Pretend and Not-so-Pretend Play Gift Ideas

Our gift guide would be incomplete without a few ideas on ways to let little readers feel like big kids! Toddlers and preschoolers love to pretend, and more and more research says we need to give them more time for it!

Unstructured play not only lets them use their imaginations, it helps them practice problem solving and build motor skills. Those efforts to be “just like us” are part of that process, too!

whose tools toni buzzeoWhose Tools by Toni Buzzeo
| board book, ages 1 to 5 |

How do you build a house? What kind of tools would you need? This book goes through each set of tools needed by workers building a house. Beginning with the foundations of the house and ending with a complete home, this book will delight any kids interested in building.

Parent reviewer: The tools are grouped by use and children flip the pages to see whose tools they are. I knew my 3-year-old old would love it, but I was surprised how much my daughter (5) enjoyed it. She doesn’t normally get interested in building, but this book appealed to her.

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Pair with age-appropriate, kid-safe tools or hardhat.

We also recommend I Love Tools! by Shari Halpern and The Toolbox by Anne and Harlow Rockwell

Jo MacDonald Had a Garden by Mary Quattlebaum
|picture book, ages 2 to 8 |

jo macdonald had garden mary quattlebaumWith help from a friend, Jo is planting a garden at her grandfather’s farm. Follow along as the sun warms the ground, the worms wiggle around, and fruits, vegetables, and flowers grow. Can you spot the animal helpers, too? The story follows the garden for a full year, giving readers to see four seasons. 

Kids will be inspired to create their own gardens after you read this book. If you’re interested in gardening, see the Help for Young Gardeners in the back. The author also has some Indoor Activities you can do, too.

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Pair with child-safe garden tools, child-friendly garden kit, and/or trip to a farmer’s market

We also like these books on the gardening theme:

  • Planting Seeds by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (board book). Parent Reviewer: “I loved that it was a sweet story of a family working together”
  • Grow It! by Georgie Birkett (board book). Parent Reviewer: “The pictures are colorful and the families are multi-ethnic, with all skin colors represented as friends, spouses, grandparents, children, shopkeepers, etc.”
  • Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie! by Judy Cox (picture book). Parent Reviewer: My kids LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. It is super silly and filled with fun. The kids in the story laugh on each page and my kids laughed at the plays on the words that Mrs. Millie mixes up.

Yucky Worms by Vivian French
| picture book, ages 4 to 10 |

yucky worms vivian frenchDiscover all sorts of fascinating things in this humorous (but factual!) picture book about the lives of earthworms. Besides learning where these lowly creatures live you’ll find out how they move, what they eat, and why gardeners love them.

This book was a hit with a class of second graders … they lined up to read it! The information on earthworms is excellent and the artwork is very good. The story might just prompt your reader to stop using the word “yucky,” head outside to search, or inspire them to be a worm farmer.

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Pairs well with nature gifts, such as a Worm Farm Kit or kid-friendly compost kit.

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