Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jungle Drums by Graeme Base

Jungle Drums is the story of a little warthog named Ngiri who was teased by the other animals because he was small and plain. He is given a set of magical bongo drums by a wise old wildebeest who tells him they will makes his wishes come true, but not always as he would expect. So one night Ngiri plays the drums and what results is a chaotic mix up with all of the other animals in the jungle. This is a great story for older preschoolers and school aged children that teaches a lesson about being happy with who they are. As with all books by Graeme Base the illustrations are fantastic and he provides all sorts of interesting details for children and adults to discover within the pictures. Where to Buy: All of Base's books are readily available at bookstores nationwide. You of course can also find them through online outlets like Amazon.

Three Little Pigs Playset by Melissa and Doug

As a Speech Language Pathologist I'm always looking for toys that help to promote both the use and understanding of language skills. This is an excellent toy that can help support not only the development of story telling skills, but it is a great way to teach colours, matching, and counting abilities as well. What I really love about the toy is that you children can retell the story of the Three Little Pigs by acting it out with these soft, squeaky figures that are just the right size for toddlers hands. The pigs can b hidden in the plush houses and the wolf slides down the chimney - both of which are really fun activities for young children. Strengths: This is a great toy for promoting pretend play and story telling as well as for teaching some basic concepts. Weaknesses: The houses are made of a plush fabric that is a little hard to clean, but this only matters if you are using the toys with multiple children. Price: $27 - $30. Where to Buy: Melissa and Doug toys are widely available at many toy outlets such as Toys R Us as well as specialty toy stores. They can also be purchased online directly through the Melissa and Doug website ( or through a vendor like Amazon.

Rolling Reflections by Discovery Toys

Mirrors are always popular with infants. What could be more fun that being able to look at and talk to the baby in the mirror? This is a great non-breakable mirror that rolls and jingles with the slightest touch, so it's a wonderful way to promote tummy time and movement in young infants. Strengths: As I mentioned this is a great toy to promote tummy time. Even babies who don't like to be on their tummies for more than a few seconds, are often interested is watching their reflections, so this can help them to build a tolerance for tummy time. Weaknesses: The mirror is a bit small, so it's hard for baby to look at both his or her face and the face of a parent in the mirror at the same time. Price: $10 - $13. Where to Buy: Discovery Toys no longer manufactures this toy, but Megcos Toys makes a really similar product. It can be purchased online through Amazon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Little Feet Like by Piggy Toes Press

This is another great giggle and grow book for infants and toddlers. It's actually advertised as a "Tootsie Touch and Feel Book", basically a texture book for feet. Just like "Little Hands Love", this book features large panels of textures (about 4.5 inches x 4.5 inches) that are easy for baby to feel. The textures themselves are unique as well. There is "fresh, green grass," "warm powdery sand," and crisp, crunchy leaves" to name just a few. Again the story pattern is predictable, which is highly popular with young children and the text is easy to follow, so it makes for a great "fill in the blank" book eventually.

Little Hands Love by Piggy Toes Press

This is an excellent texture book for infants and toddlers who enjoy having interesting textures to feel while they read. The thick cardboard pages play host to large texture pads (big enough for an entire hand of the child to feel the texture all at once) that include things like cardboard, tutu material, cotton, and crinkly flower petals. Each page starts with the text "Little hands love..." and then have a description of the texture featured. It's a predictable book filled with not so typical textures that will keep babies and toddlers coming back for more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oval Xylophone by Plan Toys

This is another well constructed wooden toy offered by Plan Toys. The keys are strung on a flexible strong and the wooden hammer is easy to attach to the side of the toy with a ribbon or string. This is a great first xylophone for younger infants (8 months+) because it is easy to strike and is light enough that it won't hurt if little fingers grab at the keys. Strengths: Because the keys are wooden they make a soft, somewhat muted tone when struck, so they aren't as jarring as the tones produced by a metal xylophone. Also, the materials used in the toy are non-toxic, so they don't pose a danger if a child still likes to mouth objects. Weaknesses: If you are looking for a xylophone that lets you play true sounding songs where the notes need to be "in tune" this is not the toy for you. The tone quality tends to be muddy because the keys are made of wood rather than metal. Price: $20 - $23 Where to Buy: Most specialty toy shops carry wooden toys like Plan, but the toys can also be found through retailers like Amazon. Silly Goose Toys ( is an online outlet that carries a great range of wooden and specialty toys.

Russell's Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton

Russell the Sheep is finishing putting up the Christmas decorations, when suddenly there is a loud crash in Frogsbottom Field. Santa has crashed his sleigh and is afraid that Christmas will have to be canceled. Russell comes to the rescue by helping to fix the sleigh and making sure that Santa and his reindeer and sent safely on their way. It's a beautifully illustrated book, with expressive and detailed drawings. It's a great book for preschoolers, young school aged children, and anyone else who still believes in the magic of the Christmas spell.

Wombat Divine by Mem Fox

This is a story of a dear and bumbling Wombat who loves everything about Christmas, especially the Nativity play. When he is finally old enough to try out, the parts all seem to go to other animals. This is a touching story about how Wombat finally gets to participate in the play of his dreams and sends a Christmas message of joy and hope to all. It's a timeless story for preschoolers and older children that encourages you never to give up on your dreams.

The Nativity illustrated by Julie Vivas

This is a beautiful and biblically accurate portrayal of the story of the birth of Christ. The illustrations are delicate water colours that capture the tenderness of the story of a birth of a child. The text of the story comes from the King James Version of the Bible and the artwork is soft and enchanting. If you are looking for a story of the nativity, this is a must have for any bookshelf. What makes the story so brilliant is that the tale of the birth of Christ can be retold just through the pictures for younger children.

Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold & Vivian Walsh

This is a charming holiday tale about a little dog named Oliver, who after hearing the line of a song (All of the other reindeer....) thinks she must be a reindeer, not a dog. So Olive heads to the North Pole to help Santa and his reindeer deliver their presents to boys and girls all around the world. The other reindeer are a little confused by Olive, but soon learn to appreciate her special talents. This is an excellent Christmas story for toddlers and preschoolers alike.

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

This is a Christmas installment in a great series of books by Laura Numeroff. It's a perfect holiday tale for older toddlers and preschool aged children. The story follows a mouse who goes to the movies and gets popcorn, which he then wants to use to decorate his Christmas tree. This energetic little mouse frolics through a host of different holiday activities. The story follows the same predictable pattern as all of the other "If you give a...." stories, but it's a great holiday offering that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

This is a story about a little girl named Treva who loves to decorate and get ready for Christmas. However, this year Treva notices that some of the presents she has wrapped and decorations she has made are disappearing. One morning she sees a small creature scurrying away with a Christmas pudding, so she follows it into the forest where her adventures just begin. This is a whimsical story about Christmas that would be delightful to children of all ages and once again Jan Brett's illustrations are beautifully detailed and tell a charming story all of their own.

Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera

This is a unique take off on the traditional story of Santa Claus that would be perfect for an older preschooler or young school aged child. The story focuses on a little girl named Sophie Kringle whose family loved Christmas and kept their decorations up all year long. Auntie Claus, who loved Christmas most of all, went away on a mysterious trip every October and didn't return until after Christmas, so one year Sophie decided to follow her. What results is a tale that makes you rethink everything you think you know about Santa Claus. It's a nice unpredictable tale that makes children realize that there is more to Christmas than just receiving lots of presents.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

This is not your traditional Christmas story. It's the tale of a farmer and his animals named one, two, three, four, and five, and a tree named tree. The farmer is waiting for the first snow fall and when he falls asleep he dreams that he is being covered by a blanket of soft white snowflakes. What makes this is an interesting book is that each page has a plastic overlay with a white blanket that covers the picture underneath. Gradually all of the animals are revealed under their white blankets. The farmer wakes from his dream and delivers presents to all of his special animals, and decorates the tree as well. This is a lovely book for young children and the simple story is one that promotes counting and animal identification skills.

The Night Before Christmas by Jan Brett

This is a beautiful retelling of the classic Christmas poem, The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Moore. The illustrations are rich with detail and could tell the story, even without the help of the text. Jan Brett's illustrations, as usual, provide foreshadowing of the story as it unfolds and her attention to detail is astounding. The book would be more effective for preschoolers and older children, but it's a great story to read on Christmas Eve as part of family tradition.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lace A Shape by Early Years

Putting beads on a string is an important developmental step for young children. Lace A Shape beads are a great way to help young children develop this important skill. The toy comes with 12 large, soft plastic beads an a long string with a hard 3 inch plastic "needle" designed to make lacing easier. Strengths: This is a wonderful toy to promote fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. The bright and colourful beads can help children learn about shape and colour sorting as well. Weaknesses: It can be difficult to get the needle through the hole in the bead. Since the beads are hollow, then needle sometimes gets stuck inside if the child doesn't push it through perfectly straight. This can lead to some very frustrating moments for an already impatient toddler! Price: $18 - $22. Where to Buy: I found mine at Lakeshore Learning, but I'm sure they would be available on-line through places like amazon.

Busy Box by Tomy

This is a great activity centre that will keep toddlers busy for a long time. The box features six different sides,each with a different activity to offer. The activities include: a shape sorter; an unlocking door with retractable key; a telephone; a pop-up pal; a clock with clicking hands; and spinning, clicking gears. The box is large enough that it won't cause children to become frustrated with the activities, but rather encourage them to explore more. Strengths: It's a wonderful toy that offers lots of options for play. Toddlers can use it independently, but it's the most fun when Mum or Dad sits and plays with them. Weaknesses: The key that unlocks the door can be a bit awkward for little hands. Price: $20-$30. Where to Buy: Can be found in most specialty toy shops.

Barnyard Bingo by Fisher Price

This is an old but definitely great game for older toddlers and preschoolers. The concept is very simple, you just drop the animals coins into the barn then pull the handle to release a chip. Then you match the chip by colour and animal to one of the four bingo cards provided. Strengths: One of the greatest strengths of this game is that is doesn't require the child to be able to read or even talk, it's just a simple matching games. It's an excellent game for children who have been diagnosed with Autism because of the matching component and the fact that it doesn't require strong verbal language abilities. Weaknesses: It's no longer available through mass retail marketers. Price: $30-$40. Where to buy: The only place you can currently find the game is on eBay. There are usually a fair number of games available at any given time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ocean Wonders Musical Fishbowl by Fisher Price

This is a great toy for children 8 months+ who like to drop objects into containers, and who eventually will become interested in dumping them out as well. The toy plays three soothing songs, makes calming ocean bubble noises, and lights up when turned on. It also rocks back and forth when the fish are dropped in. This is a simple and great cause-effect toy that helps children learn about the impact of their actions on a object. Strengths: It encourages the development of simple problem solving skills (figuring out how to activate the toy) and motor skills (learning how to grasp and release as well as encouraging sitting/balancing). Weaknesses: Some children tire of the toy quickly, but that's true of most toys. There are very few toys that appeal to every child all of the time. Price: $17-$20. Where to Buy: This toy is available at retailers like Toys R Us, WalMart, Target, and on-line through Amazon or the Fisher Price website (

Peek-a-Baby by Karen Katz

This is a charming lift the flap book that will help older infants and toddlers learn about body parts. Under each flap, which is a piece of clothing, hides another body part: hands in mittens, ears under ear muffs, feet in boots, and tummy under a shirt. The text is simple and the premise is a fun way to help children learn their body parts, which is an import skill for them to start developing around 12 months of age. Where to Buy: This book can be found at most large bookstores, children's bookstores, or through on-line retailers like

Spin & Spill Cement Truck by Fisher Price

This cement truck comes with three large, hard plastic balls that spin in the "cement mixer" when the lever is pulled down. The wheels click and the spinner on top of the cab of the truck makes a beeping sound when spun. Strengths: The truck is a good size for older infants and toddlers and is easy to push across a hard surfaced floor. The balls are great for shaking and throwing. Weaknesses: The "cement mixer" on the back of the truck tips over very easily if even a small amount of weight is placed on it. Also, the lever that you pull to make the mixer spin snaps back quickly and can easily pinch little fingers. Price: $25- $30. Where to Buy: This toy isn't widely available, but is still available through Amazon ( I've also sen it at discount retailers such as Big Lots.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

If you're looking for a book that is inventive, funny, and will help your preschooler look at the world from a new angle, this is the book for you. The books begins with the cows finding a type writer and writing a note to the farmer "Dear Farmer Brown. The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, the Cows". When the farmer refuses to give them the blankets, the cows go on strike and what follows is a whimsical story of the troubles the farmer has with all of his animals. The best character in the book is the Duck, who serves as the go-between for the animals and the farmer. The recommended age range on this book is 4-8 years, but I've used it with 2 1/2 year olds and 3 years olds with great success. This is a Caldecott Honour book, so the illustrations are wonderful. Where to Buy: Any major book seller or it can be purchased on-line through vendors like Amazon.

Pull Along Zebra by Plan Toys

This eco-friendly wooden pull toy is one that brings to mind a simpler time in the world. The toy doesn't light up, beep, or blink - it's just a well constructed toy that bobs along after a child when it is pulled across the floor. When the zebra is pulled the head moves up and down, but other than that there are no other special effects. Strengths: The toy is great for encouraging walking, reaching, grasping, and other motor movements. Weaknesses: Some children lose interest quickly because the toy doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. Price: $15-$20. Where to Buy: Plan toys are typically available in specialty toy shops or can be purchased on-line through retailers like Moolka Toys ( or Baby Earth (

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eyes, Nose, Toes, Peek-a-Boo by DK Books

This is a fun lift-the-flap and texture book for older infants and toddlers alike. Each page has a picture of a baby looking for the eyes, ears, nose, and toes of toy animals hidden behind a heavy gauge cardboard flap. The pictures are bright and colourful and there is a wide variety of textured materials for baby to feel. Strengths: Like all DK lift-the-flap books, this one has heavy cardboard flaps that are difficult to rip or tear. Weaknesses: None that I children I work with have been able to discover. Price: $4 - $8. Where to Buy: This book can be purchased through most major book sellers,, or directly through DK Books (

Rain Forest Shake n' Chime Ball by Fisher Price

This is a cute addition to the Rain Forest line of toys by Fisher Price that is appropriate for young infants to play with. The chime ball moves easily and the little animals inside the ball gently rock back and forth when the ball is bumped by either a hand or foot. Strengths: This is a great toy for a young infant (less than about 6 months) and provides some great early learning exercises in cause-effect play. Weaknesses: The toy quickly becomes boring for slightly older infants, so the life of the toy isn't that great for the price you pay. Price: $12- $15. Where to Buy: This toy is available through most major toy outlets that carry Fisher Price Toys such as Toys R Us, WalMart, and Target.

Peek-a-Blocks Shape Sorter by Fisher Price

This is a well made, durable shape sorter that is very popular with older infants and toddlers. The four large shapes are easy for little hands to grip and the points on the star actually have a nice teething texture on them! Whenever something is dropped into the box a musical tune briefly plays, so babies who like music will enjoy this feature. Strengths: The shapes fit easily into their corresponding holes and are easy to drop into the top of the open box. Most little children also enjoy dumping toys out of the box as well. Weaknesses: The only flaw with the toy that I've found is that the handle can pinch little fingers when children are trying to dump toys out of the box. Price: $30-$34. Where to buy: This toy can be found at most outlets that sell Fisher Price toys, but can most certainly be found through

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Peek-a-Moo by Marie Torres Cimarusti

This book is a great variation on the traditional lift-the-flap books that reveal babies playing peek-a-boo with the reader. Each page has a single picture of an animal on it (with the exception of the last page) with their hooves, paws, or wings up over their eyes and text that reads "Guess who? Peek-a-......". When the flap is turned down to reveal the animal's face the text fills in the animal's sound (e.g., Guess who? Peek-a-oink says the pig). It's a fun lift-the-flap book, with it's only drawback being that the flaps tear easily. Where to Buy: Children's book sellers generally carry this book, but it is also available through on-line vendors like Amazon.

Bright Baby First words by Priddy Books

This is an ideal vocabulary building board book for older infants and toddlers. Each page has a large colour photo of a single item of clothing, piece of furniture, piece of fruit, animal, or other item that would be familiar to a very young child. The pictures are easy to label and the only text that accompanies them is the name of the item pictured. There are actually three other books currently available in this series: Bright Baby Animals; Bright Baby Colours; and Bright Baby Trucks. Where to Buy: You can find these books at sellers like Barnes & Noble or Borders, but you can also purchase them online at Amazon or directly from the publisher Priddy Books (

Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton

Russell the sheep can't fall asleep no matter what he tries. This is the premise of this stylized and whimsical book. The illustrations are expressive and the text is simple enough for older toddlers and preschoolers to be able to enjoy the book, but offers some interesting words and problem solving solutions that older preschoolers would enjoy. Rob Scotton has also written two other Russell books that are just as enjoyable as the original Russell the Sheep: Russell's Christmas Magic; and Russell and the Lost Treasure. Where to Buy: Russell books, as well as other titles by Rob Scotton, can be purchased through children's book sellers as well as large chain book stores with children's sections

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

This is a great tale for preschoolers about a duck who lives on a farm and decides that he will learn how to ride the little boy's bike. Duck starts out slowly, but soon he is zooming past all of the other farm animals. each of the animals think that duck is silly for wanting to ride a bike, until some of the boy's friends come over to play and leave their bikes outside where the animals can find them. Soon the horse, goat, sheep, cow, dog, cat, chicken, two pigs, and a mouse are all riding around with duck. The animals return the bikes before the children find out that the animals have ridden their bikes, but duck has bigger plans. The story ends with him eyeing the tractor! This is a fun and whimsical tale that preschoolers enjoy greatly. Where to Buy: Books by David Shannon are readily available through most children's bookstores.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale: by Mo Willems

This is an ingenious book that is popular with older toddlers and preschoolers alike. It's about a little girl named Trixie, her Daddy, and her favourite stuffed animal - Knuffle Bunny. Trixie and Daddy go to the Laundromat where Knuffle Bunny gets lost. The story focuses on how Trixie tries to let Daddy know that the Bunny is gone and what Daddy finally has to do to find it. What really makes this book so different is the way the illustrations are presented. There are beautiful black-and-white photos of Brooklyn New York combined with expressive cartoon drawings of the main characters. Where to Buy: Mo Willems books are available through most major book sellers as well as online outlets.

Rainforest Nest n' Play Animals by Fisher Price

This is a set of three animal shaped nesting boxes that may be appealing to fairly young infants (3 mo+). Each box is shaped like a jungle animal and has lots of interesting textured surprises for babies & toddlers to explore. The elephant box has crinkly ear and a 3D butterfly and flower stitched to the sides of the box; the lion has a soft mane; and the zebra jingles. There is also a soft monkey that can be put in/taken out of the boxes. Strengths: They are a good size for little hands to grasp and are light weight enough that babies can easily manipulate them. Additionally, this is a quiet toy - no major bells, light, or whistles! Weaknesses: The boxes seem to be made out of a light weight cardboard so they don't seem to be all that durable. Additionally, there is limited play value for the toy because although you can nest the boxes (put them inside one another) they aren't easy to stack. Price: $14-18 Where to Buy: These are available on Amazon.

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton

If your child likes books that are silly and whimsical Moo, Baa, La La La is a board book that you should look into. Basically the book reviews the sounds that familiar animals make (e.g., Rhinoceroses snort and snuff and little dogs go ruff, ruff, ruff!), but you never know when the three singing pigs will say "La, La, La." The text rhymes and is simple enough for children to learn quickly so they can participate in reading the story with you. It's a great book to read to one child or a group of children. Where to Buy: Sandra Boynton books are available at most stores that have a large children's book section.

Surprise Inside Cups by Fisher Price

This is a very simple stacking/nesting toy that seems to be popular with older infants (9mo+), toddlers, and young preschoolers. The three hard plastic, textured cups are easy to grip and stack solidly into a short tower. There is a jingly frog the fits snugly into the smallest of the cups, so children have a built in toy to put in/take out of the cups. The frog has soft feet that are a nice texture for teething infants and toddlers. Strengths: Each of the cups has a little surprise in the bottom: a mirror, a fish shaker; and a picture of a bumble bee. These provide fun little moments of discovery for younger children. Weaknesses: The bumble bee sticker in the bottom of the largest cup is easy to peel off and the handle, while a great idea, can be awkward for some children. Price: $5-$10. Where to Buy: These cups can be found at large toy retailers such as Toys R Us, WalMart, and Target, but can also be purchased through places like Amazon.

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, a Caldecott Honour Book, is a delightful story about a little pigeon whose only dream is to drive the big bus. The story starts with the bus driver telling the readers that he has to leave for a little while and asking us to make sure that the pigeon does not drive the bus. For the remainder of the story the pigeon does everything he can to convince the readers that he should be able to drive the bus. It's the perfect toddler/preschooler ploy for trying to get something they want. The illustrations are simple but compelling - the pigeon's facial expressions and body language are both highly expressive. This is a charming and funny book that older toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy immensely. Other "Pigeon" books by Willems include: The Pigeon has Feelings Too; Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late; The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog; and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. Where to Buy: These are all relatively new books and are easy to find at just about any store that has a large children's book section.

Animalia by Graeme Base

Animalia is probably one of the most beautifully illustrated alphabet books you will ever find. Because of the intricacy of the drawings, it's perfect for preschoolers and slightly older children who are still interested in alphabet books. Each letter is accompanied by alliterative text (e.g., An armoured armadillo avoiding an angry alligator; Ingenious iguanas improvising an intricate impromptu on impossibly impractical instruments) and a page full of lush drawing of pictures starting with the letter featured. Although the purpose of the book is to teach children the alphabet, adults will love the pictures for their detail and sense of whimsy. Where to Buy: Even though this is an older book (published in 1986) it's still widely available at specialty children's book stores and through large chain outlets that have a children's section.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crib to Floor Lion Mirror by Fisher Price

Babies love to look at their own faces, so unbreakable mirrors of any type will keep them entertained for long periods of time. This mirror by Fisher Price is one that is designed to be safely used as both a crib mirror and a free standing one during activities like tummy time. The lion's "feet" each offer a different sensory activity for babies to explore: two are hard rattles, one is a soft squeaker, and the last is a soft jingle rattle. Strengths: It's a cute portable mirror that is easy to take with you wherever you and baby go. Babies seem to really enjoy playing with the lion's feet. Weaknesses: The kickstand on the back of the mirror that is supposed to hold it upright when sitting on the floor doesn't work all that effectively - mine is always falling over unless I prop it up against something. Also, the surface of the mirror is small and the felt mane of the lion covers some of that surface, so it's hard to see more than one face in the mirror at a time. Price: $14-$17 Where to Buy: Toys R Us carries this mirror and it can also be purchased through online sellers like Amazon.

Amazing Animals Tubtime Tugboat by Fisher Price

This fun little boat and five characters are great for water play with toddlers. The walrus and seahorse both have clicking and poseable joints and soft teething textures. The set also includes a lobster scoop, a fist that squirts water, and an octopus that allows a child to scoop and sprinkle water. There are other pieces of the Tubtime friends line that can be purchased separately. These include a poseable turtle with a scooping crab and a poseable dolphin with a squirting starfish. Strengths: These are cute and engaging characters that children find visually interesting. The fish, lobster, and octopus are especially fun during water play. Weaknesses: Although the walrus and seahorse are cute they have limited play value as water toys. Both are very heavy so they merely sink when placed in the water. If your child likes to hold toys they're great, but if he or she likes more active play, these toys will quickly become old. Price: $17-$20. Where to Buy: The Tubtime Tugboat is available at Toy R Us locations and on-line through Amazon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bathtime Peek-a-Boo by DK books

This is another entry into the peek-a-boo series by DK books. It's a terrific board book that has heavy gauge cardboard flaps that are difficult to tear (which is a necessity for the infant/toddler population). The pages are easy to turn and each reveals a fun tub toy with patches of soft, bumpy, squishy, or crinkly materials to touch. Strengths: The text is simple and the pages visually interesting to young children. It's an easy and predictable book to read. Weaknesses: None that the children I've shared it with have discovered. Price: $5-$7. Where to Buy: The DK books can be purchased from most major book sellers, amazon ( or directly from from the company at

Organic Plush Cotton Rattle by MiYim

This soft rattle is made of all natural cotton fibers and is a wonderful toy for an infant with allergies or skin conditions. It's easy to grasp and when given even a little shake you can hear a soft rattle coming from within. Strengths: It's entirely organic so it's a toy that's not only good for your child but good for the environment as well. Weaknesses: It's a wonderful toy for one child, but because of it's soft surface not a great one to share across children. Price: $9-$13. Where to Buy:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

This is a classic piece of children's literature that has stood the test of time. It was originally published in 1969 and is still highly popular today with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their parents. The story encourages counting skills, colour recognition, matching, and object identification. The pictures are so wonderfully expressive you don't even need to read the text to let young children enjoy the story. If you do read the text you'll find it to be simple and highly repetitive, something that young children love. You can also purchase a caterpillar/butterfly puppet that comes with the book to make the experience of reading more interactive for your little one.

White Rabbit's Color Book by Alan Baker

If your interested in teaching your toddler and preschooler their colours and colour mixing, this is a fantastic book. The story starts with White Rabbit finding three big tubs of paint - red, yellow, and blue. She starts by climbing into the yellow pot of paint and then the red, to become an orange rabbit. The story continues with White Rabbit first trying a single primary paint colour and then mixing it with another colour to produce a third. In addition to being red, yellow, and blue, White Rabbit also turns orange, purple, green, and brown. This book is a great way to introduce colours to children in a fun story book.

Giant Peg Board by Discovery Toys

This is a great first peg board for children 18 months to preschool age. The large easy to grip pieces fit easily into the wide holes and are great for encouraging fine motor development. A newer version of the toy includes 25 pegs of different colours and shapes, so you can do matching as well as simple stacking activities. The company also puts out and Activity Pack for the pegboard that can be purchased separately. It contains 25 round pegs (shown), lace, and an activity guide book for parents. Strengths: This is a versatile toy that will be fun for your child for a long time and it's very durable (I've had mine for about 15 years). The play value is excellent for the money spent. It's also noteworthy that the pegs are large enough that they don't pose a choking hazard to young children. Weaknesses: Depending upon how you're using the toy the pegs can be difficult to keep track of and are easy to lose. Price: The Giant Pegboard: $18.50 (through Discovery Toys). The Activity Pack: $8.50 (through Discovery Toys). Where to Buy: Discovery Toys are most readily available through private home toy parties (like a Pampered Chef party but for toys) and you can find representatives at the Discovery Toys website You can also purchase toys on-line at the Discovery Toys website. Additionally, you can find some of the toys through on-line stores like Amazon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner

Forget everything you thought you knew about the story of the Three Little Pigs when you enter this fantastic and whimsical book! It starts off in the traditional way, but the pigs actually escape from the story and start exploring other stories and fairy tales. Eventually they return to their own story, but they bring some new friends with them to help deal with the wolf. This is a wonderful twist on the classic story, but holds wonderful surprises that older toddlers and preschoolers alike will enjoy. As usual, David Wiesner provides beautifully detailed drawings to compliment the story.

Go Baby Go Crawl Along Musical Ball by Fisher Price

This battery operated little ball is designed to encourage crawling and walking in infants and young toddlers. When hit or batted at the ball rolls and the monkey rocks back and forth and giggles. Strengths: It's a cute toy that is visually appealing to young children. Those who are not yet walking find it the most interesting. Weaknesses: It does not work well on carpet or tile with deep grout lines. The toy would have more appeal if it actually played a song or had music that accompanied the movement rather than just the giggle, which can become a little annoying. Price: $13-$15. Where to Buy: Toys R Us, discount stores like Big Lots, or Amazon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shape Sorter Curioso by Haba

This is a unique and very interesting shape sorting toy that is appropriate for toddlers who want more of a challenge of more than simply a circle, square, and triangle. The cloth box has two flaps that open easily to retrieve the wooden shapes stored inside. The 8 shapes include 2 circles, 2 triangles (of different sizes), 1 square, 1 oval, 1 circular cog, and 1 octagon. The unique shapes also offer some interesting sensory experiences for young children, including, rattles, kaleidoscopes, mirrors, and other shiny surfaces to explore. Strengths: The unique nature of the shapes really provides lots of learning opportunities for toddlers and even preschoolers. Weaknesses: Because the shape box is constructed out of a stitched material rather than a molded plastic, some of the shapes can be a little difficult to fit into their designated holes (e.g., it's a bit difficult to fit the cog and octagon through the circle hole - they're just a little bit big. However, they will go in if you are persistent). Price: $40-$54. Where to Buy: Haba toys can be ordered through specialty toy shops, but can also be purchased on-line through Moolka toys ( and of course through Amazon (

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD

This book is a must have for every new sleep deprived parent. Dr. Karp presents specific steps for how to best calm a crying baby (the 5 S's - swaddling, side lying, shhh-ing, swinging, & sucking) and provides techniques for how to help babies sleep through the night. He also addresses the issue of colic and provides a variety of different remedies for harried parents. This is an excellent resource for new parents!

Stacking Rings by Bruin

This is a musical stacking toy that holds a great deal of appeal from older infants and toddlers alike. The three rings sit on a musical base, and when then head is pushed down on the stacking ring the toy plays several songs and spins back and forth. Strengths: The rings are made out of a hard plastic and are easy for little hands to manipulate. They fit easily onto the stacking rod and the toy itself is very simple to activate. Weaknesses: Although there is an on/off switch on the toy there is not a volume control and the music is LOUD. Additionally, the Bear's head isn't really secure and falls off easily. Price: $15-$20. Where to Buy: Bruin toys are carried exclusively by Toys R Us. Because the toy line is from Europe, not all items are available on a regular basis.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Puzzle Stacker by P'kolino

This is an excellent variation on standard stacking ring toys that is appropriate for toddlers (1 year+) and preschoolers alike. It has a heavy wooden base with a wide dowel running up the centre to hold the rings in place. Each of the rings can be taken apart to form two separate rings - a colourful one and the other with a natural wood finish. The toy is designed to help children develop fine motor skills (fitting the rigs together and stacking), develop spatial logic (fitting the rings together in different configurations), and learn colour and size concepts. Strengths: This is a very durable toy that will last for many years and play sessions to come. Weaknesses: Because the toy is made of a heavy wood it wouldn't be appropriate if your child was still in the "I'll throw everything" phase. Price: $34. Where to Buy: This is the type of toy that would be available through most specialty toy shops, but it can also be purchased on-line through Barnes and Nobel ( or Amazon (

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle

This is a classic book for young children that has been available in one form or another since 1967. The book focuses on the identification of animals and colours, but does so in a wonderful, repetitious text, which is just what infants, toddlers, and preschoolers love. The illustrations, like the text, are very simple and easy for young children to identify. This is an enduring favourite for most children (even though parents can tire of reading it!). It's available in both board book and paper versions. Where to Buy: This book is available almost anywhere that sells even a few children's books.