A baby's first Christmas is special but it's through the pre-school years that children themselves really start getting excited about the big occasion. Yes, granted we know they're really only after the presents but it's still the stuff memories are made of.
Christmas gifts for kids 12 months to 4 years
If you're shopping for someone else's child and want to come bearing the most welcome of gifts, consider what kind of kid they are. Do they love nothing more than sitting with a puzzle or craft set for ages, or do they prefer hurtling round the house at the speed of light?
Try and tap into what they're into (most children age two-plus, and sometimes less, have some sort of fascination, be it fairies, trains, pirates, dinosaurs) and you'll almost certainly be onto a winner. Watch out for gender stereotyping though - it's not a safe bet, for example, to assume all girls love pink, as some really don't!
Think too about their development stage - there can be a world of difference between children even of the very same age. Some 18-month-olds might have been running round for ages, others might not quite be walking yet. To an extent this will influence what they'll enjoy. If in doubt, ask the parents whether a particular item will be too old, too young or just right.
Handpainted in Italy, Sevi's wooden toys are built to last, lovely to look at and fairly reasonably priced. One of our favourites is this adorable zebra – toddlers will enjoy pulling him around wherever they go, with the bell inside jingling gently.
Official age guidance: 12 months +
Pull-along Zebra from Sevi, £15, funkymoose
Get a fantastic 15% off on this and everything else on the Funky Moose website with our very own Parentdish discount code. Simply type in Parentdish at the checkout. Valid until December 20th.
For little ones whose eyes light up at the words a mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood, this is sure to become a favourite item of clothing. Young fans of Julia Donaldson's Gruffalo character will appreciate the graphic of the not-as–scary-as-you'd-think creature on the front, with his infamous poisonous wart, terrible tusks and terrible teeth all highlighted in shiny embroidery thread.
Sizes: 1 to 2 years, 3 to 4 and 5 to 6.
Gruffalo T-shirt, £18, Fabric Flavours
A modern classic wheeled toy which toddlers can pootle around on for surprisingly large amounts of time. They can be used outdoors (although we wouldn't leave one out overnight) but are also compact enough for around the house. Choose from a range of brightly-coloured animals including the tiger (shown here), ladybird, mouse and bee.
Two sizes: small, £55, is suitable from 12 months to 2.5years, and large, £65, from 2.5 to five years.
Tiger Wheelybug, £55, hippychick.co.uk
Provided Santa can cope with a trip to Ikea at this time of year (this product isn't sold online), he'll find it's not just grown-ups who can buy their kitchens there. This reasonably-priced play version comes in two sections – the lower one, with light-up hob, for £65 and the optional microwave and shelf above for £24. It's big enough to be fun but not so large that it hogs half the floorspace in mum and dad's real kitchen.
The Swedish store also has a great range of inexpensive accessories to add interest, including crockery, cutlery, pots, pans and play food.
Ikea Duktig kitchen, £65 for the lower section, £24 for the upper section, IKEA
Ridiculously cute baby animal soft toys which react with movement and sounds when their head is patted, back stroked or they're given a hug. Leave them alone and they'll gently snore themselves to sleep (before 'powering down' to save battery life).
Official age guidance: 3+
WowWee Alive Cub, £39.99, Wow Wee
We think these cool construction kits will be a big hit with kids, whether they're Bob fans or not. They include cement and mini-clay bricks plus instructions explaining what to do (but parents of younger ones will definitely need to muck in – literally - aprons all-round and old newspapers are wise). The bricks can be re-used – simply put their Grand Designs style creation in water and the cement dissolves leaving the bricks ready for next time (and you can buy extra bags of cement separately if needed).
There's even a Bob the Builder figure thrown in but the question is, like the real thing, will he disappear before the job's down, or stick around to oversee the project?
Built it with Bob kit, 30 brick kit for £9.99, 50 brick kit around £14.99, Firebox.com
A 45 piece wooden set which allows young children to mix and match the bear family's outfits in all sorts of combinations and change their facial expressions.
Great value for a good old-fashioned fun toy that they should get a good couple of years or more use out of.
Melissa and Doug Wooden Bear Dress Up Puzzle, £9.99, VUPbaby
Definitely not a rubbish present! Young eco warriors can learn about recycling with this fab lorry, itself made from recycled milk containers. There are three sorting chutes (for bottles, cans, and papers) which tiny fingers can post things through and the rear compartment can be titled back for emptying once the lorry has been driven to the 'depot'. Make some pretend rubbish from real rubbish (old card and scrap paper) and this will keep wannabe bin men and women happily busy for ages.
Official age guidance: 12 months +
Recycling Truck, £23.49, VUPbaby
Here he is again – that cheeky Gruffalo can adorn the walls of kids' bedrooms as well as their T-shirts (see above). The 34 stickers in this pack include a 45cm of the Gruffalo himself along with smaller versions of other characters from the book. They're very easy to apply and when children are ready for a change, can be removed and even re-stuck in a different place.
The same company has plenty of other designs (we love their The Very Hungry Caterpillar ones too) and two different pack sizes, depending on whether you want a nod to a particular theme or to go the whole hog.
Gruffalo Themed Room Stickers, £14, FunToSee