I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while now. With an oversaturation of children's products on the marketplace, it's hard not to get overwhelmed. So while I know every child is different, I figured I would share Henry's (and my) list of our current favorite toys, books, apps, and other useful items.
- Mini Sandbox: We love this thing! We play with it outside to avoid a mess, though I imagine it would work to put it in a big plastic tub too. Or maybe you have a really clean kid and you don't have to worry about spills. I would suggest playing with it on hard floor, not carpet if you do play with it inside, though I'm sure a vacuum would clean up any sand mess. It comes with some toys, but we've also added some. Henry likes using small plastic animals in it and/or some mini construction trucks (I'll talk about those below). I've also given him a shovel and bucket before and he's enjoyed scooping the sand back and forth.
- Little People Animals: There are so many different animals that you can add to this set. We have a bunch at this point. We have a barn that he uses to play with the animals sometimes, but more often than not he just plays with them on their own. His favorite Little People accessory is this Zoo Train that he got for his birthday. He loves to put his animals in it and drive them around.
- Cars: Really any cars would do. This kid LOVES his cars. He probably always has some cars with him. He loves all the ones from the Cars movies, but he also enjoys using his imagination with matchbox cars. He is also obsessed with his Mack car transporter truck and enjoys storing his trucks inside of it. All his favorite ones we got either at Disneyland/Disney World or through the Disney Store Online.
- Constructions Trucks: Just like his cars, he loves his construction trucks. He has some big ones that he likes, but these little ones are perfect. They come in a set of five and are the perfect size for traveling with. While searching for the link for the set we have, I noticed that the exact one we have is currently unavailable, but they are selling this set in it's place.
- Construction Tools: My family gave Henry a toolbox and tool set for Christmas last year. He loves both, but I highly suggest the tool set. Whenever we have a problem, when he sees my husband trying to fix something around the house, or when one of us is hurt, he runs to get his tools to help fix it.
- Fake Food: One of our absolute favorite toys. I keep them in a cupboard in our kitchen and Henry will often cook while I do. He likes having his own apron and "hot pot" (came with the cookie set I mention below) to use too. We will have fake food picnics outside in his playhouse as well. We have a bunch of different brands of food, but really any will do. For us, we prefer to stick with fruits and vegetables rather than pretend meat since we are vegetarians, but there are so many different sets and options available to fit all tastes. We do love the Melissa and Doug sets we have including the condiments, cookies, and pizza. There are actually a bunch more of that brand that we would like to add to our collection.
- Legos: We have a set of Lego trucks, which was one of Henry's first Lego sets, that he loves and uses daily with his other construction trucks. The other sets that he particularly loves are the train ones (we have both a Mickey train and a counting train set) and a Lego house one. I want to get him a box of Lego duplos so that he can just free build with them.
- Mega Blocks: Henry has a ton of Mega Block trucks, including a car transporter, fire truck, and dump truck. He particularly loves the car transporter and fire truck. He also likes to use the free blocks with the wheels from the bus and train sets to create his own buses and race cars.
- Green Toys Trucks: I love the concept of these toys Henry loves to play with them. Currently he has the dump truck, recycling truck, and scooper.
- Wooden Blocks: I love watching Henry use his imagination and fine motor skills to build elaborate towers with these blocks. It's been fun to watch him go from just stacking them vertically at first, to building increasingly complex creations.
- Animal Magnets: We've had these magnets on our refrigerator for quite a while now and Henry has always enjoyed them. At first I only had a few of the bigger ones out when he was younger and more afraid of him putting something in his mouth, but once he got a little older I took the whole set out. We also have some large number and shape magnets that I got from the dollar section at Target.
To keep this list from getting absurdly long, I am only listing Henry's absolute favorite books (i.e., the books we've had phases when we can't read anything else during)
- Whose Ears Are These? (and all the other books in this collection)
- Little Blue Truck
- Dinosaur Kisses
- Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
- Where Do Jet Planes Sleep at Night?
- Where Do Steam Trains Sleep at Night?
- Llama Llama Nighty Night
- Do Cows Meow?
- Do Crocs Kiss?
- Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear
- Digger, Dozer, Dumper
- Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
- It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse (Halloween)
- Where's My Mummy (Halloween)
- Mickey Mouse Clubehouse Mickey's Halloween (Halloween)
- Olaf's Night Before Christmas (Christmas)
- Polar Express (Christmas)
- When Santa Was a Baby (Christmas)
- Puzzingo: I remember being so proud when I first saw Henry figure out how to use this app and he quickly became a pro. It basically has a bunch of virtual puzzles. Beware, however, this app is one with in app purchases. We ended up buying the full unlocked version because it was worth it for us, but the free version is very limited.
- Wonster Words: I credit Henry learning his letters and letter sounds so early to this app. Similar to Puzzingo, you pull the letters into their place as you would with a puzzle. They read the letters and say the letter sounds as you pull the letters into place. After the word is complete they give the definition of the word with a little skit. Some of the words I don't like (e.g., brat), however overall I think it was well worth the money we spent (it's by the same creators of Puzzingo, so it also requires a purchase to unlock all the levels/categories).
- Fisher Price Apps: There are a ton of good Fisher Price apps, his first favorite was called Puppy Play, but if you search for Fisher Price, you can find a whole host of them.
- I Hear Ewe: This was the first app Henry ever used. I know it's only on Apple, not Android. My sister downloaded it on her phone for him and he really enjoyed it. It can definitely be used with younger children, though he still enjoys using it every so often now. It has different animal and vehicle sounds.
Other Useful Items:
- Snack Box: This is definitely one of our single greatest purchases. We can't go anywhere without this thing. I first bought it to use as a snack container on a cross country flight, but it quickly became our every day snack and meal box. Henry asks for his "snack box" all the time. We even bring it with us to restaurants when we go out to eat to save money on kids meals.
- iPad Holder: I know there are mixed opinions on screentime for children, but I think it can be educational and believe in balance and moderation in all things. We have an iPad that we use with Henry and without this case I'm sure it would have been broken many many times. It has lasted us well. It's easy for little hands, doesn't take up an excessive amount of space considering the upsides of it, and is easy to stand upright as well.
- Learning Tower: For a while Henry wanted to eat all his meals in his learning tower and spent all his kitchen time in here. Currently he doesn't use it as frequently, but it is still a wonderful addition to our kitchen (only downside is it does take up a lot of room). I went with the special edition one for a few reasons. Mainly, I wanted to extra protection of the added side panels. I also like that is has a chalkboard on one side as Henry enjoys drawing on it. Overall it is very sturdy which was important to me, however with enough momentum my big toddler can move it while inside and I think he could probably topple it over if he tried really hard and was unattended.
- Peanut Changer: When we first had Henry we were in a small apartment. He didn't have a nursery and has never has a dedicated changing table. This thing is wonderful and has lasted through the years. I love the portability of it. When he was younger and not very mobile I would put it on a higher surface such as a bed or on top of a dresser. Once he started trying to roll I simply placed it on the ground for diaper changes. It's also very easy to clean which is essential for a diaper changer.
- Double Sided Spoon/Fork Utensils: These are by far my favorite utensils. We never spoon fed Henry as an infant and instead went with a baby led weaning sort of hybrid approach, but once he started using utensils to feed himself, these quickly became my favorite. They are large enough to hold food without providing too much frustration and then offer both a spoon and fork option on the same utensil.
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