Monday, August 15, 2011

Just a Little Tipsy: What to buy a 3 year old

Seriously. . .what do you buy for this?
Since I am both a teacher and a parent, it may surprise you that I find something crippling about purchasing a gift for someone else's child, particularly if the age of their child exists somewhere in the grey area between the precise age of my own child and the middle grades students I love to teach. The task of gift purchasing casts the recipient in a strange role, the glare from the spotlight illuminating their foreignness until I am certain I have no idea who they are. Who is this alien child and what makes them tick? And so I inevitably find myself wandering the store aisles of some clever toy store, arms weighted with a hazardous combination of what I imagine I might have wanted at said age and gifts I am secretly wishing I could play with now. The alien child slips even further from my reach as I exit the store empty-handed but for the perfect gift I just discovered I needed for my own child. Sigh.

Alas, the quest for a perfect gift is peppered with epic fails and forgiving smiles. And yes, I agree that it is the thought that counts (although if this were totally true, my gifts would be bordering on invaluable rather than horrifyingly off the mark). But when you're giving a gift to a child, nothing smacks failure like the puzzled look on a three-year-old's cake-smeared face as they open the hand-painted rattle you so carefully selected just for them.

So the topic of this tipsy is one close to my heart: What the heck captures the interest of a 3-yr-old??? I write what I know in the hopes of saving a fellow human being from the misery of the pitying gaze of a 3-year-old. And as a parent and a teacher, I err quite obviously in the direction of educational toys because, well, if you can't please the kid, at least you can get in with the parents, right?

Gift Ideas for 3 Year Olds

A sticker book with a variety of stickers (including scratch and sniff of course!!)
If it was possible, my daughter would overdose on stickers.  I am sure of it.  She can spend the equivalent of toddler hours (what is that, like 20 minutes?) peeling, sticking and repeating.  Add the tactile and sensory experiences of scratching and sniffing and you have a guaranteed solid gift.  My little one loves these sticker books and stickers by Peaceable Kingdom which are particularly adorable and creative.  Be sure to check out the scratch and sniff skunks and glow-in-the-dark monster eyes.

Getting in good with the parents:
A sticker book accompanied by an arsenal of stickers is the perfect back-pocket save for long car rides in traffic or waiting in line just about anywhere.  Your friends will think kindly of you as they dodge the melt-down mine field that is the unexpected wait.

Kumon activity books: cutting, pasting and tracing
Apparently being 3 is all about exercising your independence.  Having shielded my child from scissors up until now, I was startled when I realized that I was actually hampering my daughter's fine motor skills by preventing her from the glories of cutting.  And now she is obsessed!  Her Nana stumbled upon these amazing Kumon activity books that cleverly move through activities of increasingly difficulty, beginning with cutting small lines and progressing to cutting curved edges and zig-zags.  Although the cutting is the current favorite, both pasting (yes, with real glue!) and tracing (gasp-with real pencils!) are not far behind.

Getting in good with the parents:
Your friends will send you cosmic vibes of thanks when they are spared the embarrassment of a preschool teacher's concern regarding their child's aversion to scissors.

High Five magazine
Do you remember Highlights magazines?  They were always strewn all over the dentist's office when I was growing up and I was the kid who would eagerly gather them in a pile and pore over them until the dentist would insist that my magazine was obstructing his view of my mouth.  High Five is a spin-off targeted at 2-6 year-olds and judging by the jumping and exclamations of "My maz-agine! My maz-agine!" that accompany its arrival, this monthly delivery might as well be solid candy.  And even better---candy in the mail!

Getting in good with the parents:
This magazine is cleverly and covertly educational.  Your friends will have the sweet satisfaction of conning their child into a little learning.

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heather said...

These are great ideas, Jessica. I also think any type of art supplies are always great because even if the kid already has them, they need replacing eventually- so you can never have enough finger paint, drawing paper, tissue paper/craft supplies... we've become big on making a lot of our own things like play do and even paints, but we discovered these natural paints recently and the colors are really earthy and beautiful- they come in this beautiful white box. it's worth a one time splurge! (they may actually be cheaper at land of nod but their website was down)

Jessica DeMink-Carthew said...

Thanks for sharing Heather! We also have a big bin with random art supplies and scraps for tinkering and it is a sure favorite. Thanks for sharing the link. Those paints look amazing and have officially been shifted to Siena's amazon wish list. Do you have a favorite homemade play-do or natural paint recipe?

Laura said...

Jess. I have to share the best present I ever gave and what proved to be life-changing. For Katies 3rd birthday I bought a large plastic tub and filled it with art making things; papers of every kind, colorful tissue, feathers, ribbons, stones, shells femo clay, glitter, pipe cleaners, funky buttons, beads, paints, and more. I made a colorful label "Boonoos Busy Box" (her nickname - think Barney). We had this amazing bond with that box. Everytime I went to see her she would haul out that box and we would make art together for hours. I would add to the box every birthday and Christmas with treasures I found during the year. Katie is now an art student at U of M and still thanks me for nurturing her creativity with the Boonoos Busy Box. Who would think that something so simple would make such a difference in her life and in mine.