Friday, November 22, 2013

Toddler X's Gift Guide: Toddling to the Beat

You know what I think is amazing? How toddlers -- without guidance, without instruction, even without encouragement -- will dance whenever music comes on. They'll bounce up and down, wave their arms, spin in circles, clap their hands (not necessarily to the beat), or, in Toddler X's case, do what we call "the sumo dance" -- spread their feet wide apart and rock back and forth from one to the other. (Don't tell Mr. X, but I think I've seen that dance before...).

This love of music isn't taught, it's innate in every toddler. And not only do they like moving to music, they love making it as well. That's where this list comes in.

As you know, I prefer not to have too many toys, but I will never feel any qualms about buying Toddler X another musical instrument. Here are some of our favorites, along with recommendations from our toddler friends. Play on, toddlers!

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  • Melissa & Doug Grand Piano
  • The Melissa and Doug piano is definitely THE instrument in the X family. A gift from Grandma and Grandpa for Toddler X's first birthday last February, this beautiful piece anchors one corner of our living room and gets play time almost daily. What's more, my 7 year old niece still has the one my parents got her for her second birthday, and enjoys picking out tunes on it even today. For more details, see my Toddler X's Top 10 Toys post.

  • Gymboree Xylophone
  • Another gift from Grandma (you gotta hand it to her, the woman has great taste in toys!), this xylophone is FANTASTIC -- everyone in our family loves it. Toddler X received it last October, when he was only 8 months old, and seemed to have a vague interest in it then, but would generally end up just beating the plastic frame with the wrong end of the included mallet. But over the course of the past 13 months, he's become more and more adept at playing, and will now walk around the house, holding it by the handle, striking actual notes and singing "Twinkle Twinkle" at the same time -- he's like a little strolling minstrel. I really don't think it's long until we can start working on the actual notes and songs. The sound is beautiful and perfectly tuned, and it's cute as can be. I highly recommend this toy. (Note that the Hohner Kids HMX3008B Glockenspiel appears to be the identical instrument, just without the Gymboree branding -- be sure to compare prices before you buy.)

  • Remo Kids Gathering Drum, 22" x 8"
  • Any family who has taken Music Together classes is familiar with this huge drum, which is usually dragged out at the start of class for all the little hands to come bang on together -- it's a gathering drum, after all -- and occasionally included in songs as well. Remo drums are renowned for their quality, craftsmanship, durability and sound, and this one is the centerpiece of the kids' collection -- with a whopping 4.9 star rating on Amazon, it is universally loved. Yes, it is quite an investment, but one that will be the focal point of a toddler playroom and a school-age kid's playroom as well, bringing your family lots of rhythm and music (together -- five people could hit this at the same time) for years to come. Amazon didn't have a picture available, so please accept this one of Toddler X at 4 months old as a substitute.

  • Remo Kids Percussion, Floor Tom, 10 Diameter with Mallet, Rain Forest Fabric
  • If you're not interested in such a big drum investment but still want the Remo quality and sound, this is a perfect drum for a toddler who likes to keep the beat. We've played with this in Music Together class too, and it's lots of fun to hit, whether with a drum stick or just bare hands. Though you may deny it now, if you get this drum for your toddler, there will come a time when you find yourself beating on it with no child in sight -- it's just pure, simple, enjoyable music-making for drummers of any age.

  • Remo Kid's Percussion, Bongos, 5/6 Diameters, Rain Forest Fabric
  • The final Remo drum on my list is the set of bongos. Of all the drums I've encountered in my life, I'm pretty confident that I've had the most fun with these bongos. We've used them in our Music Together classes, and you can't help but feel the beat with one hand tapping on each of these guys. Toddler X loves them, and I'm fairly certain your whole family will too.

  • Rhythm Band 8 Note Metal Hand Bells - Set of 8
  • This is a beautiful -- both in appearance and in sound -- set of handbells that is perfect for older toddlers. We've played with these several times at a pal's house, and all the kids loved controlling the sounds, from the initial ring motion to placing their hands on the bell to make the ringing stop. I recommend these for older toddlers/preschoolers because they are metal and could become a bit of a weapon in a younger toddler's hands.

  • Gymboree Cage Bell
  • We've been very happy with every Gymboree musical instrument we own, and this cute bell is no exception. It's easy to hold, easy to "play", and the sound is pretty and pure. It's also small and portable -- we occasionally put it in Toddler X's stroller with him when we want to entertain him during a walk (the BOB infant carrier strap functions as a great toy bar for this and other hanging toys), and it's our go-to instrument for cheering people on (see photo at top -- Toddler X cheering on the runners in the San Jose Rock N Roll Half Marathon). An excellent stocking stuffer.

  • NINO Plastic Egg Shaker Assortment of 4 Pieces Blue, Green, Red & Yellow
  • Another must-have in any musical toddler's instrument collection, these small, inexpensive instruments are fun to hold in the hand, fun to shake, fun to wave in the air, and, in Toddler X's current frame of mind, fun to hide in the play kitchen, the sock drawer, the garbage can (fortunately we caught that one before garbage day), and just about everywhere else. They're simple, straightforward rhythmical toys that any child would love.

    That's it for the instruments that get toddlers grooving! Hope you find the list useful!

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