Like all typical, standard issue parents, we love buying toys for our daughter. And like all typical toddlers, she chooses to ignore them and play with plastic bottles and shoe boxes instead. I can’t even describe how exasperated I feel when I leave my daughter in her room full of toys and come back to find her rummaging around in the trash like a little raccoon. I hate to see her wasting the luxuries she is so fortunate to have. And I also want to ensure that she makes most of the toys she owns before she out grows them and doesn’t find them interesting enough to play with anymore. But since she is not inclined to do so, I make it a point to sit down with her for an hour every day, where we remove all distractions and get creative with her toys. I try to show her new ways to play with the stuff she has and also to teach her a bit along the way.
My daughter being an only child and growing up away from cousins and friends close by, depends exclusively on me to play with her. And as boring as it gets for me to play with a toddler’s toys all day, I realize that she and I have no other choice. That’s the reason that I have developed an affinity with a few of the toys we play with. Don’t laugh! Let me clarify: These are the toys that we play with every day, yet the games never get boring. Also I have found these particular toys to be quite educational and I come up with new ways to challenge my daughter’s learning using them. We use each of these to develop a variety of skills and cover many subjects during our play time. She might not agree, but I consider these to be the best toys in my daughter’s room.
Melissa and Doug Latches Board
This is a brightly colored wooden board with six numbered doors. Each door is fitted with a different kind of latch to open it. Inside the doors are pictures of animals and their names, colors and numbers. Undoing the latches and opening the doors help develop fine motor skills in children. It also encourages them to think of a way to solve a problem in front of them. After we have opened all the doors, we practice counting the animals. This is new for my daughter because if you ask her to count something, she keeps counting until she reaches twelve (that’s how far she can count) and then starts all over again. So the concept of things being finite is unknown to her right now. We also talk about the colors of all the animals and sing songs about them. These days, I am encouraging her to string adjectives to her nouns. Using this board, she is learning to describe objects with their color as in, “purple pony, yellow cat” and so on. The lettering inside the doors is big enough for her to practice her alphabets. We can easily spend a good ten minutes playing with this board and this is also her preferred toy on the rare occasion that she sits and plays on her own.
Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Table
My daughter got this table as a gift from my sister when she was six months old and she has been loving and using it ever since. There are many versions of this table in the toy world but I love the Fisher-Price one. There is a phone, book, laptop and piano in each corner of the table, which means a whole lot of colors, shapes, lights and sounds. There is an English mode, a Spanish mode, a music mode, a playing mode and (thankfully) a volume control. There is so much that you can do with your child on this table. My daughter usually gets a lot of calls on this phone, so this is where she has animated conversations with her grandma every day. She also practices opposite words like open/close and up/down on this table. Like I said, my daughter has been playing with this since she couldn’t even stand and I don’t see her getting bored of this anytime soon.
Any mother who has had her living room walls ravaged by their toddler’s art can feel my pain. So I love it when my daughter is in an artistic mood and happily accepts the Aquadoodle as an alternative to markers and crayons. The way to use it is with water filled pens that show up as colored ink on the flexible mat. This means no mess and minimal clean up. Our version includes two pens and three stamps as well. We practice holding the pen, making shapes and letters and drawing all kinds of cats. These days my daughter is loving tracing her hands and feet on the mat, which is a lot of fun to watch an uncoordinated toddler do. I like the Aquadoodle for a lot of reasons, but the no mess element of it is by far my favorite.
Imaginarium Wooden Alphabet Blocks
Blocks of all kinds are very popular with my daughter since she loves building tall towers and then crashing them all over the room. I am partial to this set from Imaginarium because of the countless entertainment options it provides. These blocks are of a very reasonable size for small hands to comfortably hold, they are very well made with colored borders on them and have letters, numbers and pictures on their faces. Aside from using them to build the tallest possible towers (and the biggest possible mess), we use them to practice upper and lower case letters, the words corresponding to them and also counting. I try to use these to spell words for my daughter but she doesn’t find it very interesting and actively ignores me. She, however, loves making a double-storey train out of the blocks and then attempts to navigate it across the room. I actually really enjoy watching her play with these blocks because she gets super immersed in her game of building and says the letters and words softly to herself before putting them in their place. They also come with a fabric bag to store the blocks when you are done playing.
I bought this simple maze for my daughter from a quaint, eclectic toy shop in Sydney. Granted she hasn’t fallen in love with it as I had hoped she would, but I am doing my best to edge it into her list of favorite toys. The objective of it very simple; to navigate the wooden balls on the tracks eventually gathering them all in their respective corners, indicated by a bigger, fixed ball of the same color. It is not possible to pull the balls out from their track (unless you break the board altogether) which makes it a very safe toy. Moving the balls along the tracks of varied designs develops fine motor coordination in children. I love that this provides some good mental exercise to my daughter as well where she is required to think of the best way to take the balls to their right corner. It is not very easy for her right now which is why she gets frustrated and wants to move on to something else, but I make it a point to show her how easy and how much fun it is. I have obviously disposed of the box this maze came in and also don’t remember the brand it was from, but you get the idea. Mazes are awesome!
Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Cube
This brightly colored, wooden shape sorter first made an appearance on the blog a year ago in this post and the fact that a year later, it is still a great favorite of mine and my daughter’s says a lot about the entertainment value it provides. This is how my daughter learnt to identify and name twelve different shapes, which makes me super proud. We first put all the shapes into the box through their right places and do a big high-five. Then we build a tower and knock it down straight away. We sort all the shapes according to their colors and then finally count the pieces as we put them back into the box. My daughter can spend anywhere between five and ten minutes with this shape sorter and insists on playing with it every day. I am very proud to report that not a single piece is missing from the set (a notable achievement of mine) and even after a year of terribly rough daily play, there is very little wear on the shapes.
After all is said and done, I would like to add that it is not so much about the make and quantity of toys your kid has, rather about what can be done with the things in their toy basket. While fun and games are fundamental to a child’s healthy development, I believe that playing in a way that boosts creativity and stimulates imagination is also extremely important. This is what I am attempting to do with my daughter. Thanks for reading.