Monday, November 22, 2010


It's been interesting to see my selections in toys evolve as I change as a parent and continue learning through the developmental challenges we are currently working through with Corbin.

No longer do I look for the "flashy" or latest toy, but really evaluate it's potential as both an object of play and therapy.

I've found some really great ones that we love and since Christmas is coming up I thought I might share a few with you!  I'd also love to hear any of your recommendations as well.  I'm always on the lookout for quality toys to add to our play!

These are in no particular order, by the way.  Mommy fog prevents me from doing any real prioritizing in that regard, haha - they are ordered in the manner they popped up in my brain while writing this post.

Corbin uses these a lot in therapy play and just playing in general.  The stack and nest so you get two activities in one, plus they store well.  They all nest so they stay compact.  The outside also have animals and letters on them, so it's also a great starting point for learning letters and animals.  We have several nesting/stacking toys and this is by far our favorite.

2. Alex Toys Learn to Dress Monkey

I have spent a LONG time looking for a toy to teach self-help and fine motor skills that is NOT a pink baby doll.  Also, many baby dolls don't come with the various zippers, velcro, buttons, and snaps all on one outfit.  This monkey has snaps, zippers, shoelaces, socks, buttons (with two styles of closures), overalls, and a velcro shirt!  If you are looking for a dressing toy, this is definitely it.

3. Melissa & Doug Grill Set

Lacing cards and activities are definitely fine motor skills that are on our list to achieve.  However, for a 2 year old, and especially one who is delayed in motor ability, lacing with string can be a very difficult activity.  As a precursor to lacing with string, I have found this grill set to be awesome!  Instead of "lacing", he is placing the meat and vegetables on the skewers - which incorporates the same skills as lacing, but in a more controlled and easier to manipulate form.  The skewers are easy to hold on to and don't flop over like lacing string does.  There are also tongs (a precursor to scissor skills) and a knife for cutting.  The vegetables form together with velcro for easy cutting.  We love this toy and it's a hit with both Hayden and Corbin.  It's also a great pretend play activity.

4. 50 Counting Bears with 5 Cups

Oh the counting bears...I don't think I can really express how much we play with these.  Corbin can color sort very well, and I think these bears really helped with that.  Also, you can buy pattern matching games that go with the bears that are fun to add to.  Corbin loves pouring the bears from one cup to another (another great motor therapy) and also plays with the bears in all sorts of other ways.  Hayden loves to line them up like army men and Corbin likes catapulting them or having them go down his Little People slides.  Besides colors and matching, they are also great for counting and working on numbers.  This is the kind of toy that develops and changes as they get older.  It starts with simple pouring, works into sorting, then pattern matching, and finally simple math.  It's one of my favorites.

5. Shure - Chunky World - Magnetic Fishing

This game is played with almost every day - by both boys.  Again, another great therapy toy, but also has endless possibilities for pretend play.  My boys have made a boat out of a cardboard box to go fishing.  They've used the fishing pole to "catch" other metal things around the house.  They've pretend to "eat" the fish.  You name it, they've played it.

Okay, so there are five of our favorites.  As we get closer to Christmas, maybe I'll post some more if you're interested.  Some of these toys are a bit pricier than others.  We didn't get them all at once, but gradually added them to our household over the past few years.  But, I will say that each one has been worth it's money!  They have held up really well and I haven't had a single complaint with any of them.

So what are your "must have" toys?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Getting Away


There are some days you just need to get away.  Away from laundry and dishes and two boys fighting over the last goldfish and cleaning up the cracker crumbs AGAIN and well...just everything related to your house.

And no, a walk around the neighborhood just won't do.


You need a heavy dose of something beautiful.  And my something beautiful is about 90 minutes away at Bastrop State Park.  They have trees - real ones.  Not the bushes that dot our Austin landscape.  

So at 10am this morning I decided to pack everyone into the car for a day at the park.  


There is nothing better for two rambunctious boys than to run around the forest throwing rocks and collecting pine cones (for throwing too of course).

And because my son is Hayden, we had to have a picnic.  This boy is a picnic LOVER.  I think he would prefer all our meals served outdoor on a blanket.



And of course, no trip to the park would be complete without a long hike on the trails. The boys did great - Hayden walked the whole way and Corbin about half.

Overall the trip was just what I needed.  I got to soak in some "green" and let the boys run wild.  Hayden even got to practice his big brother responsibilities by corralling Corbin and bringing him back to the picnic area when he strayed too far.  Definitely a skill I'm going to be enjoying more of in the future!  

I just might have to add this outing to our schedule every week, as we all came home quite happy!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Rethinking the "Norm"

At Hayden's Birthday Party

This year we've been changing up a lot of how we "usually" do things.  There are a lot of values and character traits that I think are important to develop in our kids, and I am seeing more and more little ways we can contribute to that.  I also remember the aftermath of how we've done things in previous years and how I was left with an unsettling feeling of what I might be teaching our children!

The first was "The Birthday".  It has traditionally been a time where Hayden is lavished with gifts from both friends and family.  And, of course, there is nothing wrong with that.  However, he received so many gifts that he had very little appreciation for them!!  And that really saddened me.

I don't want Hayden or Corbin growing up without true thankfulness and appreciation for what they receive.  Having an overabundance of possessions can contribute to mistreating his toys and taking these things for granted.  Why be thankful for a new toy truck when you already have 10?  The truck would just land in the pile of seldom played with toys.

And how could they truly play with their toys if their selection was so great they could move from one toy to another all day without every running out of new toys to play with!

Hayden and Jake
Hayden sharing his birthday hat with his friend Jake
I didn't like what I saw - and I also didn't like admitting that I was one of the primary causes of it.  The children don't buy the toys, I do.

So this year, we tried something new.  Hayden received one gift from us this year - a tricycle.  We also asked a few of our close friends to donate can goods in place of a gift for a food drive our church was participating in.  This opened the door for us to talk to Hayden about other boys and girls who went to bed hungry at night and didn't have all the toys and food that he did.  

We also shared a birthday party with two other four year olds who had birthdays in November.  It was a great way to show him that it was "not all about him" and for him to think of others - even on his birthday!

Hayden jumping off the slide
And what a wonderful day it was with those few changes!  Hayden got 3 presents from his friends that he has truly loved and enjoyed.  He also was excited about all the food we got to feed the hungry kids - "Wow!" (his words, hehe).  And he had no problem sharing the "spotlight" with his friends that day.

Mark and Corbin going down the big slide!
His birthday went so well, we're going to try and make similar changes to Christmas well.  Focusing more on Christ and the meaning of Christmas than the free-for-all gift extravaganza of years past.  I'll be posting more on that later!

I still can't believe our little boy is four!!

Hayden blowing out his candles.