Welcome to the Terrible Twos

Our son turned 2 this past week. It’s amazing how fast this second year went by.

The first year was a strange mix of slow and slower, a feeling like a decade of life had been crammed into 365 days.  But, between year 1 and 2 time was delivered as a crazy-rapid bust. Maybe it’s because he’s moving so much more but I feel like so much is happening and it’s all slipping past me before I can get photos and videos.

Being a parent has been such an amazing experience.  Even if the “terrible twos” literally kicked in on his birthday.  🙂

I gotta admit, as frustrating as the tantrums can be – when I see that little glimmer in his eyes and that sneaky smirk while he’s misbehaving it takes a lot of effort to hold back a my own smile and giggles.

I love that kid.

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Green Toys Review [VIDEO]

My son has three of the Green Toys brand vehicles in his ever expanding toy collection. As he’s becoming more and more interested in cars, trucks, and planes, these toys are becoming a bigger hit in our house.  The construction is really solid with no sharp burs or ragged slicing edges.  They had held up extremely well to drops, smashes, silly ride-on attempts, sticky fingers, angry meltdown hail Mary passes and more.

Airplane
The Green Toys Air Plane is so much fun. My son walks (or runs) around the house with this toy, making it fly through the air. He sticks one of his animal figurines in the pilot seat (although not always successfully) and flies it around the house. He’s only 21 months old right now so the play is limited, but this is a favorite and I can see him playing with this for many years.  Watching him awkwardly pilot it is adorable as our the whooshing sound effects he makes.

Tug Boat Bath Toy
The Green Toys My First Tug Boat bath toy is something we use in the bathtub occasionally. It’s fun to fill it with water and let it sink, then dump the water and let it float. My son hasn’t quite gotten into playing pretend with this one just yet, but I’m sure as he grows up this will be more fun. Right now he just ignores it. It also doesn’t help that we don’t have a tub, so baths consist of about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of our shower. We got this boat thinking it wouldn’t need a deep bathtub and it doesn’t really, but ultimately baths aren’t baths without a tub!! Someday, I hope!

Truck and Race Car
The Green Toys Truck and Race Car are lots of fun for my son. I will admit that these weren’t as popular as the plane at first but he’s recently been playing with them more. Technically he doesn’t play with them together much yet. The car he drives around the floor and the truck he tends to sit on and tries to ride. This is rarely successful but leads to lots of entertaining tumbles! Recently his animal figurines have been hitching a ride on the back of the truck.  One of the things we love about this set is that you get TWO toys for the price of one. Vroom-Vroom!

The Green Toys are great fun. They are well made and they have so many different options. It’s hard to resist the Space Rocket we saw at the store a few weeks ago, but it can wait… his birthday will be here soon enough!

6 Great Toys for Travel

Sticker books
It didn’t occur to me to introduce stickers to my toddler until I thought of the long car trips we’d be taking at the holidays. Once I ordered some, he immediately took to playing with them.  He puts them in a sketch book, or all over the furniture, but no matter where they go he loves picking out which ones to peel off and it never gets old.  We purchased the Melissa and Doug Sticker Collection-Blue for Jr, which had a ton of stickers and lasted us quite a while. We have since bought another book. We also tried the Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Books, and I think this one will be great for when he is older. Right now he wants the stickiness of a real sticker versus the static cling of the reusable ones (they don’t stick as well to Mom’s pants!), but I still like them a lot and I think he will too, in time.


 

doodlePRO
Fisher Price makes a mini version of the old classic Magnadoodle called doodlePRO Trip. My sons LOVES this toy. He loves drawing on it and scribbling away and he loves being able to erase and start over again. The best part about it is that it doesn’t make a mess! No fear of crayon ending up on the seat and the in-flight television screens. It still provides the satisfaction of creating a drawing.  This was the best item I’ve bought for traveling. Works great in a car or on the plane.


 

Puppets
You can never go wrong with a puppet, not with my son at least.  Playing peekaboo or making the puppet draw or dance leads to long stretches of entertainment. We have particularly liked the Folkmanis brand of puppets with their realistic animals. Our most recent favorite is the Folkmanis Baboon Hand Puppet whom we have named Chester. Our son loves it too. We can get him belly laughing with a single look.  😀


 

Magnet toys
Magnet toys are great on trips for obvious reasons, the pieces stick to the pages!  The Mickey Mouse Magentic Zoo set is a fun little toy, compact, with lots of magnets and little scenes for your tykes to set up and move around. There are many options out there for tons of playtime fun, and if you live somewhere where you own a car (unlike us in Brooklyn,) keeping this in the back seat is a great option for your child’s entertainment when you’re on the go day to day.


 

Shape Sorters
Melissa and Doug K’s Take-Along Shape Sorter is a great option for a car trip. This toy is exactly as it’s named, a shape sorter, something Jr loves playing with and it helps him practice saying his shapes; “Dar!”  “Owoval!” (Star and oval.)

This might work on a flight too, but just thinking about parts dropping to the floor might become a bit of a headache. In the car you at least know it’s there to be found when you get to your destination, as opposed to a flight where it might travel down the aisle….
With a convenient carrying handle and a compact case this will pack away nicely in luggage or a carry on bag. Great for any trip you have coming up!


 

Buckle Toy
The Bizzy Buckle Toy has proven to be a winner on trips with our little guy. He loves trying to snap the buckles together, and though it can be frustrating for him at times, it is great practice. He is still a little young to have the dexterity of fitting the buckles together without help, but he has never gotten so frustrated that he hasn’t wanted to play with it. The Bizzy Buckle Toy is simple, easy to pack and has proven to have longevity.

First Toy Store Tantrum!

I recently went browsing at a local children’s consignment shop for a spring coat for my son. While we didn’t find a coat, my son found the Fisher Price Little People Fun Sounds Farm on a shelf.  This is something he has played with at our local library, and he has recently become very interested in the Little People toys.

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Well, he started in on a major tantrum when we tried to move the toy from the shelf to the floor so he could play with it.  When I asked the lady how much it was she said, “8 dollars.”  …Um, SOLD!

After several more tantrums we finally pried it from his tiny, yet surprisingly strong fingers.  He didn’t understand the concept that we needed to actually take it to the register and pay for it before bringing it home.  My husband contributed by taking photos of the meltdown as it happened and saying, “To show him when he’s older.”

Fisher Price Little People Fun Sounds Farm

While we paid close to nothing for this toy, but I would have paid full price now that I see how much he loves it. If your child likes pretend play with doll houses or toy people/animals, this is great for them!  Our life has basically become a rotation between this and his kitchen set.

I haven’t put batteries in it yet, and I may not, but I know it makes animal noises when the fences and doors are opened. So far the sounds are not necessary for us to have fun. The Little People Fun Sounds Farm has given us hours of play and we highly recommend it.

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Nine Awesome Toddler Toys For Your Holiday Shopping [VIDEO]

It’s nearing the end of 2015 and the holiday season is here!

As always, our lists are compiled after months of extensive research.  We talk to other parents to learn what their kids loved, we dig through internet forums and blogs, read countless reviews online and best of all… We do our Christmas shopping!


VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

The Vtech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker is a great toy for early walkers.  We inherited this toy from my niece for my son when he was just showing interest in walking and he took to it right away. The music is loud but he really loved it.  He still plays with it now that he is walking, going back to use the telephone and push the buttons to dance to the songs.

We used this walker outside on the street during a block party and he had the best time.  Less than one week later he was walking down the side walk all by himself!  I don’t know if the walker truly helped him walk, but I like to think it did. (Daddy says, “Yes, it totally did.”)


Anamalz [UPDATED]

The Anamalz toy is an eco friendly, wood/fabric animal figurine for toddlers children 3 and older. [See our video review for our updated thoughts on safety]

The toy comes as many different animals such as elephants, giraffes, lions, bears, the list goes on.  It is a cute and attractive toy that can entertain little ones from the earliest stages through pretend play.  A great addition to any toy animal collection.


Big Boom Bat & Tee

The Big Boom Bat and Tee is an inflatable tee-ball set.  Note, all parts are inflatable, making this toy great for indoor play perhaps during the winter months or hot summer days.  The bat is big in diameter and the ball is about 8″ in diameter making it virtually impossible to miss the ball.  The manufacturer recommends this toy for ages 3+, but we know of kids as young as 18 months understanding how to hit the ball off the tee.


Moluk Bilibo

The Moluk Bilibo is a classic toy for toddlers.  The hard plastic form allows children to find multiple ways to play from using it as a tote, a seat, a seat to spin or rock in, or something to wear as a helmet.  The Bilibo is a toy that is supposed to encourage imaginative play, and it will be up to your child whether they use it imaginatively or not.  If you look up reviews on this toy you will find hundreds of people who say their kids loved it, and a handful who say their kids just didn’t get it.  As an adult, I don’t really get it, but our niece LOVED this thing!  The video below pretty much shows why.


Kid O Go Car

The Kid O Go Car is a simple, slightly abstract, car great for little ones to grab hold of and push around the floor.  This toy comes in many colors, is easy to grasp, and is tons of fun for any toddler.

The car’s construction is solid and it can take a beating.    We love the rounded shape too!  You don’t have to worry about sharp angles for your kid to fall and hit his head on. If your toddler is anything like our’s random tumbles are par for the course.

The moment you see your kid crawling around the floor and driving a toy car around will just melt your heart.


Lego Duplo Deluxe Brick Box

The Lego Duplo Deluxe Brick Box is a great toy for kids starting at the age of 18 months.  It is an introduction to legos with larger brick pieces and comes with people, animals, windows, etc. as well as instructions on how to build some items like airplanes and trains. For parents who want to introduce creative play with building toys, this is a great addition to any toy collection. I know I have it on my son’s holiday list!

Bonus item: LEGO DUPLO Play with Letters 6051

The Lego Duplo Play with Letters set is a great set to include with your existing Duplo Lego pieces.  It adds blocks with letters on them to incorporate into any structure your child wants to build.  This is best for children ages 2-5 and can assist your child with learning their alphabet.


Buckle Toy

This Buckle Toy is a great toy for toddlers 1-4 years old.  It provides kids with the ability to practice buckling an unbuckling from an early age and most toddlers will spend oodles of time playing with it.  With over 200 reviews on Amazon and a rating of 4.5 stars you know this is a winner.

The Buckle Toy comes in various designs from a plush square with a face, stuffed animals, a backpack, etc, and it is a great toy to keep a child busy while traveling.


Moluk Plui

The Moluk Plui bath toy is a simple and great toy for the bathtub, or even a small backyard splash pool.  Simply fill it with water and let it rain, plug the hole at the top and it stops. I know this seems dull, but kids seem to find this fascinating and the fact that it kept coming up again and again, and again… and again as we researched awesome toys that we got the message and made sure to include it in our list.

The main complaint with this toy is that it can get moldy if not maintained properly.  Make sure the toy fully drains, and on occasion run some bleach water through it to kill off the mold that is bound to grow in any dark and damp environment.  You have to clean the tub, so it’s only fair that you need to clean a tub-toy now and again.  Otherwise it is tons of fun for toddlers!


Little Helper Broom Set

Every toddler loves helping mom and dad around the house with tasks like cooking to decorating the walls with crayons. Doh! Luckily, they also love to mimic and help clean up too. After several melt downs when we would take the broom away from our son – in an attempt prevent half the house from being destroyed by an out-of-control broom handle – we bought this broom set.  The Little Helper Broom Set proved to be  big hit in our house.  Apparently we are not alone either as this item has over 1350 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars.  Yes, a broom.

This has become one of his favorite toys.  Our son carried this broom around the entire night and for several days after he was “sweeping” just like mommy.  He definitely still goes for the bigger broom, but not as much and he is perfectly happy using his own now. Months later he still loves to sweep and he has now learned other uses like riding it like a pony. Best of all it’s become a makeshift microphone that he sings into while dancing to music.  So glad we got this for him!

My Favorite Sippy Cup

Hands down, my favorite sippy cup so far is the Pura Kiki Sippy Cup.  Unlike almost every other sippy cup on the market, this one is not made of plastic. Instead it has been crafted from stainless steel and silicone, so no fears of BPA or other weird chemicals.  Pura sells insulated and uninsulated versions, and I currently have the uninsulated version.  We primarily use the silicone straw attachment.

I saw several of my son’s friends with this cup and they all seemed to like it (as did their mom’s) so I figured I would take the plunge and purchase it for our son. He took to it right away and hasn’t had any issues with it.  The construction is nice and simple and the straw has a basic valve that is opened by pressure from your child’s mouth or suction.

It does not leak.  The closest this gets to a leak is when some water is left in the top of the straw and it gets bent over.  When released it will spring back with a tendency to spray tiny droplets of water everywhere. I wouldn’t consider that leaking more like a little spritz, and this doesn’t happen very often.

Pura2
The Pura is a tall sippy cup so it doesn’t sit perfectly in cup holders. Not a deal breaker.

I will admit that if our son turns the cup upside down and shakes it and pounds it on the floor, yes, some water will come out of the straw; this is something I would expect from any cup with a straw in it.  Oh, and this can take a serious beating thanks to the stainless steel construction!

My only major complaint with this cup is that the cap (also silicone) does not fit over the straw tight enough.  I can fold the straw over, but it still doesn’t stay on very well.  While I don’t always need a cap, I like to have it if I know we will be going someplace where the other kids are going to be attracted to his cup and especially if I think it might get dirty. I would like to be able to cover the top better.

The only other note I would give is that because of the steel construction the cup is heavier when compared to plastic cups.  Especially when the Pura is filled with water.  Over the several months he’s had it our son has never had an issue carrying the heavier weight.  I mention it for the sake of honest reporting.

I give this sippy cup the MOST ROYAL seal of approval and 5 out of 5 stars.

While it isn’t the cheapest cup on the market it is the best that we have used.
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Baby Boredom-Ball? [VIDEO]

I purchased the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Basketball toy for my son when he was almost 6 months old.  I liked the toy because I thought it would grow with him well through his first year and, hopefully beyond.  I have to say, once we set it up and gave it to my son to play with, I was a little disappointed.  I was hoping the toy would have kept his attention a little longer than it does.

Also, what’s with the name of this toy, “Learn Learning?”  Is this really the best someone could come up with?

The “learning” aspect of the toy is as follows: the buttons on the backboard light up, and it describes the shapes, colors, and numbers. The hands on the face of the toy really do nothing except move back and forth as you pull the basket down.  I was hoping that they would prompt a song or a noise at least.  It also counts and plays music each time a ball is put through the hoop.   The main joy our son got out of the toy was listening to the voice count as he would drop a ball into the net.  Provided you keep this up at a regular pace the voice and music gets more excited.  For whatever reason our son has always loved counting and this toy delivered on that.

My son only uses the toy occasionally now and quickly gets bored with it.  Perhaps as he gets older and plays differently, it will hold his attention a little better, but by then I might as well have a bigger basketball net for him.

My biggest complaint is that the design is very top heavy.  I would say this is my son’s biggest complaint as well!  He gets pretty frustrated with the toy when it falls over, which is basically every time he touches the darn thing (see video).  In fact, I gave him the toy to play with this evening to see if he would be more attracted to it (at 13 months old,) but all he did was stand in front of it and tip it over backwards.  He put the ball through the hoop once after I showed him, and pushed a couple buttons, but moved on from it very quickly.  He is more attracted to the balls than the toy itself.  I should have just bought him small basketballs to play with!

The batteries die pretty quickly if the toy is left on. Sensors in the basketball hoop detect when the ball  is dropped through.  These are always on, so when you are not playing the sensors are still draining the batteries.  We learned this one night when my husband was up late and catching up on work  He kept hearing this low buzzing and clicking noise.  Thinking he was going insane he eventually found himself crawling around the room trying to pinpoint the sound.  It was the dying batteries in the basketball net.  Turning this off between uses fixed that problem; an automatic sleep mode would be a great addition.

All in all, I give the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Basketball toy a 3 out of 5 stars. Users on Amazon give this toy positive reviews, so perhaps it’s just not right for us.

5-Point Harnessed High Chair! [VIDEO]

I purchased the Fisher Price Space-Saver High Chair for my son at around 12 months of age.  We live in a small Brooklyn apartment and do not have space for a standard high chair, and this one straps to one of our kitchen chairs, saving us a ton of space.  He had previously been using a much older version (about 11 years older, handed down to us by family,) that he was decidedly destroying at mealtimes.

This chair has been a life saver for us.  Mealtimes can be a headache, a mess and with the previous chair my son was able to literally rip it apart whenever he would get angry about the food I was insisting he eat.  This chair is solid.  The tray is solid too; it stays locked on and he can’t rip it off (yet…).

AND this high chair has a FIVE POINT HARNESS.  Which means he cannot get out of the chair!  It’s like strapping him into a stroller. The tray requires two hands to put it on and take it off, but that’s ok.  I will take that over having to pick it and all of my sons food off the floor.

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Note from Dad/Jeff:  This seat was really easy to un-install and re-install from our kitchen chair when I needed to take photos of it for the website.  You can easily bring this highchair over to grandma’s, a restaurant, etc.

Maybe this is overkill, but for a kid who does his best to squirm out of every high chair he encounters (restaurant chairs and the ancient chairs owned by family being the main culprits here,) this one holds up against his tirades.

One thing I have not yet tested is how well the seat comes clean, and boy do I need to test this! [UPDATE BELOW] I do laundry once a week at the laundromat, it’s easy to forget the high chair as I am gathering and putting giant bags of laundry into a cart, and packing up my son with toys and lunch and anything else we might need for an afternoon at the laundromat, aaah… city life… In any case, I will update this review once I give the seat a wash.

5-Point-Harness and the chair fabric in need of a major scrub down.
5-Point-Harness and the chair fabric in need of a major scrub down.

I give the Fisher Price Space-Saver High Chair a 4 out of 5 stars because as a stay at home mom, who is feeding my son most of his meals, I have found this chair to perform great for us.  He can’t get out of it and he can’t rip the tray off, which is all that matters to a strung out Mommy! I will update this post once I wash the seat.

Update: Since writing the above review of this highchair, I have washed the seat cover twice.  The first time I sprayed the cover down with a stain remover shortly before washing and it came clean beautifully.  The second time I washed it I did not use the stain remover and it still came perfectly clean!  So I still stand by my originally rating.

Anti-Spill Sippy Cup? [updated]

I feel like I am constantly on the search for the perfect sippy cup.  We have tried maybe 8 so far, and of those I am happy with three.  The Nuby No-Spill Flip N’ Sip Cup is not one of them.  Maybe it was human error, but I put water in this cup for my son the first time we used it, shook it upside down, squeezed the straw, and was I happy to see that it did NOT spill. Off to a great start.

I gave it to my son, turned around to put something away, and when I turned back I found that he was splashing his hands on his high chair tray and that he had sufficiently soaked himself.

I am not 100% sure how he managed this, but I suspect it is all in the straw.  It seemed that if he squeezed the straw with the cup upside down the water poured out, which he apparently figured out very quickly!  I have not used the cup again since. I am willing to give it one more try to see if I just assembled it incorrectly.  But, before that happens all our other cups will need to be dirty! 🙂

UPDATE

Dad here.  So we’ve given this cup several more tries, and it is better, but not perfect.  We have some issues trying to reassemble it (getting the straw through the hole in the top can be frustrating,) but the leaks are minor.  Our son did like the flip top a lot.  So much that he would get distracted and play with it .  …Not sure if that is a pro or not. 🙂

We give the Nuby No-Spill Flip N’ Sip Cup 3 of 5 stars because it leaked heavily upon first use but seems to be improved after additional usage.