I've had a few people ask about our boys' toys, and I've been meaning to share about them for quite some time! Ever since I found out that I was pregnant with Emmet I have been researching (specifically into montessori), DIYing (see a list of my DIY's below), and shopping for the best kid's toys. I LOVE it. I get told that I am too picky , perhaps even a little snobbish, but I would rather have fewer, quality kids toys for our kiddos that a) they love to play with, b) teaches them something while they play or encourages imagination, c) last a long time, and d) look good even when scattered all over our house. We really only buy the boys toys at Christmas time and for their birthdays (with a few other toys scattered throughout the year). We've also been really lucky to receive some awesome toys as gifts! We are so grateful to everyone who loves our boys (and also to those who give them things too).
Our main "rules":
-Natural Materials if possible. Wood, Fabric, etc. Silicone is an iffy one. But preferably, limited amounts of brightly colored plastic (unless they are from green toys, which are made from recycled plastic!)
-Preferably no batteries (we have a few things). I'm cruel I know. But they break. or kids swallow batteries. or they just make god awful sounds all the time and turn their little brains to mush. no thanks.
-Little to no character toys or short term interest toys. I catch myself on this one ALL THE TIME. Emmet went through a big incredibles phase and I found myself eyeing the action figures of them at the store more than once. OR sesame street, or frozen, moana, etc. Unless they love it so much that they are going to love it for a really long time, like truly obsessed with it, It will probably just get played with for a short amount of time and then thrown out.
-Avoid having TOO many. If we already have one of something, I try to assess if we actually NEED an additional one. For instance, I've found a few shape puzzles that I love, but we already have a shape sorter and shape flash cards, so they aren't necessary as they won't teach them anything new. Or if we already have a set of blocks or stackers, we don't need another set (even if they are cuter). My goal is to avoid expansion packs for things. Wish us luck when we hit the lego stage.
Below I've made a list of all of our favorite toys, brands, and places to shop. I even put a few of our wishlist things on here too (for more ideas for you!)
What are your favorite kids toys?
Our Favorite Toys
Stacking, Sorting, & Puzzles:
Things that Move (or help them move!):
Dress Up: I love the idea of having a large basket of dress up clothes for the boys' minds to run wild with! We have a few items so far and we plan to build it up slowly. We have found a few hats already at local thrift shops and we hit them up again around halloween time for more ideas.
Bathtime: a tip, avoid ANYTHING that water can get trapped in. Squirty toys, foam, etc. Mold is a huge problem no matter how diligent you are. Plastic is your friend here.
(have)(we also love...)
Finding the right toy can sometimes be a trick! For Christmas or birthdays, or when Emmet reaches a new milestone and is ready for a new toy OR when he gets a new interest, I usually start by looking at some of my brands or at some of my favorite stores. I typically look around until I find a few options and then narrow down when I find my favorite one (and for a decent price too!)
Our Favorite Brands:
Places to Shop:
Looking for more ideas? I keep the boy's wishlists updated on my pinterest page! Come pin with me!
I picked Emmet up from preschool the other day and he had a note in his backpack about their upcoming valentine's day festivities. So of course, rather than doing the dishes, folding the laundry, or any number of other things on my to do list, I designed valentines for his class instead. AND I figured, since I was designing cute little valentines I might as well just make a free printable for anyone else to use too!
There are two printables available; You're the Cat's Meow and I'm Wild about you, both feature the same font and illustrated hearts. They look super cute on their own OR you can have your little help decorate them even more. I had Emmet decorate them with painted circles and with crayons. See examples (and further instructions below)
Download them here and find the instructions below:
To make them:
1. Download the PDF and Print on card stock (card stock)
2. Cut out the valentines
3. Punch holes on the two dots OR use a ball point pen to poke holes (my hole punch couldn't reach)
4. Poke baker's twine (find mine here) through both holes from the front side.
5. Slip an animal, cats for the cat's meow and wild animal in the I'm wild about you (cats and wild animals), through the loop created on the front side and tie the twine in the back.
Extension for kids #1: I had Emmet paint pieces of paper (he had a blast! We used a variety of colors and tried to cover the entire paper). Once his paintings were dry I used my circle punch (similar) to punch out circles. I put dots of glue on the empty spaces on his valentines and had him press the circles paint side up on each dot. Cute, crafty, great for fine motor, AND they have some ownership in the valentines rather than just having mama (or dada) make them.
Extension for kids #2: Let them decorate them with crayons before poking the holes. A lot easier than the painted circles, same sense of ownership, but a little less cute.
You: Are nine months old. Love your mama (a lot). Snuggle on occasion, but mostly are on the move. Rarely play with your own toys. Would rather play with Emmet's toys, random bits of trash, Moose's things, etc. Can crawl (sort of - you are very quick, but aren't up on hands and knees yet). Like to stand at the coffee table, but fall on occasion. Eat almost anything your mama gives you (except pureed pees, you don't like them pureed). Love it when Emmet pays attention to you. Love it when dada gets home at the end of the day. Aren't quite sleeping through the night yet, but might soon? please?
Mama: Is obsessed with you. Loves it when you snuggle, your little head nuzzled into my shoulder is my favorite. Loves your giggle, especially your fresh-up-from-nap giggle. Loves watching you play with your brother. Can't quite keep up with you, you always manage to get into something before I find you. Is trying to feed you lots of fruits and vegetables. Is honestly tired of sharing a room with you, but knows I'll probably miss you when you are gone. Can't wait to get to know you as your personality develops!
We had a great 2018! Our family got a little bigger and we spent a lot of time together! Here are a few of my favorite moments from this past year.
In January this year I had my maternity pictures taken by my wonderful friend, Sara. I loved how they all turned out, but mostly I loved this picture of Emmet and I. He and I spend a LOT of time watching movies as it was too cold to spend a lot of time outside and I was also very tired.
In February I turned 27 AND Emmet and I got really into painting! He has been painting quite a lot every since and I am so glad we started!!
In March we eagerly awaited the arrival of baby #2 (Henry). We spent a lot of time going for walks, painting, prepping the house, and imagining what life would be like once he arrived.
In April our sweet little Henry was born! He came into this world a sweet, calm, and happy little guy and brightened all of our lives. April was spent mostly at home with both boys and family coming and going to meet him.
In May we celebrated Emmet's second birthday! It's still so hard to believe he has already been in the world for 2 (now two and a half!) years! We also spent a little bit of time out in the flint hills with Dave's family, which is always fun!
In June Emmet, Henry, and I spent a lot of time outside! Going for walks, watering the plants, playing in the kiddie pool in the back yard.
In July we traveled to Kansas City for my dear friend, Natalie's, wedding. It was so nice to see all of my old college roommates and let loose! Plus the little boys looked super cute all dressed up.
In August we went with my family to Breckenridge, CO and stayed in the most wonderful little AirBnb. We got to meet my brother's girlfriend, who is super sweet, had our 2nd Clark family cooking contest, and spent a lot of time singing, hiking, and playing games. The best part though was hanging out with this nakie little guy on the beach and watching him play with "dicks" (sticks).
September was mostly pretty quiet. We drove to Kansas City to celebrate Dave's grandpa's 80th birthday, but other than that we mostly stayed home.
In October I finally let myself do a few craft shows, which was so fun to get out and do again. We spent a long weekend in Manhattan with my mom, exploring and mostly just getting a little extra help with the boys! AND my favorite, we dressed up like the circus for Halloween.
In November we spend a lot of time walking and started spending a lot more time playing in the boys' room! Henry started sitting up and they started to play with each other a little bit, which was so fun to watch.
December has been our second most eventful month of the year (other than having Henry). Our favorite parts were spending a weekend at Clover Cliff Ranch with Dave's family and spending a few days at my parent's house with my family.
Emmet has been playing with his cars pretty consistently for over a year now. Racing them all over the house, off tables, under couches, and I've been meaning to find him the perfect play mat to drive them on for quite some time. A spot that had just enough of a concept for him to add a new layer of play to his cars (i.e. roads) but was still very open to creativity. I found a lot of different mats, most were super tacky and awful colors and the ones I loved were way to expensive. So I decided to make my own! And as soon as I had a mat planned out to make I began dreaming up trees, street signs, and more to go with it! I thought I would share DIY's for how to make the mat and the trees seen here. I'm sure I'll make and share more for his city some day!
Wooden Spheres (large, medium, small)
1/4 inch Dowels (cut to 2-2.5 inches)
Wooden Tree Bases
Drill and 1/4 inch Drill Bit
1. Use your 1/4 inch drill bit to drill a whole in each sphere and cone about 1/2 inch deep (as straight as possible).
2. Paint each sphere/cone 1/2 at a time, allowing the other half to dry before turning it over, at least two coats
3. Paint on a layer of mod podge on top of each painted sphere.
4. Apply wood glue into each hole on the wooden bases and press one side of a wooden dowel into each.
5. Once dry, apply glue into the wholes of each sphere and cone and glue them onto each tree base.
Faux Leather (I bought 1 yard)
1. Trim off the selvedge on the sides of the leather and round the corners
2. Plan and sketch your "map" - I decided to make mine loosely based on our neighborhood so I looked at google maps as I drew. I chose to have a track that went all the way around the outside, and then have streets fill the inside that are almost the same as the streets in our neighborhood.
3. Using a yard stick or ruler as a straight edge start drawing on your streets, making them at least 4-5inches wide (or measure your child's cars and make them slightly larger than their cars) and be careful to leave openings where one street meets another. Check in with your sketch often!
4. Add in little details! Add texture, like stripes, dots, grass, etc in the open spaces. Or add buildings, street lights, people, trees, the options are endless! I chose to leave ours fairly plain so that that could be added on top with blocks, etc.
Once they were both done I rolled it out on his floor and set up a few houses and trees. I showed him the roads explained that the roads were for driving on, just like how we see cars drive on the road when we are on our walks. And then I let him play. Sometimes it is hard to tell how much to help with play and how much to just let him explore. So far I have found though that if I give him just enough to get him started (or sometimes to redirect) his little imagination will do the rest.