Shopping Small for Simple Toddler Christmas Gifts

I looked at my calendar today and was startled to realize that Christmas is next week. Next. Week! This has been such a strange year that has felt so surreal and slow at times, yet here we are so close to Christmas!

Our tree is set up with my favorite ornaments taking front and center!

Our Christmas celebrations look a little different this year for many reasons, and one unexpected thing that is changing this year for us is gifts. As in, I’m actually going to give our kids some. Ha!

I’m a pretty minimal-ish person and while I do love gifts, I don’t like getting stuff just for the sake of having presents. Last year, we left the gift giving mostly to grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. and kept our family Christmas very small and simple (I even wrapped up some library books for LJ to unwrap and enjoy for three weeks until they were returned – it worked like a charm!)

This year, I decided to ramp up our celebration a bit for two reasons. One, LJ is getting older and understands more of what’s going on – it’s so fun to see his pure joy and excitement opening presents, even small ones. And two, this year has been a hard year for small businesses. This pandemic has caused many small businesses to take a big hit and it became extra important to me to support them with my purchases.

Each year, I try to be intentional with the gifts I personally give my kids and the items that we put on our wish list. Last year, I wrote a post about non-toy gift ideas and also one about intentionally gifting toys with a greater purpose (fair trade, sustainable, eco-friendly, small business, philanthropic mission, etc. The post also includes my favorite brands/shops!) and my philosophy hasn’t changed, so those are good posts to check out to see where I get ideas for gifts. Disclaimer: I understand that items that fit these categories often cost more or are less accessible, and I recognize both the convenience and affordability of big box stores or online companies like Amazon. My children of course get gifts outside of these preferences and that is 100% OKAY. I’m certainly not perfect (you’ll see a couple things I got them are even from the dollar bins at Target) and I don’t expect anyone else to be! While these are goals/preferences, they’re by no means requirements and we’re grateful for and appreciative of each and every gift regardless.

While all the other things listed above are important to me, this year I focused on small businesses first. I tried my best to include products on my kids’ wish lists that are made by smaller brands, but I also encouraged our families to consider purchasing more mainstream toys at local small businesses if possible. A few things on my kids’ wish lists this year were:

PlanToys play food – I love this company’s sustainable mission: sustainable material, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable mind. Bonus that my mom was able to purchase the food and beverage set, breakfast set, veggie set, and fruit set from a locally-owned small business!

A screengrab of Vi opening a PlanToys phone at Justin’s family’s Christmas – she loves it!

Cuddle + Kind dolls – these dolls are high-quality, adorable, and fair trade PLUS with each purchase, the company donates money to humanitarian organizations that provide meals to those in need. Vi has two dolls already (Penelope and Stella) that she carries around everywhere and this year we asked for either Mia or Charlotte.

Bows from Etsy shops – I love having cute bows for Vi and supporting a small business at the same time. I particularly love this one and this one.

Books – We requested books from local small businesses for both kids!

Chalkfull of Design – LJ received a personalized name chalkboard from this small business this year and he’s so excited to practice writing his name!

As for the gifts we’re personally giving this year, I still didn’t get a ton of things, but I did get more than originally anticipated since I wanted to support local small businesses. I thought I’d just show you what I got!

Since Vi is only one and still doesn’t really understand what is going on (and we all know how I feel about clutter haha), she isn’t getting as much as LJ. Even so, I know she’ll love these items! Both she and LJ currently love bathtime so I snagged a few bathtub finger paints for her stocking. The Poke-a-Dot book was found at a small business in my parent’s hometown and I’m so excited for her to unwrap it! She loves books and this one makes fun popping noises that I know she’ll have fun with.

LJ has a few more items since he’s older and understands what is going on. He’s going through a phase where he requests a band-aid for every “injury” (a small bump on the head, tiny scratch on the finger, etc) so he’ll love the PJ Masks bandages! I purchased a cute little tractor + wagon and some farm animals at a locally-owned toy store in Justin’s hometown and I know these will be huge hits for him! I’m putting the tractor and bandages in his stocking and wrapping up the coloring book and animals.

If you follow me on Instagram, you might know that we’re currently in the process of building our main present for the kids: a play kitchen! They’ll be getting play food from other relatives, but since our Christmas is first, I wanted them to at least have something to unwrap and play with when they receive the kitchen. I found this adorable Melissa and Doug cookware set at a local small business and it’s perfect!

I’m also going to wrap up this cute African basket so they have something to carry their fruits and veggies in. I found this at another small business in Justin’s hometown and will wrap it up and let Vi open it since she didn’t get as many gifts as LJ.

While I’m so glad we were able to shop small for many gifts, I want to reiterate that we’re not perfect or expecting anyone else to be. If anything, I’m hoping that by being transparent about all the things I’m giving our kids, both the things from the Target dollar bin and the things from local small businesses, you’ll be encouraged to find a balance that works for you. Maybe that’s trying to find just one gift from a small business. Maybe that’s just focusing on stocking stuffer gifts from small businesses. Maybe it’s asking family members to try to shop small for gifts for you or your kids. For me, the goal isn’t perfection, it’s to try to be more intentional when and if I can. 🙂

Of course, Christmas is certainly about more than just gifts, and we incorporate a lot more than presents into our celebrations, but knowing a few of these gifts helped support small businesses this year does make the celebration seem sweeter. I can’t wait for Christmas morning!

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