I am a toy snob. I'll admit it. I like for toys to be creative, have a long shelf life, and be worth the space they take up. Brennan and Cora got some cool toys for Christmas that I had never seen before or heard of, so I thought I would share in case you are looking for a cool gift for a child in your life.
This toy is awesome!! The 40 brightly-colored blocks fit into a square wooden tray to make tons of beautiful patterns (pattern cards are included for kids to copy). The blocks are made well and can be used for building and creating patterns across the floor, and the blocks are great forteaching spatial sense and fractions. It's pretty, it's fun, and it teaches math concepts through play. Pretty much perfect, in my mind.
Brennan gets tired after making just one or two patterns, but the sense of accomplishment he displays after completing an entire pattern by himself is priceless. And it's a great toy for him to play at the kitchen counter while I'm cooking dinner, because he can do it by himself with minimal assistance. I'm not sure that would be true for kids younger than him, and he does have really good spatial skills and ability to copy an example, so I would probably recommend this toy for most kids age 5 and up. Younger kids could just play with the blocks, which would be great, too. Oh, and this toy comes with a great carrying bag that fits the blocks and trays. Bonus.
I really like the Zoob concept for a child who likes to build. Brennan got the set above, which is Zoob Jr., but the concept is the same as regular Zoob (the pieces are just a tiny bit bigger and softer). Here is how their website describes Zoob:
"ZOOB is an open-ended play system that is quick to learn and easy to use. Its ball & socket units easily snap, click, slide, and pop together to form creations that go far beyond stationary models. These tactile sensations enhance the enjoyment and play value, making children and adults feel compelled to touch, twist, and connect ZOOB units."
To be fair, Brennan doesn't love these yet. He doesn't fully understand how to use them and still just likes to connect them end-to-end to make a long stick. He does like to have us copy the example cards they include. I do think he will grow with this toy and learn to love it as he gets older. I think the pieces are really awesome. They aren't as limiting as Legos and some of his other building pieces. If you're looking for a great building toy for a child, it's worth checking out their website to see how much this toy can do.
It is crazy hard to find entertaining, engaging, worthwhile toys for a 15-month old. We already own a bazillion books (and of course she got a few more), but Cora's favorite seems to be this $12 set of nesting buckets.
All of the little buckets nest inside the large bucket, which comes with four shapes and a shape sorting lid, and they also stack neatly on each other. Cora is definitely in the "putting things in" phase. She loves trying to fit the buckets inside each other, and when she tries to put a big bucket inside of a smaller one, she gets mad and yells. It's pretty funny.
To prove that I don't just love mathematically-driven toys, here is a super cute one that my mom gave Cora:
This adorable puppy named Violet (by LeapFrog) makes me happy, and Cora loves it too. Violet allows you to customize music and personalize learning with your child's name and favorite food, animal and color. You just connect the puppy to a computer with a provided cable and input your child's information, and then the dog talks to you.
When we push the paw and she says, "Hi, Cora!" in that precious voice, all of us grin. And when Violet says, "I love you, Cora," she sometimes gives Violet a big hug and kiss. Too cute. Violet also comes in a green boy version named Scout. I think she will love this little puppy for a while, and I can see that a 2-year-old would love it even more. It even teaches Cora how to spell her name!
In addition to building toys, Brennan got a big art box with a few unique things in it.
This Sticky Mosaics scene comes with sheets of little square tile stickers that go on a picture in a paint-by-number style. Brennan got a race car and another kit with a monkey. The cool thing that I discovered a little late is that each kit comes with a ton of extra stickers, so you can create a scene of your own, or, better yet, color copy the scene before starting it, which would give you extra bang for your buck. (The picture above isn't accurate; the scenes have colored-in backgrounds, not white.)
Melissa and Doug makes some awesome art products. Brennan got these great stickers (he has already owned these once, used them all, and requested more) and picture pages. They are great for kids who love to draw and create. Right now Brennan just wants to put a few stickers on each page of frames, which will be pretty costly in the end, so we'll have to teach him to only make special pictures on those pages.
The kids got a lot of other awesome stuff, but I just wanted to highlight a few things that I really like. If you were to ask Brennan his favorite gift (I have asked him), he would tell you it was these pieces for his Thomas tracks:
And if you were to ask Cora... Yeah, you wouldn't get much because she can't talk. But other than her stacking blocks, she'd would definitely choose her new shoes.
That's my girl.