getting him the Melissa & Doug standard blocks set… it’s just a big set of wooden building blocks in all different shapes and sizes. Hubby had a similar set as a kid a played with it for years and years.

  27. Adriane Long

    Just a useful tidbit that I did last year for a ball pit for my now 18 month old…during the summer buy a pool…one of the little 8 dollar ones or something that has the palm tree etc…PERFECT BALL PIT!

  28. JenniferLO

    My niece is 2.5 also and I was struggling with what to get her for Christmas. I decided to put together an educational/artist gift. She is getting paints, markers, crayons, $1 coloring books, Alphabet cards, Alphabet magnets, Memory, etc. Anything imaginative is great for this age!

  29. Ann G-B

    Connor who is just three weeks younger than Bean is getting a train table (used) with lots of generic parts (hand me downs) and a some of the select Thomas trains (because he is obsessed) TJ Maxx has had a good variety of Thomas that was much cheaper.

  30. Mega Blocks has these magnetic blocks (like Magnetics only MUCH larger) that are GREAT for kids. Even my baby likes to play with them. THey will stay together because of the magnets but the magnets are not in danger of falling out so it’s safe, and they’re really easy to pick up. haha! WHile you can’t really build “structures” (they look more like molecules) (and sometimes “structures” is too rigid of an idea for tots) they are still building and using imagination. OH, and we call them ice cream blocks, because when you put a ball on a peg, that’s what it looks like.

  31. gah. nevermind. went to find a link and found they’ve been recalled, which I find incredibly surprising. Not sure how they could pose a choking hazzard but oh well. 🙁

  32. Alexandra

    Definitely a train track – my son (2) has a chuggington one, and is getting two wooden onces that will work with each other for Christmas. Trains are his favourite thing to do, and he almost always says “No, stay play train track’ whenever i want him to come out with me. Great for imagination as well as they can be configured in so many different ways.

  33. […] On a side note, one of my favorite bloggers Katie posted some ideas too!  Check them out here. […]

  34. HeatherM

    If Bean likes cars and little people, he likely already enjoys imaginative play, which is a great thing to encourage. Whitney at GlamLifeHousewife has a lot of costumes for Levi, which promote imaginative play, and they don’t take up a lot of storage space. Pretend kitchen sets, tool sets, and like someone mentioned above, doctor sets all accomplish this as well, and they also play into the kids’ desire to imitate their parents. Duplo blocks play into their sense of industriousness and promote gross motor skills, and what 2 yr old doesn’t like to build a huge tower and knock it down. They also make giant (1ft x 1ft) blocks kids can build into castles and what not. Books and books and books are great of course, as Bean’s love of books will likely grow a lot this coming year. Anything that moves is fun, as are outside toys. Good luck, and let us know what you decide on.

  35. My little man is almost two and HE STILL plays with the turtle shape sorter. For Christmas, he’s getting a fancy nap mat, a pillow pet that he can cuddle with at home since we send his current one to daycare with him, a set of play gardening tools since he LOVES to tinker with my tools and play in the dirt, he’s getting an art easel, and a big silly truck to play with. I don’t know WHERE I’m going to keep all these things.

  36. These are some great ideas for babies! My son (who is close to Bean’s age) also loves cars and little figures. What we are getting him are things to go with the cars/figures like a car carrier with little spots to store his cars, the Fisher Price Stand and Play Rampway (which also works with hotwheels etc), and a little Playmobile 123 play house for his people.

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