This post is a continuation of a "Baby Items for the First Year" series. In it, I'm sharing items that we've found to be essential as well as those that we've not found necessary. Every Mama's list is going to look different based on preferences and lifestyle. The following is simply what we've found useful for our two children.
We've already covered BATHING, SLEEPING, TRAVELING, FEEDING,CLOTHING, DIAPERING, GROOMING AND HEALTHCARE and so today we'll focus on Play (gear and toys).
*Note: This post may contain an affiliate link to Amazon.com. I am a personal affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a small compensation for each product purchased through the link provided. (Thank you!).
We chose a very simplistic approach to toys and play with our children. My desire has been to make quality, classic toys available for play (ie less plastic, no noise or lights). I've also desired for them to have a high degree of interaction in their play with songs, games, stories etc. I don't believe children need a room(s) full of toys to be satisfactorily entertained. We've managed to get by with much less gear and toys than is often portrayed necessary! Below is a list of just a few of our favorites.
- clutching/ teething toys: Haba Color Duo, Manhattan Toy Skwish Classic Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy, HABA Whirlygig Clutching toy, Max Clutching Toy, Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
- puppets (homemade)
- Infant Swing
- As far as infant swings, we've really found this particular swing to be high quality and a reasonable price. It's small in size. It swings and vibrates. The music and nature sounds feature is also lovely.
- We did not have this for our first child, but decided to buy one for our second child. It was nice to have, but was only useful for her first six months. The short usage time may not justify the expense. It's definitely a "nice to have" not a "must have" item.
- Bouncer Bouncy Seat- must have! We've loved this seat! (Note: The product link is not to the exact seat we own. It is similar, though in that it does not feature any plastic, noise or lights).
- Bumbo Floor Seat- This has been helpful at times. I've often had the children sit in the bumbo seat instead of the highchair to enjoy something simple like a drink cup (versus a full meal)
- Activity saucer/jumper
- We borrowed an Exersaucer from a friend to simply give us another option for being able to put the baby down at times (our babies have hated being on the floor). It's the biggest chunk of noisy plastic in our home! Haha. I'm still not a fan of it, but it does serve the purpose (and has been free for us to use). If I was to purchase one of our own, I'd probably choose one that is a little smaller and without all the lights and sounds. It's definitely not a "must have" item (especially for the price! yikes!). It may not even be on my "nice to have" list either. I'm on the fence on activity saucers/jumpers.
- Pack N Play Playard- We use these extensively in our home. We have one set up as a bed and one set up as a play area. After each meal, I place one or both children in the pack n' play while I clean up the meal mess. The bottom is filled with foam blocks, and so they are entertained long enough for me to get the dining room and kitchen tidied back up.
- Floor Activity Mat- I wished we had had one of these for our babies. Perhaps they would have tolerated floor time play better. If we have a third child, then I will probably purchase one.
- Door Jumper- We have really enjoyed our door jumper! This is a "must have" item in my opinion. The children have enjoyed being upright and feeling apart of the commotion of the rest of the family. (Note: These are better suited for wide door frames because the children's heads will collide with narrow door frames. We simply had the children wear a soft hat!)
The best means of stimulating and playing with our babies have been through the following actions:
- Read, read, read! I aim to read 10-15 books to the children each day. Each week we visit the public library, and each month I purchase a new book for each of them. Reading is such an important part of our day and our interaction. You can never have enough books!
- Interaction- My children have never been ones to play in a room full of toys for long periods of time. They have both thoroughly enjoyed a lot of interaction. Since I love books so much, I have enjoyed incorporating book-based activities into our days. I highly recommend resources like: Story S-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-r-s® for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos. This book is filled with great ideas of activities that compliment certain books. Also, songs and rhymes with motions are also excellent means of interaction. We've enjoyed "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," "Head and Shoulders," "Wheels on the Bus" etc. many times!
- Talking- Babies love to hear the sounds of their family's voices! Even if they can't understand the words, they love being talked to. So, talk to them about everything. Tell them what you're doing and why you're doing it. Tell them about the characteristics of an object. Talk, talk, talk! You don't have to overly-simplify or create cartoon-like words. Allow "baby talk" to be the fluctuation of your voice, not the creation of nonsense words or syntax. A child that hears proper speech is more likely to create proper speech when able. He/she will also have a knowledge of speaking mannerisms (what is appropriate to say and how to say it). Of course, actual speech doesn't occur the first year of life, which is what this series focuses on. However, don't underestimate how great a foundation is being laid even during infancy!
This completes the series on Baby Items for the First Year! :)