Monday, February 15, 2010

Board Books by Helen Oxenbury

This collection of big board books by Helen Oxenbury, exemplify what is excellent in a book for a young child. The words are simple, the text rhymes, and the pictures are large illustrations of babies that infants and toddlers can easily identify with. Each book has approximately four double-sided pages that show babies sleeping, dancing, and playing. I have found these books to be very popular with children who are 9 months to 24 months of age, and sometimes with slightly older children as well. The books are durable and the pages stand up well to be being wiped down in between uses. Where to Buy: Most major booksellers carry the Helen Oxenbury board books, but you can find them on Amazon. You can also find the books directly through the publisher, Little Simon (

Little People Lil' Movers School Bus by Fisher Price

This cheery vehicle is a fun one for toddlers and preschoolers alike. The bus has a wibble-wobble action that lets the passengers move around when it's pushed. Additionally, the lights flash, the horn beeps, children giggle, and the bus driver even offers commentary when you push him down in his seat. Strengths: This is a very durable toy. I've had mine for about 5 years and everything still works on it after LOTS of use. Weaknesses: There is not an on/off switch on the bus, so a child can keep the sounds playing fairly consistently if they like that kind of cause-effect play. This can take away from the interactive nature of the play. Price: $23 - $25. Where to Buy: The Lil' Movers series of vehicles is available through lots of different retailers, but Toys R Us is always a good place to check.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sign With Your Baby by Joseph Garcia

If you are interested in teaching your baby American Sign Language (ASL) basics from the beginning of life, this is a wonderful learning kit to have. The kit comes with a DVD that gives you live demonstrations of how to use the signs, an illustrated book of beginning signs that includes a great section on how to introduce and use signs with your baby, and a laminated quick reference card that will give you about 54 basic signs that can be used during a range of daily activities with your baby. I've used this kit for years and have found it to be very user friendly and helpful to parents that are new to the idea of using signs with their young, preverbal children. Where to Buy: This learning kit can be purchased at major book stores like Barnes & Nobel and Borders, on-line through Amazon, or directly through the company that publishes the resource (

Bright From the Start by Jill Stamm

The complete title of this book is Bright from the start: The simple, science-backed way to nurture your child's developing mind from birth to age 3. Basically what the book does is provide a general overview of child development research and supplements it with different ideas of how to put this research into action with activities that can be done with young children to promote social, communicative, and cognitive development. If you are a parent who has done extensive reading about child development, you may find this book a little bit general. However, if you are newer to the ideas of developmental research, this book is a wonderful introduction with lots of practical ideas and advice on how to best support emerging skills that your developing baby and child are using. Where to Buy: Since this is a relatively new book (it was published in 2007) it is available in fairly wide circulation. Books stores that have a section on parenting or child development would certainly carry it and of course you can also find it on Amazon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Little Super Star Classic Stacker by Fisher Price

This is an old standard when it comes to stacking toys. The stars slide down the pole and create and whoosh of soft music and twinkly light that many children find almost irresistible. Strengths: Because it is a stacking toy there is great play value for the money. Children can be endlessly entertained by the lights and sounds, but it is also a great toy to promote problem solving skills (how to get the stars on in the right order) as well as colour and number recognition. Weaknesses: I have gone through several of these stacking toys over the years and have found that this one tends to wear out quickly when given lots of use. The light and sounds are usually the first things to go, but the stacker is still functional after they quit, so this may not be a big drawback for some people. Price: $12 to $15. Where to Buy: Fisher Price toys are available at many different retailers such as Toys R Us, WalMart, Target, and of course Amazon.

Rattle Time, Face to Face, and Many Other Activities for Infants by Judy Herr & Terri Swim

This is an excellent activity book that focuses on people games, songs, finger plays, and mirror activities that can be done with young infants. It offers wonderful tips for promoting motor, language & communication, cognitive, social, and emotional development in children who are 6 months and younger. Each developmental area has it's own section in the book and each section offers suggestions for play activities that are appropriate for infants birth to 3 months and those 4 to 6 months of age. The book also provides suggestions about the types of toys that are appropriate for children this young. Finally, there are extensive appendices that provide lists of songs, finger plays, nursery rhymes, and chants that are fun to use with infants. Where to Buy: I naturally found my copy on Amazon, but I've also seen the book in education stores like Lakeshore Learning.

Diaper David Books by David Shannon

These simple board books follow the adventures of a baby named David who seems to have a knack for getting into trouble! "Oops", a collection of David's first words, focuses on teaching children simple, but important vocabulary items like 'ball', 'eat', and "mama'. "David Smells" describes the five senses and how David explores them by finding gooey and smelly things to touch, eat, and play with. "Oh, David" follows David through a day when he does all sorts of things that his mum has to tell him not to do. These are fun books for young children and the illustrations have a very child-like quality about them. I've found them to be very popular with 15+ month olds. Where to Buy: The Diaper David series of book can be found on-line through places like Amazon or at booksellers that carry children's books.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Newborn Playard by Fisher Price

This is a cute little cradle that match the newborn stroller also by Fisher Price. I've found that it's a popular toy with toddlers who like to put dolls and other toys into the roomy basket. Strengths: It rocks easily and can hold two small baby dolls without any problem. It's light enough that toddlers can pick it up by the handle and carry it around with them. Weaknesses: The bottom of the cradle isn't very sturdy and can be easily bent or broken if a child decides he or she wants to get in, instead of putting the baby to bed! Price: $19-$20. Where to Buy: Toys R Us typically has this in stock, but it can also be found on-line through Amazon or the Fisher Price website.

Newborn Stroller by Fisher Price

This little canopy stroller is a great fit for little ones who like to put toys in the stroller and then push them around. It's a cute stroller and the big wheels make it fairly easy for little ones to maneuver. Strengths: It's been very popular with the 12-22 months olds that work with (boys and girls alike). It's a nice size for little ones and is easy to push. I've found it to be fairly durable and easy to put dolls in/take them out. Weaknesses: It's a bit difficult to assemble. Additionally, it's not very heavy, so children should be fairly stable walkers before they start playing with the toy or they will be able to tip it over easily. Price: $35-$39. Where to Buy: I've found hat the stroller is usually in stock at Toys R Us/Babies R Us. You can also purchase it on-line through either Amazon or the Fisher Price website.

Brain Games for Babies, Toddlers, & Twos by Jackie Silberg

If you're looking for fun activities to do with your child ages birth to 36 months, this book provides a range of different people games, songs, book, and play with toy activities. From encouraging tummy time and bonding to teaching motor skills and problem solving, the author has provided a diverse group activities that are sure to be enjoyed by parents and children alike. I especially like activities presented that allow for parents and children to play together without the use of toys. These kinds of people games promote social communicative development as well as interpersonal problem solving skills. This is a great resource that can be found in the child development or education section of most major bookstores.

David Gets in Trouble by David Shannon

This is the third installment in the "David" series by David Shannon. In the two previous books David naturally gets into trouble, but it's the adults who are telling him what not to do. In this book it's finally David's turn to explain himself. Phrases like "It's not my fault", "It slipped", and "But Dad said it" all accompany expressive drawings of David's trouble-prone activities. This book has simple, fun text that appeals to children from about 2 1/2 years and older. It has a predictable story line, and just like in the other books all is forgiven by the last page. Where to Buy: Large children's bookstores and independent booksellers alike typically carry the David books. You can also find all of David Shannon's work through on-line retailers like Amazon.

Whirl & Go Turtle by Early Years

This cute little turtle pal is a top and a press-and- go toy combined into one. When the plunger on the turtle's back is pressed down the balls spin and when the plunger is released the toy zooms across the floor. Strengths: This is a durable toy that can take lots of abuse from little children and keep on working (mine has been dropped, thrown, walked on, and banged on numerous occasions and it still does what it is supposed to do). Weaknesses: The press-and-go feature of the turtle does not work well on all floor surfaces. This means it can be a frustrating activity for some children who get bored quickly with the toy just acting as a spinning top. Additionally, it's a fairly expensive toy for the actual play value of the item. Price: $25 - $30. Where to Buy: You can find Early Years toys in many large chain toy stores (e.g., Toys R Us), some specialty shops, and through on-line retailers like Amazon.

Discovery Blocks By Haba

This is a cute set of small wooden blocks that are perfect for little hands to explore (1 year +). Each block offers a different sensory activity to experience. These include: a rattle, peek-a-boo mirror, kaleidoscope, squeaker, jingle bell, and spinning ball. Strengths: They are great exploration blocks that are made of hard wood and finished in child friendly paints and varnishes. Weaknesses: They are a little on the expensive side for only six blocks, but they are so durable that the price can be justified. When cleaning them don't submerge them in water - in my first set of these blocks several of them cracked when I did this. Now I just surface clean them and they're fine. Price: $20 - $25. Where to Buy: Haba toys can be found at many specialty toy stores and Amazon also carries a wide range of their products.