Are you looking for the perfect Christmas/Hanukkah/holiday gift? Birthday present? Just a new toy to keep your little one occupied? Read on!
Being stuck at home due to social distancing means I’m really learning about what keeps my toddler occupied. While outdoor play is essential, and we try to do it every day, it isn’t always an option (and as the weather grows colder, I anticipate outdoor time will become less and less). Unfortunately, that means lots of time indoors some weeks.
I know I’m not the only parent facing the “what can I do to keep my kid occupied” dilemma. While bloggers, including myself, offer a range of activities and crafts to keep your little one busy, sometimes you just want them to play independently, right? Of course!
Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the toys my little one is currently obsessed with. I love them as well, because they offer a wide array of benefits (including building fine motor skills, building cognitive and academic knowledge, keeping my child physically active indoors, and helping my child develop life skills).
I know your toddler will love them as well!
The Round Up
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This is one of my child’s all time favorite toys. The food truck offers a ton of fun activities for toddlers; a steering wheel for driving, a grill for cooking, a sink for washing, a cash register with menu cards, and a recycling bin with shape sorter. The toy has several other cute features as well, like a drying rack, a refrigerator, storage shelf, and more. Plus, it comes with some utensils and play food. My child is at the age where they like to imitate daily activities, such as hand washing. Sometimes they will even make me wash my hands (which is adorable). They also spend a lot of time pretending to drive. This set has given us hours upon hours of independent playtime.
This play set also offers educational value. It is excellent for building fine motor skills (with the cash register, shape sorter, and food items that fit together like puzzles)), matching skills (shape sorter and smoothie bar)), and color, number, and shape concepts, vocabulary, and, of course, imaginative play.
Choo Choo! Here comes your child’s new favorite train! My little one spends hours putting together and taking apart different train configurations and counting the blocks. Check out my child having a blast with this toy here. This set also offers the opportunity to buildfine motor skills (see a post on the matter here) and concepts related to numerals.
My little one adores this building set. They spend hours building towers, walls, and other shapes, then taking their work apart and trying something new. The blocks are very large; perfect for little hands still developing fine motor skills. As with the DUPLO set above, these blocks support fine motor development as well as coming in bright colors that can be used to support teaching color words. Having your child build towers of one color is a great way to work on color concepts. You can also use the varying sized blocks to work on relational vocabulary like smaller and larger, and tower building to work on concepts such as "up", "down", "on", "together", or "in".
This shape sorter is multipurpose wonder toy. Part truck, part shape sorter, all fun! Like other Melissa and Doug toys, it is wooden and high quality. I love the educational value, and my little one loves all the imaginative and puzzle solving possibilities. It comes with 9 different shapes, a male and female driver, and the truck really does tip to dump out the blocks.
To conclude discussion on this toy, I want to note that shape sorters are not just a ubiquitous childhood toy. They are amazing for building a wide range of cognitive and fine motor skills. I am working on a new blog post about why shape sorters are the most underrated educational toy on the market (including tying in research done on the topic), and will link to it when finished.
Being indoors doesn’t mean not getting active! One of our favorite active indoor toys is this awesome Melissa & Doug tunnel. Perfect for kids from crawlers up to toddlers, this has been a lifesaver in our home for rainy day movement time.
This is another awesome indoor active toy for children from crawling age up. We’ve even had 4 and 5 year olds enjoy this set at a birthday party we held last year. For very little ones, this set is great for crawling and then climbing on. Older kids can stack and build with them. I’ve been recommending this set to friends and moms in my local mom’s group for almost a year now (and the blocks are still going strong). We have even seen this set at some local indoor play areas. What is even better is the brand offers extension sets, so the blocks can grow with your child.
My little one has been really into puzzles lately, and we have used this one during our speech therapy sessions as well as free play. The puzzle pieces are thick, chunky wood, and the puzzle is of the high quality we’ve become accustom to from Melissa & Doug. I recently shared about this toy on my Facebook page and will be publishing a few ways to help use it as a structured educational toy soon!
If your child is anything like mine, they love to copy everything you do. And that includes cleaning! Because of my child’s age and hearing about issues with suction, we passed on the mini version of the real thing and instead bought this Fisher Price version. My little one enjoys “helping” me vacuum and always makes sure to make the vacuum sound while pretending to clean (it wouldn’t work without the sound, right?!).
This toy is a newer favorite. The Melissa & Doug Monsters Bowling Game has soft, fun monster pins and a monster bowling ball (though we often use a different, smooth ball instead). My little one loves using the set for bowling and for imaginative play.
This play set has been a household favorite for some time. It is entirely functional, though a smaller version of the adult tools. These help my little one feel like they are helping, while keeping them out of the way, while I am cleaning.
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What has been your child’s favorite toy during social distancing?