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Around the age of 2, boys start to “get” Christmas. Your grandson remembers his Christmas presents from his second time around, and can be more interested in playing with what’s inside the wrapping paper than the paper itself!

Ask Granny has been drowning in requests for help from grandparents who want to get their little ones something they’ll really enjoy this year. We’ve been working hard to sift through the hot and not-so-hot toys and games for 2012; and now December’s here, we thought it was about time we shared the information…

Young children are often critical of “designer” toys. The most popular plastic figure or the trendiest fad is never so well received as a toy or game a little boy can really get his teeth into. Sets of puzzle blocks are ideal for developing inquisitiveness and dexterity skills; while toys that let young boys play at various grown up roles (doctor’s surgeries; police stations) help to instil an understanding of the world outside Mummy and Daddy’s front room. Try the Early Learning Centre for both.

Little boys love cars. They’re fascinated by anything on wheels; and when they’re old enough to run around they’ll inevitably be doing it making a noise like an engine. Simple Matchbox style cars will do the trick for any tiny petrol head – or if you want to put some creativity into his play, why not check out the latest offerings from Lego’s Duplo range? John Lewis stocks plenty of Lego Duplo car-themed play sets, including the fire station; the zoo truck; and the police truck.

The toddling ages are when a little boy begins to learn. Books and card sets are ideal gifts at this age: big, fun pictures full of colour help to reinforce the ideas of numbers, or picture matching. It’s a good idea to pick a book featuring his favourite characters: learning with Peppa Pig, or Fireman Sam, can be a lot of fun for an inquisitive boy!

Some children’s books are intended to teach very specific skills, like potty training (Try Pirate Pete’s Potty); while others are intended to introduce your grandson to more general ideas about diversity, or the relationship between parents and children. You might even find one about grandparents!

Try the “picture flats” section of your local book store: that’s where all the best books for boys aged 2-4 will be kept. In the UK, Waterstones remains the most widely-used and trusted high street book shop; in the US, you’re more likely to find a Barnes and Noble. Granny recommends going along in person and having a look: it’s almost impossible to pick books for boys without having them in your hands.

Hopefully that will have given you a few ideas. Remember, too, that the best ideas for boys’ Christmas gifts (whatever the age) always come from the children themselves. If you know what your grandson is into right now, you’ll have a pretty good idea what specific toy to buy, within the general categories outlined above. If he loves cars, then get him a learning toy based on a car. If he’s into pirates, he’ll love to discover the world through some pirate tales.