Gift Guide :: Second Birthday Gift Ideas!

becca-garber-second-birthday-gift-guide Last month I had so much fun putting together a list of 1st birthday gift ideas. The list was inspired after talking to my cousin, who is fostering-to-adopt a little girl. (By the way, my cousin’s little family is doing great — better than great — and continues to be an amazing inspiration to me! Will I ever adopt, become a foster parent, or permanently welcome someone new into my home other than pets and our own children? My cousin and her husband are doing it, all for God’s glory, every day. It is such a gift to watch that happen.)

Anyway, the fun continues with a 2nd birthday gift guide today! We have a lot of these toys for Lena, so I can recommend them wholeheartedly. Here are a few ideas for a little person in your life:

1. Play kitchen — Lena’s grandparents and great-grandparents all bought this together for her second birthday. I had researched various kitchens, and I knew I wanted it to be made of wood, aesthetically pleasing, and affordable. This IKEA kitchen fit the bill. I keep it in our kitchen, so the kids always have an easy source of entertainment while I’m cooking.

2. Wooden play food — If any of Lena’s aunts and uncles wanted to get her a gift, I told them she’d be getting a play kitchen and that she might need some play food. They enjoyed this simple and affordable gift idea, and Lena and Gil play with the food almost every day. (FYI, after comparing Plan Toys vs. Melissa and Doug wooden food, I recommend Plan Toys. The paint on our M&D food is already chipping off after a year of use, but the Plan Toys paint is more like a rich, colorful wood stain, so the carrots and cucumbers still look as good as new!)

3. Latches board — My great-grandfather made me a latches board when I was a girl, and my siblings and I loved locking and unlocking the doors and latches throughout our childhood. My children still play with it at my parents’ house! This latches board is a smaller, more colorful substitute. Lena has learned to lock and unlock all the latches, so now it’s Gil who puzzles over it in fascination.

4. Noak’s Ark by Peter Spier — This beautiful book is a Caldecott winner with magnificent, detailed illustrations. Elliott and Lena will unintentionally delay her bedtime as they get lost in their observations of the animals and discussion of the story. (Amazon lists all Caldecott winners on this handy list.)

5. Just-my-size backpack — My mom always put dollar store treats in our backpacks before long plane flights, and we had to wait until we were sitting in our seats before we could see what was inside! In June, my mom bought Lena this adorable backpack, and her grandparents and I had fun collecting M&Ms and Target Dollar Spot goodies to surprise her. Since I was flying home solo with Lena and 8-month-old Gil, I also was very grateful that she could carry her own treasures and entertain herself for a few hours of the trip.

6. Wooden bear family dress-up puzzle — Lena has spent countless hours playing with this puzzle, which was a hand-me-down from some friends. I also like that it includes a whole family (papa, mama, and baby bear) and is gender-neutral (ie. no pink!). We have fun imaging various scenarios and dressing them to go for a hike, to the beach, or to bed after a long day.

7. Lacing cards — Like many of the toys on this list, lacing cards get Montessori and Waldorf stamps of approval for teaching fine motor skills, life skills, and… patience! I love the bright colors, and Lena loves the recognizable characters and fruit from one of her favorite books. I keep them in a cloth drawstring bag, and they often end up in my bag or the car for entertainment on the go.

8. Wooden alphabet magnets — I did some research and learned that most alphabet magnets (like these popular ones) have small magnets glued inside hollow plastic frames, and the magnets can fall out and present a choking hazard. (Plus that aforementioned toy talks to you, and I do not like talking toys!) These beautiful magnets are colorful and artistic, and the solid magnet backing means they’re safe and sturdy.

9. Crayons — For the little artist! These beautiful German crayons are made from high quality raw materials, so they are safe for little ones and leave strong, smooth, bright marks on paper. I love the tin carrying case, too. We spend a lot of time coloring in this house, and I recently bought this jumbo coloring book so we could talk about the Bible as we color together.

10. Giant floor puzzle — Lena loves puzzles, and she’s been having so much fun putting together the puzzles in the Charley Harper Flash Cards and Floor Puzzles set that her aunt and uncle gave her for Christmas. For the younger child, this alphabet puzzle would be a fun way to learn the ABCs and practice fitting jumbo puzzle pieces together.

11. Tea set — Lena was given two tea sets for her 2nd birthday and — after some deliberation — I chose to keep this one and return the wooden set. Why? Because the wooden set couldn’t hold real tea. It didn’t even have an open spout. This tea set, though, holds warm herbal tea, real sugar, and a tiny pitcher of cream for Lena’s weekly tea parties. Imagination and reality converge as Lena practices pouring, serving, and sipping.

12. Punch and drop tower — This was our gift to Lena on her 2nd birthday, but I think our cat has enjoyed batting the balls around the house even more than Lena has enjoyed the toy…! It’s fun and beautifully made, and most of the glowing Amazon reviews state that their children enjoyed it just as much — or even more — than their cats.

13. Freight Train by Donald Crews — Another Caldecott winner and another perpetual favorite in our house. After reading this book every day for awhile, Lena suddenly knew her colors one day. “Red caboose at the back, orange tank car next, yellow hopper car…”

14. Sorting board — We don’t have this toy, but I’d love to buy this or a wooden shape sorter for Gil for his 2nd birthday. Children love figuring these toys out with their parents, and they get such a sense of accomplishment whey they can sort everything themselves!

15. A doll of her very own — When Lena was nearing age two, I did some research to find a “classic” baby doll for her: solid and realistic limbs and head with a soft cloth torso, well-made to last through years of imagination and games, and about the size of a regular baby. I learned there are basically two on the market: the Corelle doll and the American Girl Bitty Baby. Lena’s grandparents surprised her with the latter, and Lena has named her Eden. Even though I rotate most of Lena’s toys, I never rotate Eden. She’s always in the background: in and out of Lena’s bed, getting dressed and undressed, reading stories with us, getting breastfed, and taking airplane rides. She has a lot more stories to tell, I think!


And there you have our favorites! Anything I missed that your young children love day in and day out? With an almost three-year-old and a rapidly-maturing one-year-old — and the onus on me to entertain them all day long — I’m all ears! What toys are your favorites?

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9 Responses to Gift Guide :: Second Birthday Gift Ideas!

  1. Erin February 27, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Freight Train is one of our favorites! In fact, it’s all trains all the time in our house. Alex loves his Brio wooden train set. An added bonus is that most train sets have standardized tracks, so our Thomas trains also go on those trains with the wooden trains. I couldn’t agree more about the Plan play food. We also love blocks in our house. Duplos, wooden blocks of all shapes and sizes. If it stacks, it’s a winner. I love any toys that encourage Alex to come up with a plan himself. Building blocks, laying out train tracks, etc. Those seem to be the activities he enjoys the most. Those, and drawing on the walls. Sigh.

    • Becca February 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      Yes to blocks and stacking things! I know they are missing on this list, but I don’t have a stellar recommendation until age 3. The kids definitely have so much fun with their blocks.

      Elliott’s talked about getting a wooden train set for Lena for her 3rd birthday (we’re very gender neutral in this house!), but I think we have enough “big” toys right now and would rather wait till Gil turns 2 or till Christmas. I love love love the Brio set, though; my brother had that growing up and we played with it for years and years.

      Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions!

  2. Katie @ The Surly Housewife February 28, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    Wow! That’s an impressive list. I have a 5 and a 3 year old and my memory is so bad I don’t think I could recommend gifts for a 2 year old haha. I will say a good quality tea set is a great gift! We got our oldest just a cheapo one. If I knew she would love it so much I would have gotten her a better quality one. Any ideas for my soon to be 4 year old? I am really stumped on what to get her. I am gonna share this awesome list on my FB page :)

    • Becca February 28, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      Thank you, Katie, for sharing! Our almost-three-year old is really starting to love her KAPLA blocks. They’re amazing blocks and you can build incredible things with them. I might recommend that for a 4-year-old! Also maybe a bike? We have a wooden wheel-less bike for our daughter, but she’s still a little small for it. Maybe by age 4 she’ll really enjoy something like that.

      • Anonymous March 4, 2014 at 12:42 am #

        It’s so funny you mentioned a bike. My husband was at the store with her yesterday and she climbed right on a bike. They may have to be her big purchase for #4!!

  3. Kaylan February 28, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    Such great items! my 21mo old loves a bunch of these, especially the ball/bench thing :) I need to think of some ideas for his 2nd birthday coming up- thanks for the inspiration!

    • Becca February 28, 2014 at 9:49 am #

      Sure, Kaylan, glad it was a help!

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