Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Play To Learn Toy Inspiration Inspiration - 0-2 Years

I've always kind of considered myself a toy snob, although not at all based on cost (one of my son's favorite toys is a piece of PVC pipe).  Clutter stresses me out and I don't like waste, so I've always been kind of picky about what I buy my kids.  So many toys are played with for a week or so and then left to collect dust.  I always look for things that have high replay value and will last for years. So much learning happens through play, I want to make sure the things I buy provide ample opportunities.

Recently several people have told me that we always have great toys and have asked for help shopping for their little ones. Since I love shopping for kids and helping out other mamas, I thought I'd create and share list of toy ideas.  It ended up being GIANT to try to accommodate different genders and interests and provide lots of inspiration.  I'm sure I'll add to it as I find new things.

General Tips:

  • I usually look for something open ended.  If it can be used in flexible ways, it is likely to be used more often.
  • I try to avoid things with lots of lights and sounds.  Now there are definitely exceptions to this rule, but if a toy does all the "work," then kids will lose interest quickly. Once they have pressed every button, they have kind of exhausted the toy.  Also, my husband is an audiologist and says a lot of baby toys are loud enough to cause hearing damage.  He recommends putting tape over speakers of loud baby toys.  
  • Materials that will last through a beating are always a plus.  For babies and toddlers I try to avoid too much plastic, since it all feels the same.  Instead, I try to find a variety of textures.
  • Collectibles and stuffed animals really depend on the kid.  While some kids love them and will get a lot of use out of them, that has not been the experience in our house.  Action figures, stuffed animals and other collectibles just end up in a toy bin forgotten (Lego Minifigs being the exception).
  • Not a tip for buying toys, but for extending their use is that any toys with lots of parts and pieces need an easy to use container with a lid.  Toys are no fun if you have to hunt down all their pieces.  I keep all the boxes (mostly cheap plastic shoe boxes) of toys in the basement and then rotate them upstairs.  I don't even mind if multiple boxes of toys being used at the same time, as long as everything finds its way home when it is done.

Younger Babies



Older Babies and Toddlers
  • Lacing Beads - These are great for fine motor in older babies.  There's always the classic, but these have a few more shapes.  Personally, I like these Spring ones (can you tell I want a girl to shop for?).  There are also a Farm Lacing  Set, a Vehicle Set and the ABC set.  If you added your own laces, this Sequencing Set would allow more ways to use the beads.
  • Dimple
  • Toobs* - We have tons of these.  Because of their wonderful detail, they were initially used for vocabulary development.  They've been added to the bathtub and water table.  Now they get combined with blocks or Magna Tiles to build zoos.  Dragons, Mythical Realms and Knights can all be used to have battles.  Fairies and Days of Old could be added to blocks to make castles or enchanted forests. (This year I'm planning on using Toob figures in the Advent Calendar we made)
  • Squigz* - The have been used on tables, floors, glass doors and in the bathtub.  Archer likes just chewing on them too.  We have the regular ones, but that have some that stick to tables too.
  • Touchable Texture Squares
  • Instruments* There are lots of fun instruments for kids.  I like having a Xylophone and a Lollipop Drum
Active Play
  • Hilltops* - These will be in every age category!  Little kids like them, but my 8 year old still uses them multiple times a week.  They are used for climbing, obstacle courses and upside down for ring toss. 
  • River balance beams* - Same company as Hilltops. These are modular balance beams and have other accessories that can be purchased to go with them.
  • Rody Horse 
  • Soft Foam Climbers
  • Pikler's Triangle* - This is our huge wishlist item for Christmas!  I'm hoping my husband can make us one rather than purchasing one.
  • Pop Up Tunnel*
  • Bubble Machine
  • Water Table* - We made out own, but there are lots of types you can purchase as well.

  • Play Tent* - Some of these are just tents, but you can also get them with tunnels and ball pits.  They can be very complex, like this one that can make a huge square.  This princess one is adorable, and comes with dress up clothes.  So is this space ship one.
Bath Toys
Blocks 
We operate under the belief that you can never have too many kinds of blocks!
  • Plastic BlocksSquare Blocks and Architectural Blocks for fun shapes.  These are nice because they aren't too hard if baby falls on them (or parents step on them)
  • Foam Blocks - Also nice and soft, but not great always for kids that still chew on things.
  • Wooden Blocks* - Colored BlocksPlain Blocks and Rainbow Blocks
  • Magnification Blocks - Let you put things you gather inside and show them off with a little magnification.
  • Balancing Blocks - All blocks need balancing to build, but these also have a curved piece to practice balancing.  You can get different versions.  Here are a few cute ones: Noah's ArkFarmPirate.
  • Nesting Rainbow*Rainbow Nesting Stacker - Grimm makes a beautiful, but pricy one.  We'll probably be going with a cheaper smaller (less cool) version. I also like the "V" version. Grimm also makes some gorgeous Nature and a Little Flower nesting blocks, but more of "splurg" items.


  • Pretend Play Blocks* - Pretend play is supposed to provide an outlet for kids to learn empathy.  Add that to building blocks and you get some adorable toys.  There's this Blockopolis City that even has puzzle piece roads.  Fairy Tale Kingdom has princesses and castle pieces.  Heroic Knights Castle has little knights and castle pieces. The Elm Street Fire Station has little firefighters and rescue vehicles.  Farm Blocks have fences, animals and a barn.
  • Not exactly blocks, but a good addition to block play is this Cars and Traffic Signs set. I even cut little felt pieces to make "roads"
Magnetic Blocks
These end up getting their own category because they have been used pretty much constantly since Xander was 2.  We've slowly added move sets over the years.  Friends always enjoy using them also (as do adults). We've built on the ground, fridge and light table.  There have been geometric designs, skyscrapers, ramps for toy cars, zoos with Toob animals and much more.
  • MagnaTiles - Now these are a bit of an investment, but they're great quality and have good magnets (which allows for better building).  Two years in a row his only real birthday present was a big set of these.  We also have the Glow in the Dark version. 
  • Stardust - these have glitter and mirrors.
  • Big Base Plates - provide a wide base on which to build.
  • Ramps and Stairs - These have been a great addition to our regular tiles.  He builds all kids of buildings and pyramids with them.
  • Fences and Doors - Allow for different kinds of buildings and pens for animals.
  • Tunnels and Domes - more fun shapes to extend the play
  • Domes - Another unique shape to add to buildings
  • Polygons - more shapes from the MagnaTile brand.
  • Magnet Men - These were used to fill our Easter Eggs last year.  They are so much fun and can hook together in lots of ways.

Play Food*

Puzzles
  • Knob Puzzles - Puzzles with big round knobs make a good intro into puzzles
  • Meliss and Dough makes this Touch and Feel puzzle which as different textures for baby to feel
  • Chunky Puzzles - Have big pieces that are almost like blocks.  There's everything from Safari Animals to Dinosaurs.
  • Magnetic Fishing Puzzles - With a magnetic rod to catch pieces, these add another layer of interaction.  There's a Bug Catching puzzle and an Ocean Fishing puzzle
  • Sound Puzzles - For those parents that don't mind noisy puzzles, there's also a whole series that make sounds with the pieces.  There are Animal Sounds, Vehicle Sounds, Instrument Sounds and more.
  • Shape Sequencing 
  • Wooden Train* - This Hape Musical Train and the Pop Up Monkeys are definitely on our wishlist due to how interactive the accessories are.  Janod also makes train sets with story boxes to expand the pretend play.  For the girly engineers out there, Bigjigs has an adorable pink and purple Fairy Town train set.  If we have a girl, we'll definitely be adding some of the really cool accessories (and maybe even if we don't).  Bigjigs also has a pirate series and a dino series with adorable accessories.

Art

* - Items with an asterisk appear on multiple lists due to being able to fit a wider range of kids, depending on ability and interest.

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