Maximoo turned two this year - in December specifically - and in a multi-cultural family like ours, his birthday is surrounded by Hanukkah and by Xmas. So December is the BEST MONTH EVER for him...but i will be a long year leading up to that month. Being that Hanukkah literally fell on and around his birthday this year, we decided to get him/ask for a couple of big things for his birthday instead of getting a bunch of little things, which we knew he would get for the other holidays. They were both a big hit so I thought they would be great ideas to share here for anyone looking for the bigger play-set type gifts (and it is a totally coincidence that they both happen to be Little Tikes - I'm a bit of a fan girl of their stuff because I feel like they can take a beating).
First thing we got for Maximoo is the Little Tikes Easel. It is a double sided easel that features a clip for a large art pad on one side and a blackboard on the other. In addition it has two trays (one on each side of the easel) to hold all of your art tools. We got all the little goodies that go with an easel - a big pad of paper, paint brushes, paints, spill-proof resealable paint cups, a new box of crayons, multi-colored chalk - and then we all put it together (yes, it comes with some assembly required to be prepared with your hammer) and have been using it ever since. Max really got into he chalk board and the idea that you can draw and erase...although he often tried to draw on that side with the crayons or use the chalk eraser on the paper..so there is a learning curve, but that doesn't stop him from experimenting and seeing what he can come up with. He has also really gotten into painting and and using the whole art pad to create interesting pictures (I'm not going to lie - I love him using his imagination but I'm still not convinced that i am a big purple blob).
There are lots of variations on this kind of easel - some made of wood, some with a white board or a magnetic board and some that use paper rolls instead of pads - so there really is something for everyone. At $59.99, we loved the durability, the different kinds of art options, and the overall look and price of the LIttle Tikes easel.
The other big gift he got was the Little Tikes Super Chef Kitchen. They have a small play kitchen at school and Maximoo talked about it a lot and he loved hanging out in the kitchen with us so we saw huge benefit in getting him his own area to play in. The Super Chef Kitchen has a refrigerator the opens and closes, a microwave that opens and closes, a stove that opens and closes, and a range that makes the sounds of either boiling liquid or something frying, and a little cordless phone that we love to talk into.
Again, there is some assembly required including the fun of putting the stickers on - which is no easy task with a toddler who wants the stickers for himself - so there is the joy of desperately trying to line up the stickers with the appropriate line. But we made it a game and the whole family got involved (his uncles and Grandpa were here for the visit). The kitchen comes with some of the cooking accessories every good chef needs - a frying pan, some plates, coffee cups, and coffee pot, and some utensils. Maximoo loves to bring us different foods, make us coffee that we pretend to drink together, or pour us some water from his pretend sink and we all drink it together. We do a lot of pretend cooking and have a good time identifying different foods.
He also got some food accessory kits including the Melissa and Doug Wooden Sandwich Making Kit and a big box of plastic foods from Target. The sandwich making kit is really cute and all the pieces can be mixed and matched and stuck together using velcro found in the center of each piece.
The plastic food is a great accessory set to have just so there are food to put in the cabinets of the kitchen or even to cook and talk about and play with.
Like with the easel, there are so many different variety of kitchens you can get from the super fancy and high end to the really simple. Materials, price ranges, characters, even eras - there really is an immense variety so we went with a familiar brand that we knew was incredibly durable and had all the features we wanted. At around $89.99 the Little Tikes Super Chef Kitchen lives happily in our dining room area right next to our kitchen so the whole family can cook and clean together.