Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gifting Guide For Your 2-Year-Old's Birthday

First, don't think that I endorse the word "gifting" because I emphatically don't. They already had a verb for that ... "give."

Graham's birthday was a month ago. This is what he got, and why all his gifts were perfect and completely in vogue.

1. These blocks. Graham loves to play with them, and I can tell that with each little house he constructs the brain lobe responsible for spatial awareness/Habitat for Humanity volunteer inclinations grows. Also, these blocks are made from retired rubber trees, meaning buying these blocks helps keep elderly trees safe from death panels and out of shady assisted living facilities. Let your toddler lose them in the dusty expanse under your couch instead!

Fundamental. Cute. Not plastic. Awesome.

2. This play kitchen. My original plan was to just get Graham the blocks and call it good because 1) he already has lots of toys, 2) grandparents, and 3) bless the little kid's heart, but he had no idea it was his birthday so he had no expectations for me to meet so why go crazy on gifts or a party he would never remember anyway? But then we saw this little beauty in the Ikea kid's play area. Graham fell in love and played happily for forty-five minutes while I zoned out in a nearby Poang chair. Then I realized I could bring such a miracle home with me!

I'd been thinking of getting Graham a play kitchen for a while because I think the kind of imaginative play they facilitate is important, and also anything miniaturized makes me happy and goodness knows I'm not buying my kids anything that makes me unhappy (except the mini vacuum I got from Goodwill ... I foolishly replaced the batteries thinking maybe it would just light up because what toy-designing moron would make a toy that actually mimics such an obnoxious noise? Yeah ... it does more than light up, and I'm too lazy to find a screw driver a second time to take the batteries back out).

And not to be a total snob, but I settled on the Ikea kitchen because there are minimal plastic elements (plastic=a suck on my fantasy adult aesthetic), it has an attractive simplicity (which is so lacking in some other varieties, ack!), and the play food is adorable and plush (not plastic!) and comes in separate bundles so I could manipulate the kind of cuisine Graham makes (I went for the fruit basket, veggie mix, and fish dinner set; I decided against the overly-foreign dessert combo)--no plastic pizza slices or overly-branded mini cereal boxes. I'm so organic like that. If Ikea comes out with a the lentil/coconut oil/chia seed/pastured venison set, I'm going to be all over it.

3. This recycling truck. My mom gets credit for this awesome gift. It's like a meta-recycling toy because it's made in the USA from recycled milk jugs and was packaged in recycled cardboard printed with soy ink. I'm pretty sure owning this baby gets our family extra eco-karma points ... a good thing when Dad works for big oil.

4. Anamalz! Another one from my mom. These are "award-winning posable animal toys designed in Australia" (ooh, foreign appeal!), though manufactured in China. They are just adorable, and made from wood and textiles (oooh!!!). Some of them are kind of pricey, but I think my mom always gets them at a great discount from Zulily.  And Mom, I know you were supposed to get the zebra instead of the baboon, but Graham loves "boon," pink butt and all.

The four on the right are the Anamalz. Also in this picture are several Schleich animals from the Grandparents Albrechtsen. I highly recommend these for realistic animal toys that will last FOREVER--they are some of Graham's favorites and just like the ones I played with as a kid. Also they are one of the few plastic toys I embrace--Legos being another accepted variety. This plastic had great texture and some pliability to it that prevents tails/appendages from breaking off and alarming your toddler.
5. Books! From my mum ... and dad? Dad, did you have any input? I mean, you made the money ... I think that counts as "input." :)

This is Graham's favorite of the bunch of Little Critter books he got. I remember reading a ton of Little Critter as a kid, and for some reason I thought "Mercer" must be the daughter of a mayor, and therefore more likely to get her books published because of her father's connections. I finally googled "Mercer Mayer" a few days ago because I wanted the truth--were the circumstances surrounding the Little Critter franchise shady and fraught with nepotism? Turns out "Mercer" is an old man who's been married three times and has a son named "Zebulon." Conspiracy theory disproven ... although the language in the Wikipedia article leads me to believe it was autobiographical ... and therefore all the information therein is completely suspect.

6. Moolah. Nate's parents went straight for the birthday gift jackpot this year and sent a generous check (along with an adorable frog card). Nathan and I have been discussing whether to apply it to the play kitchen cost or else start Graham's Harvard tuition fund (they don't offer merit-based scholarships, ahem). Or maybe we'll buy Graham some stock in a Japanese company that sells mini-planters. I told you I can't resist anything miniaturized! That's the beauty of cash--you are only limited by your imagination. That and the number written in the little box on the check.

So breathtaking, so inspiring, so Graham.

7. Man Satchel. Crafty mom brag alert: I made this myself. I made it because Graham loves to carry his toy cars around ... like as many as possible. When he started putting one in his mouth because his hands were full I knew it was time to intervene. I can't have my kid looking cute/dumb like that. Yeah, he has pockets, but some of his cars are bulky and the little guy is still in size 12 mos. jeans so the pockets are pretty much nonexistent. So I made him a man satchel from this tutorial, which was so easy to follow.

He wouldn't wear it until Nate put the diaper bag on and explained how awesome it was to put your stuff in a bag.
I had Graham pick the fabric out himself, and it turned out great. I made a few mistakes but was able to jimmy-rig my way out of them. Take that, Clothing Construction 185r TAs! Too bad Graham has since lost interest and the bag sits, abandoned, in a toy container across the room from me. Psh.

So there you have it, a set of gift ideas for a toddler with a keen sense of environmental stewardship and a love of animals, toys, and learning. Of course, if that doesn't describe your kid, go ahead and buy him a Dora the Explorer DVD or something pedestrian like that.

Also, don't check this out until after your shopping is done, or your kid might end up with nothing but a goat donated in his name to an Albanian villager. Not that he would really care--he's just two, after all.


  1. I'm sorry your man-bag didn't pass the test of time. Put it away for 3 months and reintroduce it.
    The kitchen is adorable. You should let Graham take the truck outside and make roads in the dirt with it. You DO realize that you will never get this much stuff for any of your other kids when they are 2...

    1. Yeah, I feel bad for our future deprived children who will have all these toys from day one and who won't have to change as many sibling diapers and who will never have to clean the bathroom they share with a potty-training little brother. Older siblings unite!

  2. Such cute pictures of Graham! Also you look beautiful in the picture of the two of you. You are such a fantastic mom/eco-woman!

  3. We always spoil the first grandchild....I feel really bad for Dan's future kids. I love the Kitchen! Sorry Jess, I might have to get one for us first. And the Anamalz, so cute! I'm not surprised your Mom found that truck. Was she running all over town or did she find it online? Now I know who to call to find that "perfect" grandchild gift! Too bad Graham doesn't look anything like his Mom...pfffft.

  4. Gadfries, I better find organic alpaca wool, lovingly gathered by certified organic Vegan Qhechuan (indigenous Bolivian people)from yoga practicing Bolivian alpacas dyed with soy or vegetable based dyes to make Graham's birthday present with.....


    1. Don't forget to wrap it in reusable cloth wrapping paper woven by Somali refugees.


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