Dear Husband has been diligently writing for this blog. While we do most of the activities together, there are areas where one of us has no clue how the other one does things. For example, I do not know what magic Dear Husband uses to keep Dear Son so calm and composed. When I am around, Dear Son whines, cries, demands, climbs, and clings onto me. Anything ridiculous I can think of, Dear Son will do or demand that when I am nearby. The dynamics are completely, utterly, absolutely different when father and son are together. They do not drive each other crazy. Somehow, they bring the best of them.
Going back to my area of strengths regarding Dear Son — I am somewhat okay at picking toys that keep Dear Son engaged. Very early on, we decided not to indulge in toys. Unfortunately, as the post will show, I veered off track. I continue to explore the exciting world of toys.
I confess that I picked up horrible and terrible toys at first but slowly started to get a feeling about which toys Dear Son liked. We received some wonderful toys from friends and family. Some toys were instant hits, some took time to be liked by Dear Son, and others never clicked. I thought I should write about things I learnt along the way, mostly on educational toys for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Toys for the first few months
According to researchers, babies do not have a well-developed vision at the early infant-stage. Infants do not see objects in a distance and can only recognize certain sets of colors — mostly black and white. For the first few months, bold patterns and different textures are great. Babies are not that mobile in the first few months. Therefore, toys do not need to move much. Toys need to be big to avoid being a choking hazard. Anything that can fit inside the tube of a toilet paper roll is considered a choking hazard. It is recommended that we keep the chocking hazard under consideration up until babies are at least three years old.
Going back to toys for the first few months, we mostly had teething toys or plush animals. We got a few rattling toys, cloth books, and Sophie the giraffe. Dear Son never showed a lot of interest to any one of these toys. He slept most of the times. When he was awake, he would look at us or look at arbitrary things. He started to grip things around four months; a few plush animals with large body parts came handy during those times. He was trying to grab the ears or hands or legs of the animals.
Toys for when Dear Son started to sit up
Stacking rings was a big hit around this time. Friend of ours gave the stacking tower of rings. It did not seem that exciting to me at that time but Dear Son had other plans. He played and played and played and continued to play with this set for a long time. Additionally, he liked cups and spoons and bowls. Stacking was a big activity for him at this age. Small cups with lids were his favorite. Toys that made sounds (aka, noises) also seemed like quite captivating to him. We received a learning laptop as a gift. It had different music and sounds. He liked it a lot. We on the other hand, were not quite as much fond of that learning laptop.
We started getting peg puzzles around this time. He liked to chew these toys. I guess the taste was not so bad since he still picks up these puzzles.
Toys for when Dear Son started to stand up or walk
We gave Dear Son a Stack ‘n Surprise Musical Croc when he started to stand up and walk. Dear Son also had a Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker, which was a gift from a Dear Friend of ours. Dear Son loved these toys a lot! He loved them so much so that we realized we do not want any musical toys for the rest of our lives if we ever have another child, sorry my dear!
Dear Son loved his Hide and Squeak Eggs (six plastic eggs in a yellow egg holder box) a lot. He loved to play with real eggs, as well. There were times when we would discover real eggs in couches or in different corners of our residence. The toy-eggs certainly took the heavy toll. These are colorful eggs with similar pattern on the egg and the cover, so the player has to match the cover-face with the right egg-face. Also, the bottom of each egg has a certain shape and can only be placed in the matching hole in the box. Pattern matching and shape sorting all went in the same toy. 🙂
Starting from age two to onward
I brought more puzzles for Dear Son when he became two. The Jungle Puzzle by Djeco kept him busy for quite some time. These are three or four piece beginner’s puzzle. Dear Son liked it so much that after mastering them, he started solving them upside down, without any picture, based on the shapes of those pieces. It was fun to watch him do that. A few days ago he again picked it up and after solving the puzzle he went into a full tantrum pointing at the picture of the elephant in the box. I noticed that he had a legitimate reason to go into tantrum; the box really had a mirror image of the elephant-puzzle he solved, which was bugging Dear Son a lot. 🙂
We received a Lego Duplo Number Train set as a gift from a relative, which was a big hit. We also got a wooden train set, very small, a tabletop one. Dear Son didn’t play with it a lot. He still brings it out sometimes but does not spend as much time as some other toys.
Around when Dear Son was two to three, I got him a set of Trucky 3. Dear Son liked it a lot. He didn’t get the concept of the game entirely. He would look at the book and follow the instructions. If he could lay it out like the book showed, he considered it a success –– so did we. We were all into anything that kept a toddler happy without making noises. 🙂 Inspired by the success of Trucky 3, I got him a Smart Car, which was not as loved.
Dear Son played with different types of toys over the last few years, some of which are already explained above age-wise. I feel that the toys we have seen can have a different level of categories, as explained below.
Starting from mobiles, there are options for stroller toys, car-seat toys, plush animals, floor mirror, spiral toys, play gym, rattling toys, and lots of other options. Our recommendation would be to get very few toys, something that has bold pattern, limited number of colors, easy for the baby to grab. We had a play gym but I found that setting it up, placing him in it or picking him under from it wasn’t worth much. He was never interested, indeed seemed a bit scared of it :(.
Simple toys are the best as a baby starts to sit up. Things the baby can grab, throw, or put inside the mouth without any risk are preferable, for example, cups, bowls, small books, and soft balls. Stacking, sorting, and color-matching toys are abundant in the market. We used everything from measuring cups to his sneak bowls with lids (and snacks inside 🙂 ), plastic cups, bowls, and spoons.
Dear Son is very fond of science kits. He started to play with a Chemistry Kit when he was two. He still plays with it time to time. Kids’ chemistry kits do not contain any aromatic chemical compounds or acids. The kits contain pieces like test tubes, jars, and magnifying glasses. Dear Son loves to do experiments with baking soda, salt, and water. 🙂
Smart Games offer some excellent age appropriate shape-matching toys. They have well-built, thoughtful toys. I find them exciting even for me! Trucky 3 was from them.
Think Fan has some good toys including the roll and play which dear son loved a lot.
Peg puzzles are the best for the small hands. There are also bigginer’s puzzle with 3 to 4 piece puzzle sets. Djeco and Petit Collage have some of the best puzzles. As Dear Son started to master these, we increased the size of the puzzles as well as the complexity levels. There are a lot of options available for bigger puzzles. Beleduc has some exciting layered puzzles.
We preferred to have toys that were open-ended, allowed Dear Son to decide how he wanted to play –– bite, chew, or throw. Anything that lights up or plays music, were not always at the top of the list. That being said, when we indeed received a few such electronic toys as gifts, Dear Son seemed to be immersed in them. There are some excellent electronic toys out there, that we were lucky to receive as gifts.
When I started to think about electronic toys, I went more into the electronic part of it and got him a Snap Circuit Jr. Dear Son has been playing with that circuit for the last one year or so. He has no clue how electricity works. He follows the instructions and builds the circuit. I guess, it is another kind of lego to him. We used to help him at the beginning. He now can do any project listed in the manual on his own. Snap Circuit Jr has lights, a fan, musical components, and many other circuitry related concepts including resistors, capacitors, and diodes.
Dear Son is a big fan of Lego. Dear Husband has a lukewarm feeling. Dear Husband was onboard until the sets got increasingly difficult! We tried other companies but from the point of durability, ease of use, and variety, Lego is still the best. Dupolo is good for toddlers until the chocking hazard phase eases out. Lego has some great series. We got a few classic series, Lego city series, and a few from the creator series.
Many of the toys above are wooden. I found that companies like Heba, Hape, and Goki make excellent wooden toys. Toys “R” Us has a generic brand called Imaginarium, which is pretty good. Melissa and Doug also has some excellent wooden toys.
Haba’s First Orchard and eeBoo’s Pre-school Lotto were some of the board games we tried with success. Board games are very captivating for kids to play as a family. Dear Son and his friends had a great time with these board games in one of their play dates.
Play dough, craft supplies (pipe cleaner, glittering material,etc.), crayons, coloring supplies, and balloons have been serving as some major items to play with for Dear Son. We find that Dollar Tree and Walmart are the best places to keep the supplies running at low cost. There are also deals in the beginning of the school season in many stores. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and Jo-Ann are some examples of craft-stores that provide a wider range of selections.
Toys during travel
Many companies have toys that are travel-friendly, for example, sticker tin boxes, magnetic toys from Smart Games, Magnetic Drawing Board, and Melissa and Doug On the Go Water Wow Set. We also had random things like plastic rings, small bottles with lids, and pipe cleaners. Story books with pictures always serve as great toys during travels.
Many of the toys we gave Dear Son were labeled as chocking hazard for his age group (e.g., circuit and lego). Our decision was based on our observation that he was not into putting things in his mouth by age two. Also, we never left him unattended with those toys. Supervision is critical for toys given at an earlier age than suggested.
Settle in El Paso team