Toys

Great Gift Ideas 2011 – Part 2

With Black Friday rapidly approaching, I figured it was time for a second installment of toddler and preschool gift ideas that stimulate the imagination. These toys have all been “tested” by my boys, ages 5 and 3. I’ve only selected the toys they go back to time and time again to ensure maximum play value.

Lillabo Basic Train Set

Lillabo Train Sets from Ikea: Shhhh, don’t tell the folks from Thomas the Tank Engine that I told you about this one.  Ikea offers its own wooden train sets of 3 to 20 pieces ranging in price from $3.99 to $9.99, far less expensive than branded wooden sets. However, the best part is that these trains work with wooden Thomas the Tank Engine and Imaginarium sets, both of which we have and use interchangeably with the Ikea track. Now you can save money on your wooden track and invest in fun engines, cars and add-ons.

Fisher Price Play My Way Doctor Kit: We received this gift when our youngest was two, and he and his five-year-old brother still play with this doctor’s kit. The pieces come in their own plastic storage tub, which is perfect for keeping the playroom clean. This set is much more durable than some other doctor’s kits we’ve had. After a full year of play, everything is still intact. This retails for $21 on the Fisher Price Web site, however you can also find these at other retailers for a few dollars less. We bought ours at Target, and I’ve seen this advertised at Kohl’s. Fisher Price also offers a Workshop and Kitchen in this same line. I’m sure they’d be equally as big a hit.

Magneatos: We first stumbled upon Magneatos at a children’s museum. Grandparents and children alike enjoyed building with these cool magnetic tubes, so, when birthday time rolled around, guess what we bought? We have two different sets: a curved set and a straight set, both of which come with the balls. I think the allure is that these are easy enough for toddlers to build with, since they don’t have to snap any pieces into place, yet building a 3-D construction is fun and challenging even for grown ups. Depending upon the size you purchase, these can range in price from approximately $30 to over $50.

Science/Math, Toys

Great Gift Ideas 2011 – part 1

Growing up, I used to joke that my future children would only  play with wooden blocks. I’ve evolved a little bit since then, but not much. I still favor toys that stimulate imagination, curiosity and creativity. So, with that in mind, here are a few of my current favorites.

1) Anything Lego. Have I mentioned how much I adore this company? It’s pretty easy to find a good, mid-priced set for about $25. Every brick set works with every other brick set; I can tell you my mother-in-law still has my husband’s Legos from 30+ years ago, and they work with today’s sets. Plus, if you lose the directions, Lego has instructions available online for every kit it’s made in the last 10 years. This is a great toy for stimulating creativity and building fine motor skills.

Primary Science Set

2) Learning Resources’ Primary Science Set. I bought this preschool science kit for Christmas last year, and it’s a hit. Everything is made of sturdy plastic. It includes 10 large, water-resistant cards with experiments like making volcanoes or dancing raisins. The kit includes goggles, magnifying glass, eye dropper, test tubes, beaker, funnel, tweezers and more. This kit has helped us learn about science in a hands-on way.

Gears! Gears! Gears!

3) Gears! Gears! Gears! We got our first set of gears last year after playing with them at “Grandmommy’s” house. This year we added the Gears Lights and Action Building Set. The set has glow-in-the-dark and LED pieces, as well as a remote control, so children can make their constructions come to life. I think it’s a great way to learn about cause and effect. We found our set at Costco for about $25, but Amazon sells it online as well.

I’ll have more ideas as Christmas approaches. Happy shopping!