Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday by David Wiesner

This beautifully illustrated book is one that should be included on the bookshelf of every child! This is a whimsical picture book that follows the adventures of a group of frogs one Tuesday night as they leave the confines of the pond and fly through a town having a variety of new and unexpected experiences. There is only a limited amount of written text in the book, so it's ideal for an older toddler or preschooler (or even older child) to help make up the story as they go along. In 1992 Tuesday was the winner of the Caldecott Medal, which is awarded annually by the Association for Library Services to Children to the most distinguished American picture book for children. Where to Buy: This book is typically available at most major chain bookstores that have children's sections or can be purchased through most children's book sellers.

Xylophone Bird House by Lamaze

This is a visually appealing toy for most infants and toddlers. The brightly coloured keys on the xylophone, plastic hammer, and spinning bird all are designed to attract the attention of small children. Strengths: It's cute. Weaknesses:
Unfortunately, in my experience, the toy lacks the ability to sustain the interest of young children. Most enjoy spinning the bird that sits on the perch a couple of times, but the xylophone does not offer an interesting play option for most. They keys don't have a good sound quality and are actually difficult to strike/produce sound with. For the price you pay for this toy (about $20) you're not getting a good play value for your money Where to Buy: You can find this toy at or at specialty toy shops that carry Lamaze toys.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

The subtitle of this terrific board book is "Dr. Suess's Book of Wonderful Noises" and is one of the most popular books with toddlers and preschoolers that I use. The book let's Mr. Brown participate in a very popular toddler activity - imitating everything he hears. From the "klopp, klopp, klopp" of the horse's feet, to the "dibble, dibble, dibble, dopp" of the rain, and the "splatt, splatt, splatt" of the lightning Mr. Brown will imitate any and every sound he hears. Infants and toddlers delight at the sounds and words in the book, and the sound effects are printed in big letters so that as your child starts to read, these will be appealing to him or her. Strengths: This is a classic Dr. Seuss book and a great first book for baby and parents. It's also a durable board book that can withstand lots of chewing and pulling on the pages. Weaknesses: Because this is a board book, it is an abridged version of the traditional paper paged one. Things like the sounds of the hippo chewing gum, the kissing of the gold fish, and sizzle of the frying pan are omitted. Where to Buy: This book would be available at almost any children's bookstore or large chain bookstore with a children's section.

Rainfall Rattle by Discovery Toys

This is a great sensory exploration toy if your child enjoys ones that make soft sounds and produce interesting visual effects. The sound of a gentle rainfall when the beads roll through the tube and the rainbow of colours produced when the beads move make this a fun toy for children at a wide range of ages. Younger infants enjoy the toy when an adult helps them tip the tube from end to end and make the beads tumble. Older infants enjoy crawling after the toy when it is rolled across the floor. Toddlers can independently manipulate the toy, so they can create the rainfall all by themselves. Strengths: This is a sturdy, well built toy that appeals to children of different ages for different reasons. Weaknesses: The type of play that can be accomplished with the toy is fairly limited, so the fun may wear off quickly for some children. Where to Buy: This toy can be purchased directly through the Discovery Toys website ( or through Amazon ( Price: Discovery Toys: $10; Amazon: $9-15.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lock-a-Bloc by Walter Toys

If you are looking for a sturdy, child-friendly shape sorter made out of natural, raw materials, look no further. Walter Toys, which are made in Germany, offers a great shape sorter that encourages problem solving skills in several different ways. First, there is the traditional shape sorter that has three different shape holes, a square, triangle, and circle. Next, children have to learn how to insert and turn the key in order to get the shapes out of the box. Finally it promotes matching of shapes and colours. Strengths: This toy offers a nice level of challenge for older toddlers and younger preschoolers because the shapes are small enough to encourage small motor movements. Weaknesses: The price. Because these toys are imported from Germany and are made from natural materials, they tend to be expensive. This shape sorter will run approximately $40. Where to Buy: If you are interested in the toy you can purchase it through If they are sold out on this website, check out for a complete list of retailers that carry Walter Toys.

That's Not My...... Published by Usborne Books

These chunky Usborne touchy-feely books are perfect for older infants and toddlers whose idea of reading is patting the pictures, feeling the texture patches, and then quickly turning the pages. This amazing series consists of about 25 different "That's not my..." books. What's so unique about these books is that each page has a different texture patch and simple text that explains why a certain animal, vehicle, monster, fairy, pirate, or dinosaur can't be the one that belongs to the child (e.g., "That's not my penguin his tummy is too fluffy) and ends with the item that does belong to the child (e.g., "That's my penguin! Its baby is so fluffy). These are wonderful books for tactile (touch exploration and are just the right size for toddler's little hands to carry around. Where to Buy: You can find these books at or go directly to the publisher on-line at

Puppets by Folkmanis

Puppets can encourage lots of different types of interactions with curious toddlers. From promoting social play to helping them act out stories the fun you can have with puppets is limitless. I like Folkmanis Puppets because they are very realistic and beautifully crafted, but any type of puppet will do as long as it isn't to big for little hands to manipulate. Strengths: These puppets are durable and can be cleaned easily. The collection of puppets offered by the company is really diverse, so it's not that hard to find animals, fish, and insects that your child will enjoy. Weaknesses: The price. The hand puppets range in price from about $12 to $60. Character puppets can be even more expensive. Where to Buy: These puppets can be purchased on-line at or can be found in specialty toy shops.

I Can, Can You? by Marjorie W. Pitzer

This is a beautiful photo board-book that features infants and toddlers with Down Syndrome participating in a wide range of different daily activities. Each page shows one large picture of a child doing things like stacking blocks, playing in water, looking at books, and playing in the mirror. The text that accompanies each picture is very repetitive, which is great for little ones in the early stages of book exploration (e.g., "I can take a bath! Can you?", "I can play with blocks! Can you?"). In general, the message of the book is that children with special needs can do all of the same things that children without these needs can do. Where to Buy: This book, and other children's books about special needs, can be purchased at

Yookidoo KaleidoDisk by International Playthings

If you are looking for a toy that will tap into most of your baby's senses this one is worth checking out. It's actually a two-in-one toy that will take your baby from crib, to tummy-time, to sitting and exploring, and still be a favourite when your little one is even more mobile. The centre of the toy is a mirrored musical kaleidoscope that plays four different musical CDs that come with the toy. The disks are decorated with highly colourful pictures that are reflected in the mirrors while the disk spins. You can turn on the lights of the toy or change the speed of the rotation to further heighten sensory exploration. The mirrored section of the toy can be suspended from a crib and then be attached to the activity base during tummy time activities, when your baby is learning to sit, or when he or she become more mobile. The activity base has a range of different types of toys to explore. There is a clicker, spinner, squeaker, mirror, and movable beads. There are also two plastic balls that snap out of the toy for more independent play. Strengths: This toy is wonderful for sensory exploration and really is a hit during tummy time, even for babies who don't enjoy being on their tummies all that much. Weaknesses: This is an expensive toy and the price can range significantly across different retailers. The lower price range is about $43 ( and the upper range is $59 (specialty toy shops).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Amazing Animals Rollin' Around Jungle Playground

This colourful playground offers many fun options for play for toddlers. The most exciting feature of the toy is watching one of the three chunky animals (tiger, rhino, and elephant) zoom down the plastic slide and bump into the monkey on the way down. Children can be very entertained by making the animals go down the slide, so play can become a little redundant, but if you play with your child you can help to stretch their imagination beyond the simple drop and roll action. The animals, which are a good size for toddler hands to grip, make great shakers! Strengths: Children seem to love this toy and it will keep them entertained for a long period of time. The toy is musical, but there is an on/off switch, so you can let your child play even when you're tired of listening to the song. My experience has been that most children like the toy just as much when the sound is turned off. Weaknesses: Besides the slide there are two other "activity stations" for the animals on this toy: a teeter-totter and a carousel. Neither of these options seem to work as well as the slide and I find that children quickly lose interest in them and will go back to dropping the animals down the slide.

Amazing Animals Push & Pull Gift Set by Fisher Price

This is yet another set of train cars that go with the Sing & Go Choo Choo by Fisher Price. The hippo and lion come in cars that can be easily attached to the big train, but the panda and crocodile can be used in more independent play. Strengths: The cars make fun clicking sounds when they move and the durable animals are positionable. Weaknesses: The animals are a little bit big to fit comfortably into the train cars and there is no room to put the panda or crocodile anywhere on the train if you use all of the other animals.

Amazing Animals Push & Pull Babies

This cute twosome is actually a supplementary piece for the Sing and Go Choo Choo by Fisher Price. The teeter-totter that the baby elephant and giraffe sit on actually moves up and down when the toy is pulled forward.Strengths: The animals are cute and their heads and legs move so they can be posed (a little bit). Weaknesses: Although the premise of the toy is great it fails in execution. The animals are just a bit to big to sit comfortably on the teeter-totter and tend to fall off when the cart is attached to a moving choo-choo train.

Amazing Animals Sing & Go Choo Choo by Fisher Price

This wonderful, colourful train is always a hit with the infants and toddlers I use it with. The toy moves easily on carpeted surfaces and has both a "sit and play" and moving mode, which gives the toy some longevity in terms of how long a baby/toddler will play with it. I have found it to be most popular with children over the age of about 9 months. I'm not sure if this toy is available directly through Fisher Price any longer, but it is available at Amazon and eBay. Strengths: The durable and positionable animals can be removed from the train and played with independently. There are also several other animal sets you can purchase to make the train longer. Weaknesses: The music that plays when the train is on can become a bit annoying after a while.

Clutch Cube by Lamaze

Young infants love to grasp and hang onto toys that are easy to grip. This why toys like clutch cubes are so popular from the earliest months of life. This clutch cube is brightly coloured and has many different textures of materials covering its surface. Additionally there are rattles and crinkly sounds that attract the attention of new explorers. This toy also features a peek-a-boo mirror under the face of the panda bear. Strengths: It's a multi sensory toy (touch, sound, sight) that infants love to grasp and older toddlers enjoy carrying around with them. Weaknesses: It's disappointing that only one lift flap appears on the toy. Babies love to play peek-a-boo, so the other faces could have been hidden behind flaps as well.

Just a thought.......

Starting at about 12 months of age toddlers begin to express a new found sense of independence, and that means they might have difficulty sharing their toys with someone else (even you!). Remember they are not being purposefully difficult; they are simply showing an increased sense of understanding of the rules we live by (e.g., these things are MINE and it's difficult to share them with someone else). It's a typical stage of development that all children go through so don't worry if your child demonstrates this type of behaviour. One option for handling these outbursts is by giving a choice to your toddler, "Do you want to play with the blocks or the elephant?" Once your child selects a toy put the other one away. Also, try limiting the number of toys your child has to choose from. Keeping some toys out of sight will help your child focus on the toys that are available to play with, rather than just wanting the entire contents of his or her toy box on the floor.

Chuffa Puffa Pull Along Train by Tomy

This is a wonderful pull toy by Tomy for toddlers who are either in the process of learning to walk or those who are already walking. As you pull the train along, different coloured balls or what the toy company calls "puffs of smoke" roll through the plastic tubes that runs from the smoke stack to the back of the train. The wheels make a fun clickity-clack sound when the train is pulled, so the toy taps into may different sensory experiences for a child. Strengths: The train is very easy to both pull and push, so it has been very popular with the children I have used it with. They go back to it time and time again, so it seems to be of good play value for the money spent. Weaknesses: As with most pull toys there aren't lots of opportunities for interactive play (you and your toddler using the toys together). However, I play stop and go games, rolling it back and forth games, and pretending to "fix" it with many of my toddlers, which they seem to enjoy. So it can be made into an interactive toy with just a little bit of imagination on your part.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Surprise Inside Elephant by The Early Years

This soft velour elephant is a great "first" hide-inside box for most infants and toddlers. With four soft toys that you can either tuck inside pockets on the outside of the elephant or place inside the opening on the top of the elephant's back, this toy offers lots of fun and creative play opportunities for young children. Strengths: Children enjoy being able to manipulate the small hide-inside toys that are just the right size for little hands. The toys squeak and crinkle, so there are many different sensory activities baby can enjoy with this toy. Weaknesses: Because of the material the toy is made out of, washing can be a bit tricky. Spot cleaning is the best, but you can try washing on a gentle cycle inside of a pillowcase. I've had one make it through the wash cycle and one fall apart on me - so I guess it's just the luck of the draw.

Swirlin' Surprise Gumballs by Fisher Price

This is a great cause-effect toy for babies and toddlers who like a little bit more action in their play. You drop the balls into the top of of the toy, press the blue lever, and a ball comes zipping down the ramp and out of the front of the gumball machine. There is also a yellow knob on the front of the toy that makes fun clicking sounds when turned. As an added bonus you can turn this battery operated toy on and lights flash and music plays when the gumballs come down the chute. Strengths: This is a fun toy for younger infants who enjoy the light and sounds and is also fun for older toddler who can operate the toy independently. Therefore, you are getting a good play value for the money you spend. Weaknesses: The toy is a little top heavy, so it tends to fall down with even just a slight bump. Also, there isn't much storage space for the balls, so if you use more than the four balls that come with the toy you might have difficulty finding a place to keep them.

Magic Shaker by Tolo

This beautifully crafted rattle makes a wonderful gift for any baby. It produces a soft rain-like noise as the beads drop from one end of the rattle to the other. Additionally there is a wonderful surprise that accompanies this toy. When you turn the rattle over, the pink beads disappear and the blue beads fill the other chamber. So the name "Magic Shaker" really is fitting! The handles are easy to grip, making this an ideal clutch toy for very young infants. There's also a great little peek-a-boo mirror at each end of the toy, so baby can look at his or her reflection during play. According to Tolo this toy is the winner of international toy awards, they don't specifically state which ones, but it still sounds pretty impressive. Strengths: This is a wonderful toy for promoting simple visual tracking as the beads move from one chamber to the other and also can support infants as they learn how to bring both hands to mid-line (middle of the chest) when lying on their backs. Additionally, they toy is easy to transfer from one hand to the other because of the easy grip handles. Weaknesses: None that I've noticed. This toy is popular with a range of infants.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Freddie the Firefly by Lamaze

Every infant needs a good toy to clutch and explore with their hands, feet, and mouth. Freddie meets these criteria and then some! This brightly coloured firefly crinkles, squeaks, and clinks just about anywhere baby touches him. The body is made out of a soft velour and the wings out of multi-textured materials, all great for early exploration. Freddie also comes with an attached lady bug teether and a pee-a-boo mirror. This unlikely bug is extremely popular with infants under about 10 months of age. Strengths: There is much to explore on Freddie and most children stay interested in him for a long period of time. Once his usefulness as a clutch toy has passed, he just a fun stuffed toy to carry around for most children. Weaknesses: The mirror on his wing is a little small and the lady bug teether is good for front teeth, but is a bit difficult to get further back in the mouth.

Press 'n Go Inchworm by International Playthings

This is a simple cause-effect toy that has been highly popular with children from a wide range of age groups and ability levels that I have worked with. The concept of the toy is a very simple one - you push down on the worm's back and it races forward across the floor. Strengths: A basic cause-effect toy that doesn't require batteries or make any noise or sounds when activated (other than the tiny beads that roll around in the wheels). Weaknesses: The first one I had was broken when a child tried to force the toy to go in reverse (pushed down the back and then pushed the toy backwards instead of letting it roll foward freely). Where to Buy: This toy is currently available through Discovery Toys (

Stack & Roll Cups by Fisher Price

This is an amazingly durable set of nesting/stacking cups and is actually a great twist on a old favourite. These fun bowls can be stacked, nested, fit together and turned into five different balls, each with a hole on either side to make grasping and catching easy. Each cup has a textured lip that makes them comfortable for little hands to handle. The happy face ball that comes with the cups is easy to nest inside any of the cups, place inside one of the balls, or just stack on top of the cup tower. Because of the heavy plastic these are made of they are great for banging and chewing for younger children. Strengths: These cups are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of different ways (they make great hats for little heads!) as children get older, which enhances the overall play value of this fun but simple toy. The cups are also great fun for "hide inside" activities! Weaknesses: If a child has motor limitations, these can be frustrating to stack. They fall over easily when bumped and need to be placed on fairly straight in order to make the tower sturdy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Balancing Bug Stackers by Lamaze

Stacking toys (and of course knocking them over) is a favourite pass time for many older infants and toddlers.These happy little bugs are held together by fairly strong magnets, so a child doesn't need to have precise motor skills to be able to stack them successfully. Strengths: Most children really enjoy this toy because it is so easy to get the bugs to stick together. The figures are just the right size for little hands to hold and the wings and antennae are fun to chew on. Weaknesses: Depending upon how the bugs are stacked the toy can become top heavy and fall over fairly easily. The fact that the bugs are held together by fairly strong magnets is of concern for some parents.

Rainbow Stackers by Tolo

Every child should have a great set of stacking cups! Adults tend to get bored with them very quickly, but little ones derive hours of joy banging them together, stacking them up, knocking them over, or just chewing on the rim. Stacking cups are wonderful toys because the only limit to using them is your imagination. They can become hats, shoes, a place to hide other little toys, something to play peek-a-boo behind - so the possibilities really are endless. Strengths: This set of cups by Tolo is nice because you get 7 cups instead of the usual 5 to stack, and their wide rims make them easy for little hands to balance on top on one another. Weaknesses: Children with motor planning difficulties may have problems stacking more than the first 2-3 cups because they are small and don't give you much room for an error of accuracy.

First Friends Carousel by Tolo

This is a wonderful spinning toy that will keep children interested for a long period of time. It works on the same principle as a top - you pump the button on the top and the carousel spins around. It's bright, colourful, and children seen to enjoy watching the little figures spin round and round. Strengths: It's a a highly durable toy that is easy to operate. Even children with a limited range of motion seem to be able to successfully activate the toy. Children also get a fairly big pay-off for very little physical effort because the carousel spins easily for a long period of time even after just one push. Weaknesses: Some adults complain that they don't like the look of the toy, but I've never had it fail to fascinate a child.

Just a thought....

Babies can send messages to other people from the very beginning of their lives. They might not know that they are communicating with us, but our responses to their sounds and movements help shape their behaviours into meaningful ideas. When your baby sneezes, hiccoughs, coughs, cries, or makes happy gurggly sounds it is important that you respond as if he or she is actually saying something to you. Say things like "That was a big sneeze!" or "You like it when mama tickles your tummy". When your baby wriggles in your arms ask (Do you want to move?" You can interpret everything your baby does as a message that he or she is trying to send you and you want your baby to know that you have received it. This is how babies learn to become active, purposeful communication partners.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Babies & Toddlers Like About Books....

It really never is to early to start reading to your baby. The might not be interested in the story, but they love the sound of your voice, touching and looking at pictures, as well as sometimes "chewing" on the books. All of these behaviours are developmentally appropriate for young children! The most important tip about sharing books with your baby and toddler is that you should HAVE FUN!!! Don't worry if you don't actually read the book, just make it a pleasurable and shared activity between the two of you. Here are some ideas about the kinds of books your baby or toddlers might enjoy:
0-6 months of age: books with large simple pictures or designs with bright colours; chunky books; books that may be folded out so they can see all of the pictures; cloth and soft vinyl books with pictures of familiar objects.
6-12 months: board books with pictures of other babies; books that have different textures on the pages; books with pictures of familiar objects; books that can be taken into the bath tub; small plastic photo albums of friends and family.
12-24 months: books that are small and sturdy enough to carry around; goodnight books for bedtime; books that practice the routines of "hello" and "good-bye"; books with only a few words on each page; books with simple rhymes and predictable text; animal books; books of children doing familiar activities (e.g., bath time, bed time, eating, playing).

Peek-a-Boo Books by DK

These peek-a-boo books for babies are a wonderful series that are just right for helping children to develop a life-long love affair with books. Between about 6-12 months of age babies start to become interested in books that feature pictures of other babies as well as familiar animals and objects. They also enjoy books that have fun elements to explore such as lifting the flap and touching different textures. The DK peek-a-boo books, which are made of a heavy grade cardboard, feature beautiful photos of babies participating in familiar routines (e.g., bath time). They also include fun sensory elements such as different textured materials to touch and peek-a-boo flaps that hide more babies. A feature of these books that I really like is the heavy gauge cardboard that is used on the page flaps. Most flaps on these types of books are easily ripped, but the DK books use a cardboard that is much more difficult for young children to tear. You can find all of the peek-a-boo books at

Just a thought....

The best toys are not always the ones you buy for your child. Homemade toys can be just as much fun as something purchased at the store. There are several strength of toys you make yourself: (1) they can be less expensive than store bought toys; (2) you can adapt toys to meet your child's physical or cognitive level of development (e.g., making pictures larger or simpler); and (3) you can include ideas or themes that are particularly motivating or interesting to your child. The greatest advantage of homemade toys is that the only thing limiting them is your imagination. Margarine tubs filled with a few beans or rice make great shakers, old photo albums filled with simple and familiar pictures are wonderful first books, a zip-lock bag with hair gel in it can be a wonderful squishy or patting toy, and a large cardboard box makes a great house or quiet place to share books. So be creative and have fun making great toys for your child.

Musical Jack-in-the Box by Tolo

This brightly coloured little music box is an interesting toy for infants starting at about 9-12 months of age. When you turn the crank on the side of the box, the lid pops open, and a brightly coloured clown pops out. It's a great toy to help your child learn how to anticipate events and actions. Strengths: A brightly coloured toy that encourages social interaction between you and your baby because you need to operate the toy for him or her. Weaknesses: If your child is easily startled, the clown may be a bit frightening when it pops out of the box. Try and look for a toy where the figure pops out a little more gently than does this clown.

Press 'n Spin Safari Friends by Lamaze

Pushing buttons that make a toy do something funny or produce a sound is a highly popular activity for infants and toddlers starting at about 6 months of age. The Press 'n Spin Safari Friends is designed so the animals spin around and a fun and lively song plays when the top of the palm tree is pressed down. Strengths: The palm tree button is large and easy to depress, so younger children can theoretically operate the toy with some degree of independence. Weaknesses: Although the palm tree button is easy to depress, many children in the recommended age group have difficulty operating the toy. Most children are more interested in holding on to the monkey or lion than actually operating the toy for its intended purpose. If an adult then presses the button to make the toy go, children continue to hold on to the animal figures, which doesn't allow them to spin freely. Because of this the motor on the toy wears out quickly. Because of these limitations the toy is not a good play value for the money.

Walk 'n Roll Safari by Lamaze

Pull toys are always fun for toddlers and help younger infants learn to track moving objects. The Walk 'n Roll Safari offers three colourful animals that spin (the lion), bang on a drum (the monkey), and clash symbols (the giraffe) when pulled. Strengths: The toy is colourful and interesting to look at. Weaknesses: The concept for this toy is a great one, but sadly it doesn't deliver what is promised. The animals are fairly unstable so they fall down or come apart at the slightest pull of the string. Additionally the actions that are supposed to accompany the animals aren't very dramatic. Overall this is a disappointing toy from a company that is usually right on the money with their offerings.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Say Please Tea Set by Fisher Price

Toddlers between the ages of 15-24 months are beginning to enjoy imaginary play. Not only will they enjoy preparing special drinks for you, but it is also becoming fun to play along side other children their age, and tea sets seem to lend themselves well to this type of activity. This charming tea set is one that has been very popular with the children I've used it with. The teapot plays a happy song and actually asks for a drink and thanks the child once it has been poured. Strengths: The tea plate is actually a simple shape sorter (circle, square, triangle) so the toy can be used in different ways. Weaknesses: My set seems to go through batteries very quickly.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fun & Discovery Bead Ball by Fisher Price

Bead frames seem to be everywhere children tend to be. This bead ball is a fun variation for children who are not yet able to balance safely at one of the stands. The bead ball can be held and has three colourful stands of curvy wire that have different plastic beads on them. Strengths: The toy is light enough that little hands can hang onto the wires and push or spin the beads as well as shake the toy up and down. Weaknesses: A previous version of the bead ball put out by Fisher Price actually lit up and played music when the toy was shaken. This version lacks the same big "cause-effect" reaction for baby.

Firefly & Friends Bug Jar by Sassy

This simple bug jar is a toy that seems to captivate the attention of a wide range of different children. The large pail comes with a net, 2 bees, 2 lady bugs, and one firefly, which lights up when dropped into the bucket. All of the bugs are made out of durable and washable plastic. Strengths: This toy will hold the interest of a young child for a number of months because it's function changes as the child gets older. For children at about 9 months of age the toy is fun because they can take the lid off of the jar, dump the bugs out, chew them, tap them together, and then return them to the jar. Older toddlers (12-15 months) enjoy putting the bugs in the wide slots on top of the jar. Still older children (18-24 months) can begin to use the bugs and the net for simple pretend play activities (e.g., catching the bugs, feeding them, or making them fly). Weaknesses: As the toy gets older it can be difficult to trigger the light located in the firefly.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just a thought.....

Cleaning toys on a regular basis is part of helping to keep your baby happy and healthy. You can use products like Clorox or Lysol wipes, but if you want a more natural, eco-friendly method try using vinegar and water. Mix 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with 1 cup of water; pour the mixture into a spray bottle and give hard surfaced toys a good squirt. Another way of cleaning hard surfaced toys is putting them in a pillowcase or mesh bag and running them through the gentle cycle of your dishwasher (no soap is needed). Soft or stuffed toys can be effectively cleaned in the washing machine by putting them in a pillow case and washing them on the gentle cycle with just a bit of baking soda and vinegar added to the water. Keep them in the pillow case and dry them on a gentle setting in your dryer. If manufacturers suggest that you simply spot clean toys, use the vinegar and water solution.

Silly Sounds Piano by Tomy

This brightly coloured "piano" is great fun for both older infants and toddlers of all ages. When one of the globe-like face buttons is pushed it lights up and produces, depending upon what mode the toy is in, either a silly sound (sneezing, boinging, giggling, etc) or a musical note. The combination of sounds and lights keeps children focused for a long period of time. Strengths: The buttons on the toy are easy to push so children can operate the toy without much frustration. Weaknesses: The toy can be operated in four different modes: funny, piano, game, and guide. The game and guide modes are not that interesting to young children.

Baby & Toddler Bistro Boxes by Baby Bistro Brands

I know this isn't a book or toy, but it's a great resource for all expecting, new, and not so new parents. These recipes boxes contain up-to-date and excellent nutritional information for infants and toddlers. The Baby Bistro Box (prenatal to 12 months) provides information about prenatal nutrition as well as tips on how and when to introduce foods to your baby. The Toddler Bistro Box (1-3 years) offers great suggestions on how to make food fun and interesting for finicky toddlers. The toddler box also provides vegan friendly recipes and ideas. You can order these resources, as well as many others, from

Parents Counting Pals by Battat

Blocks are another toy that should be a staple in the toy collection of any young child. This set of 10 durable blocks is a wonderful introduction for young children to the world of block play. They are made out of a soft pvc and bpa free rubber/plastic and are just the perfect size for children who like to mouth, throw, or knock things over. Strengths: They stack easily and because they are made of a relatively soft material babies and toddlers won't get hurt if the blocks fall over. Weaknesses: Not any that the children I work with have discovered.

Amazing Animals Press & Go Animal Parade by Fisher Price

This musical train seems to be a hit with both infants and toddlers alike. The four animals are cute and the zebra, rhino, and giraffe have pose-able heads that make fun clicking sounds when turned. Because the toy is motorized it travels for about 10 seconds when the bird sitting on the elephant's back is pushed down. As the "parade" moves across the floor the toy plays music and makes realistic animal sounds. Strengths: Infants seem to enjoy watching the train as it scoots across the floor while the more mobile toddler will chase the toy until it stops. Weaknesses: The animals are difficult to link together and snap apart. Sometimes you have to push/pull them so hard it feels like the toy is about to break.

Musical Spin & Stack Rings by Lamaze

A good stacking toy should be a staple of any child's toy collection and this charming one is popular with toddlers. Some of the more interesting elements of the toy include a straight stacking cone that has some flexibility to move from side to side to help make stacking easier and a musical spinner that can be turned on so the rings move around in a circle. Additionally, each ring has a different textured material on it so it's easily identifiable by touch. Strengths: Because of the many sensory elements of the toy (music, movement, and touch) it is one that can be enjoyed by children with visual impairments as well as those who do not have issues in this area. Weaknesses: The rings are made of a hard plastic and can be difficult for little hands to manipulate.

Just a thought....

Tummy time is an important activity for young infants. It is so important because it allows babies to strengthen and gain control of their head, shoulders, and abdomen. Building strength and control early in life is the basis for learning later motor skills such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, and eventually walking. If your baby resists tummy time, try several brief (1-2 minutes) sessions a day and gradually work up to longer periods of time. Babies should spend approximately 15-20 minutes a day in tummy time.

Ready, Set, Go Cars by Parents

These four colourful and happy cars will be a favourite for your child for many months. Each vehicle has a "rev-up" action that allows a child to pull the car backwards, let it go, and have it zoom forward for several feet. Each vehicle makes a fun clicking sound as it zips along. Strengths: The cars are made of a firm but malleable plastic that is just the right firmness for little hands to manipulate. They are large enough to not pose a choking hazard but small enough for a child to easily hold on to. Weaknesses: The cars don't move all that well on carpet, but do wonderfully on play mats or hard surfaced floors.

Mirror Pound-a-Ball by Parents

This is one of the most popular pound-a-ball toys for children at a wide range of ages. Because of the three ramps the balls must roll down before they reach the bottom little ones have more time to visually track and appreciate the cause-effect nature of the toy. The hammer makes a fun squeaky sound when hit against the balls and the mirrored background provides an added sensory element. Strengths: Younger babies and toddlers enjoy watching the balls roll down the ramps and the mirror lets them watch their own reflection during play. Older toddlers have fun whacking or pushing the balls through the holes. Weaknesses: The balls fit very snugly into the holes on top of the toy, so making them fall through can be difficult for younger toddlers or for children who do not have good upper body muscle strength.

Quack Along Ducks by Tomy

This is a cause-effect toy that is fun for for both children who are walking and those who have a more limited range of motion. The ducks move easily with even the slightest tug on the string and waddle after the child quacking merrily! Strengths: Because the toy is so easily activated it is a great option for a child with limited gross motor abilities. Fine motor skills may also be challenged because the child needs to pick-up, grasp, and pull the string to make the toy work. Weaknesses: If a child has sound sensitivities the quacking can be a little scary and since there isn't an on/off switch on the toy every time the string is pulled the quacking starts.