Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Toddler-Friendly Learning Toys

You know, it's really hard to find toys for the child who falls between baby toys that light up and twinkle, and little doll playsets and Legos.

What about that 2 year old who isn't a baby anymore but isn't ready for "big kid" toys?


Have you met a toddler?!

They change their minds constantly and can be quite destructive!

I always struggle with "do I buy Ava cheap toys so if/when she destroys it, it's not a big deal" or "do I buy more expensive, quality toys that will last but risk wasting money if she plays with it twice and decides she doesn't like it".

I figured I can't be the only parent who feels this way! We all want our kids to have meaningful experiences with their toys. I'm always on the hunt for just the right toys that have educational value while also maintaining the feeling of "fun".

And especially for that tricky 2 year old...most toys say 3+ or 5+ because they contain small parts that could be choking hazards. Or will just get lost in 3 seconds.

I found a line of toys at Walmart, and while I don't buy new toys very often, so far I am pretty impressed with the few I have!

The line is called Spark and they carry a variety of learning toys that require NO BATTERIES and aren't flashy or crazy or gender-specific. They are simple toys! And simple is nice.

I have been wanting an alphabet puzzle for Ava for awhile now. She's learned a lot of her letters already and I wanted a tangible way for her to interact with the alphabet. But all of the puzzles I saw were too advanced or had tiny letters. I finally found one at a consignment sale! But after I brought it home and watched her play with it, I realized this wasn't the right puzzle for my just-turned-two-year-old. The only way she interacted with it was to take all the pieces out - it was too advanced for her to be able to put them back in. At all. She couldn't match any of them. I'll show you why in a minute.

And then I was browsing Walmart and found the Spark ABC puzzle...and it is perfection.

Look at those colors! And BIG, chunky, PLASTIC letters! And it was less than $5!!!

This is exciting, people!! Yeah, I'm a big preschool-teacher nerd. This stuff excites me!

Ava was immediately drawn to this puzzle. Not only did she enjoy taking the pieces out, but she could pretty quickly find where each letter was supposed to go. It's harder for her to match pieces when it is completely empty, but she does pretty well! I was able to sit and watch her and she was able to do most of it herself!

Just look at the difference between the two puzzles:

The puzzle on the top has small, wooden letters with printed paper and little pegs. Here's how the pieces compare to the new puzzle:

The plastic letter is obviously much better suited for toddler hands. Nevermind how many times Ava and I have stepped on the pieces with the pegs on them...OW!

And the wooden pieces have not passed the "toddler test". Ava has picked off the paper on a few and the letter Z has been broken.

And here is how the puzzle is designed - the child must match a letter to a corresponding object. Definetly not age-appropriate for a 2-year-old!

With the new puzzle, it is an exact match. Same color, same letter, same size. Easy matching!

We also have the sorting fish that are the same brand. This tub was $9, I think. You'd pay almost $20 for this same thing at other stores!! I immediately knew this was a good value - and it's been a great toddler toy!

I'm starting to have to pay more attention to Ava's toys that end up around Liam now that he is gaining mobility and Ava is handing him more and more things while I'm not looking. These fish are perfect for Liam (7 months old) as well! Chunky plastic fish. Easy to grab. Bright colors! They float (and no holes in them!). You can match them! You can count them. You can make patterns with them. Or take them in and out of the bucket...repeatedly. Both of my kids love these fish and it is such an open-ended toy!

I highly recommend checking out these Spark toys. They are all grouped together at Walmart and they have a bunch of fun things to choose from! And such a great value! These just might be my go-to toys for awhile, especially since I have a girl and a boy who are close in age and will be sharing toys!

I'm kind of thinking of starting a blog series about toddler toys and activites...anyone interested? Yay? Or nay??

Happy toddler days!

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