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2022 Gift Guide

‘Tis the season for giving, and our Playful Learning Gift Guide is full of ideas for all the little ones in your life. Whether you have a budding artist, an early writer, an aspiring chef, or a future engineer, our list of tried and true favorites will continue to inspire after the current fads have faded.

We hope you find some “timeless” treasures for you and your family!

Happy Holidays!

Turn an ordinary day outdoors into an exciting scientific adventure with our favorite gifts for your junior naturalist. 

  • Audubon Birds – Learn the calls of the Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and Chickadee with this sweet little collection of plush backyard birds.
  • Binoculars – Child-sized binoculars are wonderful for discovering birds and nests in tall trees, and searching for anything else that captures your attention.
  • Colored Pencils – Our favorite brand of colored pencils to use with young children! They have an ergonomic zone with grip dots so the pencils require less pressure and add an inspiring dose of color to anature journal!
  • Sun Print Paper – Sun printing is fun for the entire family! Based on the cyanotype process, it’s a magical process that not only teaches about sun-based science but has gorgeous results. A unique way to document what you find on a nature walk!
  • Bug Catcher – Best invention ever! This bug catcher enables you to collect bugs without harm, observe them through the built-in magnifier, and safely return them to their natural habitat. Every home and classroom needs one!
  • Magnifying Glass – A magnifying glass is definitely a must-have for those moments when you want to observe that dandelion a bit more closely or identify the veins on a leaf.
  • Clipboard – The best way for children to move around with their writing. And if there’s one thing that children love taking with them on nature explorations, it’s a clipboard!
  • Toy Figures – We love these Toob sets from Safari Ltd. that come in a variety of collections from birds to insects to flowers to river animals. You can use them for matching activities, put them in sensory bins or offer them along side a field guide sketchbook. (We’re pretty sure we have every single set that’s ever been made!)
  • Sketchbook – These small, blank notebooks fit easily inside a coat pocket for the spontaneous observational drawing or impromptu nature poem.
  • Collection Basket – Our go-to baskets in the studio. They come in several different sizes, are super sturdy, and the handle makes it easy for children to carry around on their nature walks. You can bet it will be filled with rocks, leaves, pine cones, twigs, and anything else your little explorer finds outside.
  • Field Bag  – This light and nimble field bag has different compartments that are perfect for keeping supplies organized. Keep it full of supplies and set it near the back door so your child can easily grab it before heading out on their next adventure.
  • Book – We can’t get enough of the books in Yuval Zommer’s Big Book series, especially for scientific studies. His illustrations are gorgeous and the text is engaging and easy for little ones to understand; these books are definitely a must-have for your library collection.

Download these Playful Learning printables for your junior explorer: 

Discover and Sketch BINGO – Slide this onto a clipboard, grab some colored pencils, and head out in search of these objects. Who can be the first explorer to yell BINGO?

Bird Guide – Take our Bird Guide with you on your next neighborhood walk. How many different species can you identify?

Children who engage in pretend play are learning how to navigate social-emotional issues and figuring out new ways to communicate and express their ideas. Cultivate your child’s budding imagination with these materials which would be wonderful additions to any dramatic play area.

  • Puppet Kit – Children love puppets, but have they ever made their own? This kit has materials to make 6 DIY hand puppets complete with googly eyes, felt shapes, and pom poms.
  • Baby Doll – Dolls help children learn empathy and how to care for others. We absolutely love this collection of realistic and diverse dolls that promote the importance of representation.
  • Building Blocks – We’ve never met a child who doesn’t love to build with blocks, and this is our favorite set by Melissa & Doug.
  • Salad Play Food Set – Not only does this play set encourage children to open up their own restaurant, but it also promotes healthy eating. Yay!
  • Puppet Theater – The best part about this puppet theater is its size! It is extremely durable and fits nicely on top of a table. Pair this with the DIY puppets for endless hours of fun.
  • Doctor Kit – Medical play teaches children to talk about how their bodies feel when they’re sick and helps them identify tools they might see on their next trip to the doctor. This wooden kit is beautifully made and has held up so well over the years!
  • Tabletop Cook and Grill – A staple in our dramatic play area, and it has been for years. We love that it doesn’t take up a lot of space and sits comfortably on top of a table.
  • Cars and Traffic Signs – We’ve purchased these several times over the last few years. Children love to find these in the block area or in a sensory bin. Plus, the traffic signs add in a touch of literacy and teach children how to look for everyday print in the world around them.
  • Wooden Dollhouse – It folds up and is portable. Need we say more?
  • Magna-Tiles ICE – Promote shape recognition and problem solving with these cool see-through, magnetic building tiles. Put these on top of a light table for a new experience!
  • Book – Have we mentioned the importance of sneaking in some literacy to your dramatic play? Display this book in the block area to inspire children’s building designs and hopefully get in a bit of reading too.

Download these Playful Learning printables to enhance your dramatic play area:

Order Up! – Our own restaurant order form that pairs well with the Melissa & Doug Salad Play Set. Place an order at the salad bar, mark off the ingredients, and let the chef do the rest!

Doctor’s List – Attach this simple checklist to a mini-clipboard, offer our favorite short pencils, and leave it next to the medical bag. They’ll do the rest.

Early writing does not need to be an overwhelming process. Inspire children to find ways to connect with others with these fun and playing writing-themed gifts.

  • Pencils – We are a big fan of these mini triangular pencils which help encourage proper pencil grip.
  • Washi Tape – Use this colorful tape to add mementos into a notebook or for decorating the cover of a book.
  • Watercolor Postcards – Embrace the tradition of corresponding with loved ones with these lovely blank postcards.
  • Blank Cards – These cards offer a clean slate for children and teaches the time old tradition of sending handwritten notes.
  • Letter Stickers – Who doesn’t love stickers? These are fun no matter what age you are!
  • Crayon Rocks – We love these so much, we’ve put them on several of our gift guides! Seriously, add these to your list.
  • Writing Caddy – We stock this caddy full of inviting supplies like pens, pencils, stamps, and stickers and the children are in heaven! Plus, it’s super easy to move from room to room or for taking your writing adventures outside.
  • Wooden Stamps – This vintage looking set of alphabet and number stamps is always a big hit (and you can use them to stamp play dough and clay too).
  • Card Making Stamp Set – These stamps are handy to have around when making homemade cards for friends and family members.
  • Blank Book – The more of these you leave out for children to find, the more books and stories you’ll see popping up around your house. Try it!
  • Book – Ezra Jack Keat’s timeless tale is one of our favorite books to read when teaching children how to write a letter or personalize an invitation.

Download these Playful Learning printables for your early writer: 

Letter Strip – Mount our alphabet strip on a writing surface or carry it around on a clipboard to help support letter identification, letter-sound relationships and handwriting.

Letter Paper – Give children a purpose for writing by teaching them how to craft a letter to someone special.

Encourage all forms of art with our list of gifts for the child who loves creating and making. 

  • Paintbrushes – This assorted set of wooden paintbrushes are durable perfect for tiny hands. 
  • Color Wheel – We typically leave this out as a resource for when children are painting; it’s a great way to learn basic color theory.
  • Paint – Our go-to set of tempera paint (in primary colors, plus black and white) which we use for all of our crafts and painting projects.
  • Sketchbook – Children love having a special place to draw their favorite things! 
  • Palette – We use this sturdy palette not only for paint, but also as a beautiful way to display a set of crayon rocks.
  • Desktop Easel – Put a canvas on an easel and children immediately feel like an artist; we also love using it to showcase finished paintings.
  • Paint Sticks – Chunkies are a must-have for young children; they dry quickly and are mess free. Put this at the top of your list!
  • Drawing Manikin – Manikins are helpful when teaching children how to draw the human form, but they are also a lot of fun to move around and dress up!
  • Watercolors – This set of vibrant watercolors is hands down our favorite, and we’ve tried many other brands! Washes off a table easily and doesn’t stain. 
  • Crayon Rocks – Perhaps our most used material in the Playful Learning Studio. Designed to help teach little ones how to properly hold a writing tool, we have these out for most of our toddler art projects and writing activities. 
  • Oil Pastels – Softer than a crayon and easy to blend, these pair nicely with watercolors.
  • Canvas – An artist needs a blank canvas, and they’re suitable for paint, Chunkies, and mixed-media collage.
  • Book – We love to start all of our investigations with a read aloud to set the stage for the experience, and Hervé Tullet’s book is a wonderful way to explore color.

Download this Playful Learning printable for your budding artist: 

Color Mixing Printable – Explore color mixing with primary colors and then create your own color palette. Try mixing in a touch of white or black too!

Teach children how to practice mindfulness and learn how to manage their feelings and emotions. These are our favorite things to help tune in to the senses, quiet the mind, ground the body, and be present in the moment.

  • Weighted Bear – Great for when children are experiencing sensory overload or just need a calming moment. The pressure of the bear helps ground children’s bodies so that they can quiet their minds (and it’s cute and cuddly too).
  • Yoga Mat – A kid-sized yoga mat with a carry strap! Perfect for on-the-go yoga sessions.
  • Buddha Board – This is one of the most beloved toys we have purchased over the years. Practice writing letters, numbers, or calming words and images. Using only water, it teaches children to draw their feelings, breathe, and let go as the image gently fades away.
  • Essential Oils – We have found that empowering children to use (with parent guidance) safe, natural remedies, helps them monitor their health, moods, and feelings. We love using essential oils for different situations that arise. This calming oil is the perfect way to nurture oneself when needed, and this set is kid friendly!
  • Yoga Garden Game – If your child loves board games, why not play a game that also teaches them about different yoga postures? A lovely and calming game to play at bedtime.
  • Calming Jars – These mesmerizing timers are not just for the kids! Relieve stress by watching the colorful bubbles flow back and forth. A perfect tool for calming down a screaming toddler and helping them regain focus.
  • Rain Stick – Physical cues help bring us back to the present and are helpful during charged situations. We love the idea of using a beautiful sound as a reminder to take a deep breath and center yourself.
  • Mindful Exercises Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel is full of fun and simple techniques that help children handle emotions and come back to the present moment.
  • Yoga Activities – These yoga cards have been a favorite for years. They encourage children to tune into their bodies and discover the connection between self-care and having peace of mind. Perfect for packing in a purse or airplane bag!
  • Breathe Like a Bear – Our toddler class uses this book frequently! It’s a beautiful collection of mindfulness exercises that teach children how to manage their own bodies.

Download these Playful Learning printables for some mindful relaxation:

Peace Poster – When children are aware of and know how to manage their own feelings and emotions, they feel empowered. We have this poster hanging in the studio as a visual reminder of the tools from which they can choose when they need them most.

Sensing Peace – Ask children what peace means to them. Is it the sound of a parent’s voice? The feeling of a warm fire? The smell of lavender? The taste of vanilla ice cream? You might be surprised at what they say!

Help children make healthy choices by teaching them to prepare nourishing snacks and meals. These are our favorite tools for teaching even the youngest chefs life skills that will serve them well for years to come!

Whether your family likes hiking, sledding, birding, building a snowman, or just traipsing around the backyard this winter, we can recommend some gear that will keep your child warm and dry.

  • Neoprene Boots – These insulated neoprene boots work for rain, snow, and everything in between.
  • Rain Suit – There is nothing better than splashing in puddles and staying dry.
  • Reversible Hoody – Windproof shell with down insulation, this jacket keeps out the cold and comes in cute patterns with reversible solids.
  • Snow Suit – Waterproof and insulated one-piece that is built for serious cold weather play; it will stay nice and warm even when it’s wet.
  • Mittens – Thumbs out, fingers together, this is the song that we sing in mitten weather! These sleeping bag style mittens help keep little naturalists warm and dry.
  • Snow Pants – Bib style snow pants allow children to play in the snow and keep all their base layers dry for hours.
  • Crew Socks – Cozy socks to warm their feet without adding the additional bulk.
  • Thermal Base Layer Top and Bottom – Base layers made of natural materials such as wool help children with temperature regulation all day long.

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Playful Learning Field Guides

Grab these handy field guides on your way to park or walk around the block. Add a basket for collecting and a magnifying glass for observing you are set for a memorable outdoor adventure