After last week’s post on my approach to play, I am starting the hunt for my favorite toys, beginning with early learning toys. It’s easy to walk through the aisles at our local toy store and be underwhelmed by all the cheap, battery-operated and character-licensed toys that are flooding the market. As I work on curating list of my favorite toys, I will mostly be considering what is termed “slow toys“. In short, here were my criteria in making this list:
1) The toy must aid the development of early learning and sensory skills. This is a huge difference between purposeful play and mere entertainment.
2) The toy must encourage open-ended play. Helping to foster my daughter’s imagination is extremely important to me. Toys designed for open-ended play, also allow children to discover at their own pace.
3) The toy must be made of quality, natural materials. All of these items are made from wood. I love this blog post by one of my new favorite online toys shops, Oompa Toys, on the value of wood toys. Not only does this ensure the toys are safe, but that they’re more likely to last for multiple children; and they’re also beautiful to to both sight and touch.
4) The toy must remain relevant for a minimum of 3 months. Ideally, many of these toys will be used for a least a year or more, in some capacity.
With that in mind, here are my top ten wooden toys for early learning (infants and toddlers). As discussed in my play philosophy post, quality toys can be expensive, so I’ve also included links to very affordable budget versions for each type of toy listed.
No. 1 Shape sorting house from Janod, $28.50, Budget version from Toys R Us, $9.99
No. 2 Solid drum from PlanToys, $17.85, Budget version from Darice, $7.62
No. 3 Lock activity box from Mamagenius, $49.95, Budget version from Melissa & Doug, $21.99
No. 4 Marcel the cat from Vilac, $34.90, Budget version from Walmart, $4.97
No. 5 Rolling wheel from Grimm’s, $39.95, Budget version by Maxim EverEarth, $9.99
No. 6 Frappá ball from Janod, $28.13, Budget version from KidKraft, $16.99
No. 7 Windmill stackeroo from Discoveroo, $14 on sale Budget version from Ikea, $5.99
No. 8 Zig zag ball run from KidKraft, $33.99, Budget version from Maxim, $15.99
No. 9 Flap from Glodos, $149.99, Budget version from Classic Toy, $33.50
No. 10 Tunnel mountain from Hape, $88.61, Budget version from Ikea, $7.99
Photo source: Janette Crawford of Fashion Loves People
Now that we’re out of the early infant stages and survival mode, I’m starting to think a lot about Beckett’s development and education. Seeing my daughter discover and gain new skills is the best part about being a mom for me. I am truly giddy about helping her move toward independence, express herself creativity and grow in knowledge of the Lord and His creation.
I’ve been reading a lot about various educational approaches and find myself really attracted to many of the principles in Montessori and Waldorf methods. I don’t see myself being a purist in any one approach, but I do appreciate many of the philosophies behind these schools of thought. I love the idea of using “play” to teach practical independence skills (a key characterization for Montessori), and also as an opportunity to encourage creative expression through art, music and role play (an important value for Walforf proponents).
Photo source: Rebecca Gallop of A Daily Something on The Goods blog by Uncommon Goods
Photo source: Jade Berreau on The Glow
The preschool years, from birth to age six, is what Montessori calls the formative period of the Absorbent Mind. It’s this period in a child’s development that forms the foundation for later intellectual and psychological development. This website defines the Absorbent Mind as “an unconscious, creative and non-selective process by which the brain takes in everything from the environment, like a sponge, forming neural pathways and connections”. I’m not a scientist or child psychologist, but merely observing my daughter, this idea makes a lot of sense to me.
Photo source: Ana Kliz of Bluebird Kisses
Photo source: Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom
For that reason, all aspects of our environment have become extremely important to me. And while it’s also important (especially from a spiritual level) to recognize our inability to control everything (perfection is not the goal), I want to be intentional – intentional with our purchases, with our activities, with our design, and most importantly with how we spend our time within our environments.
Many of my friends and family have joked about my pickiness when it comes to toys for Beckett. And while it may come off as pretentious or materialistic, my motivations are spurred by a deep value for simplicity (in both quantity and function, encouraging imagination and open-ended play) and long-lasting quality (and aesthetic beauty). Quality over quantity. Both function and form.
As I start curating lists of my favorite toys and learning materials (starting with Early Learning Toys next week), these are the underlying values that inform my selections.
Photo source: Merrilee Liddiard of Mer Mag
One of the major negatives to this approach is the financial cost. The truth is cheap, plastic toys cost less money. And they’re more readily available, meaning they’re more accessible to friends and family for gifts, they do not require as much planning or research to purchase, and they’re more heavily advertised. Basically, they’re the fast food of the toy industry.
Photo source: Michelle Sterling of Avery and Augustine
Let’s be clear – plastic is certainly not evil. And toys with flashing lights and battery-powered nursery rhymes won’t necessarily cause harm. But they also don’t promote the same intentionality and commitment to natural discovery and imagination that I hold as important values. More often than not, they encourage entertainment-oriented play. I want Beckett to actively and deeply engage with her “toys”, instead of passively absorbing stimuli. I also want to limit her exposure to unnatural, potentially harmful materials.
Photo source: Joy Cho of Oh Joy!
But it’s also an important value for me to be a wise steward of our financial resources and to live within our means and budget. So, how do I resolve this? Instead of having three or four inexpensive toys, I’d rather have one quality toy for the same price. In fact, I see owning fewer toys as a welcome secondary result, not a consequence. Curious why? Read this article on Becoming Minimalist on why fewer toys will benefit your kids.
Photo source: Amy Parker of Parker Etc. on Little Hip Squeaks blog
If you’re a mom, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Does anyone else have similar feelings regarding your children’s toys?
As I get older, I find myself gravitating back to the same styles and silhouettes. I’ll always love fashion trends, but I’m developing some go-to looks and choosing to invest there instead. I’ll still branch out for events or a night out, but my everyday uniform is becoming more predictable. I’m starting this “Uniform” series to share with you the cuts and styles that I keep coming back to in my closet.
Are you as ready to embrace the comfort of fall as I am? If so, these soft pullover knits will keep you warm and cozy all season. I’m choosing solid neutrals with that perfect, effortless drape and slight oversize cut. Since I’m in Dallas, I love all the short-sleeve options I am seeing this year. These sweaters look great with your trusty skinny pants, whether it’s denim, cords or a bold leather legging!
No. 1 Darcia cashmere sweater from Club Monaco, $349
No. 2 Walley short sleeve sweater from Marc by Marc Jacobs, $358
No. 3 Boyfriend sweater from Gap, $59.95
No. 4 Cecile cashmere v-neck sweater from Equipment, $278
No. 5 Alpaca oversized sweater from Cuyana, $160
No. 6 Rowhouse sweater from Madewell, $59.99 on final sale
Now onto shoes. My new life as a mom has sent all my heels to the back of the closet. Heartbreaking, I know. This fall, my casual-dressy shoe option is a leather or suede flat bootie. They look great with those skinny pants, but also match up well with a flowy dress or skirt.
No. 1 Hoxton boot from Joie, $380
No. 2 Petty boot from Sam Edelman, $129.95
No. 3 Milan boot from Matisse, $129
No. 4 Horrigan boot from H by Hudson, $285
No. 5 Arrow bootie from Matt Bernson, $319
No. 6 Salem boot from MICHAEL Michael Kors, $198
And because a solid sweater, jeans and casual boots can get a little boring, I’m kicking it up with some long necklaces. I always love a good tassel, but any modern metal pendant will do for me. Here are some of my favs:
No. 1 Bullet tassel necklace by Lele Sadoughi, $175
No. 2 Holding pattern necklace from Madewell, $35
No. 3 Knotted dumorite & tassel necklace from Gold & Gray, $295
No. 4 Antarctica ring pendant from BaubleBar, $36
No. 5 Metal fringe pendant necklace from Sam Edelman, $100
No. 6 Radiant pendant necklace from Lulu Frost, $180
If you follow any moms on Pinterest, I have no doubt that you’ve noticed this prominent trend. Teepees (or tipis..?) are finding their way into stylish playrooms and magazine-worthy one year photo shoots left and right. And honestly, I’m not surprised. Kids love curling up in small spaces! As I child I made a fort in my closet and I would spend hours in there playing, reading…being all kinds of mysterious. Teepees are the ideal design-friendly play tent. Go ahead, call “bandwagon”, but we’re jumping on. Beckett’s getting her own teepee for her first birthday in January!
photography by Souraya Hassan of Binti Home for Kid&Coe featuring a Vilac Indian Teepee
The Cross Design
Kendra Smoot for Cup of Jo featuring a teepee DIY
Abbey Nova of Design Scouting on Cup of Jo featuring old Land of Nod teepee
Kristin Rogers Photography featuring a House Inhabit teepee
Jessica Kraus of House Inhabit on A Beautiful Mess featuring a House Inhabit teepee
Jute Interior Design
Marla Michau from MerryThought featuring a teepee DIY
Joy Cho of Oh Joy! featuring Land of Nod’s A Teepee to Call Your Own
Catherine Benson of Rikshaw Design
Sara Bederman Interior Design
Jeff Andrews Design (this is Kourtney Kardashian’s home in InStyle Magazine) featuring a Parkdale Teepee Company teepee
Even though I have a daughter, I still find myself swooning over baby boy clothing. There’s nothing more precious than masculine style shrunk down to a mini size. When it comes to little boys, I love a modern, all-american style. In the Fall, you can’t beat the look of a cozy knit paired with blue jeans. Here are my favorite sweaters for baby and toddler boys this season. Clearly I have a thing for stripes, shawl collars and button-down cardigans.
No. 1 Marled toggle front sweater from Old Navy, $24.94
No. 2 Striped sweater from Gymboree, $32.95
No. 3 Fine-knit cotton sweater from H&M, $14.95
No. 4 Varsity cardigan from Joe Fresh, $19
No. 5 Zig zag cardi from Seed Heritage, AUD$49.95
No. 6 Shawl collar cardigan from Crazy8, $19.88
No. 7 Cotton-cashmere baseball sweater from J.Crew Baby, $36
No. 8 Striped cashmere sweater from Jacadi Paris, $79
No. 9 Striped zebra knitted cardigan from Paul Smith Junior, $95
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