Google+ Authentic Parenting: Some of the Best Toys for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Some of the Best Toys for Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers

The fun of Christmas morning is a moment I truly look forward to each and every year. Our traditional pancake breakfast, cuddles with Christmas stories, opening presents, playing with new toys. Ah toys, so many toys! The amount of toys available for sale is mind boggling. Plastic, wood, electronic, green, educational, so many types and categories of toys. Every year, I try to
search for exciting and truly engaging playthings for my three children. Often they turn out to be “non” toys but some regular toys come into the mix too. For our family the toys that get most playtime are the open ended kind.

Here are some of our favorite, kid powered, time tested playthings we may be finding under our tree this year:
Cardboard boxes: What’s not to love about a giant cardboard box? It can be a fort, a train, a race car, a space shuttle…the possibilities are endless. When my first was eighteen months old we started a tradition that the youngest child is gifted with the biggest cardboard box we can find inside of which we place a flashlight and a box of crayons. Every year since this has been the “toy” that has gotten the most play time on Christmas day and many, many days afterwards.
Pillow Case: Another great item for open ended play possibilities; we have used a pillow case as a "hobo sack" to go on pretend journeys, to fill with books to read in a fort, to transport pirate gold treasure. It’s also great for sensory play games such as filling it up with objects of different textures, shapes and sizes and guessing what they are. My five year old recently made up a game where he hides inside a large pillow case and crawls around the house as a “sneaky pillow” that needs to be returned to the couch.
Tunnel: One of the first toys I ever purchased for my first born was a nylon pop up tunnel when he was just starting to crawl. We still own the same tunnel and have used it nearly daily in the last five years. We use it for obstacle races, crawling games, to build forts and walk like monsters, to divide play spaces. It has been a great investment and a much loved plaything. A bonus is that it can be folded and stored away so easily.
Play mats: A wonderful way to spend some one on one time with a child can be to roll out a play mat and invite them to play along. At my house we love to drive around a street play mat that we have, talking, telling stories as we play. My friend Sarah, the mom of three boys, created these very engaging play mats out of felt and fabric. The colors are vibrant and the scenery is very inviting to the imagination, a great plaything for a rainy or snowy day. What I also love about play mats is that they create an instant closeness of the players since the play area is pre-determined but without really constricting the play.
Blocks: Large or small construction blocks, magnetic, foam or wood, really any type of construction block can be a fantastic toy for babies, and beyond. We have a large set of plastic construction blocks that has been handed down through our family over the last ten years. We also have a set of wooden blocks that are great for building towers, cities around the railroad tracks, walls for dinosaurs to knock down. This year we will be adding giant foam blocks to our collection and hoping to spend many hours building bridges, towers and more.
Kitchen Items: Cups, strainers, mixing bowls and spoons, add in some imagination, the hours spent with these items are endless. Stacking cups, pouring beans, sorting spoons the kitchen items are inexpensive and provide excellent learning opportunities too.
Blanket: Perfect for snuggling on a cold winter day, we also love to use a large blanket to create a fort, to take “magic carpet” rides, to shake like a parachute, to fill with cotton balls and make snow, to sit on and have a teddy bear picnic, to play ghost and peek-a-boo.
We have lots of the more "traditional" toys like a doll house, rail set, a play kitchen, board games and a collection of playmobil that is very loved too.
So what toys will you be getting for your child(ren) this year? What has been your child’s all time favorite toy?
Peace & Be Well,

Edited to add this special offer!! Sarahdesigns has offered one lucky reader the chance to purchase any ONE item from her shop* with a special 15% off discount. If you are interested - check out her store here: Sarahdesigns on Etsy - Sarah is the mom of three boys and very creative and talented. (Neither Authentic Parenting or I have received compensation to promote sarahdesigns playmats, I just really like them!) Leave a comment bellow to enter. Winner will be chosen at random on December 5th and notified via email. *purchase must be made via etsy at the sarahdesigns store.
Ariadne (aka Mudpiemama) has three children, she practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. She believes parents and children should try to have fun everyday and love life.



  1. Great list. My child plays with very few of his toys, but much more with everyday items he can find about the house. However, one thing that has done some mileage is his sand and water table. We fill it with sand in the winter, and water in the summer. We've also had it filled with sawdust, and with mud!

  2. Fab list. The big thing around here is balls! Big balls little balls, soccer balls, baseballs, goldballs, tennis balls. I cannot believe what my kids can do with these.

  3. Good post on some of the "best toys" for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I think it's always interesting to see how some toys last over time, wouldn't you agree?


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