Kids ages three to five are imaginative, active, and curious. They’re old enough to know what they like—and not shy about telling you what they don’t. Ensure you’ll see nothing but shining, smiling faces this holiday season by giving the little one in your life something from our carefully curated list of sure-to-please toys and books.
Kinetic Sand Box Set
Sandboxes are so fun—and so messy. That’s why Kinetic Sand is one of our new favorite things ever. It feels, looks, and shapes into creatures and castles just like sand, but it also stays put, with no need to add water, and no tiny grains to sweep up. This set provides everything your child needs to get going: kinetic sand, a sandbox, and four fun molds.
Baby Dinosaur Floor Puzzle
The perfect purchase for kids who’ve graduated from basic wooden puzzles, this 36-piece floor puzzle includes larges, colorful pieces that assemble to around two square feet, or approximately the size of an actual baby dinosaur.
In this season of sniffles, little toy animals need top-notch care. Future veterinarians will love this mini pet hospital, which features six private rooms with matching colored keys that double as veterinary instruments. The set also includes two plush pet patients, but don’t worry—the clinic will accept the insurance of all stuffed animals.
Crazy Forts Princess Playset
Take fort-building to the next level with this award-winning toy, which includes 69 kid-friendly toggles and rods that fit together in any combination, allowing children to build the fort of their dreams without causing a household pillow shortage. Once the structure is complete, just cover it with ordinary bed sheets.
Green Toys Rocket
This adorably retro rocket includes two astronaut figures and a removable top for lunar landing missions. That’s the part kids will care about. As a parent, you can also appreciate the fact that the toy is made from recycled plastic milk bottles, saving energy and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Calico Critters Adventure Tree House
The frigid winter months are no time to be climbing around in trees, so help your children bring the fun inside with this treehouse playset, the perfect size for use with their Calico Critters animal friends. Featuring a cabin, swing, slide, sun deck, and pulley (and don’t forget the most important part—the tree!), this set will help pass those long months indoors and make spring feel just a little bit closer.
Alphabet & Numbers Puzzle Pairs
This clever puzzle game teaches kids both numbers and the alphabet, with simple two-piece construction that helps them match words with the letter they start with and find the digit that matches the right number of dots. Best of all, the pieces are oversized and sturdy, which means they’ll hold up well as your little one learns from her mistakes.
This durable bamboo race car is the perfect gift for the speed demon in your house, with oversized wheels and solid, plastic-free construction that will stand up to repeated “crash tests.”
The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (Illustrator)
There’s no denying crayons have it rough—the popular colors are worn down to nubs, while their less useful friends wither away in the box (oh poor White, so lovable, but so ignored). Yet they’ve never complained—until now. Fed up, all the colors have gone on strike and written a list of demands (Blue, for instance, would like to take a break from coloring the sky once in a while). This imaginative book will give your kids a whole new appreciation for the work crayons do.
The Book With No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
A read-aloud book with no pictures sounds like a no-go for the under-five set, but no pictures are necessary here—the focus is on a whole bunch of goofy words and phrases that the reader has to say out loud, whether they want to or not. Children love it when grownups get silly, and this book provides ample opportunity, with nonsense sound effects and hilarious assertions (“I am a robot monkey”) sure to elicit giggles.
Peanut Butter & Cupcake, by Terry Border
The secret life of food is revealed in this engaging story, which uses photographs of real food to tell the tale of a peanut butter sandwich’s quest to find a friend. It’s a tall order, as everyone seems too busy: Hamburger is walking his (hot) dogs and Meatball is skipping rope with a piece of spaghetti. Who could possibly be the perfect match for our hero? If you’ve ever taken a sack lunch to school, you can probably guess, but that doesn’t make the journey of discovery any less appetizing.
The Numberlys, by William Joyce and Christina Ellis (Illustrator)
The award-winning team behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore has created another singular book that reveals to children the wonderful world of words. In the land of the Numberlys, there are no letters, words, or anything else—except numbers. While this is all very neat and tidy, a few digits grow tired of their orderly existence and set off on an adventure to find a new way to express themselves.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
Louie, the star of this wonderfully odd picture book, just wants to get the story started. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell your story when the pages keep getting scribbled on, or dribbled with jelly, or smudged by dirty fingerprints. Louie’s growing exasperation with each new indignity will delight young readers, and the lesson—that sometimes a perfect story doesn’t go according to plan—is a lovely one.
Hide-and-Hug Olaf, by Kevin Lewiz and Olga Mosqueda
Treat the little Frozen fan in your home to a new Holiday tradition with this delightful book and toy pairing. After enjoying the story with your children, hide the adorable plush Olaf somewhere in your home. The game of hide-and-seek ends when your child finds Olaf and gives him a big, warm hug.
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
This enduring classic is a perfect gift at any age, but it’s especially appropriate for those in the preschool set, who struggle daily with finding the right way to express their big emotions. Every child can relate to Max, who flees the confines of home to live as “King of All Wild Things,” and every parent can use a reminder that no matter how wild their little ones get, they eventually head back to the place where someone loves them best of all.