10 Easy, Cheap Gifts for Preschoolers and Toddlers (that are parent and OT recommended!)

child opening presentTrying to find a toy for the child who has everything?

Looking for the perfect birthday or holiday gifts?

Children’s toys don’t need to be expensive and complex.  In fact, sometimes simpler is better.

Here are some ideas that go beyond “typical” toys.  Below are 10 examples of inexpensive toys that are toddler and preschooler approved that encourage developmental skills for 2-5 year olds:


1. Toy mail boxes and mail.  Each of these were only $1 (dollar store and craft store).  We put old Holiday cards and junk mail in them, and the kids make their own “mail” to put in them.

2.  Felt board.  Can be made any size- just cover a firm board with felt (from fabric store) using a hot glue gun as you wrap it around the back.  Pieces are just cut from felt sheet from the craft store, which can be glued with craft glue for more complex pieces.

3.  Popsicle sticks, straws and containers. Colored popsicle sticks (from the craft store) or colored straws and any containers they fit into.  My children have spent hours playing with these simple toys.


4.  Custom photo books.  The albums are cheap at Target or dollar stores.  Younger children love to look at photos of themselves and their family.  Preschoolers think photo books like the one below are great- we made this one of their favorite stuffed animals getting into trouble around the house.  For younger children, just take photos of familiar people (and pets), places, and things.

5.  Coin bank and assorted coins.  This idea is only for children who are past the stage of putting toys in their mouth!  We had an old bank around, but a new one is fairly cheap (check the craft store).  We collected all our old coins from traveling and the kid love to sort the coins while putting them in and out of the banks.

6.  Cereal string.  A bag of circular cereal (fruit loops, cheerios, ect) and something to string them on.  Great activity before a movie night at home.  Younger children will do best with a pipecleaner.  Older children can use a string or dental floss.

7.  Sensory bin.  A container with a good lid, filled with some cheap filler (beans, rice, noodle, ect) and some various toys for scooping, pouring, and digging.  Small animals, plastic eggs, or hidden gold coins make a great addition for play.  For more ideas- see my post on making sensory bins.

8.  Musical Instruments.  Music is a wonderful activity for children of all ages.  Musical instruments don’t need to be expensive.  Empty containers make good drums.  Check the party aisle for inexpensive additional items, like those pictured below.

9.  Stickers.  A booklet of new stickers (crafts stores seem to have the cheapest selections) will engage any child for at least awhile.  Help them make it a game by putting the stickers on an objects, like a cardboard box or tube, and having them match where you put the stickers.  Check out my post about using stickers as great activity for home.

10.  Felt buttons.  The great thing about felt is that is doesn’t need to be sewn.  You can just cut out shapes and make a slit for the button hole.  If you want it to be more durable, a sewing machine can make simple button holes on felt as well.  Children like to string the “buttons” onto things; try twirly straws or a ribbon with a button on the end.

Looking for more ideas on gifting great gifts for children, check out this blog post: An OT’s Gift Buying Guide 

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.  www.paigehays.net