My Favorite Holiday Toys

I find it challenging ever year to help Santa find a few special toys for my children that they will genuinely love well beyond Christmas morning. I also look for toys that can be multi-purpose and grow with them as their interests & needs change. For this reason, we tend to stick to books and musical instruments as I’ve found they always meet that criteria, but I also like to keep an eye out for a few fun, interactive toys to encourage their imaginations too. Here are a few that have made Santa’s list this year:

image

Learning Resources Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set.  I love this toy because it pulls double duty - not only is it great for helping kids learn their colors, and to sort similar items, but it also makes for a great collection of pretend food in our play kitchen.

image

The B. Symphony is one of the gifts I’m most excited about giving the children. This interactive toy teaches shapes, colors, musical instruments and encourages kids to put different sounds together to make their own symphonies. I’ve read lots of excellent reviews on this one and many folks said it’s great from the youngest to the oldest members of their family.

image

A cute take on the typical matryoshka doll sets. These little robots encourage sorting, stacking & lots of creative play. My kids are always interested in how things work and love taking things apart and putting them back together. I love that these little guys would be adorable displayed in their rooms, can be staked inside one another for easy travel and encourage imaginary play when played with as a group.

image

This is the Chillafish Bunzi. I discovered this balance bike via word of mouth from other parents, as it’s ideal for kids who aren’t ready for a real balance bike yet. (Note: it’s a pretty small bike, only 16 1/2 inches tall, so keep that in mind if your kids are tall) When I started reading about it, I felt like this was made specifically for Arlo. He is obsessed with his ride-on toy but he’s outgrown the one we have and gets his feet caught up in the front wheels because he wants to go faster than they allow (I think I may have a budding dare devil on my hands). He’s not big enough to really pedal a tricycle on his own yet but he loves to go go go!  This little bike is really light weight and can convert to more of a typical balance bike as he grows and gets more steady. I love that the seat is adjustable and lifts up so that he can store his toys in it too. (The amazon link above features a video where you can see the Bunzi in action)

And if you’re still looking for ideas, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite toy brands that we have used and loved in our home:

I think Plan Toys has the best dollhouses and accessories

Melissa & Doug has my favorite play foods

Alex Toys has the coolest Arts & Crafts sets (Edit: My friend Henna pointed out that today 12/6/12 Amazon has a bunch of Alex toys at 60% off! Thanks for the tip!)

Haba makes my favorite infant toys

B. Toys make fantastic musical & interactive play toys (And are easily found at Target)

I’m done shopping for our chillies this year (I’m ahead of the game for the first time ever!) but I’m always on the look out for cool, creative and engaging children’s toys. I’d love to hear your favorites and what you’re most excited for your little ones to open this holiday season.

Love,

M

(Note: There are no affiliate links in this post. I was not compensated by any of the brands listed above in any way for my recommendations and have purchased the toys listed in this post with my own money.)

image

Packing a Life & a Pretend Tree.

We are living in a state of moving purgatory. We have less than a week until we become official home owners and get the key to our new place and with two small children underfoot, we’ve slowly been packing away the contents of our lives in a mobile storage container parked in front of our home. Brent and I have become expert movers. In the course of our 4 year marriage, this will be our 4th move. I realized the other day that I’ve moved (on average) every 1 1/2 years since I was 18 years old.

The best part about moving is that it allows us to declutter, shed some of the unnecessary material things that clog our lives, and to start fresh with a new space and a new feel. The worst part about moving is how much it disrupts our daily routines, confuses the heck out of Everly (she cried when we took down all the pictures in her room) and compounds our stress because we have such limited time with both of our hands and all of our attention available to devote to it.

It feels weird not to have our house decorated for Christmas. Instead of stockings on the fireplace and a glittering tree, we have half empty rooms, all of the unsightly things you usually tuck away in attics and under beds pulled out in full view, and so many boxes scattered about.

The idea was to move close to the holidays so that I could take advantage of the almost 2 weeks vacation when my company shuts down for Christmas to unpack at our own pace. Now here we are in the thick of it, and it’s made me realize how much I love the ritual of decorating our home for Christmas. Without the tree and the garland and pulling each little ornament out to admire, it has felt very strange to me this year.

I tried to remind myself that the children are too small to feel like they are missing out and next year when we are all settled in, we can decorate the house head-to-toe… but last night, I couldn’t take it anymore. Most of all I’ve missed that warm, familiar glow from the tree when all the other lights in the house are out and so I grabbed some chalk and our kitchen chalkboard and made this:

I “hung” the lights with packing tape and sat on the floor in the bare room to admire it. This morning Brent plugged them in for Everly and she let a very enthusiastic “Ooooohhhhhhh!”  and clapped her hands in approval. A good sprinkling of childhood wonderment during Christmas time was just what my soul was needing. It was a reminder that we don’t always need a big tree and a million decorations for our children to feel the magic of the holidays. Sometimes, just a few twinkling lights and a little imagination can do the trick.

Love,

M

Santaphobia & Other Holiday Merriment

Fact: The official name of having a fear of Santa Clause is Santaphobia. (I swear, look it up!) Any of you who have been reading this blog for awhile might remember last year’s christmas photo:

It was by all accounts, a rather traumatic experience for our daughter. I know this sounds totally horrible, but I still have this photo of Everly on my desk at work and it gives me a chuckle. I don’t think I’m winning any mother of the year points by finding my child’s santa fear humorous, but it is what is.

So let’s cut to this year. We dressed the kids up in their most festive of holiday outfits and set out for the local mall with a reputation for having a very authentic Santa Clause. We’ve been hyping Santa Clause up to Everly for weeks. She was pretty skeptical at first, but more recently she began to get excited over him - announcing “Shasta Calls!” whenever he would appear on television or in a holiday book. We even watched a personalized message from Santa several times & youtube videos of various children sitting on Santa’s lap.  She would give us an enthusiastic  “YES!” whenever we asked if she was looking forward to meeting the big guy and we were hopeful that this year was going to be a Santa Claus homerun.

As we waited in line on Saturday, Everly curiously studied Santa. She pointed him out several times and watched as other children sat on his lap. What are you going to ask Santa for Christmas, I asked? “Ummmmmm. Dinosaur!” she said back. (The girl is ALL ABOUT trains and dinosaurs right now)

Arlo is still small enough that I knew he’d be game for whatever. He’s still pretty agreeable to going to almost anyone and I was pretty certain he’d have no issues with Santa. So when it was our turn, we put Arlo in Santa’s lap first and just as I suspected - he looked up at Santa, flashed him a smile and settled in to watch the mall crowds walk by. Everly walked up to Santa a little cautiously but reached out her hand to say hello when she got close. I thought we might be in the clear but as soon as we set her on Santa’s lap - it was all over.

Santa held on to her long enough for us to snap a shot or two like this:

And then they suggested I hold Everly so that we could get a photo of her not looking terrified. I protested (I did not want a picture of ME with Santa) “Just the kids! Just the kids!” I said, but the other parents were looking at me like HURRY IT UP LADY! So I scooped Everly up, we sat down and they snapped a couple with all of us.

I’ve yet to scan the official photo in - but Everly looks so sad in it. Like Santa (or more accurately, Mama) broke her little Christmas heart. Sigh. One of these years she’s gonna change her tune about ‘Ol Saint Nick - I just know it. And in the meantime, since she never got to let him know, I’m off to put in a special request with him that there is at least one dinosaur greeting her on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas!

Love,

M

Oh Christmas Tree.

Our tree has been up for over a week now. We put it in our front room as it is loaded with glass bulbs that we knew would attract Everly’s interest like a magnet. Most of the time, the french doors between our front room and our living room are closed but we’ve found ourselves gravitating to the warm glow of the Christmas lights most evenings since it went up.

We let Everly run her fingers across the evergreen needles. We pluck off baby safe ornaments for her to turn over in her small hands and I keep making promises that as soon as mama gets her butt in gear and starts wrapping, soon there will be pretty packages to explore there too.

I am on my way to Montreal today. A last minute work trip that I pouted over a bit as I thought I was done with leaving my family for the year. Weather.com says the high today will be 14* F in Montreal. FOURTEEN DEGREES. I think I heard my closet audibly laugh when I questioned outloud what I should pack. I don’t have clothes for those sort of temperatures and I’m hoping I don’t freeze to death. I had to borrow a girlfriend’s hooded down coat and took up half of the space in my little suitcase with a long alpaca coat in the hopes that I don’t turn into a human popsicle.

I’m head down for the next few days - doing those things I need to do for work and then getting home as quickly as possible to my family. In the meantime, I’m keeping myself warm with thoughts of a certain little girl, standing in her fleece pj’s against the glow of the lights on our Christmas tree.

Love,

M

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Well, In 24 days. But our excitement over Everly’s first Christmas mean that mama and dada have already squirreled away all of the little dove’s prezzies. Here’s what she’s gonna find wrapped up all pretty on Christmas morning.

A Jelly Koe Monster. I found these at a local craft fair and totally fell in love. So soft and weirdly adorable.  This sweet handmade monster will require adult supervision with those little button eyes, but I just loved it too much to pass it by.

Melissa and Doug Wooden Stacking Train. Choo choo! I love a good train and this cutie doubles as a stacking block set.

Melissa and Doug Band in a Box  Everly has shown such a love for strumming the little guitar in her room and banging on her xylaphone and the shaker egg we’ve given her - so I’m really excited to see her have a go at this box full of musical goodness. In our house, we’re always game for a little good old fashion noise making.

Shape sorter Noah’s Ark Just adorable. From the little Noah and penguins to ahem, the DOVES! So cute and colorful.

 

Imagiplay toy cars and puzzles Imagiplay has some really darling toys and I found a great sale one day online that I couldn’t pass up.

Vintage remake- Fisher Price Record Player Thanks to Lindsay for the inspiration on this one. Man, I have such good memories with one of these from my childhood. Plus, she’s been jamming to our record player since before she was born - so we might as well get her one of her own.

IKEA crawl tunnel We went to visit some friends with a 3 year old and discovered that Everly loved his tunnel. She had so much fun playing in it that I made a mental note to add one to her Christmas list.

She’s also getting some new skinny jeans, funky print tights, and some houndstooth print maryjane. But those things are more exciting to me than her, so I didn’t include them on this list.

I’m really happy with what we’ve picked out. Beautiful, engaging, quality toys. We love toys that encourage movement, music, and problem solving.  All of them are reasonably priced too, which is important on our tight budget. (One more bonus: none of them required me to take a single step inside a mall or shopping center!!)

What’s Santa bringing your babes this year?

Love,

M

Tags: Christmas

blog comments powered by Disqus