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20 Toddler-Approved Gifts That Will Actually Keep Kids Entertained For Awhile

Winter is coming. Prepare the playroom.

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We're coming up on the most wonderful time of the year… but also? You'll likely get stuck inside with bad weather — and many of the go-to places you used to take your kiddos to burn off energy just aren't options right now.

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I have a one-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy, and I'm always on the lookout for things they'll love. This year, I'm all about gifts that keep giving — you know, the toys that are incredibly fun AND keep kids occupied for a large chunk of time.

Here's my list of gifts that are perfect to help keep everyone sane while staying inside this winter. Some of these are tried-and-true things that I currently swear by for my two, and some of these gifts are already sitting in my shopping cart. 🤫

1. A tunnel and ball pit to (temporarily!) turn your home into a play zone.

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If you can’t head to the play zone, bring the play zone to you. Happy Meal not included, but there’s a strong chance you’ll get a nice long nap time after some time with this — and that will make YOU happy. And when you’re ready for your house to look like adults also live there too, you can fold this bad boy back up into its carry bag and put it in the closet.

Get the tunnel and ball pit for $34.59 and a pack of ball pit balls for $18.99, both from Amazon.

2. This classic and colorful Play-Doh set with lots of possibilities — and easier-than-usual cleanup.

Play-Doh / Via, Amazon / Via

An oldie but a goodie, Play-Doh leads to hours of fun for my 3-year-old guy. His favorite thing about the set? Making Play-Doh "bisketti" AKA "spaghetti." My favorite thing about this set? It comes with an activity table that’s perfect for play and for storing the good stuff, so there’s even less of a chance that you’ll be scraping it off your floor (but let's be real, that will still happen).

Get it from Amazon for $36.43.

3. An Amazon Fire 7 Kids Tablet, which basically pays for itself (and then some) after just a few uses.

An Amazon Fire Tablet in a pink, kid-proof case.
Amazon / Via

Whether you're taking a long trip or just having a particularly crazy day, sometimes you need backup — and you know that's when it's time to call on your friends Daniel Tiger, Fancy Nancy, Elmo, or Pete the Cat.

This tablet is designed for kids but puts the grownups in charge with features like time limits and setting educational goals. Not only is the Amazon Fire protected in a kid-proof case, but it also comes with a two-year guarantee that ensures you'll get a free replacement if it should break.

Get it from Amazon for $59.99 (available in three colors).

4. An indoor trampoline for when they're bouncing off the walls.

A young child bounces on a trampoline.
Little Tikes / Via

What is it with toddlers and bouncing? IDK, but at least this trampoline is small enough to keep indoors — and the safety handle bar means your kids won’t be launching themselves *into* your walls. Win-win.

Get it from Amazon for $59.99.

5. A starter set of magnetic tiles for your budding builders.

A set of brightly colored magnetic building tiles constructed into a castle.
PicassoTiles / Via

One amazing piece of advice I received is to choose just one or two different types of building toys and stick to them. Not only does it make for easier clean up, but expanding on existing sets allows your child to keep dreaming up new ways to build with what they have. We are BIG fans of magnetic tiles in our house and we'll be adding some new ones to the collection this holiday season. They really do make for wonderful, open-ended play.

Get a 100-piece set from Amazon for $52.98.

6. This Lego Duplo set for when they aren't quite ready for a regular Lego set.

A 65-piece set of colorful LEGO DUPLO bricks.
LEGO / Via

My kiddos are not developmentally ready for the Lego classic bricks, nor am I emotionally ready to constantly step on said Lego. But Lego Duplo sets are the perfect solution. And when they are ready for those tiny ones? Duplo is compatible with regular-size Legos. Remember what I said about building on existing toy sets? It’s strategic!

Get it from Amazon for $23.99.

7. This adorable — yet fully functional — digital camera so you can give your cameraphone a break from your kids.

Amazon / Via,

It is always fun to see your child's selfies on your phone, but that 200+ photo study of the ground just feels a little excessive. This year, get your little Leibovitz a kid-proof camera. Not only will they practice taking a proper photo, but you also get to see the world through their adorable toddler eyes. And this might sound cheesy, but I think that's kind of magical.

Get it from Amazon for $25.07 (available in two colors).

8. A tablet-friendly stationary bike to help get the Zoomies out.

Fisher Price / Via,

Yes, this is basically a Peloton for a toddler. But it’s great! I actually bought one a few years ago for my nephew and it got rave reviews and a TON of use, especially during the winter months. You can use it with or without a tablet, if you want the kiddos to take a break from screen time. (But no judging either way, you do what you need to do.)

The retail value of the bike is $124.99, but due to high demand (just like a real Peloton!) you may find the price is higher on Amazon and similar sites, so keep an eye out for the best deal! There are also other options out there, like this Happy Bike for $88, also on Amazon.

9. A pogo stick, which seems *a lot* safer than the ones we used to play with growing up, TBH.

A child's pogo stick with a foam base.
Flybar / Via

This pogo stick doesn't take up a lot of space and uses a springy foam rather than metal springs to give your kids the bounce they crave. It also makes a silly squeaking sound, so you're sure to hear plenty of those delightful toddler giggles we all love.

Get it from Amazon for $16.99 (available in ten colors).

10. This cute lil' tea set, so they can pretend while you steal a minute for the real deal.

Green Toys / Via

There are so many toys out there with cool lights and crazy sounds, but I am delighted to report that this simple (and sound-less!) tea set has led to hours and hours of play for my kids. My three year old sets up parties with his stuffed animals and figurines while my one year old is learning to mimic stirring tea and drinking it. And hey, I'm even invited to the party! As a side note, I am a huge fan of the Green Toys products. Not only are these toys made from 100% recycled plastic milk jugs, but they're bright and colorful and durable.

Get it from Amazon for $18.48.

11. A play kitchen to help them cook up some fun instead of some trouble.

Two young children pretend to cook at a toy kitchen.
Step2 / Via

A toy kitchen is high up on my list of gifts for this year. Not only will my tiny Top Chefs be able to play on it together (they will totally do this without any problems sharing, right? RIGHT??), but I’m also so excited to see what they, well, figuratively, cook up. I'm going to get some toy food items too, so they'll be able to pretend to grocery shop, cook, have a restaurant, etc. (And if you're worried about this one taking up too much space, this other cute tabletop version for $29.99 includes a stove, a sink, and the accessories.)

Get the play kitchen for $99.99 and a 122-piece pretend food set for $23.99, both from Amazon.

12. A beautifully designed puzzle to calm things down when they get a little wild.

A 24-piece floor puzzle featuring an illustration of animals in the wild rainforest.
Petit Collage / Via

Yeah, yeah, yeah, this isn’t the most innovative idea, but my son is obsessed with these eco-friendly and beautifully illustrated puzzles. (We also have the construction site, underwater, and dinosaur puzzles.) I first started doing them with him before his third birthday, and within a few weeks he was proudly doing them all by himself. I repeat: All by himself. So if you are looking for a little quiet time in each day, this gift may just be the missing piece to THAT puzzle.

Get it from Amazon for $17.14.

13. This ready-to-go scavenger hunt for when you're searching for some fun around the house.

Mollybee Kids / Via

Sure, our mornings might *feel* like a never-ending scavenger hunt (why does it always take so long to find the shoes?!), but this cute card set makes the fun kind of scavenger hunt educational and super easy to do. An activity the kids can do while I take a minute to sit and regroup? Done deal.

Get it from Amazon for $12.99.

14. A Kinetic Sand kit to add some wonder to the winter days when you'd rather be at the beach.

Two boys play with a a truck in a kinetic sand set.
Kinetic Sand / Via

There's no other way to say it: this stuff is just really great. It's engaging, tactile play for toddlers — and you might even get some of those coveted beach vibes feeling the sand in between your own fingers. We keep ours stored in a large plastic bin with plenty of toys so it's always ready to go on days when we really need to beat the wintertime blues.

This set comes with a truck so it was an instant hit with my little guy, but there are plenty of other sets like this one and this one that come with different tools.

Get it from Amazon for $11.99.

15. A LCD doodle tablet to inspire some serious creativity — and help you save paper.

A LCD tablet that acts as a scribble pad for kids to draw on.

Whether it's just for scribbling or learning how to write those ABCs, it's not hard to see why this colorful doodle pad gets rave reviews for also being lots of fun. I can already tell this is the kind of gift my kids won't want to share with each other, so I'm going to just go ahead and get two. Wait, maybe I'll get one for me, too.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99 (available in three colors).

16. A Nugget to take fort-building fun and reading nooks to the next level.

Nugget / Via, Nugget / Via

You may have seen these popping up all over Instagram. It’s a *bit* of a splurge, but Nuggets seem SO FUN. This kids’ couch not only encourages fort building and imaginative play, but it's also designed to be durable, sparing your grownup couch cushions some serious wear and tear.

The downside? These are kind of hard to get now! The company recently moved to a lottery model, where you sign up (just once) and every Friday you’ll be entered in a lottery to purchase a Nugget. I haven’t won the lottery yet, but here’s hoping! One thing to note: Even if you win the lottery to purchase one, you won't receive it in time for the holidays — but that's an IOU gift I don't think any kid would mind.

If you win the purchase lottery, you can score a Nugget for $229.

17. A classic marble run set to get the good times rolling.

Two kids get ready to race marbles on the marble run set they built.
Marble Genius / Via

It won't be for this holiday season, but I will be purchasing this *the second* my one-year-old daughter is old enough to understand that marbles won't make for a healthy and delicious snack. Marble runs are great for so many reasons, but I love how they're open-ended and perfect for two or more kids to play with at the same time. I have so many memories of marble races with my brother and my cousins, so you can bet I'll be joining in with my kids when it's their time. I just hope they know I play to WIN.

Get it from Amazon for $39.99.

18. An extensive craft kit to turn your playroom into the perfect studio for your little artiste.

A large plastic jar filled with colorful craft supples, like pipe cleaners, pom poms, popsicle sticks, and felt.
Funzbo / Via

This kit has it ALL. Not only does this come with everything you need to make the cutest crafts (think of all the silly things your kiddo can make with those googly eyes!), but you can also use the materials for sensory bins and other entertaining-but-educational games. Bonus for you? It comes with a booklet with craft ideas, giving you just a little bit more brain space for other things... like figuring out what to feed your tiny monsters.

Get it Amazon for $27.98.

19. A set of hand puppets so the show can go on, and on, and on.

A set of four hand puppets with a tiger, an elephant, a monkey, and a giraffe.
Melissa & Doug / Via

My son LOVES these puppets. And you know what? I love watching the plays he puts on. Let the countless videos on my phone be a testament to the fact that these do, in fact, keep kids — and the grownups who help create the sets and watch the shows — quite busy.

Get them from Amazon for $14.99.

20. A kid-friendly karaoke machine, which... you may also want to use from time to time. 🙃

A young boy sings into a handheld microphone and karaoke set.
VTech / Via

If you're ready for your superstar to move beyond belting the songs from Frozen, this is a great place to start. The machine comes with songs, voice changers, and even lights to make it feel like a real performance. But if they *still* can't let go of Let It Go, then you can connect your phone to the set and they can still sing along. (Sorry.)

Get it from Amazon for $42.49.

Here's to a happy and healthy holiday season! What gifts do you recommend for keeping your toddlers busy during the winter months? Leave me your best shopping tips and ideas in the comments below!

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