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Monday, October 14, 2013

18-24+ Month Toddler Gear Guide

Note: Some links are Amazon referral links if that's where I bought the product.

To start, we are still using some things from previous guides. Rather than listing them again here, 
I'll just make note of what is still useful: 

What are we still using from the Newborn Gear Guide at 2 years old? 
Portable night light (not nearly as much, though)
Diaper bags (stopped when she potty trained at 26 months)
Cloth diapers (stopped when she potty trained at 26 months)
Beco Gemini baby carrier (though she mostly walks now, we've used it several times with a 2+ year old)
Nosefrida (although she's finally figuring out how to blow her nose, so not much longer!)
Sprout towels
Graco Blossom high chair (we now use the booster seat portion rather than the high chair)

What are we still using from the Six Month Gear Guide at 2 years old? (Some are listed above and here because I didn't think to cross-reference the guides when I first did them.) 
Britax B-Agile stroller 
Graco Blossom high chair (booster part only)
Smock/sleeved bib
Table protector 
Splat mat 
Travel high chair
Books (OMG THE BOOKS. We read for hours every day, literally)
B Zany activity cube (not nearly as much, but still some use)
Munchkin Caterpillar (this is used more with the water table than the bathtub)
Stacking Blocks (though we've moved onto mostly wood ones or Legos)
Breathable Bumper 
Sprout towel 
Britax Boulevard/Evenflo Triumph car seats (still rear-facing!)

What are we still using from the 9-12 Month Gear Guide at 2 years old?
Dump Truck
Foam shapes
Snack cup

What are we still using from the 12-18 Month Gear Guide at 2 years old?
Dolls (more the plastic ones than Stella)
Art supplies (so. many. art. supplies)
Anywhere Chair
Sassy Grow Up Cups
Water Table 
Cozy Coupe


This will be a pretty short list, because, as with the previous gear guide, she's much more into DOING things than PLAYING WITH things, but there are a few items she's particularly enjoying right now. As always, I try to stay away from battery-operated things (though there are some) and "girl"-specific toys in favor of imagination-driven toys that any child could enjoy.

1. Doll Cradle, doll clothes, doll accessories 
Lifespan: Used from 18 Months +
I had the Stella Doll in the last Gear guide, and to this one I'm adding a cradle and accessories. She's put the baby to sleep for a long time (just lying them on the floor and covering with a blanket while patting their back), but we recently added a real doll cradle to her stash of toys, and she loves putting the babies in there, covering them, rocking them, patting them, singing to them, giving them a bottle, etc. (It was a hand-me-down from a relative, so no recommendation on brand here - I love our very plain, gender-neutral one.) The babies' nighttime routine is more complicated than her real one!  We also inherited a box of baby doll clothes, and she loves dressing and undressing them (with help in some cases).

2. Reusable sticker books
Lifespan: Used from about 18 months +
We have a number of reusable sticker pads, and they are a HUGE hit. Great for car traveling, and great fun to stick on windows and other surfaces as well. The Melissa and Doug ones are huge, size-wise - we have the one pictured (link here) and she loves naming the animals and making sounds for them.  We also have a much smaller one that is perfect for traveling that has stickers of household objects that you can use to make faces Clingzooka Faces by Artzooka. I think it will be a hit for a LONG time to come. Heck, *I* like to play with it!   I just realized by searching for it on Amazon that they have a Robots and an Animals one as well - I totally just added both to her Amazon WishList.  Note: the Clingzooka ones do have VERY small clings included and say 5+ - so use with supervision. Obviously. 

3. Travel Magnadoodle
Lifespan: Used from about 12 months +
I love this version because it's SMALL. It's perfect for car rides, and even not in the car, it's perfectly sized for her to handle completely on her own. The string on the pen is long enough to reach the entire board, and the eraser slide is easy enough for her to do it on her own.  I can't say the same for any of that with larger versions that we've seen or tried. This could realistically have gone in the 12-18 month gear guide too - she's been using it and loving it for a while. 

4. Play Kitchen and Food
Lifespan: Used from about 18+ months

This was her big birthday present this year. I got this one because I liked the way it was realistic and gender-neutral - and sure enough, we've found little boys love playing with it too.  It's a good height as well, so hopefully it will last a while (some of the others we looked at by the same company were a good 6 inches shorter, so might not be as comfortable for older kids).  With the kitchen, we got a number of accessories: a toaster, play food, cookware, and felt pizza. We use our own silverware and cups/bowls (just cheap dollar store options). Some people prefer to get wooden or plastic cookware and silverware, but she really enjoys the "real" versions that are linked above. I don't find them too loud, but if your kid is a banger, you might feel differently! Note: I couldn't find one after months of searching on Craigslist, but I know lots of people who have been successful, so I definitely recommend checking Craigslist for used versions.

5. Easel
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months 
We got this used off of Craigslist, so I highly recommend checking there before buying new. I love this specific one because the height is adjustable, and it gets very low for small toddlers.  I also love that it's wooden and not chunky plastic.  It's a chalkboard on one side and a dry-erase board on the other side, with the option of adding a roll of paper for painting or coloring.  I have found that regular dry-erase markers STAIN CLOTHES, so be sure to get the washable ones. But then I also found that Crayola makes dry-erase crayons (YAY!) so we use those instead of the markers most of the time. They also make dry-erase colored pencils, but those don't work as well as the crayons. We use it with these paint cups, these brushes and this paper.

6.  Dress-up Clothes and Accessories
Lifespan: Used from about 18+ months
I got a big storage bucket (from Target of course) and put it in a corner of the playroom, and hung a low hook unit just above it. The trunk and hooks hold masks (zebra, monkey), wands (star, ribbon), flags (pirate), wings (butterly, fairy), hats (cowboy, hard hats, pirate, knit winter, baseball), old clothes, shoes, necklaces, scarves and anything else I see while out and about, or even just cleaning out my closet, that I think she might enjoy. I mean, it even has old lanyards of my husband's from work that she loves wearing around. These do not have to be fancy things. There are a few things purchased from the Dollar Store or Target's Dollar aisle, but most things were found.  I've found she definitely prefers "real" items than "play" items - so she'll use my old purse every day, but won't touch the toy/toddler purse.  Real things are usually cheaper and more readily available, yay!  If you're rich and lazy (I'm jealous) you can always buy a pre-packed bin like this one.

7. Toddler Backpack
Lifespan: Used from about 12+ months
These are SO DAMN CUTE. We have the owl (and the matching lunch bag, which I also recommend) but I want more! The giraffe! The fox (plaid ears ARE YOU KIDDING ME)! They are the perfect size for her to carry all by herself and fit a few toys perfectly. We use them regularly, but I always stock them up with activities for our frequent trips car trips to visit Nana. She loves putting stuff in the backpack and "going to work" just like her dad does.

8. Balance Bike 
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months
She's still trying to figure this out, and right now still prefers her Cozy Coupe, but she's starting to get it and is so proud of herself when she does. It's definitely a toy that takes practice and not something most kids will be able to take off on right away (even to just scoot their feet, they have to balance the bike).  It's going to be put away for winter soon, but I really think it'll be a big hit next spring and summer.

9. Tool Kit
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months 
She loves to build and fix things using "found" tools - i.e. using a pen as a screwdriver - so I was excited when she got this for her birthday. I put this one on her wishlist specifically because the drill actually "drills" and makes a fairly realistic drilling sound. Sure enough, she takes the drill around and fixes things all over the house, and "helped" our neighbor when he was building our deck. The drill is really nice and realistic - I wish they'd taken the same care with the hammer. But overall it's a great tool set!

10. Doctor Kit (check Target stores for this one if the link doesn't work)
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months
The only reason this is marked 24+ months is because I didn't get it for her until she was after 2 years old, but she probably would have loved it before that. It is used DAILY, and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that. She alternates being the doctor and the patient and is very exact on how the treatment must go. 

11. Beads and Pipe Cleaners/Colander
Lifespan: Used from about 18+ months
Get some large beads. Get some pipe cleaners. Get a large metal, round colander (yes, like for spaghetti). YOU'RE DONE. Lacing, making bracelets, sticking pipe cleaners in the colander and topping them with beads, building...what they can do with these three simple items is endless.  We also have these jumbo beads and laces (another alternate here) that we use with the pipe cleaners too.

12. Building Toys
Lifespan: Used from about 12+ months

We have a variety of building toys, including ZoLo (set one, set two), B. Toys Stackadoos, wooden blocks, and Sprig Blocks (note on the Sprig blocks: We have found that some don't stick together well as indicated in the reviews, but it hasn't been a HUGE issue). She equally loves all of them, but I'd say the classic wooden blocks are her absolute favorite if I had to choose just one.  However, she loves mixing and matching the sets and pulling pieces from the different sets in order to create new masterpieces.  (Note: The ZoLo toys were from Zulily; we probably paid that for both sets together, so it might be worth watching for them to come up there again - I wouldn't pay almost $30 per set. They are fun, but not THAT fun!)

13. Magnetic Dress-Up Toys
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months
I got this on a whim from Zulily one day on a whim. I put it away to be used for a rainy day or forgotten holiday or prize for some amazing behavior, but she found it, pulled it out, and was completely hooked. I didn't think she'd pick up on the idea right away - I thought she was a bit too young - but it's quickly become one of her favorite toys. Bonus - the pieces all can be packed away in the bag it comes in. Can I just talk about how much I love self-contained toys? YES. Melissa and Doug, are you listening?!?! I love your toys, but too many of them have pieces that don't store together, or have wooden storage boxes without lids.  Not cool.

14. Waterbeads
Lifespan:  Used from about 18+ months

These MUST be used under CLOSE supervision, but they are a really fun sensory activity that she enjoys a lot. You do NOT want these to be swallowed, though, so please please please watch your child closely when playing with them, or stay away from them if your kid is known to put everything his mouth!  I fill up a glass dish with the beads and some water, we watch them grow throughout the day, then spend the next several days playing with them - sorting them, squishing them, bouncing them, etc. 

15. Owl "OK to Wake" Nightlight
Lifespan: Used from about 24+ months
This is like the "grown up" version of the ever-popular Soothing Seahorse. It has the same light and sound, but kids can press the tummy to hear either, "Go back to sleep!" or "It's time to wake up!"  If it's still in the bedtime hours (as determined by you) the tummy glows orange; if it's okay for them to wake up, the tummy glows green.  We got this during a bout of 5am wake-ups...whether it was the owl that helped her get back to 7am or just a coincidence I couldn't tell you, but she did start sleeping in later!

16. WeePod, Pourty Potty, Stool
Lifespan: Introduced at 18 months, used regularly at 26+ months
We started getting potty training supplies when she was around 18 months old.  We really like this potty seat (that goes on top of the big potty) - one piece, soft, comfy, cheap, easy to clean (no grooves or separate pieces), WIN.  We use the Pourty as a travel potty in the back of the car because it's tiny and also insanely easy to clean (all one piece again). We opted for the seat that goes on the big toilet as opposed to a stand-alone potty seat as the main option because we'd heard that some kids have a hard time transitioning from the small seat to the "adult" one, and so far that plan has totally worked.  For the stool, we went with a nice-looking wooden one that will be able to be used in many other situations and looks nice sitting out in the bathroom.  You can read more about the potty-training process and supplies here.

17. Hold-on Handle
Lifespan:  Used from about 18+ months
This has proven to be a great transitional piece between the stroller and full-time walking.  You hold one end, they hold the other, and off you go. This is just the "add on" piece, but you don't really need the full one if you have one of those "Mommy Hooks" (which I got for my shower but hadn't found a perfect use for until this) or another large carabiner you can throw on there. I've thrown it on shopping carts, too, and it works great there if they don't want to ride in the cart but have a tendency to run off. HOW it works, I don't know - clearly they can just let go and take off. But for some reason the allure of holding something usually overcomes the desire to run off.  Not always, but usually.

In the "No Shit, Sherlock" category are these things, which you PROBABLY have but just in case they slipped your mind for some reason - or if you're a grandparent or aunt/uncle looking for gift ideas, you can't go wrong with these (and you can never have too many of any of these because they go through them quickly!).

1. Sidewalk chalk
Lifespan: Used from about 12+ months
This could have actually been added to any number of our gear lists, since she's been enjoying it for probably a year now, and I'm sure it's a "no kidding" addition to the list for you. I think every parent has sidewalk chalk. But just in case it hasn't crossed your mind, we have it, we love it, it's a go-to activity on a warm day. 

2. Bubbles
Lifespan: Used from about 6+ months
Like the chalk, bubbles are a "no kidding" item and we've been using them and enjoying them for well over a year. For the last six or so months, though, she's been blowing them herself and still gets super giggly and excited whenever there are bubbles around. We get at least an hour out of them each time we bring them out. Not bad for a little soap and water, eh?  We stock up any time I see them for sale. Hint: Gymboree bubble solution is THE BOMB.  It's silicone based and the bubbles last way longer! You can leave the solution out for a couple hours and they'll float even better and last even longer.  We're also a big fan of the Fubbles no-spill containers

3. Playdough
Lifespan: Used from about 12+ months
I use the recipe from the blog pictured above - found here. While there's something to be said for that nostalgic smell of commercial play dough (and I don't think anything in it has ever been found to be toxic or reason for worry), I absolutely love home-made play dough. I love making it, I love the texture, I love the smell. I've made it three times now and it's so easy and lasts forever. You can also get fancy and use Kool-Aid or Jell-O in the recipe to give it a sweet smell (and some pretty pastel colors) as seen here.  

4. Puzzles
Lifespan: Used from about 9+ months 
Obviously, she's been using puzzles of different difficulties since she was about nine months old, so this isn't anything new. She's always enjoyed them, but has REALLY been enjoying the more complicated and difficult ones lately, and has been spending a lot of time pulling them out to play with.  Among others, she loves this magnetic one and this fish color one.  She also loves any alphabet or number puzzles.

There are a couple things I'm looking to get her, and if I do, I'll let you know what I think of them!

1. Prince Wheely Bug 
Yes, this is still on the list. So impractical, but I still want it. 

2. Kitchen Helper Stool
She absolutely loves helping me in the kitchen, and right now either sits on the counter next to me (which makes it difficult for her to actually help) or pulls up a chair (which isn't very steady). I'd love this to use in the kitchen.

Got these items, but haven't used it enough yet to be able to give a recommendation.

***None at this time***

NOTE: Some links are Amazon referral links.

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