Christmas Gift Ideas for Preschoolers!

Gift-giving is one of my top love languages and Christmas is definitely my favorite holiday of the year! I’ve already started shopping for this year – I keep seeing that shipping will most likely be delayed this year so it is a good idea to start early!

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Our kids have no shortage of toys thanks to cancer treatment and all the generous people and organizations that helped us through that difficult time. We have a playroom with lots of different choices, but there are certain toys our kids pull out again and again and play with for HOURS. These are open-ended toys (can be played with lots of different ways) and are perfect for pretty much from when they stop trying to eat the toys and older!

#1. Picasso Tiles! These are magnetic tiles that stick together on any side to build towers, rocket ships, houses, jails, and anything else you can think of! The most popular brand is MagnaTiles but these are about double the price. Picasso Tiles average out to about $0.50 per tile and Magnatiles are usually around $1.00 per tile. From what I have read, Picasso Tiles and MagnaTiles are interchangeable if you buy some of each, but we just own Picasso Tiles.

We have like 100 of these pictures because every time Eliza builds a tower she wants us to take a picture of it 🙂

#2. Little People Sets (by Fisher Price): These are great because they can be chewed on by a baby, but Eliza at almost 5 still LOVES playing with them. The best part is that they fit exactly inside a PicassoTile square so the kids spend a lot of time making little houses or towers for their Little People. There are so many different Little People sets – Frozen Castle, Barnyard, Nativity Scene, etc. The kids spend the most time just playing with the people themselves though, even more than the sets they come with. They sell sets of just people or animals too. I saw at Walmart that you can even buy individual ones!

#3. Wooden Alphabet Blocks: We bought these when I was pregnant with Eliza for our maternity pictures. They seem like such a simple thing compared to other more glamorous toys but these get played with a lot too! We’ve also been able to use them for preschool for identifying letters and colors!

Oliver playing with blocks and Hot Wheels together

#4. Hot Wheels Cars: This one is the only one that is more than an Oliver toy than an Eliza toy. She isn’t super interested in playing with cars, but Oliver plays with them all. the. time! He lines them up in rows, races them down the hallways, takes them with him in his car seat…he basically always has a Hot Wheels car with him. We have Hot Wheels tracks too that the kids get out every once in a while, but what they really like playing with is just the cars themselves! These happen to fit perfectly in the Picasso Tile cubes too so they mix really well together!

#5. Counting Bears: You might remember having these in your classroom as a kid. We use these for preschool and have used them for Eliza’s vision therapy, but the kids ask to play with them a lot! This set comes with colored bears, cups, dice, grabbers, and a carrying case. The kids make up games together (with rules that always seem to benefit Eliza haha), toss them into the cups, count them, make up stories with them, and a lot more. The only downside of counting bears is that they are definitely a choking hazard for little kids AND they can sometimes get lost more easily than some other toys.

Eliza playing counting bears with her patch on

#6. Disney Brand Plush: We have a variety of stuffed animals but this Disney Stuffed Elsa is Eliza’s “lovey.” She has Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel from the Disney collection (and don’t tell her, but she is getting Ariel for her birthday) and they all have a special place in her bed. If she gets hurt or is tired, she always wants Elsa. She got Kristoff for finishing her last day of chemo last year and then wrapped and gave him to Oliver for his birthday because Oliver LOVES Kristoff…which was pretty much the sweetest thing ever! Just make sure if you are ordering from Amazon it is from the actual Disney store; there are quite a few knock-offs on there. You can also just order from the Disney website!

Construction paper clothes for Eliza’s Elsa doll

#7. Grocery Cart: We swooped up a kiddy grocery cart from a side of the road free-pile when Eliza was learning to walk. The kids have gotten endless hours of play from it. One downside is it does take up a good amount of real-estate in the playroom but I can never bring myself to get rid of it because of how often it is used. It is also really useful for cleaning up the living room because the kids can pile the toys in there and just cart them back to the playroom at the end of the day!

#8. Squishmallows: Eliza and Oliver both got big Squishmallows for Christmas last year and Oliver decided his big Squishmallow would be his lovey (haha). He literally sleeps on top of it every single night and we honestly could probably just get rid of his bed and just keep the Squishmallow. We ended up buying him a mini-version of his big one to take in the car for Seattle trips. We even brought his Squishmallow to the Tetons this summer because we knew he would for sure sleep on top of it in the tent! Eliza has gotten a couple mini-squishmallows for prizes from her vision therapist and she loves them too.

Oliver’s regular sleeping spot (and his Hot Wheels cars in the lower left)
Mini Squishmallows

#9. Trampoline: This was definitely a quarantine panic purchase this past March. We ordered one just in time and then they started to sell out everywhere! I know there are mixed feelings about trampolines and their safety. I think almost all trampolines come with nets now and our kids can only jump about 2 inches high so I think at least while they are small it should be safe enough! The kids have spent hours and hours running and jumping on the trampoline. This was especially helpful when the parks and trails were closed, but they still go out almost daily to get their wiggles out!

#10. Tuffo Rain Suit: This last one isn’t technically a toy, but we LOVE our Tuffo Rain Suits! I’ve given them as gifts many times and our kids play in them all Fall, Winter, and Spring! I’d say they run slightly big, so no need to size up! These rain suits allow the kids to play outside no matter the weather all year round! They even work well in snow if you bundle up underneath!

Our Homeschool Preschool Plans 2020-2021 (P3/P5)

We’re heading in to our second year of homeschool preschool with Eliza! We started last year with Playing Preschool curriculum, which gave me some great ideas, but we ended up modifying it quite a bit as the year went on. I thought I would list what we are planning on doing for this fall here!

Eliza will be 5 in December, so she will not start kindergarten until next year. When Eliza was born I always thought she would just go right in to public school in kindergarten but the closer we get and the more I realize how much I love teaching her at home. We are now hoping to do a hybrid public school/homeschool education for kindergarten next year. We’ll re-evaluate each year what is working for our family and for each kid.

I’m a HUGE fan of independent play, read-alouds, and exploring outside. Our “preschool” takes about an hour each day and I’m really flexible with what we get done. It just adds a lot of helpful structure to our day doing an hour of preschool each morning. Eliza loves doing it for the most part, which is why I feel like we will be able to do these different subjects! I’m trying to make this homeschool preschool fun and lighthearted so we will have a good routine and foundation as she gets older.

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Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We have started this one twice and both times Eliza wasn’t quite ready for it. I’m very confident Eliza will learn to read when she is ready. We’ll start this one again in September and take it as slowly as she needs.

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears. Eliza has made leaps and bounds advancements in handwriting since starting vision therapy. This might be an area she needs extra help in due to only having functional vision in one eye. I’ve heard amazing things about this program!

Math: Abeka Numbers Skills K5. I was homeschooled for four years and used mostly Abeka curriculum. I chose this because I’m familiar with it and it claims to be equivalent to common core standards.

Bible: Long Story Short. This is a 10-minute daily devotional that involves actually reading out of the Bible plus discussion questions. This will be part of our “Calendar Time” in the morning.

Extras: We will do science and Spanish once a week. Eliza is really interested in names of bones/muscles/etc. The other day she said “I got some water down my trachea on accident” haha. We have this Human Anatomy Book for Kids. The Spanish book I chose is labeled for preschool through first grade. We’ll more likely use this for more than one year. We also have plenty of BOB/easy reader books and sight word flashcards to supplement!

We will continue to do our morning calendar time, picture books, read-aloud chapter books, playing outside, and lots of independent play time! Hopefully we will be able to have more play-dates too depending on what things are looking like! Eliza’s vision therapy exercises take about 20 minutes every afternoon too.

Oliver will mostly do coloring books/sticker books/play-doh type activities while Eliza does her workbooks. One book I love for his age is the Big Preschool Book. Eliza just finished going through this entire book and loved it. It is full-color and really engaging for preschoolers! It is so crazy to already see big differences in Eliza and Oliver’s learning interests and styles.

Every family is so different with their school choices, but I know many more families are forced into choosing at-home options this year. I’m really interested to see if hybrid models become more popular in the future as schools are quickly modifying now. I’m excited to have another year at home with Eliza after spending so much time apart from her during Oliver’s transplant.