My thoughtful gift guide to buying for toddlers – which doesn’t take much thinking

Séamas O’Reilly
Photograph: Getty Images

When it comes to buying our son presents, it can be hard to know what will work. For adults, my wife and I are both good at procuring thoughtful gifts – getting that tiny thing you mentioned months earlier without having the faintest inkling we noticed. She does this because she’s a thoughtful person. I do it because ‘thoughtful gifts’ are often cheaper. It’s a dirty trick, but I love it. If I ever do try crack, I can only hope it measures up to the thrill of being praised for a gift that cost £2, but makes the dear, deluded recipient feel like a million quid. ‘Oh my God,’ they’ll say, ‘a bag of wet leaves – just like we talked about that time!’

With babies, of course, it’s a little more complicated but, rather than going for the same old, in-demand bauble everyone else is getting their baby, I’ve compiled a list of more specific gift ideas that ought to bring the house down for a fraction of the price.

Bath plugs There is nothing, no object, food, activity or person on this earth, that I love as much as my son loves the plug that goes in the bath. We have never induced him to love any cuddly toy, parent or plastic singing penguin nearly so much as he adores this round disc of rubberised plastic, long since pulled from its chain and left now free for him to remove the second his wash begins. I suggest eight or nine of these bad boys will keep him occupied, while allowing at least one to maintain the water level into the bargain. Cost: £4 from any hardware shop.

Folding phone cover We’re sad this one took us so long to realise, but after a solid few months of launching himself at our phones, we realised he got pretty much the same enjoyment out of being given a folding phone cover, that he could open, close and thrash around the floor, as if it was the most valuable electronic device we owned. Cost: £4 from eBay.

Kitchen brush His other favourite object is the kitchen brush. He wants it. He needs it. He can’t trust himself around it. So much so we have replicated it for him in scaled-down, 3ft form, since he was a little too eager to use the full-size variant to topple things off cupboards and plonk himself on the noggin. Cost: £5. Additional benefit: eventual cleanliness training.

Literally any object you are holding To be honest, as much as he will love his other gifts, this appears to be the big winner, since the mere concept of us holding any object is enough to give him a festive sense of imminent reward. A plastic bottle? A folded sock? Some packing foam? If we’ve got it, he wants it, so I’ve decided to walk around carrying non-lethal objects in my hands, and for a few days over Christmas he can safely receive them from me any time he commands. There’ll be plenty of years where he’s less easily pleased. It’s the thought that counts, but let’s not overthink it.

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