Orange Marmalade’s holiday gift ideas…ages three to six

This week, I’m moving on to a few books and non-electronic toys that would make great gifts for kids ages 3-6.  These books have all been thoroughly time-tested and worn out by my kids, so…nothing hot off the presses, but some classic treasures!  As for non-electronic toys — can I make a plea for you all to consider what type of step — small or drastic — you could take this year towards More Imagination and Creativity and Conversation and Nature and Reality, and away from the siren call of electronic pastimes?  I will refrain from Getting on my Soapbox and Heavy-Handed Finger-Wagging 🙂  But…think about it.  Okay?

The Big Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook, by Joyce Lankester Brisley, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy

This one is for the girls.  Milly Molly Mandy is a little school girl in England.  She is definitely sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice.  Living with Father and Mother, Grandpa and Grandma, Uncle and Aunty, all together in a thatched-roof cottage, Milly-Molly-Mandy leads a charmed, safe life, brimming with independence.   In nine separate stories, Millie-Molly-Mandy runs errands to the village, tends Miss Muggins’ dry goods shop, attends a delightful children’s party, goes to the sea, enjoys a wonderful snowfall by going sledging, and more.  Written in 1925, these are old-fashioned stories that have appealed to every little girl my teens have babysat.  The sweet illustrations by Clara Vulliamy are seriously charming  . The Big Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook

The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes

Winsome, and very British,  Alfie, and his little sister, Annie Rose, are absolutely beloved characters in our household.  This collection of Alfie stories and poems all feature outdoor settings.  A make-believe shop in the back yard,  a tame, backyard camp out with Dad that takes a turn towards pandemonium, a walk with Grandma in the countryside, and one of our all-time favorite stories about a trip to the sea with a beloved pet rock named Bonting — these are stories to read over and over and over again.  No one matches Shirley Hughes for dear storylines and outstanding watercolors that capture the supreme joy of ordinary life with preschoolers. The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Marc Brown

My recommendation for a first book of poetry for young children.  We read these poems until we knew them by heart.  All very childlike, with plenty of silliness, sweetness, fancifulness.  Poems about frost and snow, about turning somersaults on the bed, about tiny mice and dabbling ducks and purple dragons.  There’s nothing like poetry to romance your children into a love of words.  There are just one to three poems to a page, with the predominant visual feature being the imaginative, colorful illustrations by Marc Brown, whom you know as the creator of Arthur and company.  Walker Book of Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young

The World of Pooh, by A.A. Milne, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

You should not grow up without Pooh Bear.  The real Pooh Bear; not the Disney-fied version.  You can read my full review of this book here — it’s one of my earliest reviews, which tells you A Little Something about the place of Pooh Bear in my library!  5 or 6 years old is a perfect time to be introduced to this Humble Bear, timid Piglet, bouncy Tigger, gloomy Eeyore, motherly Kanga, precocious Roo, bossy Rabbit…and even a few of Rabbit’s Friends and Relations, all living brilliant lives in the 100 Acre Wood.  My young children and I had a habit of tea and a little smackerel with our Pooh Bear stories.  This book has both volumes of Pooh stories that  Milne wrote.  The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (Pooh Original Edition)

Gingerbread Baby, written and illustrated by Jan Brett

Looking for a Christmas title for this age group?  Jan Brett does Christmas like Santa does Ho Ho Ho!  This book, a spin-off of the traditional tale of a gingerbread boy who leaps off the pan, features a gingerbread baby, so full of spice, leading the typically-Jan Brett- European peasantry on a merry chase across the countryside before…yikes!  He encounters a hungry fox!  Gulp.  If it weren’t for the very clever boy Matti, who has foregone the chase and instead stayed home devising the perfect means of rescue for that lively cookie, things might come to a bad end.  As it is, the most magical, fantastic ending in Christmas picture books awaits you! Gingerbread Baby


Wooden Blocks:  One of the stock items for castle construction, wooden blocks are also highly useful for building outstanding ramps for toy car races, cradles for stuffed bears, roadways and mazes for pet hamsters, or for pairing with a wooden train set for untold possibilities.  Wood blocks are definitely pricey.  We picked up most of ours at garage sales, and added to them as my husband sanded off scads of unusual bits of scrap wood.   If you’re shopping online, be sure to check the dimensions of the largest blocks.  These looked to me like the hefty size that make a great starter set.
Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks


Lap Harp:  This little harp is actually a charming musical instrument!  It makes a sweet sound, and with the clever music sheets, even preschoolers can pick out dozens of melodies.  We purchased one of these ages ago, and not only have our children enjoyed it, but countless friends, young and all-grown-up,  have been seen to take it off the shelf and spend an hour, mesmerized by the beauty of these plucked strings.  There are many sets of music available, for a reasonable price, ranging from Beetles tunes to Christmas carols to old nursery rhymes and even a Bach minuet.  Easily tuned with a tool that comes with the harp.Music Maker Lap Harp

Play Dishes:  Versatility is one of the hallmarks of a really good toy, and play dishes fit the bill!  Great for hauling outdoors and mixing up mud and berries, taking in the wading pool for a floating tea party, serving up play dough concoctions; they hold snow, kool-aid, sand, wooden beads, or Cheerios equally well.  This set comes recommended by my Toy Expert daughter, being Eco-friendly in addition to all their chunky wonderfulness!  It’s never too early to point that out to your kids!Green Toys Cookware and Dining Set


Bird Feeder:  What is as wonder-inducing as a bird feeder?  Hung near the breakfast table, a bird feeder provides joy for all of us as we start the day, watching these tiny, winged beauties perch and flutter, dart and nibble.  Here in Minnesota, we can gauge the temperature by the number of finches perched on the rungs of a thistle feeder — when all the spots are filled, with more birds arriving to unseat their fellows, it’s probably hovering around zero!  Children coming face to face with nature gaze, ponder, conjecture, appreciate, slow down. That’s reason enough to pop one of these up and see who lives in your neighborhood.Bird Quest SBF2Y 17″ Spiral Thistle Bird Feeder – Yellow