Monday, November 19, 2012

Toddler Activities: Our Top 10 Favorite Educational Gifts {For Toddlers}

By Tiffany Rudd
On Friday, I listed our Top 10 Favorite Educational Gifts for elementary age kids. Today I'm super excited to list our favorite educational gifts for toddlers! I know they call it the terrible twos, but this is one of my favorite ages. It is so fun to watch Anniston explore and learn new things every day. She is so inquisitive, her vocabulary is expanding constantly, and she is enthralled by even the simplest of toys. So, here are 10 toys that will keep your toddler learning and exploring this year.

1. Shape Sorting Blocks: You'll notice that this list will be missing anything computerized or really even requiring batteries. Not that our kids don't ever use those things, we just both believe that they aren't usually the best educational toys. This is another situation where you realize that the "classics" are just that for a reason. Most of these toys have been around for generations because they really are the best at helping develop little minds and imaginations. I've had these Fisher Price sorting blocks since Cameron was a baby. All of my toddlers have loved them! Right now Anniston just loves to dump them out and then fit them back into the right holes. As the kids have gotten older we've created games where I call out colors or shapes for them to add to the box, or they instruct me. They have definitely been well worth the $10 I spent on them 6 years ago. If you are looking for a wooden version Melissa & Doug makes a cute one. They also make a Stack & Sort Board that is similar.
2. Ring Stacker: This is another "classic" that I bought when my oldest was little. The rings have been bracelets, anklets and even baby teethers (and therefore have also been disinfected plenty), and they are still going strong. This is great for fine motor development, sorting skills, and color recognition.
3. Peg Puzzles: Children can often do peg puzzles as early as 18 months and they are great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor development. This Animal Sounds Puzzle from Melissa & Doug has been a favorite with all of my toddlers. Oops, I guess this one does require batteries. :)
4. Blocks: All of my toddlers have loved blocks and being able to stack blocks is considered an important developmental milestone. Most kids should be able to stack a tower of 5 or 6 blocks by 18 months. This ABC Block Cart from Melissa & Doug is super cute. Although, I prefer soft blocks like these Squeeze Blocks since toddlers will pretty much throw anything. :)

5. Caterpillar Gears: Anniston was given this cute Caterpillar Gears board for her 1st Birthday and even I have been surprised at how often she plays with it. It has color coordinated pegs so she is practicing color recognition and matching, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and basic cause and effect.
6. Farm and Animals: This is another classic that each of my kids have loved from 18 months all the way to 5-6. Sets like this are perfect for developing little imaginations. Our set is the Fisher Price Little People Farm, but Melissa & Doug also makes a super cute wooden set.
7. Age Appropriate Art Supplies: There isn't much better for developing creativity and fine motor skills than a blank piece of paper and some art supplies. Oversized paper like this Big Drawing Paper Pad is best for little hands because it stays put a little better. We've gone through a few sets of these Triangle Crayons by Melissa & Doug. They are perfect for little hands, help encourage correct "pencil hold" and don't roll away like regular crayons. Crayola also makes a set. I've never actually used these Do-A-Dot Markers, but have always wanted a set and am thinking about getting some for Anniston this Christmas. Any opinions?
8. Bilibo: I'm thinking about one of these for Anniston this year as well. It's really just a rounded piece of plastic, but I love the though of it being a totally open-ended "toy." If you have one I'd definitely love to hear what you think!
9. Learn To Dress Animals: We have an ancient stuffed animal similar (but not quite as cute) as these and I'm thinking he needs replaced this year. It has gotten so much use over the years and it's zippers, buttons and ties are nearly worn out.
10. Fabric Books: We obviously love books and although I love board books for little ones, I think fabric is even better! The textures and movement of fabric books are perfect for little toddler hands and more durable. Anniston has a fabric bunny book that is her absolute favorite and gets carried around the house all day long. It is starting to look worn, so I'm thinking about this cute Peek A Baby book and this Fishy Tails book for her stocking this year.
I hope this list gives you some ideas. Happy Shopping! :)
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