GeekMom 2011 Holiday Gift Guide #4: Toys and Activities for Young Kids

Fourth in our series of 2011 Holiday Gift Guides covers toys for the younger kids on your holiday gift list. Babies, toddlers, and possibly early elementary kids will enjoy the items below. What are you giving to the young kids on your list this year? Share your ideas in the comments.

Photo: Gigamic Games

Batik Kid
$18.13
Age: 5+ (Younger geeklings do well while supervised.)
This is a great game to give as a child’s first board game. There are 18 colorful wooden sea creatures that all need to stay inside the tank, its your job to figure out how to not be the first to run out of room. This game encourages visual and motor planning skills in young children as they have to determine which piece will best fit the remaining space. Its quick, colorful and fun enough to keep a young geekling interested.

Photo: ThinkFun

Zingo-to-Go
$15
Age: 4+
This portable game is a must-have for those long road trips. No need to worry about losing a small piece in-between the seats, Zingo-to-Go has everything self-contained and attached. Just shake the car, and see if the items are on your game board. The first one to get a complete line wins. Simple, and fun for everyone.

Image: Amazon.com

Fisher-Price Kid-Tough See Yourself Camera (in Black and Purple)
$69.99
Finally, a camera designed to let the youngest child take photos! The lens swivels front to back, making self-portraits easy. This camera has big buttons for little fingers and the controls are so child friendly that no reading is required. It takes stills as well as videos with sound, features 4X digital zoom, stores up to 1,000 pictures, and performs well in low light. Additionally, you can download stampers and special effects. Includes 4 “AA” batteries.

Image: Amazon.com

My Pillow Pets
$15.98 to $19.50
My Pillow Pets are 18 inch, huggable stuffed animals made of soft chenille that open to become a full-sized pillow. Pillow pets come in dozens of “species,” including: penguin, dragon, puppy, monkey, turtle, and dolphin. They’re perfect for sleepovers, travel, and quiet time. My Pillow Pets are a hit with teens as well as toddlers.

Image: Amazon.com

The Sing-A-Ma-Jigs
$5.99 to $24.99
These huggable creatures are a surprise hit. There are dozens of different Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. Every Sing-A-Ma-Jig has three modes of play. They chatter. They also sing their own songs, letting you control the pace of the song as you push their bellies. And they harmonize with other Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. When they sing together, each Sing-A-Ma-Jig joins in with perfect pitch. The more Sing-A-Ma-Jigs you have, the larger the chorus and the better they sound.

Image: Amazon.com

KidKraft Fun Explorers Pirate Ship Play Set
$83.50
This sturdy set comes with all sorts of accessories, making for imaginative play. Perfect for kids who love Peter Pan stories or Jake and the Never Land Pirates. This large wooden ship has lidded storage, a retractable gangplank, cloth sails, four molded pirates (including a captain with a hook), two cannons, two sharks, a gunpowder keg, and more!

Image: Amazon.com

Maxim Deluxe TreeHouse with Accessories
$79.95
This natural wood playset will spark a child’s imagination. The 19-inch-tall treehouse includes ladders, play figures, a bucket, barrel, bendable leaves, doors that open and close, a table and chair set, a boom and winch, a pulley system, and more, for years of creative play.

Image: Amazon.com

Haba Building Block Sets
$26.99 to $40.49
Haba block are keepers. Made of natural untreated beech, they come in a variety of standard as well as architectural sets. Due to small pieces, they’re not advised for children under three. You’ll want to take a look at Haba sets such as Baroque, Russian House, Medieval Castle, and Antiquity. You may want to leave a set out on a coffee table so guests of all ages can have a turn. And don’t be surprised if the sets you buy are saved for generations.

Photo: Ellen Henderson

STIKITS
$22.99 for 1000-piece set
STIKITS are small cylinders of cornstarch that look like Styrofoam packing peanuts, except they come in various colors. When dampened, they stick together solidly and can be squished and molded into various shapes and configurations. They’re easy to work with — kids can easily make letters and all kinds of shapes, and they rarely fall apart or come unstuck the way dough sculptures can. They can dissolve if you put too much water on — the key is dampening, not deluging — but that’s actually one of the benefits: They’re totally natural and biodegradable.

Photo: Disney

Disney Cars 2 AppMATes
Lightning McQueen Single Pack – $12.99
Ages: 4+
Turn your iPad into an interactive play mat for your kids with these car shaped accessories and a free iPad app from the iTunes store. My geekling was exploring Radiator Springs and driving around the surrounding Cars universe in a matter of minutes. You can help Lightning McQueen and his friends jump, race and complete tasks. This augmented-reality game is perfect for the Disney Cars lover in your life, and is a perfect geekling accessory to the iPad.

Photo: B Chase Photography

Sonic Screwdriver Flashlight (11th Doctor)
$14.95
Age: 3+
When you have a Whovian family, even the youngest Doctor needs his sonic screwdriver! There aren’t many Doctor Who items that hold up to the rugged adventures of a three year old, but this one does just that. It is only a light, so its not a problem when the little Doctor won’t go to bed unless he has his sonic. This is a must-have for a Whovian of any age, but especially for the little ones.

Image: Putumayo

Putumayo Kids Africa Coloring Book
$9.95
This giant-sized coloring book is full of scenes and animals that come from Africa. Kids can have fun coloring in the pictures as well as learning more about life in Africa. There are even some blank pages near the back so that kids can draw their own African scene.

Image: Putumayo

Putumayo Kids Europe Sticker Collection
$11.95
This sticker collection gives your child a chance to learn about Europe while playing with stickers. The set includes several sheets of reusable stickers depicting landmarks and musical instruments found in Europe, as well as a map of Europe and a blank background of a countryside where the stickers can be placed for safekeeping.

Image: © Mattel

Octonauts Octopod Playset
£41.99
The Octonauts have yet to land on US shores, but when they do I have no doubt that the mixture of kawaii cute characters and science/environmentalism-based plots will make a huge splash with US audiences. With their motto of “Explore! Rescue! Protect!” the Octonauts are a sort of underwater Enterprise crew, making contact with new species and helping where they can. This playset is the centerpiece of Mattel’s Octonauts offerings, and includes the good ship Gup-A along with Captain Barnacles and Kwazii figures.

Image: © Early Learning Centre

HappyLand Space Exploration Range
£16 – £40
The Early Learning Centre has been making great toys for decades, and the space exploration range from HappyLand is the company at its best. The toys are cute, creative and robust. My son received the space rocket, moon base and Martian house for Christmas 2010 and after eleven months of (very) rough toddler play, nothing is broken or scratched. All the doors are designed to pop off so hinges cannot be broken–although you might get driven a little crazy having to reattach them every two minutes!

Image: Squishables

Squishables
$39.00
There’s just something about the spherical shape and giant size that makes these Squishables so… squishable. Kids will literally and figuratively flip over all of the different choices, including owls, dragons, and octopi. Fabulous geeky options include the Narwhal and the Cthulhu. Skip the minis and go right for the 15-inchers!

Image: LeapFrog

LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer
$99.99
Does your geeklet want a tablet but you’re not ready to hand over the iPad? The Leap Frog LeapPad Explorer learning tablet is a great alternative for little kids (ages 4-9, though the sweet spot is really 4-6). This device goes beyond the Leapster Explorer with a larger screen, camera, video recorder, and accelerometer, while still being backwards-compatible with Explorer cartridges. You can also download games right to the tablet.

Photo: Fred & Friends

Fred XYZ Blocks
$29.99
If your toddler needs blocks that are sturdy, durable, and hilarious, these are the blocks you’re looking for. These large cubes are easily stacked with a nice surface texture, but the alphabet choices are the best part. Q is for Quicksand, R is for Raygun, and J is for Joystick, to name but a few.

Photo: Tegu

Tegu Blocks Pocket Pouch
$32.00
These simple magnetic blocks made from sustainably-harvested tropical hardwoods feel wonderful in your hands, and the magnets give them endless building possibilities, even in this 8-block travel set. The pocket pouch is a great gift for your preschool builder as well as your office mate.

Photo: Fat Brain Toys

Tobbles
$24.99
When looking for a stacking toy for your toddler, it’s nice to have one as versatile as Tobles. The colorful weighted pieces fit nicely in one another, but there’s all sorts of other sensory fun to be had. The pieces can spin, wobble, and balance in a variety of different ways.

Check out our previous GeekMom Gift Guides for other great gift ideas: #1: Holiday-Themed Gifts, #2: Games, and #3: Books.

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Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.