Friday, March 16, 2018

Favorite toys great for both babies and toddlers/preschoolers.

I'm pretty sure I say this every time, but I love doing toy reviews. I was a preschool teacher before we had kids, so my inner teacher can come out again when I do these posts. I always think it's helpful to hear good recommendations from others too before buying something. Currently, my daughter is 3 and a few months and our twin girls just turned one. So, given those ages, I was actively searching for toys for their Christmas lists that would be good for both ages! Sure, there are some of Norah's smaller toys we can save for special times for when Lucy and Ellory are sleeping or something, but in general, all the toys with little pieces are put away for now and we need solid, durable toys that can withstand a lot of wear and drool and teeth marks, yet can still be fun and educational for Norah too.

Here's some of our favorite toys that are excellent for all young ages! (All of these are just my own opinions.) Almost all of my favorite toys, when you are including babies in the mix, are made of thicker, durable plastic- not wood.

Melissa and Doug Combine and Dine Dinners- Blue- The girls got these two food sets for Christmas, and we all love them so much. I love how realistic they are and they also come with a fun (and durable!) menu for restaurant play. Norah loves to make meals with them. They are hard/quality plastic (not like some of the cheap play food where a kid bites on it one time and it's forever squished in with white indent marks on the plastic from their teeth), and there are no small pieces. I also love that there is a variety of healthy food group choices, with a few treats too. I would highly recommend these!

Learning Resources New Sprouts Deluxe Market Set- This is another food set we have that is perfect for multiple ages. I love that it's easy to wash too when I rotate toys. 

Learning Resources Smart Snacks Alpha Pops- These are made of durable plastic as well, and are perfect size for little baby hands to grab onto, yet they are also great for preschoolers because you match the uppercase and lowercase letter. Norah isn't to the letter matching level yet, so if you have an in between you can match them by colors. Or, if you have an older child, you can use them to spell out words too.

Learning Resources Jumbo Magnetic Uppercase Letters- I have a magnetic board hung low on one of our hallway walls that's right outside our kitchen, and I love having a little extra play space in an otherwise empty area. These magnets are great! Perfect for practicing phonemic awareness/phonics/letter identification/spelling for preschoolers, and yet big and strong enough to be manipulated by baby hands too. So many magnets are so small, or wooden (so babies can suck the paint or sticker right off and leave teeth marks), so these are perfect!

Lauri Foam Object Magnets- This is another magnet set that all my girls enjoy and has proven to be durable. These ones are fun because they are softer foam! (It looks a little hard to tell from the picture, but none of them are too small for babies. A few they could probably shove in their mouth if they really wanted to, but none are too small to swallow or choke on.)

Fisher Price Laugh & Learn A to Z Smart Pad- This is one of my favorite things the girls got for Christmas. It's great for all ages. It has engaging lights and fun songs for babies, and it's actually quite educational too for older kids. There are shape activities, and lots of letter activities that either ask you to identify the letter, sound, or object sound. I've been impressed with how long all three of my girls have played with this! It doesn't provide any open ended play, but for a battery operated toy it's pretty great. 

Edushape Easy Grip Soft Foam Sensory Puzzle Blocks- Norah got these as a baby gift, and they are still used often 3+ years later, so I'd say they are a winner. They can be used in lots of different ways to build, and they are big/soft for little hands too. They are good teething toys too- all my girls have loved to bite on them, and they are super easy to clean.

Mega Bloks Deluxe Building Bag- I feel like mega blocks and lego duplos are such classic toys. They are great for open ended play with lots of creative options. We also have this Deluxe All in One Box Lego Duplo set that has been a long time favorite as well. Both of these sets have been good for all my girls- the lego duplos are obviously smaller than the mega bloks, so the mega bloks are better for the smallest hands, but my girls haven't had any issues with choking with the lego duplos. (This Lego Duplo Baseplate is really fun too and gives a nice foundation!)

Kid O Learn to Make Patterns Stacker Toy- A lot of stacker toys seem to be made out of wood, and we have had a couple different kinds and have already donated them away because they just didn't last and the paint chipped or the wood split. This one is fabulous and has stood the test of time. It's lightweight, plastic, easy to manipulate, and babies can just practice one to one correspondence of stacking them on, while preschoolers can practice matching/patterning. 

Fisher Price Little People A to Z Learning Zoo- This is really fun for everyone, yet also educational for older kids because you can practice matching the beginning animal letter to the letter on the mat, animal sounds, and initial sounds.

Fisher Price Little People Animal Friends Farm- Another fun one that's great for all. All three of my girls love these animals, and Norah loves arranging the animals in the barn. We also have this extra Little People Farm Animals set and the Little People Tow n' Pull Tractor set. The barn and tractor make animal sounds and and the tractor also plays music. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Des Moines fun.

Kley had to take some CLE (continuing legal education) classes in Des Moines last week, so we all went along! (Granted, he didn't HAVE to take them in Des Moines, but it was a win-win because we could tag along to see my family, and he found two that actually would be really beneficial to what he needed credit for, so it worked out nicely!) My parents ended up having to leave for the weekend because they went to St. Paul to help my sister/BIL move into their first house (because their closing date got moved up), but it was nice because we got to see my parents Wednesday/Thursday, and then got to see other people Friday/Saturday. We had a good time!

Norah loves going to Des Moines and it's so fun to watch her interact with family. Our girls sure do have the best grandparents and uncles/aunts on both sides! So thankful for positive, interactive, and encouraging family with our girls- a huge blessing. I feel like I hardly see Norah when we are there because she is so busy playing with everyone else!

Friday morning I got to see a friend, Kayla, from high school, and for supper my good friend, Lauren, and her family (Stephen and Reese) came over for supper. They used to live in Denver, but now are back in Des Moines, so it's a nice treat to be able to see them when we are visiting! We hadn't taken a picture together in a long time (not since Norah and Reese were babies), so we had to get an update. We tried to use the automatic timer setting for the first time, and it worked great, other than we didn't zoom in enough. Oops.

We also got to see my brother, Keaton, and SIL, Rose, a few different times too, which was wonderful! We love that they live in Des Moines! We are so excited to meet their first baby in a couple months!

My sister, Kayla, was also home on spring break, so we got to see her a lot too. Unfortunately, she was gone the night I got my camera out and I forgot to get one with her later. Thankfully, she goes to college in our town, so we can get one later.

Saturday morning, we headed to the Science Center with Brett and Elizabeth (Kley's sister). It was a fun morning! Norah loved it. She wasn't particularly fond of the big dinosaur exhibit where the room was dark and they had computer generated dinosaurs that roared at you, but other than that, she had a great time! She loved this play grocery/house area!

It was nice to spend time one-on-one time with Brett and Elizabeth! Big family gatherings are fun too, but we don't often get to spend time with just them, so we enjoyed it.

It's so interesting to see the differences in Lucy and Ellory's personalities already. Lucy seems more outgoing in social situations and willing to go to other people. Ellory is pretty laid-back at home, but gets more nervous in big groups or new places and wants to stick really close to Kley and I. We really noticed it at their first birthday party, and again at the science center.

"Mom, do not let go of me. If you're not going to hold me, I at least need to touch you." Also, her tiny ponytail sticks straight up and it's so cute.

Norah unloading her grocery store haul.

Milking a cow.


This is the best group picture I got. I was so sad about it later, but didn't realize at the time that my camera accidentally got switched to manual instead of automatic, so all the group pictures were all blurry and out of focus. Ugh. Oh well. This would have been so cute if it was clear!

Dinosaur bones!

Dinosaur eating Norah's head! (Another camera mishap where the flash should have been on. That's what happens when I'm trying to keep track of three kids/hold one and take pictures at the same time. I really failed with the camera errors this trip. A for effort, right?)

Lucy was in heaven in this soft block room. She loved them!

Ellory sat in the same spot the entire time and watched with the most serious expression. It's not that she was upset, because she definitely will let you know if she is, but she was just serious and taking it all in.

Exploring the water dam building.

Throwing their balls in!

There's Ellory again, holding onto Kley's pants.

Lucy was very excited to find a ball.

How can I stand up but not let go of my ball?

Space room. 

This can blow my hair too!

Norah's been requesting braids in her hair a lot recently. I need to practice my french braid game. That would be fun.

Checking out the snakes. You can tell how much Elizabeth likes it. :)

We had a fun few days in Des Moines! So glad we have the opportunity to visit family fairly often!