We love the holiday season for that buzz of excitement, the fun holiday activities, and all the cozy cuddles with our kids. But there’s one thing we can do without: the overwhelming push to buy flashy, noisy toys that only get played with for a week.
If you’re tired of the toy box being filled with long-forgotten ghosts of Christmases past, get some gift ideas and inspiration for kids of any age from our 2022 kids holiday gift guide. We’ve filled it with some of KidKraft’s very best for our five pillars of play: active play, cognitive play, creative play, imaginative play, and social play. No fads and gimmicks here: just time-tested gift ideas for kids who love to play.
For young toddlers: 18 - 23 months
These wiggly, wonderful toddlers are learning new words and concepts by the day. Whereas they loved knocking things down and taking things apart in the months prior, now they’ll revel in the challenge of building, fitting, and putting things back together.
If they don’t have some already, add a set of wooden blocks high on your list! They’re a truly open-ended toy, so they’ll encourage creative play and stick around for years. At 18 months, toddlers attempt simple towers (and love knocking them down). In just a few more months, you’ll see them try to make more complex structures. From there, the sky is truly the limit, and you’ll love seeing how your child incorporates blocks into their worlds of pretend play.
There’s a reason shape sorters are a classic toy. Young toddlers are engaged by the fine motor challenge, while older toddlers love learning and matching shapes and colors.
That whole “climbed before they could walk” thing isn’t just a saying – young toddlers are driven to test their climbing skills on anything in sight. Fortunately, a fun, safe climbing toy can help them explore that urge to climb and keep them from attempting to scale your furniture (or your Christmas tree).
One part rock wall, one part tee-pee, this sturdy climber doubles as a pint-sized playhouse, making it the perfect blend of active and imaginative play.
Have a little one who adores all things nature? They’ll love having daily camping adventures with the Camp & Slide Climber. When they’re done climbing and sliding, they can cozy up in their very own camping tent! Under the rounded arch, tent flaps with camping-inspired designs create a cozy hideout for your little one to snuggle up in and pretend they’re roughing it in the great outdoors.
We love presents that get toddlers moving – they have a blast, and you might actually get a little downtime once they’re tired out! And movement is this climber’s speciality. With five different ways to play, your little one is sure to expend all that extra holiday energy as they climb, slide, score soccer goals, shoot baskets, and swing at the baseball targets!
For older toddlers: 2 Years
Toddlers are constantly learning about the world and their own bodies and limitations! They love activities that challenge their fine motor skills, present them with problems to solve (How do those train tracks fit together?), and help them through developmental stages like schemas (more on that below!).
Have you ever noticed your little one run to the window to watch the garbage truck? Or seem absolutely mesmerized by passing trains? If so, then you know that toddlers and preschoolers are fascinated by “things that go.” Train sets are a great way to feed that interest and encourage creative, explorative play as they build tracks and engage in pretend play. Train sets are versatile enough that high-quality wooden sets like the Figure 8 Train Set will stay in the toy rotation well into the school-age years.
Deluxe Play TeepeeFun fact: toddlers experience a developmental phenomenon called the enclosure schema, and you’ve probably witnessed it yourself! In this schema, they’re driven to explore the concept of inside vs. outside and how many things they can enclose inside of something else. It’s part of the reason they are so obsessed with playing in tents and teepees. Even after the schema subsides, their deluxe play teepee will still be a favorite getaway for reading and pretend play.
Turtle Totter Balance Beam
Now that your little one has been a walking pro for months or years, they’re likely looking for other ways to challenge their balance and gross motor skills. The Turtle Totter Balance Beam is just the thing!
A Foody Friends Kitchen & Activity Center
Many play kitchens are still a little too big for toddlers at this age – the frustration of not being able to reach that top shelf is real. That’s why the Foody Friends Activity Centers are designed with toddlers in mind. A low-profile design keeps everything within your toddler’s reach, and the fun animal designs are just an added bonus. Now all you have to do is choose the animal pal your little one will love best: Cooking Fun Elephant Activity Center, Deluxe Baking Fun Puppy Activity Center, Baking Fun Unicorn Activity Center.
For preschoolers: 3 - 4 years
Kids at this age are moving into the years of imaginative and pretend play (hooray!). Toys that let them role play, build, and create will always be winners!
Adventure Tracks: Safari Run
Remember how we said train sets were versatile? Preschoolers (especially preschoolers who love animals and the zoo) will love the added element of imaginative play in the Adventure Tracks: Safari Run play table. In this set, the train cars are animals of the African savanna like fierce lions, zebras, gazelles, wildebeest, and leopards. They can connect them with magnets to form a train or play with them individually. A safari through the tracks will take them face-to-face with more animals as they roll past elephants, giraffes, and more.
Your mini-Picasso already loved crayons and paints as a toddler, but now, you’ll see them move beyond scribbles and shapes and attempt real pictures. Their attention span for creative play like art projects increases around this age, so it’s a great age to invest in a dedicated art station or easel.
The Create N Play Art Easel is a great choice if you’re looking for an all-in-one easel that will grow with them well into elementary school. With a built-in chalkboard, dry erase board, storage bin, and drip-free paint cups, it has everything they’ll need to make their next masterpiece and keep messes to a minimum. For even more mess-free projects, the Ultimate Creation Station has room for two plus built-in storage and project trays that make great sensory bins.
Dress Up Clothes & Costumes
From superheroes to princesses and everything in between, preschoolers love to dress up. A ballgown, a firefighter uniform, or a costume from their favorite character are guaranteed to be a hit. And to keep it all organized, the Pretend N Play Dress Up Unit will let them easily access all their favorite dress-up clothes year-round. Bring on the wardrobe changes!
Create and Cook
Create and Cook pretend foods are an engaging, budget-friendly idea for pretend play. They work as a stand-alone present or as a fun addition to a play kitchen. This year, kid favorites are the Create and Cook Apple Pie and Create and Cook Avocado Toast! If you’re looking for a play kitchen as well, you can bundle all those pretend play accessories and get a vintage-inspired kitchen with the Create & Cook Kitchen Set, exclusively on KidKraft.com.
Let’s Pretend Pop-Ups
Speaking of pretend play… Let’s Pretend Pop-Ups are 10/10 going to be a hit with preschoolers and up (and their younger siblings will love getting in on the fun too). These space-saving setups let your kiddo turn the playroom into a full grocery store, restaurant, or vet’s office for immersive pretend play with realistic props and setups. Each pop-up folds down for easy storage and opens up to six sides, so your little one has multiple “rooms” in their little business.
And if “pop-up” makes you think of a flimsy, cardboard toy that doesn’t last, put your mind at ease. These babies are super sturdy and made from wood for long-lasting play!
For school-age kids: 5 years and up
Ahh those dreamy years of endless pretend play. This is when watching kids open presents gets really fun!
Pre-schoolers love play kitchens and the chance to mimic practical life skills too, but young school-age kids are especially imaginative with their play kitchens. In the hands of your five or six-year-old, play kitchens become much-loved props for playing everything from shopkeeper to Cinderella. And no, they don’t have to be a big plastic eyesore. KidKraft’s wide selection of quality wooden play kitchens are designed to last and look as chic as your decor. These are some of our favorites this year:
For a modern farmhouse aesthetic: Modern Metallics Farmhouse Play Kitchen: Wood-look storage baskets, a chalkboard for the menu-of-the-day, and veggie harvest fresh from the farm. This kitchen looks great and normalizes healthy eating.
For a deluxe kitchen surprise: Ultimate Corner Play Kitchen with Lights and Sounds: Little chefs get the full kitchen experience with this play kitchen! Appliances include a fridge with ice maker, light up stove, spacious sink, microwave, and washing machine. The corner design gives it room for all the can include more space and features without taking up a ton of room in your home.
For a cheerful, colorful look: Large Pastel Play Kitchen: Finally – bright, cheerful colors that aren’t overwhelming. This happy little kitchen is built to last through years of pretend play.
For a fun twist: Pizzeria & Delivery Food Stand: This isn’t your average play kitchen – it’s a full out pizza assembly line complete with a working conveyor belt and magic broiler! The broiler “cooks” the pizza by changing the colors of the pizza toys until they look good enough to eat!
Going big this holiday season? Put that “wow” look on their faces with one of our newest and most popular playhouses: the Cozy Escape. This playhouse is a full-out clubhouse dream with two stories, a ladder, a slide, a balcony, and a play kitchen. Find it in the super-stylish navy-and-white combo exclusively on KidKraft.com. For a smaller playhouse in an equally stylish color combo, check out the White & Raven Modern Outdoor Playhouse.
Swing sets are another outdoors toy that's sure to wow them! Our Boulder Station Swing Set or McKinley Swing Set are big enough to grow with them throughout elementary school, and they’re a parent favorite for swoon-worthy paint jobs. If backyard space is limited, check out the Newport Wooden Playset for a compact, budget-friendly swing set they’ll love.
Is anything more timeless than a dollhouse under the tree on Christmas morning? (Except maybe a puppy? Thanks but no thanks!) Dollhouses are another long-time kid favorite that works for multiple age ranges. Preschoolers are drawn to them too, but kids in the kindergarten-and-up range really engage in the type of immersive pretend play that makes dolls and dollhouses so fun.
Large, open-concept dollhouses like the So Stylish Mansion Dollhouse allow for 360° play, making it easy for multiple siblings and friends to play together. The KidKraft Disney Princess Dance & Dream brings a little extra magic and fantasy to the realm. And if you have a little horse lover, the Grand Horse Stable & Dollhouse is the perfect way to give her dolls and her toy horses their perfect dream home.
For the boys or girls who like a little more of a rough-and-tumble vibe for their pretend play, playsets like the Rocket Ship Play Set or Pirate’s Cove Pretend Play Set are perfect dollhouse alternatives. For animal lovers and adventure lovers alike, the Safari 2-in-1 Ride and Play is an innovative combination of a Safari playset and a rideable safari truck!
Hopefully, your head is now dancing with visions of sugar plum fairies and fun, engaging kids gift ideas for the kiddos in your life. If you need a little more guidance, our gift finder can help you find the perfect thing to put under the tree for kids from 8 months to 5+ years. Prefer to shop by price? Our Holiday Gift Guide has great gift ideas for every budget! Or, if you want to shop by type of play (creative, social, imaginative, cognitive, or active), check out our Shop by Skill page to find toys that align with the developmental milestones your little one is working hard to master!