My littlest one is two today. She's asleep on my shoulder as I type, having nursed herself to sleep after a long day. She's straddling the worlds of the baby and the young child in many ways. She has been out of diapers for almost a year but she still forgets to wipe sometimes. She loves dressing herself and can manage anything but buttons, but she'll dress and undress herself until her drawers are empty every day. She drinks from a regular cup and has for many months, but still prefers a cuddle and a quick nurse to orange juice or a smoothie. She's old enough to mimic the big kids at printing, origami, ice-skating and reading aloud but not old enough to care that she's not really doing any of it 'properly'.
She got some simple birthday gifts that absolutely entranced her: a yellow fleece sweatshirt, a zippered pencil case with crayons and a little spiral sketchbook inside, a little cloth purse and 11 cents in a tiny box to put inside it, a box of photos of herself and her family members cropped and mounted on thick cardboard, and a little book called "Fiona's Body". She spent almost 2 hours going from one gift to the next to the next and back again, putting things in and out of other things, looking at and sorting through the photos, stacking them and talking about them, putting them in and out, drawing with her crayons, putting everything away, getting it all out again, looking at her book again and again. It was just magical -- she was so happy and the gifts were so simple and perfect for her.
The little book called "Fiona's Body" is too cool. I made it this afternoon on a whim. I pulled out the digital camera and encouraged Fiona to pose, while asking her "show me your shoulders!" and "where's your nose?" and so on. I snapped a couple of dozen shots at a variety of scales, from different angles. She was mostly naked for most of them, hamming it up with a big grin, pointing, thrusting body parts at the camera, waving, smiling. I got a great "The End" shot of her from behind, naked but for her undies. Then I went to the computer and cropped, titled and printed the photos at a 2"x2" size on matte paper. I cut up thick "baby board" (archival-quality super heavy board like that used in the thickest of board books) to the same size, glued the photos on. I bound the book with a couple of tiny scraps of bookbinding cloth, using a photo for the front and back covers. It reads "Fiona's Body: 1 big head, 2 knobby knees, 10 little toes, lots of hair, 1 nifty chin, 2 flat shoulders, 2 pointy elbows, 10 busy fingers, 2 clear eyes, 1 perfect nose, 1 big mouth, 1 cute belly button... etc.. The End." And in each photo she's enthusiastically offering up her body parts for the camera. It is very sweet, and she's enthralled with it. It took me about an hour to make.
I highly recommend this as a toddler gift. You wouldn't necessarily need baby board and bookcloth: the thick cardboard off the back of a pad of watercolor paper and a bit of finely-woven cotton or linen folded over at the edges would work just as well.