Battling the angry hordes in the still-dark morning hours of Black Friday to get your hands on the latest and greatest toddler toy was about all the holiday shopping you could handle. Choosing stocking stuffers is often the last item on the Christmas to-do list, so your budget and energy are probably diminished by the time you get around to it. Don’t stress: filling your tot’s stocking isn’t as hard as choosing big gifts.
She’s growing like a weed (darn you fruits and vegetables) and you’ve got to replace some of her basics anyway. A toddler will love anything that comes inside wrapping paper, so gift her with stuff you’d otherwise just slip into her drawers unnoticed. Buy and wrap individual pairs of patterned socks or a snuggly new winter hat. Roll up a new pajama top and matching bottoms and wrap them separately; they’ll be small enough to fit into the stocking and big enough to make the sock look like it’s bursting. Her stocking might also be the perfect place to encourage her growing interest in potty training. Buy new underwear featuring her favorite characters. When she opens them, tell her excitedly that “You’ll get to wear those when you’re all done with diapers!”
During the hunt for stocking stuffers, your favorite store’s dollar bin is like the Holy Grail. Pick up bouncy balls, plastic animals or action figures she can take into the bathtub. Buy a small bag of blocks and wrap each one individually to stretch the gift out, or do the same with a package of shiny new trains or cars. She might also like small fuzzy animals or accessories for her favorite doll or stuffed animal, like toy dishes or clothes.
Another toy that you can make yourself is a personalized puzzle that help your tot develop her dexterity and problem-solving skills. Paste a large family photo to a piece of thin cardboard, or use your artistic skills to create a design on the board. Cut it into nine or 10 oddly shaped pieces and tuck the pieces into a bag tied with a festive ribbon.
Arts and Crafts
Her creativity is one of her best, albeit messiest, qualities. Support her artistic side with arts and crafts supplies, which are cheap, small and will eventually fit into your purse so you can distract her in long lines. Pick up a few packages of stickers — also known as every toddler’s favorite crafting item — to tuck into her stocking, along with fresh boxes of crayons, thick chunks of chalk and squeezable fabric paint. Keep beads out of her stocking, since they’re a choking hazard for tots. If you’re giving her anything messy, try to take possession of her new supplies as soon after she opens them as possible. A quick “Let’s just tuck these away up here so they won’t get lost in the paper!” should work. Otherwise she’ll end up trying out her new markers on the couch while you’re distracted watching someone else open a gift.
All her stocking holds is new socks and a few containers of clay, and you’re regretting picking such a big sock. Forget your concept of what Christmas gifts should be and wrap up some things your tot will simply enjoy using. Toss squeezable fruit pouches or packets of her favorite dried fruit into the bottom of her stocking, or wrap up a small unbreakable mirror so she can gaze upon her own beauty. Give her pads of sticky notes, or buy a pair of sunglasses that she can add to her dress-up bin. And if half the toys under the tree require batteries — and they inevitably will — wrap those up and add them to her stocking. You’re going to have to have them on hand anyway to prevent a Christmas morning meltdown, so you might as well cover them in wrapping paper.