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The Best Book and Toy Pairings for the Kids in Your Life

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Tika Viteri

Staff Writer

Tika writes from her home office in Pittsburgh, PA, accompanied by 3 grey cats and many, many plants. When not plonking away on a keyboard, she can be found painting, knitting, gardening, and casting the occasional spell or two -- all usually accompanied by a glass of wine.

The holidays are coming! I’ve been a Professional Auntie for nearly 13 years now. My niephlets range in age from 9 months to 15 years, and one of the things that has solidified my role is a promise to all of their parents to never, ever give their children anything that 1) needs batteries or 2) makes noise. Toys that beep, light up, squawk, or move are the purview of grandparents, who ostensibly have a house where they can keep said items and thus spare the parents the literal headache. Plus, grandparents can get away with almost anything.

Enter the book-and-toy gift, a staple in my house. I recently spoke to a friend who is an art director for children’s books. He said that when ebooks came on the scene, publishers were afraid that physical children’s books would be the first to disappear. They quickly realized that this fear was unfounded; in addition to parents wanting to separate tablet or screen time from reading, the act of reading a physical book is a unique bonding activity that children were requesting.

With that in mind, I’ve searched for books that one could easily pair with a toy in order to compose the perfect analog gift for the children in your life.

Note: the prices listed are for just the toy part of each book and toy pairing!

a graphic of The Velveteen Rabbit and a toy rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit cover

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson

Put together a beautiful and heart-wrenching gift by pairing Margery Williams’s classic story with a handmade plush bunny from Spindle and Sparrow on Etsy. $55

a graphic of Sulwe and a galaxy printed elephant toy
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o book cover

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Pair Sulwe with a stuffed elephant made of stars, just like Sulwe herself has, from MammothBatCrafts on Etsy. $39.

a graphic of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and a themed toy
The Very Hungry Caterpillar book cover

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

For the tinier ones in your life, this apple toy by The World of Eric Carle is full of fun shapes that make (analog) sounds for tiny fingers to explore. $28.

a graphic of In the Night Kitchen and a toy kitchen
the cover of In the Night Kitchen

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Explore the kitchen and support banned books with the IKEA DUKTIG play kitchen and my personal favorite of Sendak’s books. $100

a graphic of Uncle John's City Garden and toy gardening tools
cover of uncle john's city garden

Uncle John’s City Garden by Bernette G. Ford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Beloved author Bernette G. Ford passed away this year, and her final work was published posthumously. Uncle John’s City Garden is a lovely tale of urban gardening. Pair it with a child-sized garden playset from Cute Stone on Amazon. $50.

a graphic of I Color Myself Different and markers
cover of I Color Myself Different

I Color Myself Different by Colin Kaepernick, illustrated by Eric Wilkerson

Kaepernick needs no introduction; this is a story based on his experiences as a child being asked to draw his family. Combined with a 100-sheet pad of newsprint ($8) and a set of Crayola washable markers ($14), you can inspire a new generation of artists.

a graphic of Freddie vs the Family Curse and a National Geographic Explorer Kit
Cover of Freddie vs. The Family Curse by Badua

Freddie vs. The Family Curse by Tracy Badua

Your youngster can follow in Freddie’s footsteps — although I hope your family isn’t cursed! — with this National Geographic Explorer Kit. $30.

a graphic of Wretched Waterpark and a waterslide
the cover of Wretched Waterpark

Wretched Waterpark (Sinister Summer series, book 1) by Kiersten White

If you live in a warm climate, you could make everyone’s day by wrapping up Kiersten White’s delightful Wretched Waterpark and this 30-foot lawn waterslide with a splash zone ($99). If you live where it’s colder, maybe try a Lego Friends Water Park ($43) instead!

a graphic of Pretty Perfect Kitty-Corn and a Kittycorn toy
Cover of Pretty Perfect Kitty-Corn by Hale

Pretty Perfect Kitty-Corn by Shannon Hale, Illustrated by Leuyen Pham

Unicorn tries so hard to be perfect. It’s a good thing he has Kitty-corn as a friend, and even better that you can pair the second Hale/Pham collaboration with an Itty-Bitty Kitty-corn for the little one in your life. $20

a graphic of A Robot Squashed My Teacher and a robot toy
A buildable robot toy with treads for "feet"

A Robot Squashed My Teacher (A Dinosaur Ate My Sister, 2) by Pooja Puri

Hopefully this robot won’t squash your kid’s teacher, but you never know! This programmable robot kit encourages kids to learn a bit of code as well as attempt to take over the world. Wait, what? ($30)

Choosing gifts for little ones can be tough, but I hope this has given you a good starting point. You might also want to check out The Perfect Bookish Gifts for Kids and Great Book Subscription Boxes for Kids.