With a two year old boy and four year old girl to cater for, I have been a bit stumped for stocking filler ideas this year. I did find a great little website that offers an extensive array of toys perfect for stockings but I would suggest that they are really more suitable for slightly older children, maybe five or six year olds. The toys are too small for my son, especially, as he is not past exploring tiny objects with his mouth. He can also be a little boisterous with his toys, at times, and these rather flimsy efforts would not withstand his playtimes, I am fairly sure of this. I also try and steer clear of too many sugary gifts, which are abundant on this site, for the simple reason that my children are spirited enough at the best of times!
I perused the Mothercare website in search of inspiration, but found their produce more expensive than I was willing to pay. To me, stocking fillers should be small, inexpensive gifts; some may be necessities (socks, soap), others can have a short shelf life and may only be included to entertain the children on Christmas morning whilst breakfast is cooking (spinning tops, bubbles, fruit). If I am going to spend upwards of £10 on a present for my son or daughter, it is not going in their stocking! I think this is just a hangover from my childhood when standard stocking fare was an apple, a satsuma, a 50p coin, a small Cadbury selection box, a flannel, a toothbrush and a few small toys. I think my grandparents filled stockings for my sisters and me; long before I knew the truth, I remember thinking that Father Christmas must have used the same soap as my nan as everything he touched smelled just like her.
Ebay is often an invaluable source of cheap presents that can be stuffed into your child's stocking come Christmas Eve. I distinctly remember a beautiful, colourful little woven purse that Daddy purchased for pence last year and that Jasmine opened with glee on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I have not been too organised this year where Christmas is concerned, and have therefore left it too late to make good and proper use of Ebay (or Amazon, which is equally useful for this purpose).
In desperation, I finally looked to my children for inspiration. It may sound obvious, but I was so busy trying to think of fun, cheap ways to fill their stockings with gifts from the big man himself, that I hadn't simply considered what the two of them would like to receive. I even asked them, in a roundabout way. I enquired as to what they were looking forward to playing with at Christmas.
"Lots of Thomases!" said Sonny, unsurprisingly.
"A dog!" said Jasmine, worryingly. Thankfully, she later divulged that she was not, in fact, expecting a live puppy in her stocking, just a toy. Phew.
So, with the above factors taken into careful consideration, I have compiled the following list of my perfect stocking fillers for young boys and girls:
1. Fruit - now, I'm not suggesting you empty a tin of fruit cocktail into their stockings, but small, non-messy fruits such as satsumas, apples and bananas are perfect. I can't guarantee you that these will be eaten, but at least you've provided the option. My preference is the satsuma - if anything smells like Christmas, it's these!
2. Some kind of chocolate. I don't think huge amounts are necessary for small children, even at Christmas, but a festive selection box or cute chocolate reindeer will do nicely alongside a bag of gold coins. I can pretty much guarantee these WILL be eaten!
3. A small item of Christmassy clothing - penguin boxers, Santa socks or a festive jumper; maybe even jingling reindeer antlers! Something fun that can be worn on the day, and then probably never again.
4. A selection of small surprise gifts. Think little books, toy cars, bath toys, crayons and colouring books, small craft kits, festive smellies, perhaps a DVD; the only limit here is your imagination. Last year, I made Jas a chocolate brownie kit for her stocking; I poured all of the ingredients into a glass jar, in clear layers. It looked great and the subsequent baking provided us with a fun morning in the lull following Christmas.
5. A couple of things they asked Santa for. This year, Jasmine will be receiving a small toy puppy and a yoyo whereas Sonny will have a a selection of trains awaiting him.
6. A little message from Santa, or something personalised to make your child feel extra warm and fuzzy on Christmas morning.
And there you have it - a perfectly well-balanced Christmas stocking suitable for toddlers.
That's another tick on the to-do list :)