Toys for the inbetweener: What to buy for the not quite three-year-old

In my office, I’m the youngest mom. Other people have kids, but I’m the only one living the toddler tornado as we speak. That means I’m the go-to person for Christmas and birthday ideas for young nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Age always comes up in these requests, something like, “What do two-year-olds like?” But kids are only exactly two for a hot minute, so I’ve compiled a list of toys that I’ve purchased for kids (including my own) in that two to three-year gap.

Pretend Play
Little Tikes Count ‘n Play Cash Register Playset
Kids this age are always being dragged to the store with their parents. Caroline even knows about pushing the buttons on the credit card reader (note to self, hide my wallet). I gifted this cash register to a little guy for Christmas and it was a hit with both him and C. It incorporates two of their favorite things, opening drawers and acting like mom.

KidKraft 63330 Tasty Treat Pretend Play Food Set
Andy built Caroline an awesome kitchen out of an old cabinet this Christmas, so all things cooking were on top of our toy list. This is a HUGE set of play food and it’s held up pretty good in the month we’ve had it. The pieces have endured multiple toddlers and a rambunctious pup with little destruction.

Melissa & Doug Stainless Steel Pots and Pans Pretend Play Kitchen Set for Kids
These are adorable. They might actually be nicer than my own pots and pans. We bought them for C’s kitchen and they’re the perfect size for a two to three-year old. Added bonus that they look and sound real so there is less raiding of mom’s cupboards.

Prepping for a Sibling
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Cute and Cuddly Baby Margaret Plush
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a favorite in our house, so when we stumbled upon the episode about Daniel getting a little sister, we jumped on it as an opportunity to introduce the idea to Caroline. This plush is adorable, comes with its own blanket, and pairs nicely with the book listed below. A lot of two to three-year olds are about to become a big brother or sister, so this is a great gift if that’s the case.

The Baby Is Here! (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood)

Bath Time
Bath time ranks pretty high with toddlers of this age. Caroline will drop everything (including her drawers) when I ask if she wants to take a bath. Two bath products she loves are the Crayola Color Bath Dropz and the Little Tikes Bath Time Tea set. The Bath Dropz are a fun experiment. She likes to pick a couple, toss them in, and see what the color of the bath water is going to be that night. These don’t stain the tub, the kid, or the towels, if you’re wondering. She also loves this tea set and sharing a cup with Zoey, who happily drinks the bath water (she’s gross, I know).

Little Tikes Bath Time Tea

Crayola Color Bath Dropz 3.59 Ounce

On the Road
Fisher-Price Doodle Pro Trip

Kids this age are often at the mercy of their parents and siblings, being hauled over the place in the car. We bought this miniature Doodle Pro for C when we went on a road trip last summer. It’s car-seat sized and provides endless entertainment. I bought this on a recommendation from another parent of a similarly aged kiddo. She was totally right.

I Can’t Cut Pizza

I feel like I need to preface this post by saying my husband is incredibly hard-working, and I’m not just saying that because I married the guy. He is ALWAYS busting his ass for his family, working extra hours, taking on extra projects. I totally love him for it. He’s also the apple of Caroline’s eye. He’s an active participant in parenting his daughter, which has been particularly evident while I’ve been pregnant (I have a pretty serious napping schedule to adhere to). I’ve never ever stressed about leaving him in charge. I mean, sometimes he even takes Caroline with him to the grocery store ON A WEEKEND…BY HIMSELF. Like, whoa. The dude is  a champ.

That being said, long hours for Andy equals an extreme demand for mom. Most days I can hack it. Caroline, as far as toddlers go, is a pretty easy kiddo. She’s wonderful at being independent and playing by herself. But when we’ve gone a stretch of a few weekends in a row with minimal dad time, she seems to forget that Andy is also capable of getting her more milk, or opening her fruit snacks, or putting on her hat and mittens. Apparently you must have special mom powers to do this stuff.

In my short time as a parent, I’ve learned that your kid reaches a point where they go from a cuddly little lump to a full-fledged human. And like everything else, it happens overnight. We passed this point a while ago, but now we’ve seemed to reach a new tier, which appears to be classified as “tiny human with the ability to mimic regular-sized-human qualities/tendencies/mannerisms.” Case and point: this weekend Caroline, while cutting me a piece of pretend pizza, said, “Mom, I can’t do it. I’m really frustrated!” This kid is 2 years, 9 months old. And she just used “frustrated” perfectly in a sentence. Say whaaat?

The takeaway for me from this interaction was that although I’m glad C’s vocabulary is rapidly growing, I might need a new approach to solo-parenting. I’ve probably vocalized my frustration a little too frequently and now it’s influencing her ability to cut pizza. I mean, if you’ve ever seen me try to use a pizza cutter, you’d understand my concern. For real, I have to use a scissors (much to Andy’s amusement) so that I don’t maul the whole thing. It’s more likely that I can adopt a better attitude about being the go-to parent than I can the skill required to cut a pizza. And if I don’t teach this kid to do it for me, I’m doomed. I can handle a little more mom demand if it means I can prepare pizza without adult supervision. #worthit