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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Toddler X's Top 10 Toddler Toys (Young Toddler Edition)

A picture for Grandma of the toys Toddler X received for his 1st birthday and Christmas, taken last February. How do I know they were good selections? Because he still plays with most of them DAILY, 9 months later. Several of them -- the Cubanimo Blocks and Switchback Racetrack (on the table) and the Melissa and Doug Piano, Three Piggy Set, Fun Time Tractor, Green Toys vehicles and Walker Wagon (on the floor) -- still rank among his Top 10. Read on for details.

Please note: this post was written when Toddler X was was about 20 months old, so the recommendations here are best for younger toddlers. To read my recommendations for toddlers aged 2 and up, please see Toddler X's Top 10 Toddler Toys: Older Toddler Edition.

In writing my Ultimate Toddler Gift Guide, what better place to start than with what I know best: the toys my own particular toddler can't live without. As anyone who has visited our home can tell you, we have very little space for toys, and the space we do have for a "playroom" doubles (quintiples?) as our living room, family room, the only "social space" in our house, and the room you enter directly via the front door.

Needless to say, I have to be very selective with Toddler X's toys. Everything we buy (or ask for from relatives) must be of good quality, have multiple uses (if you're going to have a limited number of toys, you have to be able to use them together in creative ways), and -- since it will be stored in plain view in our main room -- it must be somewhat attractive.

With these characteristics guiding our purchase/gift decisions, we've ended up with some really great toys that Toddler X has loved for months and months, and that he constantly comes up with creative uses for that both amuse and amaze me.

I confidently and enthusiastically recommend each of these toys for any toddler's enjoyment.

(Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you do plan to order these items, or anything else from Amazon, please consider doing so through these links. Thank you!)

1. Hape Switchback Racetrack.
Toddler X discovered this racetrack at a toy store just a few days shy of his first birthday, and we literally had to pry him away from it. Grandma couldn't resist buying it for him (of course -- what are grandmas for?) and in the 10 months since, it's gotten play time almost every day. (And I have to admit, a lot of that play time has been from me -- I absolutely love this thing!)

It's been fun to watch Toddler X's motor skills and understanding of the mechanism increase with time -- he can now race with me perfectly, whereas at the start he was basically throwing the cars onto the track and looking perplexed when they went right off the other side. An attractive toy that I'm happy to have out in the living room, the track is well-made and sturdy. A great gift for any toddler, from a year on up (and adults too -- moms and dads, I dare you not to play with this!). (Note: if you have a pre-toddler who is still pulling up, be sure to use this toy only with supervision -- it will topple if pulled with the full weight of a baby.)

We bought Rody (we pronouce it "Roddy") last spring, when Toddler X was only 14 months old, simply because I thought it was an adorable toy. When Rody first joined our family, Toddler X didn't have the coordination to ride him (much less get on and off) without help, but he loved him nonetheless, throwing balls at him ("Catch, Rody!"), giving him hugs and sharing water with him. When we'd leave the house, he'd say, "Bye, Rody!"

Now, at 20 months, Toddler X rides Rody all the time, and can usually negotiate getting on and off by himself. (It's worth noting that a few of Toddler X's more coordinated friends could ride Rody at 14 or 15 months, and I know of two who went out and bought a Rody after riding him at our house.) The toy is recommended for ages 3-5, so I know we have many years of fun left with our green rubber friend. They have him in several colors, and also sell a rocker base so that he can be used as a rocking horse.

Overall, Rody is an adorable and fun energy-burning, balance-building toy. I would recommend it for toddlers 18 months and older, though, like I said, Toddler X enjoyed Rody as a buddy even before he could ride. They have Rody in a bunch of colors, so pick your favorite and get bouncing!

Quite possibly the best toy ever.

Seriously, the piggies are amazing, in so many ways. The set -- which comes with three squeaking porcines (differentiated by number, color and size), matching cloth houses that nest inside one another, and a silly little wolf -- is just adorable and perfectly tailored for toddler hands. It's also very portable, a dream come true for travel.

For me, though, the best feature is its versatility. There are a million ways to play with this set, both for your toddler alone and with you, the parents. The pigs are our go-to drivers and passengers for any of Toddler X's vehicles (they love to ride in the Green Toys School Bus and are frequently "rescued" by the wolf driving the Green Toys Fire Truck). We've enjoyed family games of "pig flicking" and, of course, basic reenactments of the classic children's tale.

The game of the moment -- shown here -- is just lining the pigs and wolf up on a stool, then manically swiping them off. Shoot, the other day, I found one on a plate in the microwave of Toddler X's play kitchen.

The options are limitless for this small, reasonably priced, very cute toy. I recommend these Piggies a hundred times over for babies/toddlers from 8 months to 2 years.
4. Anything and everything by Green Toys.
We LOVE this locally-owned company that creates fun, attractive, well-made toys from recycled materials. These toys are simple and straightforward, and both toddlers and parents love them. We buy them for Toddler X, and we love to give them as gifts. Here's my recent post discussing some of our favorites, but you can't go wrong with any of them.

The ones Toddler X currently has and loves are:
  • Green Toys School Bus: My absolute favorite vehicle. Toddler X got this for his first birthday and it's been a hit ever since. There's space inside for small toys and my little hoarder loves stuffing everything he can fit in through the roof opening. Highly recommended.
  • Green Toys Flatbed Truck and Race Car: Another great toy, this one a Christmas gift last year (at 10 1/2 months). Really two toys in one -- Toddler X plays with the car and truck independently and together. Cute and fun.
  • Green Toys Fire Truck: Fantastic toy, also a gift from last Christmas. Ladder rotates and rises to rescue stranded toys from high places. Absolutely adorable and very well-made -- Toddler X is hard on these trucks, and they've stood up just fine.
  • Green Toys Rocket Ship: A gift from Grandma and Grandpa X this summer, this is a huge hit with kids and adults alike. Again, adorable and very well-made, the spaceship comes with two little astronauts (Toddler X calls them "spacemen"), with upper and lower doors that open and shut so the spacemen can prepare for liftoff. The top capsule of the rocket separates from the bottom for even more fun. Super cool toy.
  • Green Toys Submarine: Another first birthday gift (thanks, Toddler A!), this submarine has a five star rating on Amazon, and for good reason. It's a perfect bath toy, and Toddler X won't get in the tub without it. Five stars from us too!
  • Green Toys Airplane: A cute, smaller and less expensive Green Toys option, Toddler X loves to zoom this one around the room.
  • Green Toys My First Stacker: Probably the only baby shower gift we received that Toddler X still enjoys playing with today. I wouldn't buy this for someone who is already a toddler, but I would absolutely recommend it for a toddler-to-be!
Here are the ones that Toddler X will be opening on Christmas morning (yep, I'm obsessed!):
  • Green Toys Recycling Truck: I didn't realize until I bought this, but the back liftgate opens and dumps, so I'm pretty sure this will be Toddler X's favorite toy ever. Excited to watch him play with this in the years to come!
  • Green Toys Dump Truck: A Green Toys classic, I really can't believe we don't have this toy yet. We've given a couple as gifts, and I love the pink version too. Excited for him to open this simple, perfect toy.
  • Green Toys Tool Set (which they also make in a pink version): Another toy I can't wait for Toddler X to open! I love tool box toys in general, and somehow I'm less concerned about him beating things with a Green Toys hammer than a wooden one. This one is recommended for ages 2-6, so I know that it's a great long term investment for us.
The Green Toys stackers and cups are great gifts for everyone from infants on. The vehicles, I recommend for near-toddlers and then toddlers (and kids!) of any age. I haven't given Toddler X the tool set yet, but I imagine that will skew a little older -- maybe 18 months and up.
If Grandma and Grandpa (or you!) are looking to get your toddler a very nice gift for a holiday or birthday -- one that is beautiful, useful and will be a part of your life for years to come -- I can't recommend this highly enough.
My parents got this piano for my niece for her 2nd birthday, and she still has it in her room at age 6. They got one for Toddler X for his 1st birthday, and it was love at first sight. It's sturdy enough for a pre-toddler to pull up on, and comes with a little bench for use once your toddler is a little less wiggly (we just use a little Ikea stool for right now). Toddler X and his buddies love this instrument and play adorable duets. A very nice addition to our living room, and I love that Toddler X is enjoying making music this early in life.

Although their early experimentation with this piano may not be music to your ears, I recommend this toy for any toddler who can stand and bang on the keys, and obviously for older toddlers who can begin to learn the notes and even the simple songs in the accompanying songbook. It's never too early to introduce kids to music.
Another gift from Grandma (she really is amazing!), these adorable blocks are absolutely charming. Made of a sturdy glossy cardboard-ish material covered with cute, colorful designs related to the cow, dog and cat that come with the set, these blocks are easy for little hands to stack and build with, and oh so fun to knock down. Toddler X takes them out (and I clean them up) several times a day...and they're so cute that I don't even mind.
These are well-made blocks -- Toddler X has put them through the ringer over the last 10 months, including standing on them, and they've held up just fine. And boy, they have been carefully stacked and then manically swatted down more times than I can count. I don't see any end in sight to our family's enjoyment of this great set.

The Cubanimo blocks are without a doubt my top pick in the blocks category -- this is another one of the toys that I genuinely enjoy using with Toddler X. I recommend these for toddlers of any age.

Toddler X discovered these on a magnet board at the Los Altos State Street Green this summer, and enjoyed them so much that I got on Amazon that night and ordered a set. The brightly colored interconnecting gears (one of which is battery operated -- you move the others by attaching them to the powered one) arrived two days later, and have been a source of fun, creativity and interest ever since.
This is one of Mr. X's favorites -- he loves building all different configurations on the fridge with Toddler X. Toddler X turns these on at least once a day, and it's been fun to watch him develop an understanding of how they work (I hear less and less "Uh oh! Gear stuck!" each week). Excellent way to entertain a toddler in the kitchen while you cook or clean. I'd recommend for 18 months and up (well up -- I imagine that these will be on our fridge for years to come).

I am generally not a fan of toys that light up or make noise, but the Funtime Tractor is an exception. Grandma bought it for Toddler X last Christmas, and after watching him gleefully discover all its features and functions, I was sold. This was Toddler X's favorite toy from about 10-14 months old, at which point we rotated it out into storage. I reintroduced it last month, and surprise! A hit again, almost a year later.
The tractor comes with a farmer figure and five animals, each of which has its spot in the trailer and makes the appropriate noise when pushed. If you push the farmer, you get a chorus of "Old MacDonald". If you push the horn, you get sounds and headlights. And if you push the smokestack, the tractor rolls forward, making fun, tractor-ish sounds. I really enjoyed watching Toddler X figure out the cause and effect of the different buttons in his early toddler months.

I'd recommend this as a gift for any child from 8 months to 14 or 15 months. They'll enjoy it and play with it much longer than that, but I probably wouldn't give it as a gift to a two year old.

I ordered this from Amazon last week after Toddler X fell in love with an identical one at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and we are absolutely loving it. It comes with a cute little basketball and four adjustable heights, and you can fill the base with sand or not, depending on the stability level you need (we don't feel the need -- unless Toddler X starts training for the NBA dunk contest, I think we're fine with it unfilled). A great, inexpensive basketball set that will grow with Toddler X for several years. I'd recommend for 16 months and up.

We bought this beautiful wagon about a month shy of Toddler X's 1st birthday, and we couldn't love it more.
It was great for giving him stability as he was becoming a more confident walker (and was a fun little race car -- we actually staged Walker Wagon races with several of his buddies who have the same model). Now, he uses it as a cart when we take short walks to the corner (toddler hoarders can't leave all their gear behind!) and it works as a simple, beautiful toy box in our living room.
The Walker Wagon is well made, with a very "classic" look and appeal. Though Toddler X still uses it today, I wouldn't buy it for a toddler approaching 2 years old, but I would absolutely recommend it as a gift for near-walkers and young toddlers 10-14 months.

So there you have it -- Toddler X's Top 10 toys. I'll have other lists up soon with our toddler friends' suggestions in several different categories, but I wanted to get this one up asap.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the items. These are all things we love, so I'd be glad to post more detailed descriptions or photos.


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