With the heavy influence of social media and the internet in our lives, we are now bombarded not just by our mother-in-law’s advice on parenting but also with an entire digital panel of experts who know how to raise your kid better than you do. There is a ton of mom shaming, mom guilt (and some for dads too, but us mamas seem to take it harder) and non researched or backed up “facts” about what you should and shouldn’t do in order for your child to grow up and not be a serial killer. Screen time is the devil, non organic food is poison, plastic toys are toxic, and to top it all off, your child is going to get hip dysplasia from your baby carrier. Whether you choose to believe or subscribe to any of these theories is up to you, but I tend to live by the mantra ‘everything in moderation, even moderation’. In short, be sensible about strategic about what you do with your children, but you can occasionally throw it all out the window and live like it is 1979 again.
To combat some of my mom guilt that my daughter watched a little too much Paw Patrol or that I didn’t feed my son more than five brain boosting super foods today, I look for other play based ways to stimulate and teach them while still allowing for fun. I am very selective about the toys I buy for my children because: a) I despise seeing a toy used once and then thrown onto a pile as clutter that gives me hives b) they get all kinds of other random toys from their relatives, and c) stepping on tiny toys in barefeet is where murderous thoughts originate. My criteria for a good toy purchase is that it must be well made, be something that will grow with them, or be of interest for at least a year, and should have a learning aspect to it in some capacity.
With that in mind, here are the top 5 toys in our household right now that make me feel like a better parent:
- A-Z Upper Case Magnatab – This is a great way to teach both fine motor skills and introduce writing letters. We have had this toy since last year and it was great practice for my daughter before starting kindergarten. She still uses this toy every day and loves the way the magnetic beads pop up as she writes her letters and then pop back as she uses her fingers to erase. This one will be passed down to my son and will be durable enough to last the years in between.
- Wobble – A simple but superb toy. The weighted bottoms spin and always end upright so smaller babes can easily grasp and enjoy. Watching this little toy wobble around in all kinds of directions and speeds is captivating (maybe even for some adults too..) We love this size for travel as it is easy to pack and also can be played with virtually anywhere.
- Kid O Myland Horse and Myland Car – The Myland line of toys by Kid O employ STEM concepts (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) so they are educational and fun but in completely unique ways. Each toy is triggered by the colour coded character associated with it to make different sounds and actions. The Myland Car comes with two characters that activate lights and driving noises, while the sweet horse gallops and neighs. These toys are loved by both my 5 year old and one year old and are made to take a lot of abuse. They are played with at full speed for hours at a time but I know they will stand the test of time.
- Magnetibook Crazy Face – I had been eyeing this toy for a long while before actually bringing it into our home and I am so glad I finally did. The Magnetibooks are an awesome toy to drive creativity and matching skills and are the perfect road trip companion. With magnets holding each piece in place, it makes it easy to use on the go and my kids love looking at all the silly faces. Janod also makes a version with vehicles to match up and I can see us adding this one to our collection in the not too distant future.
- Shapesorter – A classic children’s toy to learn shapes and hand-eye coordination, this wooden version is so much nicer to look at and play with than many of the plastic options out there and the shapes are nice and chunky, making it easier for tiny hands to grasp. This is one of those toys that gets played with for a few years, starting with banging the shapes together and progressing to identifying each and putting them in the corresponding slots. This one gets bonus points too for being pretty on the shelf!
So, these are some of the toys we have been playing with in our house in between our screen-time and non-organic strained pears to make me feel just a touch more virtuous. While these toys may not actually make me a better parent, the kids love them and the mom shamers have stopped giving me the side eye, so I think I may just be winning this whole parenting thing….for today anyway.
Katie is a new mom of two and will be sharing her experiences in parenting a toddler and a newborn though this series “New with Two”.