There are endless varieties of toys out there, and every new parents will likely end up buying too much toy when they have their first child, especially when most toys are not very expensive. That’s exactly what we did. There was only one problem, we lived in a tiny shoebox that do not have enough space to store things. Before Emilia was even a year old, we had to go through two rounds of downsizing already, once for clothing, and a second time for toys.
In this post I will talk about some of the toys that worked out really well for us, and some that didn’t.
By working out well, I mean toys that are used repeatedly, over multiple developmental milestones, and are not too difficult to put away if needed.
By not working out well, I mean toys that are only used for short periods of time, are not adequately built, or take up too much space and cannot justify its usage frequency.
Disclosure: this post contain affiliate links to the products that worked out well for us. The affiliate link will direct you to Amazon should you decide to give the product a try at no extra cost to you, but greatly supports this blog and help me do what I enjoy.
Toys that worked very well
1. Boogie board
More specifically, the Boogie Board Scribble & Play LCD eWriter. This is the baby version of the classic board, with a silicone cover, and 4 fun styluses to play with. The board is exactly the same as a Boogie Board Jot in size, but the writing come up in gradient colours rather than a single colour. It can stand up to a lot of abuse, can be thrown around, sat on, and even stepped on thanks to the case that protects the board.
The styluses that come with it are large enough for a toddler to grip onto, and sized so that they do not end up becoming chocking hazards. For this reason, I got it for Emilia well before her 1st birthday, and she has loved it ever since. She isn’t old enough to sit in front of it and doodle for long periods of time, however it’s something she return to throughout the day over and over again. So I think it is a toy that will be used frequently for quite some time into the future.
We also have other magnetic boards from brands like Fisher Price Slim Doodle Pro. Our experience has been that the screen are often poorly built, with drawings that do not erase properly, or points that just don’t erase at all. The screen and the frame for our Fisher Price board also detached rather quickly after receiving them, it was loosely glued on and wasn’t standing up to the abuse Emilia was inflicting on the board. The stamps that come with the board was also a chocking hazard, it was sized so that Emilia could stuff the whole thing into her mouth, hence we had to put the thing away shortly after we purchased the item.
Specifically, a table that can be used from the sitting phase, to toddlerhood and beyond. The ability to remove all of the toys and convert the item into a normal table was important to us, since we have limited space, and would rather not deal with the removal of such a large item months after purchase. We were eyeing the Oribel Portaplay Convertible Activity Center and Skip Hop Explore and More 3 Stage Activity Center. We ended up with the Oribel but both are wonderful tables that would last a while, after using the Oribel I would even say that the clip system on the Skip Hop is better, since it clips onto the side rather than needing cut outs on the table.
We have had the Oribel Convertible table since Emilia was 5 months old, and it is still going strong and enjoyed by her 6 months later.
The First Years Stack Up Cups was a pleasant surprise. It is one of the cheapest toys we have but surprisingly one of the most loved. Emilia plays with it during the day and also in the bath. It’s basically 8 plastic cups of various sizes that stack or nest together depending on which way you sort them. Each cup also has various shaped cut outs on the bottom, and a number written between 1-8. This make the toy very versatile, it can be used as a stacking toy, but it can also be used to teach numbers, shapes, and colours.
Basic wooden blocks never get old. Emilia loves her Uncle Goose Chinese Blocks, but also her Hape Puzzle Block toy. They are about the same size so we throw all the blocks into a big tub. The writings and the pictures have very little meaning to her, but as she continue to go back to them, we will have more opportunity to teach her the characters and pictures on the block themselves. We always leave the tub of blocks within her reach, and every day she will go back to them and play for a bit, which I’m very happy about. I am excited to see the blocks get used and grow old with her, and it’s probably one of those toys we will never get rid of even long after she moves out.
Emilia has played with a few different pull along toys, including the vintage Ikea roller, as well as some Hape Pull along toys with a handle stick. I find the ones with a stick to be less than ideal, since they take up space, and can only be pulled in a specific direction. If the stick is held sideways the toy will just be dragged along without properly rolling, and could scratch your floor if you have hardwood.
I prefer to leave out a string pull along toy at home and leave the larger pull along toy to be a drop in activity exclusive. We have the Hape Pull Along Elephant, and it is very well built. We’ve had it for months and the paint has held up fine, and no sign of splinters.
There are a lot of raving reviews of interactive books that keep babies engaged and interested in reading. I was very excited to finally get one for Emilia. It played out very well in my head, except I forgot Emilia is an expert at tearing things apart. Whenever she got her hands on any paper product, first thing she does is to try and shred them.
I looked for the books with the stronger cardboard flaps as opposed to the thin paper flap, and before I could even properly photograph the book, a piece was already torn off. Oh well…it’ll just have to be a book with fewer surprises.
As soon as Emilia started walking assisted, we got her a Fisher Price walker. We’ve read all about how bad those seated walkers with wheels can be, so we got her the push cart style walker. It even sings when it gets pushed!
However a walker wasn’t very good for a baby who doesn’t know how to balance and walk yet, and because it rolls away when leaned on, Emilia fell more than if she didn’t use the walker. We also found these walkers to be built to only travel in straight lines – the wheels don’t turn at all. This make it challenging to use in our home since we live in a shoe box, and Emilia need to turn, and turn often, in order to keep moving. So we had to put it away, only to find the item is too large to fit in our storage which was full of stuff already. We kept it in a corner in our living room for as long as we could, but Emilia didn’t return to it all that often. Once she can walk on her own, she had even less incentive to use it. Once in a while me or my husband would trip over it, and the walker would cheerfully sing a song for us to remind us that it’s still there.
3. Battery powered activity toy
This is a personal preference, but we are not a fan of battery powered activity toys in general, and especially some of the VTech Toys. Most battery powered activity toys are very limiting in what it does, making it something that can become boring rather quickly. I was able to find Emilia enjoying music in general, as once she learns a toy, she will only go back to it to play music on them. When we have several battery powered toys, it can become very noisy as baby pulls them out and bashes on all of them however. The reason I didn’t like some of the VTech Toys is because they are designed to even make sounds when you do not touch them. After any kind of interaction with the toy, it will automatically play a tone to attract attention after about a minute or two, even with no activity. This make for a rather noisy distraction. When Emilia is moving onto another toy, the sudden noise will cause her to lose track of what she wanted to do. Most days with the power off on these toys, Emilia stopped touching them over time.
4. Large toys that cannot be put away
In general most baby toys are only good for a short period of time. This is why I am quite wary of getting large toys that cannot be converted into anything else. Because after baby is done with them, you will need to store them or sell them. This include some of the larger interactive activity toy, some ride on toy, and big activity centres. I’ve realized that there will likely be larger toys wherever we go, drop ins, parks, schools, etc. So it will be just fine if I keep those toys out of my home.
If you are living in a large house, then this point is probably irrelevant.
For indoor activities that do not involve toys, visit my post on activities you can do with everyday household items.
What do you think? Remember that the best activities for children is to be outside of the home. Outdoor activities, or social activities are far better than any toy we have at home.