July 31, 2020
Quarantine has had a silver lining for us. There have been a few toys or activities that have stood out to me as being AMAZING for us and totally worth sharing for others during their time at home. Not to mention, a few of these are killer for road trips. I’ve started to see so many people hopping in their car for road trips, and we can personally say that it’s been one of the best things for our family over these past few months.
For starters, I have a 3.5 year old boy named Luke and a 15 month old girl named Aubrey. Luke is all boy. No really, anything gross-motor, energy-exerting, adventurous or outdoorsy, he’s all about. Aubrey can stay easily entertained much longer than Luke did at her age (which is interesting just appreciating their differences), and this girl loves to focus on activities that include exercising her small, fine motor skills. For example, she can stay entertained putting Nespresso pods in and out of their box, Air Pods in and out of the case or playing with a shape sorter.
I’m going to also add that I feel like I’ve learned a lot about “play” since the beginning of quarantine. I think I’ve been hard on myself for not having understood this as well before, because I also have a background as a speech and language pathologist. I totally understand the value of “play”, but I have a whole new appreciation for it now raising two babes. And just to level the playing field here: I feel like I also have a bigger appreciation for it, because before quarantine, we were coming out of a season of: me being exhausted & pregnant with our second, then having a second (and still being exhausted), and maybe somewhere along the way, it was just easier for me to let Luke have more screentime than he actually needed. And I wasn’t disciplined or confident enough to wean Luke away from it earlier than I did.
I underestimated the way that he could “play” on his own and perhaps didn’t find the right activities or toys for him that were age appropriate–or Lukey-interested! Who knows–but what I DO know now is that we have some favorite toys in our home these days that don’t include screens (although, you know, I appreciate a good show or movie with him!) and DO include their imagination and creativity.
And to be honest, our new house has absolutely helped me to be creative and confident in stewarding my own kiddos’ play skills and creativity. I’ve even taught Luke how cool it is to be creative with our toys when we make blocks, pretend in different ways and use our imagination. We talk about how good it is for our brain when we play and especially play outside (with a water table, in the dirt, with rocks, with chalk and so much more in our backyard patio area). Again, being honest, it took discipline from me to break him from his comfort of screens (TV, really) and explain to Luke how good it was for us to play outside or play with blocks, dinosaurs, monster trucks, etc. And now it’s much easier, and he rarely asks for TV; rather he just starts playing. In the beginning, I literally would give him an M&M and praise him for being creative and using his imagination when he’d independently start playing by himself (I went the extra mile, y’all!).
I’ve found that if I put 2-3 toys from our toy cabinets every couple days for Luke to find in our playroom in the morning, it’s allllmost like he’s found new toys. I think having sooo many toys in front of him at once can be daunting and playing with “old” toys can be new and exciting if you think to pull a couple different ones out each evening after they go to bed. We usually wake up, play in the playroom (sometimes watch Daniel Tiger) then head out to the backyard patio where it’s shaded and cooler before the Texas heat sets in. It’s been amazing to see their little imaginations just explore and adventure with what’s simply just there. He adds to his “rock collection”, swims, plays with the water table (empty tubs/cups/bottles are FUN), helps me sweep, bubbles, washing his toys with soap & water, runs his monster trucks through the dirt and lets his imagination lead him–with me sometimes modeling some ideas! I will model how you can play with toys in different ways to get him started sometimes, not just the typical building a house with blocks, but you could maybe add Magnetiles and build a ramp for your monster trucks to fly over–something to get his creative juices flowing and think out of the box.
The past 3-4 months, I’ve seen such growth in the way both of them play independently, together and use their imagination–especially with certain toys that allow endless opportunities to create and strengthen their imagination and play skills. It also has helped Luke with his emotional regulation (toddler emotions are rough, y’all). Having a lot of sensory toys and finding his jam sure does help! I will say: it took ME helping myself in ways in order to feel healthy, creative and present with my kids. I could go on about this, but for now, I’ll just remind you of this simple fact. I’ve seen so much growth in them since I invested in my own emotional health and growth.
For kids this age, PLAY is how they learn, acquire language as you play WITH them, learn turn-taking skills, etc. Academics are not ideally learned on screens. While I am not opposed to toys with batteries AT ALL (in fact most of Luke’s original toys are/were), the ones I’m listing will be toys that don’t have batteries and that allow kiddos multiple ways for them to be played with, using their imagination and creativity.
I’ll go ahead and list out some of what we’ve LOVED and which kiddos like it best/how they play differently with them. And I’ll note which ones were magical for our road trip first! I’ve been VERY pleased with each of these toys and how they entertain!
Okay, so the first one I’m actually going to mention is one that’s for US, the parents, and has been giving us LIFE. Quite simply, we LOVE these coffee flavors for our Nespresso. And might I add: we are NOT coffee snobs. Like, we may not know good coffee, but we can taste when coffee is especially good. And THAT is what these Nespresso coffee pods taste like. We splurged on the Nespresso machine about a year ago and really enjoyed the coffee it made (including the espresso for lattes), but we had no idea what we were missing until we found these flavored coffees! We also add a splash of vanilla creamer to any of them, because we like an extra hint of sweetness, and truly: we have both said that we can’t wait to wake up in the morning to drink our coffees.
*When we’re feelin’ extra and need an afternoon pick-me-up, we enjoy this milk steamer to make our lattes! It’s honestly just so fun!
I LOVE this. Aubrey actually likes it more than Luke, but Luke will be entertained by it for a while. And it’s easy to pack up for car rides or for Aubrey to play with while we’re out and about. With her being more into the fine-motor, detailed things, this is a hit for her.
Fidget Toys $20
My sister-in-law recommended this, and it’s was a hit for both kids! Similar to the above, it holds Aubrey’s attention more than Lukes’, but he does enjoy it. A few of the items from this are especially good for road trips, I feel like. But, if you were to pack the whole box, you could rotate and introduce new items to the kids as you drive–could be golden! They can play and manipulate each item while sitting down and focusing on them, so it’s gold. The magic ball, liquid motion bubbler and
These are great for the car. You can stretch them out and reform them. Luke and his dad play “telephone” with them stretched out where one whispers in one end while the other person as the other end up to their ear. It’s cute. It’s great to keep one busy and pass time!
I got these off of a Facebook garage sale site, but I linked some similar ones. I gave these to Luke before our travels, because I felt like there’d be too many little pieces to keep up with in a cabin. Plus, some of the pieces are a bit small and I need to supervise if Aubrey is around. This is an activity that is limitless with the structures he can create and ways he can use his brain. It’s fabulous, and he loves it! I think that it’ll only get better as he ages.
I got these off of a Facebook garage sale site, but I linked some similar ones. I surprised Luke with them when we got to Durango, and they rocked his world. Literally, as I’m sitting here typing this, I’m watching Jordan nap and Luke soar his tinker toy airplane that he and his Daddy made. He’s obsessed, and this is another example of an activity that can never get old; he can be as creative as he wants, and his imagination is limitless.
*Also Jordan just chimed in after his nap and said, “did you know Tinker Toys were invented in 1914?” Enneagram 5, y’all; there you have it.
Luke has really enjoyed this, and I know Aubrey will even more as she gets older (although, she HAS, she’s just super MESSY). We’ve gone on nature walks to find cool sticks, rocks and leaves that we can paint. We painted boxes we had after we moved. Taping down the butcher paper helps create a cleaner creative space when indoors, OR allows a large canvas for them to paint on. The amount of paint that comes with this set is a LOT, so I have it stored up high so only I can get it out. This should last a good while.
Hands down best purchase I’ve made this year. We got it right after we moved into our house and put it in a space in our playroom, and Luke LOVES it. Whenever kids come play, they love to take turns on it. I mean, I want an adult one haha. Don’t make judgments on the title; all kids have sensory needs and will enjoy this. Luke and Aubrey both love to swing in it, and there are also limitless ways for them to play aside from swinging. Luke does acrobatic-type moves, and it’s the perfect activity for his gross-motor, active little self! As active as he can be in it, he’s even fallen asleep in it at nighttime when we’ve pushed him slowly in it. It’s literally the best. Jordan just screwed it into a stud in our ceiling, and it holds over 200 pounds.
Stomp Rocket $14
Kudos to my husband. He bought this at a store for Luke before our road trip, and Luke LOVES it. Aubrey likes to put the rockets on it, and Luke loves to jump on it and shoot the rockets up. We’ve also positioned the rocket down to where it shoots toward action figures and knocks them down, trying to show him how there’s more than one way to use toys (and use your imagination). 🙂
Many of you know that we moved a few months ago, and our new home has a pool. It wasn’t really high on our list to stock the backyard with all the pool things the first summer in it, so I found this on Amazon that had several different kinds of toys in it, and it has definitely kept both babes busy in the pool. Aubrey likes to throw them in, and Luke dives for them. They’ve even played with them in the water table outside the pool. We’ve enjoyed it!
Okay, so we got this for Aubrey for her birthday, and I didn’t anticipate how much not only she would like it, but Luke loves playing with her! It’s been so cute to see how they get entertained together. This DOES have batteries, so it is a bit limited in HOW it can be played with, but it sure entertains them both as the balls pop up and they refill. It plays music which makes Aubrey bop around and dance while the balls shoot out the top and continue to roll down inside to pop up again. Aubrey knows how to press a lever that makes the music play and turns the air on to shoot the balls out. I like it for the simply steps of keeping Aubrey entertained, cause and effect, teaching simple prepositions like “in/out”, simple words like “push”, “ball”, “pop”, “uh oh”, “yay!”, “more”, and so forth. The music makes it exciting while it’s endless to put the balls in and out and push the lever. Fun for both kiddos and a definite recommend for keeping young kiddos entertained at home!
I listen to Dr. Josh & Christi Straub’s podcast, Famous At Home, and I really enjoy what they had to say, so it’s not surprising that we’d enjoy their children’s book. Luke likes it too! It’s a favorite lately! And we’re all about teaching our kiddos how to feel, name and use their emotions.
Last but not least, if you’ve followed my BTS videos of me photographing life at home with my kiddos, then you know that we are in a current Roly Poly obsession. And I love it. It takes me back to my childhood! Luke loves to dig and find #allthepolies, so I knew this Roly Poly Farm would be AMAZING for quarantine-time. I thought it would be a little bigger when I ordered it; however, it comes with food, water dropper and soil to start with with instructions on how to take care of the Roly Polies. It’s been a fun way to educate Luke and give him responsibility as he understands their needs. He loves taking care of them. They’re his little buddies! This is yet another item that has been worth it.
What, if not these past times, have you enjoyed during this abundance of time at home?
If you have little babes and are in the “thick of it”, I hope one or some of these toys will spark your kiddos creativity and growth like they have ours!