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Infant and Toddler Top 10 Toys and Activities
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Tried-and-true top ten lists for a range of ages, created by a mom and teacher. 

Most pictures take you straight to Amazon.com's page pertaining to that item for more information.  You can also check out Ebay, garage sales, the library and your local discount stores for the best prices! 

Keep in mind that your baby has/will have his or her own likes and dislikes.  (For instance, Jenna Belle didn't like swings, bouncy seats, falling asleep in the car, etc. and my second, Emmalisse will NOT watch a baby movie.)  The items I list below span the wide range of baby preferences/parent needs and are sure to please all!  My best advice for toys...If there is a way to test-drive anything, try it out!  Also, when your child, at any age, seems to bore of a toy that has been a favorite, put it away for a few weeks, when it comes out again, it will be like new to him/her!  You could also try a toy exchange with friends/family.

Infant to 12 months...

  1. cover The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears -- Very comprehensive, including things you wouldn’t think to ask. An "instruction booklet" with a focus on attachment parenting from an accomplished doctor and a loving, experienced Dad.  This 740-page book is great as a reference, although I devoured it cover to cover because of its smooth readability.  From basic developmental stages to when to call the doctor and how to latch the baby on for breastfeeding to when and what solids to feed your growing baby/toddler, this book covers everything from birth to age two!
     

  2. coverThe Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch -- Endorsed by La Leche League, a leader in breastfeeding support and information, this completely prepared me for an incredible bonding experience.  This resource covers techniques, positions, concerns, common problems and weaning.  It also includes sections on nutrition, sleep issues, returning to work, attachment parenting and fathering issues.  Helpful for the breastfeeding family, we're still a happily nursing pair at 16 months!
     

     
  3. Slings and Baby Carriers -- Having a high-need baby, or one that just loves to be held constantly, requires you to find ways of completing tasks with baby.  The sling was an enormous help to me in the early days and continues to give Jenna Belle the attachment she needs while allowing me to have two hands free.  When she sees me reach for it, her face lights up.  (The linked site has instructions on how to make your own -- easy!)
     

  4. cover Baby's Quiet Sounds Video Monitor -- If your baby is a light sleeper, always tuned into the "I'll miss something if I sleep too  soundly station", you'll love the ability to check on her without startling her out of a sleep.  She sometimes sleeps with us and sometimes is in her room.  This monitor gives me peace of mind when she's not right by my side.  If your house is large and you need a long range, check into some of the other models.
     

  5. cover Sleep Right sleep positioner -- This has 3 wedges that attach with velcro to adjust to fit your baby.  I liked putting my baby on her side versus her back and this held her in position.  It was also convenient for keeping her in one spot in my bed when Jenna Belle was tiny.  Otherwise, she'd migrate into me and I'd be glued in one position, unable to sleep.
     

  6. cover Baby Einstein videos -- We were able to begin using these at around 3-6 months, with Jenna Belle.  She'd watch them for 10-15 minutes, long enough for me to jump in and out of the shower.  If your husband's military like mine, you adjust to being a single mom and find sanity and quiet anyway possible.  From 6-12 months, she'd sit through a whole show and I'd only allow one a day, planning "my time" strategically.  This is also great if your baby hates the car (yeah, right, they fall asleep!) and you are lucky enough to have a video player in the car!  Quiet rides once again!
     

  7. cover Baby In Sight Mirror -- While your baby faces backwards in the car, this mirror provides security for you to keep an eye on him.  Is he sleeping?  eating something he shouldn't?  For just a few dollars, this makes a great gift for someone expecting or yourself!  Once he turns around, the mirror can become a toy to entertain him!
     

  8. cover Sony Cybershot 4.1MP digital camera -- yes, this was an investment, but if you love to shoot pics of your darling and share them with EVERYONE (especially via email), look into a digital camera!  I've loved mine!  We even printed some very high-quality framed pictures taken with it.
     

  9. cover Braun Ear Thermometer -- When your baby is ill and already crying, restraining them while you take a temperature, 2 minutes will be FOREVER.  These ear thermometers will let you know if the temperature is one to worry about, in 3 seconds.  Definitely keep a nursery/first aid set on hand for more exact measurements, as well as the handy nail trimmers they come with.
     

  10. cover Colorful Mobile -- like the Deluxe Symphony-in-Motion --  Until your baby can sit up and pull down the mobile, invest in one like this.  The bright colors and movements are pleasing even for an adult to be soothed to.  The music is also good quality and very relaxing, playing for 15 minutes at a time while able to be restarted via remote control!  This is now mounted on the top of a dining room chair and she still enjoys it (at 15 months!).

 

Toddler Top Ten!

Aside from the sleep positioner, you can still use everything from the infant list, so the following are adding on to (instead of replacing) the previous list.

  1. cover  cover Mother Goose Treasury Vol. 1 & 2 videos-- Excellent!!  I have never been an avid TV watcher and did not want my children to become likewise, however, these volumes have captured every child's imagination that I've known.  I even used it while teaching Kindergarten.  The rhymes and stories are great for pre-reading skill building!  The characters can be a bit too happy for adults, but I can't say I haven't enjoyed watching them many times with my kids!
     

  2. cover Wee Sing videos-- Grandpa's Magical Toys in particular -- Jenna Belle still enjoys her Baby Einstein videos but now we have a range of options with these movies.  The Mother Goose and Wee Sing provide colorful entertainment as well as educational benefits not found in many of the top cartoons.  It amazes me how entranced youngsters become as they watch and learn from these videos.  I look forward to getting more Wee Sing movies to enjoy with her.
     

  3. cover A ball, any ball! -- Any parent will advocate the many uses for a simple beach ball, but you have many types of balls to choose from nowadays.  From cheap beach balls to intricate learning balls, your child will love throwing, rolling, laying on, chasing and chewing on any ball you choose.  There are enough to match one to your child's personality -- just get one, or better yet, several different ones!  We have them in the house, in the tub and in the yard.  Versatile and fun!
     

  4. cover   Blocks -- Your child doesn't need a specific brand.  Like balls, you can find soft-sided blocks that won't hurt when they knock them over, or sturdy blocks with which they can really build tall towers.  Moving those fingers and hands builds strength and dexterity as they learn first to destroy a tower and then to stack their own.  We've acquired fancy soft blocks like the Baby Einstein ones in the picture that make specific sounds; hard, hollow, plastic blocks to stack higher towers; Fisher-Price Sight & Learning Blocks that are filled with moveable plastic animals or activities; and a large Giant Building Block 40-piece Set that are so sturdy, I walk with the children on the paths we make!  Mega Bloks (large Lego-like blocks) are a great precursor to Legos for toddlers.
     

  5. Bean Bucket -- Talk about cheap!  We have a large plastic bucket that we filled with dried pinto beans for a tactile treat!  I've used this activity with kids of all ages.  My 16-year-old even enjoys playing with the little ones with this!  It's very relaxing to slide your fingers through and if you toss in various sized scoops, children begin to make comparisons and recognize the relationships between them.  I like the beans because they are safe, although not yummy, to eat (a must if using with toddlers!) but are bigger than sand so they don't get in the eyes and embedded in my carpet!  You can get this out after clean up time (so you can use a dustpan to scoop dropped beans) or set the bucket on a mat (and just shake the mat into the bucket when finished).  You could use a small bucket for one child or a large one to set on a table for several children to enjoy.
     

  6. cover  Stacking/Nesting/Filling/Emptying Containers/Shape Sorters -- These are made commercially and sold as toys but you could just store your Tupperware on some lower shelves in the kitchen and achieve the same purpose.  Children of this age are learning of objects size relations to each other and take great enjoyment in filling and emptying bowls, buckets, under your bathroom cabinet, your purse, whatever!  Here's an acceptable means to do this child's work.
     

  7.  Climbing Structures -- If there ever was a missing link to our evolution, the human toddler is it!  Sometimes, they resemble a monkey more than an adult human the way they climb, scale, and clamber up any structure meant for climbing or not!  Mine was climbing up before she was walking and continues to dance on the table when she makes it up before I get to her.  The climbing structure she has was a hand-me-down and is seemingly out-of-production.  This must be the new model, however.  An added bonus of the one she had was a steering wheel, which kept her occupied as she rested from climbing!
     

  8. Car Video Player -- My angel has never liked riding in the car.  She's been known to scream for an hour or more.  Our Honda minivan's video player has been a wonder!  While facing backwards under a year, she could watch movies through the Baby-in-Sight Mirror aimed at the video screen.  Once turned around, it was even better with the clearer, larger image on screen.  We keep a rotating assortment of movies and shows taped off Noggin in both cars now!  We even bought this DVD player for our other car (so it wouldn't be jealous!  :-)  We've had it for nearly a year and have enjoyed it with no problems, not even skipping!
     

  9.       Laurie Berkner's music -- What a breath of fresh air!  More upbeat than beloved Raffi, I've enjoyed "meeting" Laurie through Noggin (click here to watch her fun videos on Noggin.com).  When Jenna Belle and the preschoolers that I watch came running in to see her videos between shows, I knew I had to invest in a few of her CDs.  We put them on to dance and sing, and sometimes just to play with it in the background.  It's true, music really does calm the savage beast!!  Experiment with different types of music in different situations with your little one.  We have satellite tv which offers the music channels.  Several times throughout each week, I'll just choose a music station for background music and the children really enjoy it.
     

  10.   Phone and Remote Control for your "mini-me" -- We'd gotten a play cell phone and remote control for our gadget baby but she realized that we only ever used ours (so it must be better!).  I finally gave her my old cell phone, minus the batteries and bought her a remote control (also empty of batteries) and she's happier with these true look-a-likes.  If your munchkin continues to steal your electronic hand-helds, consider if you'd like to get him/her a remote that's just like yours, depending on cost and safety.  ** Remember, these aren't intended as toys, so you would monitor your child's play with it and use your common sense, just as in any other parenting decision.  I usually hand Jenna Belle hers when I'm using mine if she's having a fit.  Then, once distracted with another toy, I can move her toy to a safe location, to wait for next time.

 
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