Tuesday, January 7, 2014

10 Great Baby Toys

I've worked with children for years now and I am proud to say I now have a bachelor degree in Elementary Education. I currently work in a child center and I get to work with babies and toddlers a lot, which I absolutely love! Here are ten toys that young ones actually use.

1. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stac

This is a classic. I had one when I was a child, and I remember loving it. While it doesn't make noise (which is useful if you are trying to distract or comfort a child), it is still a great toy. The rings are easy to grasp and I have had more than one baby fall asleep clutching one in his/her hand. Around 10 to 12 months, a baby can start to stack the rings on the post, learning order later on. My nephew loves chewing on the end of the post (it's probably great for teething). Newer versions even come with a "rattle" version of the red ring. This toy teaches hand-eye coordination and motor skills, ordinal numbers (first, second, third), colors, superlatives and so much more.

2. Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table

This toy is great because the legs are removable so it is accessible to babies who can't yet stand as well. It has three or four different sound settings, each of which teach different things. Babies seem to love this toy and you can have more than one playing with it at once. The laptop is by far the favorite piece of this toy - babies will sit there for a long time opening and closing it over and over again (with a fun blinging noise each time). This table is at a good height for those learning to stand, but beware because the legs aren't super strong and can slide or tip-over if not properly secured.

3. Melissa and Doug Cutting Fruit Set - Wooden Play Food

The child center I work at doesn't have these, but I had these as a child and I loooved them. It is fun to mimic cutting and slicing fruits when you aren't allowed to actually do it. Plus, it makes a satisfying crunchy noise when the plastic "knife" goes through the Velcro. This is fantastic for children who love playing house or who have a wide imagination.

4. Fisher-Price Link-a-Doos 20 Link Pack

These links are adorable and much loved by babies. You can attach taggies, some stuffed animals and so much more to these links - they also add varieties to mobiles above baby swings or play blankets. Sometimes, all you have to do is shake these in front of a distraught child and they will cheer up. They make a great clacking noise, are sturdy, easy to clean, have multiple uses and easy for babies to pick up.

5. Infantino Tag Along Dog (and Frog and Cow)

These are adorable and wonderful. I've nicknamed this toy "Jingle Dog" and he cheers up almost any sad little one. He is bright color and he jingles! This is another toy that can easily distract an infant. Plus, infants love gnawing on the stretchy part by the tail. That stretchy part also allows it to be attached to car-seats and play blankets for extra entertainment.

6. Melissa and Doug Construction Wooden Chunky Puzzle

This is a great puzzle for toddlers. It is large and chunky, great for little hands, and the shapes are distinct enough that it is a great way for toddlers to practice problems solving (and motor) skills. Plus, it is bright and colorful and attracts the attention of both boys and girls. Be careful though - babies like to gnaw on the pieces and the color can come off.

7. Kid-O Go Car

This car is adorable. Absolutely adorable. My nephew, who is now 11 months old, loves this car too. It is easy to grasp and use and it's sturdy too - it can survive many falls from a high chair. He sometimes loves playing with others with it - pushing it back and forth, listening to "vroom, beep-beep" sounds, but other times he wants to keep it all to himself. I would recommend this one to anyone expecting a baby boy.

8. Fisher-Price Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza

I'm not sure how popular this would be in a household, but it is super popular at the child care center. There are two main tracks the balls can go down. They bounce of a platform, go around corners, and spin propellers. It is large enough to support a child who is learning to stand (although they don't have to stand to play with it) but not too large that it is cumbersome. It makes noise (thankfully not an annoying song, and it doesn't play when not played with) and lights up, but still has entertainment qualities when it has run out of batteries. Kids from ages one up enjoy playing with this - even older grade school kids. I admit, sometimes even I enjoy playing with it. =)

9. Manhattan Toy Baby Whoozit

I'll admit, I don't fully understand this toy. There's even a mirror under that big red nose. Nonetheless, it works - it is even in a "Baby Einstein" video (is it sad that I know that?). It is easy to grab, it is soft and (if I remember right) it makes noise, which is a big "yes for any baby toy. I little bit kooky? Yes. But it's bright and colorful and includes the classic black-and-white for baby's sight development.

10. Oball Oball

I love this toy! I think it was accidentally left behind by a parent one day because it suddenly appeared amongst our child center toys and there is nothing to match it, nor did other toys arrive at the same time. Nonetheless, I love it. Babies of almost all ages (even 3 and 4 months) can grasp this ball because it works well with little fingers. They also love exploring it with their mouth and it's funny to watch their little tongue stick through the openings. Older babies like to crawl after it when it rolls away. It is also flexible, which means it doesn't hurt a baby at all. You could sit on it and it'd probably bounce back to shape, which is awesome.

Well, that's all I got! What are your/your baby's favorite toys?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Top 5 Books of 2013

Here are the top five books that I read in 2013 - keep in mind that these weren't necessarily published in 2013, I just read them in 2013. I only read 20 or so books in 2013 (boo!), but this year's goal is to read 52 books - one for each week of the year.


The Youth Catholicism (or 'Youcat') is a fantastic read. It took me almost two years to finish (it isn't a novel) but it was worth it. As a Catholic there is a lot of information in the Catechism, but I find it very dense and hard to understand - which makes the Youcat a fantastic introduction to the Catechism. It is written in question-and-answer format at a vocabulary and syntax level of a young adult (ages 16+). I love this so much that it is my default gift to anyone being confirmed in the Catholic church because it has so much useful, accessible information.

4. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

I finally got around to reading the last book in the Percy Jackson series. So many of my sixth grade students were reading the newest book in the sequel series (Heroes of Olympus) so I figured I better catch up! This book was funny, adventurous and ties in fantastically with Greek mythology. I would recommend this series to anyone fourth grade and above, even boys who usually don't like to read.

3. Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike

I love, love, loved Aprilynne Pike's "Wings" series, so I purchased this book for my birthday. It did not disappoint. Although different from her fairy books (Wings), this book still deals with the paranormal (although I won't give the specifics, since the character herself isn't immediately aware of them). The main character has amnesia and cannot remember much of her past, but relies on friends and curiosity to make sense of her life. Although it starts a bit slow, by the time I finished reading it, I was in love and I want to find out what happens! Unfortunately, I have to wait a while for the second one in the series. =(

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is another book this year I read due to my sixth graders - I mentioned that I wanted to read the series while discussing the books with one of my students (I love discussing books with my students - I want to encourage them to love reading!) and she let me borrow her copy! This is they type of book you want to read all in one sitting - I definitely finished this one at two in the morning. I'm a big fan of futuristic novels and this one was no different. It is set in a world where there are different factions of society - the Dauntless (courage), Amity (friendship), Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (knowledge) and Candor (truth). Each faction focuses on different values, creating a fascinating society. I was hooked and I've read the sequel (just as great!) as well. I bought the third and final book on Black Friday, so hopefully I'll get around to reading it soon. If you love dystopian/utopian novels or if you loved the Hunger Games series, you'll definitely love this book.

1. Iron King by Julie Kagawa

I never thought I'd find a series I love just as much as the "Wings" series, but this one takes the cake! This is a fantastic faerie tale dealing with the Seelie court, the Unseelie court and a new faerie court. The main character begins as an ordinary high schooler with a best friend named Robbie Goodfell - little does she know a great adventure is about to follow. The characterization, description and overall story are all exceptional in this book. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I definitely spent a couple of late nights reading it. I highly recommend this series!

So there are my top five books of 2013. What were your favorite books of the year? Happy reading!

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