Infant and Toddler Toys
One of the real pleasures of the pandemic period was the introduction of two new infant and toddlers into the family ranks. It has been particularly fun testing toys with these tots, first-hand, as their grandpa. When I first started reviewing toys with my mother and sister I was a new father. Decades later, it is still remarkable watching children learn through the "work" of play.
Here are some of the best new toys for infants.
Follies The Baby Bauhaus Set ($49.00) This set of fabric covered blocks (and a ball rattle) can be the basis for so many play activities, from eye-tracking to stacking to rolling, One of the cubes even has a mirrored side. The blocks can be used when baby is still on her tummy, and become even more engaging when they can sit-up! All my grandkids love stacking (or having me stack) and then knocking down the blocks with glee.
Manhattan Toy Cottontail Cottage Fill and Spill Baby and Toddler Sensory Activity Toy with 3 Stuffed Animal Bunny Rattles ($42.00) Once your baby is sitting up they will love playing with the three cute bunnies who live in this toy house. A fill-and-spill toy, the bunnies can go in through the front arch or via the roof. Peek-a-boo flaps have surprises for kids to explore. When they start walking they will be able to transport the bunnies and the cottage using the handle built into the roof.
cuddle + kind Baby Animal Bundle - Set of 3 Lovingly Handcrafted Baby Stuffed Animals for Girls & Boys ($106.00) Once you've seen these oh-so-cute, stitched, baby-safe, dolls, what more needs to be said? That you want a set for yourself, too? Probably! OK, here's one more thing to make you go "awww": The company donates 10 meals to children who might otherwise go to bed hungry for each doll sold.
Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Baby to Toddler Toy, 4-in-1 Farm to Market Tractor Ride On with Pull Wagon & Smart Stages ($34.99) Once your baby "graduates" into toddler-hood and is becoming "vertical" they will appreciate ride on toys. This one comes with a tractor and a wagon that can be pulled by the vehicle or separately. The movement is all child powered, but the toy is jazzed up with a lot of sound and activity producing buttons.
Ravensburger Rainy Ranch – A Cooperative Game for Toddlers ($19.99) In this cooperative board game the object is to get the farm animals in before the rain comes down. Players take turns rolling a big die that determines whether they retrieve a cow, sheep, pig or horse - or a raindrop, instead. Play continues until all the spaces on the raindrop board are filled in. It is marked 2&up.
Fisher-Price Little People Toddler Playset Light-Up Learning Garage with Smart Stages Plus Toy Car and Ramp ($44.99) The garage from Fischer Price has a lot of props for pretend automotive play. Cars get to the pretend car wash via an elevator, and there are places to "fill'er up", and pretend tools to fix the supplied car. (Safety note: These might be too tempting to go into a toddler's mouth and be a possible choke hazard. It might be better to put those away until you're child is past the stage of exploring by putting things in her mouth.) Two play figures are also included. This toy has lights and songs - I'm not sure that is a huge benefit, and some parents might find the noise pollution downright annoying.
MEGA BLOKS Fisher Price Sensory Building Toys Playset, Musical Farm Band with 45 Toddler Blocks and 6 Music Sheets ($23.49) Mega Bloks are building bricks for toddlers. This set comes with 40 bricks including fun animal shapes and 10 special bricks that belong in the percussion section. There are drum bricks, cymbal bricks, even a small xylophone. The set even includes color coded music sheets that work with the xylophone.
STACKIN' Fruit Cars ($16.99) Three different fruit shaped rolling toys, each with a distinctive feature. The watermellon has popping seeds, the banana has a pull-back action, and the orange makes a clack-clack sound. 1 year & up.
First Baby Dolls
Dolls come in all shapes and sizes, but the first concern with them must be safety. For that reason stitched dolls without items than can be sucked on and potentially come loose in a baby's mouth are a good choice, as are dolls that don't have synthetic hair. Here are some of my favorite "first" dolls:
Manhattan Toy Baby Stella 15" Soft Baby Doll ($29.99) This cute baby even comes with a magnetic pacifier.
GUND Baby Sustainable Baby Doll ($16.76)