One of the more incredible things to watch happen as a mother is to experience your baby actually grow into a child, and in doing so, start to transition from being a blob to putting together a puzzle. You think they’ll never learn how to actually stack the blocks and not just drool all over them. Then… they do. I think that’s why all parents think their kids are geniuses. We’ve seen them not be able to stop accidentally punching themselves in the face and now they can build a tower! Damn, that kid is going to be the next Einstein.
I am definitely a ‘less-is-more’ mentality when it comes to toys and the amount of things one needs to stay occupied and play. Early on, I did learn that even though we love those simple wooden toys, there is a time and a place for those high contrast ugly ones too. There’s a reason babies love them and you will grow to love them too when you realize your child will magically play quietly long enough for you to do the dishes and get a bra on.
Here's a few of our favorites from both the baby and the toddler stage. As you will quickly notice, we basically keep Ikea in business.
Cardboard Box: Works every time. She’d color on it, use it as a table, sit in it while I did dishes. Best part, it’s free. We are subscribers to the Honest Company diaper deliveries and those boxes work perfectly.
Leka Baby Gym: Huge fan of all things Ikea when it comes to baby products. Simple, clean and affordable.
Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes: A must have. Do it - heck, get two. We had one for the diaper bag and one for the nursery. She loved this for nearly two years and it would mesmerize her for at least a solid 20 min. Plays classical music set to a baby pitch.
Stacking Rings: Colorful, stackable and easy for tiny hands.
Tupperware Drawer: Seriously. Endless stacking and clanking and it’s all plastic. This tactic was best used when I was trying to get dinner ready and she’d play on the floor with all the containers and some spatulas.
Counting Game: While she was too young to really know the colors to count the pegs, she would love to move them around and back and forth when she was a baby and it’s also helpful since it’s the perfect size when they are able to sit up on their own (or in a Bumbo) and be entertained.
Cardboard Box: Still the best. Now it’s a rocketship or a racecar.
Chalkboard/Easel: Great place to start arts and crafts and just general drawing.
Arts & Crafts Table: This was so helpful in designating a place for her to draw, paint and color. Basically any messy art project happens on this table so it's easy to clean!
Stamp Set: Stamps and stickers are like crack for kids. They go crazy for them.
Fisher Price Camera: Obviously. So she can be just like dad. Also, it’s cute and vintage looking!
Pewi YBike: Part push toy and part bike, it’s pretty innovative. Best part, it’s quiet on your floors. You’d be surprised how loud some push toys can be and the marks they can leave behind.
Little Baby Bum: We stumbled upon this British YouTube channel through some black hole of children’s videos and Parker was enthralled. It was incredible. It was the first time she would sit and watch something for an extended period of time so I could clean or do dishes or get ready. They are all educational (do you don't feel guilty) and go though numbers, the alphabet and nursery rhymes. Plus, because it’s all done in a British accent, it is much less annoying than other versions I’ve seen. There's a reason their videos have millions and millions of views!
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: He’s obviously the favorite right now if you ask any parent or kid. It's inspired by "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" so you know it's packed full of helpful life lessons all set to catchy little tunes that kids memorize.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: It’s the newer take on an oldie, but still a goodie. Mickey will always be a kids favorite.
For us, being in Brooklyn has its massive pro’s and con’s in this category. Most days, I prefer the playground or the park as I'm a fan of unstructured play and the benefits that provides for curiosity, creativity and learning cause and effect. But during the winter and on rainy days, there’s an endless supply of things to do for kids, but it’s pretty hard to find the ones you like and can consistently afford. Three visits to a ‘Baby DJ School’ (no joke, it’s a real thing in these parts) will run you like $300! I waited until I felt like Parker could really understand and interact with group play before diving into that too much. Now we have a pretty solid rotation of options that are both free or on the affordable side.
Brooklyn Library: I know ours may be more popular since a lot of people don’t have backyards or use it as a place to just bring the kids to get out of the house in the winter months, but it’s been a lifesaver and we’re so thankful we live so close to it. They have free music classes, reading classes, computers with educational games for kids, group play and obviously endless books. Wherever you live, be sure to take advantage of your local library and their activities!
Music/Sing-A-Long Classes: Funny enough, most kids morning classes take place in the local bars. Since space is limited in the city and bars don’t open until later in the day, they rent out the space to music classes and most are only $5-$10. Plus, great way to meet other moms in the neighborhood.
Reading, Reading, Reading: Man, kids love to read. Like over and over and over again. When she was little, few of our favorites were: Art For Baby, I Am A Bunny, Dragons Love Tacos, Where's Spot and The Little Blue Truck.
Be sure to check out and follow along with the other amazing mamas who are sharing their stories as part of this series. Also be sure to check out our previous topics: Travel, Feeding, Sleep, Relationships, Self Care and Work Balance. Links below! #realmomseries