Archives For Jack

Shopping for little ones can be confusing. They’re not old enough to ask for what they want (which is both a blessing and a curse) and because play is the work of childhood you want their toys to help, or at least not hinder, their healthy development. Often the toys that we think are great end up cast aside in favor of various household items (see this post for a hilarious take on a baby’s Christmas list). I’m still a relative newcomer to this thing called parenting, but after 18 months I’ve gained a few ideas on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to entertaining a tiny human. Without further adieu:

The Best Toys for Babies and Toddlers

  • Electronic toys are hugely entertaining, but can be annoying and batteries are a giant pain so I avoid them whenever possible. This is not to say that we don’t have any battery operated toys, but in the name of my own sanity I choose not to buy them and when the batteries finally run out on his most annoying toys I probably won’t replace them.
  • Musical instruments–always a winner. From the classic xylophone to baby maracas, the noise factor is nothing compared to what VTech puts out.
  • Cups, bowls, and blocks. Great for stacking, sorting, and pretend play. Also: balls. Jack is really into balls lately.
  • Activity cube. These things are great for a wide range of ages.
  • Baby doll and accoutrements–yes, even for boys! It’s fun for toddlers to reenact daily activities like feeding, bathing, and dressing.
  • Books–here’s a list of board books that are actually good for developing early literacy.
  • Play silks–these can be used for peekaboo, pretend play, and the ever popular toddler game of “put stuff into a container and take it back out again”
  • Push or ride-on toys that help develop gross motor skills–walkers and jumpers are actually not so great for this purpose according to physical therapists. Jack is getting this and this for Christmas from various relatives.
  • Play kitchen and/or pots, pans, play food, etc. for pretend play, not to mention noisemaking potential.
  • Wood puzzles.

For more ideas you can check out Baby Cheapskate’s lists of Toys that Get Played With: 6-12 Months and 13-24 Months. You can also see all the great stuff that I put on Jack’s wish list here–you can even view purchased items to see what kinds of things he received when he was younger. My favorite brands for toys are Lamaze, Sassy, Hape, and B. Toys. Another option is to shop on Etsy, especially for natural wooden or cloth toys that are pleasing to eyes of all ages (just search Waldorf or Montessori if you’re not sure where to start). Good luck choosing toys for the tiny people in your life this holiday season and beyond!

Even at only 16 months Jack has amassed quite the collection of toys. I’d heard of parents using a rotation system even before I was pregnant and always thought it sounded so smart but never saw a reason to implement it until recently, when Jack seemed to begin losing interest in the baskets full of toys scattered around the house. If we handed him something specific to play with he would engage, but I guess he was overwhelmed by the selection. So one night after he was in bed Nick and I dumped all the smaller toys into a pile and divided them into three boxes, trying to keep the composition roughly equal (ex: each box has at least one musical instrument, some bowls and cups, a book, a toy phone, a ball, etc.). Then we took the contents of box #1 and divided it between two baskets in the office and dining room and put the other two boxes up for storage. There are way more toys in each box than it looks like and we still have another empty box, so I think this system would definitely work even for a house with several kids.

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I just used the chalkboard painted boxes that I already had for the expedit storage system in our office/playroom. These used to be overwhelming bins full of toys on the bottom, but now they’re up top and the bottom row is reorganized to be a little more accessible to Jack. The three baskets hold books, mega blocks, and some smaller wood blocks, and the fourth cube holds a special toy that isn’t cut out for living in a basket. The shallow basket to the right hold some of the smaller toys that are in rotation. I really want to do something to panel the back both to hide all the wires and to prevent toys from slipping back there. Maybe beadboard?

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He got the play tent for his birthday from my friend Cassie but wasn’t into at first.  I brought it back out and set it up the other day and he loves it. I’ll keep it out as long as it holds his interest, then put it away for a little while so it doesn’t get old. He’s also got his play table over there with an old laptop for him to pretend to work on.

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You can see here his basket of toys in the dining room. The playroom is on the other side of the house so this is a nice spot for him to play while I’m working in the kitchen (if he’s not getting into his favorite thing, the pots and pans). I used museum putty to secure some of the items on the shelves so they wouldn’t fall on him or get broken.

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And of course he still has the Montessori-style shelves in his bedroom. I am not one for having my house overrun by kids stuff so I think the key for both of us to be happy is to both limit the amount of toys that are available at any given time and to integrate their storage into the style of our home. He is so much more into his toys now that they aren’t all out all the time. When he gets tired of what’s available now I’ll rotate the boxes and it’ll be like a whole new collection of toys was delivered overnight! Do any of you with kids have any tips for storing and rotating toys? How about dealing with cranky toddlers? It looks like Jack is finally trying to drop to one nap a day and I’m so bummed.

Jack is getting to the age where it’s not so easy to go out to eat but for some reason we keep doing it anyway. Besides the fact that he’s a voracious eater and is not really into sitting and waiting to eat, he requires several accessories to make dining more bearable: a snack, his cup, a fork and spoon (lest he try to steal some less baby-friendly adult flatware), a bib, and his portable placemat. It’s kind of a lot to keep up with and since the bib and placemat are used only for dining out Nick and I were finding that they tended to just clutter up the kitchen counter when we were home. I decided that maybe if we had a specific place to put them–say, a tote bag that lived by the front door–we’d be killing two birds with one stone by giving them a place to live and keeping everything we need for restaurant outings together. So I picked up this tote bag for $2 at Hobby Lobby and then set out to do some yarn-block stamping with some yellow dye that I already had.

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I’ll spare you the details of my technique because it didn’t work. I guess dye just wasn’t meant to be stamped on like that. After stamping the bag (before realizing that it wasn’t going to work out), I thought the handle looked a little “meh.” So I poured the leftover dye into a bowl, diluted it with water, and draped the handle into the solution, gradually pulling it further and further out every few minutes to create an ombre effect.

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After washing and drying, you can see that the ombre is the only thing that stuck. I liked it, but it was too plain.

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Round two: this time I added the dye to a little bit of paint and fabric medium.

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This is how you print with a yarn-block: you wrap a piece of string or yarn around a block, then dip it into the paint and use it to stamp onto your bag.

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I actually decided to blot my block on a paper towel between dipping and stamping, but this is optional depending on the look you’re going for.

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Instead of stamping the whole bag I decided to do just the lower right corner.

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I repeated on the other side, then washed and dried and VOILA. A graphic pattern that’s a little faded and distressed looking. I like it.

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So then I gathered all my tools for restaurant survival: toy, snack, bib, flatware, extra cup, and placemat.

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It now hangs near the front door, where we keep all of our bags and keys (don’t be impressed by my minimalist keys. I haven’t seen my real keys in two months. Those are my spare keys that have now become my real keys).

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I’ll get to try it out today because Jack and I have a standing lunch date with our friends Cassie and Olive on Fridays. I’m hoping that a hummus-covered toddler will be easier to cope with if I at least have all my stuff. Here’s hoping I don’t forget the bag! Happy Friday y’all, and thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!

I realize I’ve been writing a lot about the kid this week. As the primary agent of chaos in our household he seems to be at the center of my efforts to declutter and organize. Today: the toys. We try to keep his toys simple and streamlined, and yet still they multiply. My strategy thus far has been to keep them corralled in baskets and bins, but as more experienced parents have probably already learned that is just not going to work. I feel like he doesn’t play with most of what he’s got–probably because he’s overwhelmed by seeing them all jumbled together like that–but somehow they end up scattered all over the floor every day anyway. So I decided to conduct an experiment with the toys in his room to see if that Maria Montessori was onto something.

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The Montessori philosophy on toys is that they should be stored on low shelves that are accessible to the child. My girl Maria believed that even babies can appreciate aesthetics and that their play areas should be orderly and attractive. Kids should be able to see what toys are available and easily pull them out and put them away (uhhhh, we’re still working on putting them away).

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I got these low shelves for only $10 at Target! They’re not sold online, but you can see them here. They also come in a 31″ width for $13. I was originally going to stack them in his closet (they come with pegs and wall brackets to safely stack them) but they were just a smidge too wide. It’s just as well because I actually really like them in this corner that was previously filled with clutter (now neatly organized in the closet).

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I went around the house and chose toys that I thought would work well. They’re mostly his favorites but a few things that he hasn’t really noticed much before are there too. I was amazed at how much fit on these two small shelves! Without even crowding them I was able to fit sixteen toys (including a plastic cup from our favorite taco shop that he’s obsessed with) and a low basket full of board books. I mean, I feel like this is all the toys a kid could possibly need. All the toys strewn across the rest of the house are just lagniappe.

Next I’d like to develop some system of rotating his toys so that he stays interested in what’s out, but I haven’t worked out all the logistics yet. Any ideas? Thanks for reading, y’all, and I hope you have a fabulous weekend!