Tag Archives: Toys

Toys to Help Teach ABCs

With 33% of 4th grade public school students reading at or below the “Basic” level, it’s never too early to start working with your little one on letters and learning the alphabet.* Of course, there’s always the old standby ABCs song—which is a great way for your child to learn the alphabet—but  how else can you expose your child to letters in a fun and engaging way? Here are nine toys that we recommend to help your little one not only learn the alphabet but also start to visually identify letters and their correlating sounds.

Tag Junior Interactive Letter Factory Flash Cards, $10.99

LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet, $15.88

Melissa & Doug Alphabet Art Puzzle, $14.99

Fun with ABC’s Magnetic Letters, $5.34

Munchkin Bath Letters and Numbers, $6.99

The Learning Journey Match It! Alphabet Memory, $9.99

Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss, $6.04

Melissa & Doug ABC Blocks, $13.19

LeapFrog Lettersaurus, $19.99

*Reading is Fundamental Literacy Facts and Stats http://www.rif.org/us/about/literacy-facts-and-stats.htm

Great Toys for Fine Motor Development

Another one from the archives (sorry guys, the holidays are keeping me busy!), but I thought this post might be helpful to other parents who are looking to buy toys that are not only fun but can also aid in your child’s fine motor development. It’s crazy to think that a year ago when I wrote this, my daughter was in therapy and we were concerned about her gross and fine motor development; now, you would never know there had ever been an issue—what a difference a year makes!

As a result of her bilateral hip dysplasia, my little one has been in physical therapy every other week for the past few months. While we largely focus on her gross motor development, our therapist  spends some time working on fine motor skills as well. The therapy has done wonders for O’s muscle tone and mobility, and I have learned so much about how to help my daughter pick up new skills and ways to encourage her development. Our therapist, Kristy Jones, PT, has recommended some toys to help promote fine motor skills, and I figured I would share them for any moms doing a little holiday shopping.

Large knob puzzles, like the Melissa and Doug Large Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle, are great for beginners because they are easy for little ones to pick up with all of their fingers. Kristy suggests looking for puzzles that aren’t too busy, so it’s easier to match the puzzle pieces with their correct spots. Similarly, smaller knob puzzles are great as well but for a different reason. “The ones with the smaller knobs are good for development of the pincer grasp and require more precision to put the pieces in,” says Kristy.

A Shape Sorter should also be in every kid’s toy box. The Fisher-Price Growing Baby Elephant Shape Sorter is perfect and inexpensive. Start with the circle blocks, then the square ones, working your way up to the stars. At first, your little one may just pat the blocks in as you hold them over the right openings, but they’ll quickly get the hang of it on their own.

Large, soft blocks are great for little ones learning to stack. The B. One Two Squeeze™ Soft 123 Blocks from Target are perfect. The non-slippery texture makes them easy to grasp, pick up, and stack.

The Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack stacking rings have been around for forever and with good reason. They help babies learn hand-eye coordination, they’re easy to pick up and they’re SUPER FUN to crawl around the house with in your hands—just ask my daughter.

Crayons might seem a bit advanced for your little one, especially if everything is still finding its way to his mouth, but as soon as he’s not tasting his way around, try out the Crayola Triangular Crayons. The shape helps tiny hands get a grip and, bonus, they won’t roll off the high chair tray!

Finally, hammer toys (for lack of a better term) help babies and toddlers develop their hand-eye coordination, not to mention their aim! The B. Whacky Ball hammer toy will provide endless entertainment—and eventually your little one will start whacking the crap out of those balls. (Sorry, no matter how I wrote it, it kind of came out dirty, so I just gave up.)

Happy Shopping!!

Waging War on the Toy Clutter!

This is what the corner of our living room has looked like for the last year.

Our house was quickly becoming one huge playroom, and the Type A control freak in me just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t mind toys being out and all over the place when we’re home and Olivia is playing. But when she goes to bed and the wine is uncorked, I like to relax in a room that doesn’t look like Toys R’ Us threw up everywhere.

Getting rid of her toys really wasn’t the answer (I’m not nearly that mean!), so organization was the key to my sanity. I knew I’d found the solution to our problem when I visited my friend Jessie and saw this bookcase from One Step Ahead in her living room. It holds tons of books and has storage bins below for toys.

Canvas Sling Bookshelf, $79.95

Done. I went online and bought it the next day. We still had to move some of her toys upstairs because it really was a little ridiculous, but we went from the chaos above to this:

Ahhhh! I really think organization helps me breathe easier, and it keeps me healthy—in part because now it’s far less likely that I’m going to step on a rogue Lego and go flying sideways into the wall.

All Elmo, All the Time

Olivia can’t get enough Elmo. When she was home sick one day, I let her watch part of an episode of Sesame Street, and that was all she wrote. She now climbs onto the couch with the Apple TV remote (she knows I pulled Sesame Street up on Netflix—she’s a smart little cookie!) and says “Elmo?” I don’t get the attraction, but apparently this is a pretty common obsession for the preschool set, and I suppose there are worse things for her to fixate on. So I’ve rounded up some of our favorite Elmo things to share. Enjoy!

Bonus: Zulily is running a sale right now (through Friday) on Elmo apparel for boys and girls. There’s some seriously cute stuff on there!

Elmo Alphabet Lunch Box, $13.29

Elmo Girls Tee, Old Navy, $12.94


Crest Elmo and Friends Toothbrush, $3.68

Elmo Take Along Buddy, Sesame Street $15

Elmo Fresh Food Feeder, Toys R Us $5.59

Elmo's ABC Book, Walmart $2.91

Elmo Rashguard, Old Navy $12

Nightstand Redux

In this economy, people are getting creative when it comes to big ticket kid items and toys. Kitchen and workbench play sets from makers like Fisher-Price and Little Tikes will run you about $75 a piece. But with a little time, elbow grease, and  an old nightstand or side table you have around the house (or pick up from a local thrift store), you can make one yourself for your budding chef or architect for around $30. You can even choose colors and patterns to match your little one’s bedroom or playroom- and chances are, your handiwork will turn out MUCH cuter than anything you can find at the store! Just check out these examples from some very creative bloggers:

Photo via dwellingsbydevore.com

Photo via thefrugalgranny.blogspot.com

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