Are you still insecure what toys to buy your baby or toddler, and worried to fall for fake reviews, where people receive the items for free and write favorably about them in exchange? Ever noticed that when you buy toys online, there aren’t very often children photographed next to the toys, so you can’t really tell how big they are? (I fell into that trap and bought the wrong sizes before.) Want to hear an upright opinion supported with photos and videos of how well a child really received a toy? I was a first-time mom, too, and read what other moms thought before making an informed decision.
(Photo credit: Daphne Treadway)
Here, you’ll find Lyons Cub’s favorite toys; those that worked out of all the things I bought for him or he got as presents. There are so many things that are dust catchers and hardly ever get used, but then there are those that withstand many seasons and are loved beyond measure; those that last through many summers; those that survive the wear and tear although being used by several wild toddlers; those that don’t break the first time a little fist twists them the wrong way, and those that don’t cause tears on Christmas Day because they didn’t last longer than a few hours. These are our honest opinions. You can see the joy in Lyons Cub’s face.
We hope that there are some good ideas for you, too! Below are the snippets; for a longer review with more pictures and occasional videos of Lyons Cub enjoying his toys, click on the links. If you want to see just the recommendations for babies, go to the right side bar and look under “categories” for the baby toy reviews. If you want to peruse just the recommendations for toddler toys, go to “categories” on the right side bar and check out the reviews for toddlers.
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Yay!!! Off we go!!!
This is the Simplay3 Young Explorers Adventure Climber. One of the best investments I’ve ever made. Lyons Cub used it from when he could barely walk, to practice his climbing and sliding skills, until he was almost three years old and we moved. His friends ages 2-13 came over to play on it, and it is so sturdy, even Lyoness was able to stand on it! He climbed on it in the summer heat and in the winter snow. Nothing could deter him from running outside and playing on his favorite toy! It looks like a car inside, with a steering wheel. It has a climbing tower and a slide. You can use it indoors or outdoors, and it did not lose color in the sun. Neither did it become brittle or cracked in the winter. Year long, Lyons Cub had fun with it! Even the cat loved to lounge on the tower. Click here for more of our photos.
My home is my castle!
Come have teatime with your little guests in the Little Tikes Cape Cottage Play House! If I had known it also exists in blue, I would have gotten that one, but I bought the red one instead. Lyons Cub and his friends loved it to pieces! It is cheaper than many more bulky houses, but it looks so much nicer! This was his first house (well, apart from the one we lived in, of course). Lyons Cub loved to open and shut the windows, to go through the red doors, and to put up the two little American flags (those don’t come with it, but you can buy them cheaply). The play house can be used inside or in the yard, and it’s big enough to put a children’s chair inside. Even adults can go inside! We anchored it down with four iron anchors in the four corners, and it withstood every storm. One of Lyons Cub’s favorite socializing sites and hiding places 😉
Creepy crawly friend
The ECR4Kids Peek-A-Boo Caterpillar was our back yard attraction. Doggies and kitties loved to hide in its underbelly, and Lions Cub went straight for the head. It’s big and sturdy, so the older neighborhood kids could play on it, too. Don’t worry about assembly, everything snaps together, and those little yellow screws are easy to fasten by just one mommy alone. Your friendly looking wormy will be the highlight of every birthday party and would also be a great motor activity for a daycare. Just look at the colorful tootsies. Click here for more pics.
Doodledoo, rattle, scrunch!
This is Lyons Cub’s first activity toy, the Fisher-Price 2-in-1 Sit-to-Stand Activity Center! Perfect for infants who can’t walk yet, to strengthen their muscles and practice standing. It went along with us on trips and into hotels, to keep Lyons Cub busy on mom’s travels. Half an hour of entertainment for kiddo and a welcome break for hectic moms! Doesn’t topple over, is easy to assemble, and the coolest thing ever is that you can take the seat in the middle out and put a table in, which has a slide for balls and toy cars to roll down. Daddy Lyons was a pianist, and I was glad our cub could try out his first keyboard skills with this activity center 🙂
Sleepsack Swaddle for Newborn
When Lyons Cub came home from the NICU, he slept swaddled in the baby blue HALO micro-fleece sleepsack swaddle I had bought in the stores in Vanderbilt in Nashville. It helped him to maintain his temperature while leaving his arms out, so he could practice grabbing and being more active. The inverted zipper opens from the bottom, so it’s easy to change diapers with that little trick!
Splash, splosh, bubble trouble!
What to do when your kiddo can’t sit yet, the baby bathtub is too small, but the adults’ tub is too big? Fear not, the Summer My Bath Seat (Aqua) comes to the rescue. Baby can’t fall over and swallow water, but you can still wash his back, and he has plenty of room to kick his feet and play with his rubber duckies. Look here for more pics.
The Brilliant Beginnings – Ride On Learning Train – what a fun toy for your little conductor! We got this one as a present for Lyons Cub’s first birthday, but you can get it cheap from Walmart, and my German friends can get it for a little more from ROFU. Lyons Cub has loved it for three years now.
We all live in a…
yellow submarine! And what’s more, the Yookidoo Baby Bathtime Toy – Submarine Spray Whale is connected with a hose to an awesome sprinkler that can wash your hair, massage your back, drench mommy, and – if she’s not careful – flood the tiles outside the bathtub! What fun!
Early Learning Centre Splish Splash Adventure Island
Our English friend gave Lyons Cub this cute learning center for his bathtub. He can turn rounds with a blue ship and a red one, and let them go down the slide. He liked the stem of the palm tree most, which is a green cup (because he loves to pour water outside the bathtub, hah!). It’s not pictured here — mommy hid it in a safe place 😉 — but you put it over the leaves. There’s a white cloud, too, which you can’t see in the picture because it’s floating somewhere in the tub. It’s also a nice thing to use outside on the lawn or at the beach. Just another toy that makes bath time fun and enjoyable for longer.
Tiny tootsies, music makers
The Fisher-Price Deluxe Kick & Play Piano Gym & Maracas was Lyons Cub’s first activity mat when he was 2-4 months old and learning how to grab things and focus his eyes on toys. Right from the beginning, he was very interested in the colorful hanging toys!
Who loves bath time?
The Angel Care Bath Support (which exists in blue, pink, and gray) was a great thing to have when Lyons Cub was about 3-6 months old. It’s soft, comfy, keeps baby in a good position, and allows splashing with the legs. It filled the gap just right between the newborn baby bathtub and the support seat we used from 6-8 months. He evidently had fun in it!
Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Babies/Toddlers
When Lyons Cub flew to Europe for the summer (at 8 months, 1.5, and 2.5 years of age), I wanted him to catch some zzz’s on the 8-hour transatlantic flight (during the 2-hour continental flight, we read books, played games, or watched TV). But how can you get your baby to sleep when other guests are talking, eating, and the cabin crew and captain are making announcements? By blocking out the noise. I bought my son these cute, blue noise-canceling headphones. He can’t hear music or stories with them; they just block the noise and make falling asleep in his car seat on the plane much easier — so mommy can finally crash 😉
Topsy Turtle & Sand
What could be better in the hot summer? Nice warm sand on your feet, a bucket of water, some shovels, a few trucks, and colorful molds to bake sand cake. The Little Tikes Turtle Round Sandbox makes it possible. Lyons Cub had his turtle sandbox before he could walk, and the older he got, the more sophisticated the games became…
Baby, you can drive my car…
It’s called the Step2 Whisper Ride II Ride On Push Car, and although it doesn’t exactly whisper but is so loud that you can barely hear grandma on your cell phone when walking around on asphalt, it’s one of Lyons Cub’s favorite toys, used year round and being the subject of envy by his friends. He got it when he was about one and still rides in it at three.
Maybe you’re scared after googling SIDS and dangers for babies to suffocate in their cribs. Maybe you’re convinced your baby will rest better in a dock-a-tot. I can just say that my son had one, but I never let him sleep in it during the night, only when he lay next to me while I was pumping or grading papers at home. You can shell out over 200 bucks or just stay within a budget of $39; to each his own. Here is a variety of dock-a-tots and similar infant positioners.
Have you lost your marbles?
Actually, it was grandma Lion who convinced me to invest in expensive wooden toys – so Lyoness got Lyons Cub a wood marble run from Eichhorn. In the U.S., you can find a similar one from STOBOK. Let’s just say, they are more fun for the adults than the preschool kids!! This is a MENTAL CHALLENGE!!! My tip: get a plastic marble race if your kiddo is as impatient as mine. If you have a genius or favor Montessori toys, get this one ;).
Plastic Marble Run
“Success is a relative thing―and the victory of a boy at marbles is equal to the victory of an Octavius at Actium when measured by the scale of cosmic infinity.”
― H.P. Lovecraft
This was the ultimate fun! TWO HOURS!!! Lyons Cub has never been able to focus this long on anything other than Paw Patrol 😉 The Meland Marble Run was a great success. There are different sellers on Amazon that seem to sell the same product, so we just need to make sure we pick the same one or a compatible one when we extend our set. Lyons Cub is planning something big….
Swim Like a Fish…
in a fish! This is a cute, orange baby pool that we used from 4 months on until about 1.5 years. I’m not sure whether it’s still being sold, but I was able to find a similar snail pool. You can use it to float in a bigger pool, or on the lawn like we did. First splashing adventure for the littlest ones!
Water, Sand, and Dinos…
What could be better??? If you have a cruising or already walking baby or even a bigger toddler who loves dinos, then the Step2 Dino Dig Sand & Water Table is for you! Fill one half with water, the other with sand, and let the dinos climb the rock formation. Lyons Cub loved it! When he got older, he planted his veggies in it.
Hello Little Pirate, Argh!
The LBN Tot Crawl Climb Pirate Ship was one of the main attractions in our basement and later in the back yard. When used outside, it’s probably safer to anchor it to the ground, but it never toppled with just one small toddler on it. Lyons Cub loved climbing on it or hiding in its belly.
Wooden Horse Swing
For his first Christmas, Lyons Cub got a beautiful natural wood horse swing. It comes unstained, so if you want to use it outside, it’s better to stain it to protect it from the elements. We had it inside for about a year, and then it went under the back deck. Lyons Cub loved to ride his horsey! It was so much more interesting than the plastic swings, but we rotated it. If grandparents want to make a present that’s on the nicer side or are Montessori fans, this would be a good choice, hint, hint…!
Teamson Kids Play Kitchen
For some reason, I was really attracted to wooden toy kitchens, so Lyons Cub got this beautiful blue one. It was just a tad difficult for me to build, but every evening, he fixes mommy some wooden toast with butter, or he pours his real milk into one of the pots on his little stove. Check out the Teamson store with a big array of differently colored kitchens. Lyons Cub is already a really good cook; check out the video where he makes chocolate cake for mommy!
Roba “Kaufladen” (Store)
I had this cute, natural wood Roba “Kaufladen” shipped to Clarksville, TN from Amazon Germany, so Lyons Cub could have one with authentic German letters, such as “Mehl” (flour), “Zucker” (sugar), “Salz” (salt), etc. It was a bit difficult to assemble the little boxes in the back, but otherwise, a single mom was able to set it up on one evening. He’s been playing with it for more than two years now, and we put real food and juice bottles in it, too. He has a little plastic shopping cart, a Fisher-Price cash register (the same retro cash register his mommy had as a kid in the 1980s!), and lots of plastic and wooden food items and silver pots and pans. He first goes shopping in his “Kaufladen” and then prepares our food in his toy kitchen. This game never gets old.
Baby Bath with Sling
Of course, you can wash a newborn in the sink – been there, done that. But how much more comfy is a little plastic bathtub you can place in your big tub: The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Tub. Lyons Cub had grown out of it by 6 months, but while it lasted, he enjoyed it! And it was a relief for mommy.
Ding dong! You got visitors!
Yes, you heard right, this cute Neat and Tidy Cottage Play House from Step 2 has a REAL door bell!!! It also has a fire place, a clock, a lantern, and a letter box to push mail through. It was very easy to assemble by mommy. Lyons Cub loved to open and shut the door and window, and to “wash” his hands in the sink. There’s even a little built-in chair to sit beside the blue table. Plus, it has a planter for real flowers on the front wall! It has a floor, so if you use it on the lawn, it’s nice and clean inside. We took this house with us to Europe, and it stands on the balcony now. The bell is still ringing!
The Boppy Nursing Pillow…
No kidding, but this donut-shaped pillow was by far the most useful thing I bought for Lyons Cub when he was a newborn. I used it for nursing, I placed him in it for bottle feeding, and he slept on it next to me while I was pumping. The Boppy Nursing Pillow had just the right size to fit my tiny baby. I covered it with a burp cloth, so it wouldn’t be hit with milk and spit up all the time. Worked like a charm. What would I have done without it??? This is an absolute must for any mommy. Kitty loved to sleep in it, too…
Double trouble, boil and bubble…
or something like that! Have a kiddo who loves to play with streaming water? The Yookidoo Flow ‘n Fill baby bath toy might be just the right thing for you then. The three wheels are indestructible and provided bath fun for a long time. The suction cups are very strong and don’t fall off the wall. Your baby can stack the colorful cups or take the yellow one with the green wheel out and fill it by itself to make its wheel turn. Oh, what fun it is!
A boy and his dolls…
He’s not the gentlest father, but Lyons Cub passionately pushes his Caucasian and Hispanic dolls through the back yard and up and down the driveway in their Hape wooden babydoll stroller. He learned to walk with this stroller, but he had the most fun with it when he was two years old, could steer better and didn’t bump into every wall and corner. It’s sustainable and sturdier than many plastic strollers. We still have it; I’m sure it will last him until he’s 5 or 6. It also has a matching cradle!
Lyons Cub loves cars. He already had a push car where mommy decides where to go, so he needed one where he was in charge. The Jeep Cherokee Ride on Push Car was just the right, low-budget toy to practice his gross motor skills, such as getting up and off, and keeping going forward and down the hill.
Pink Minnie Mouse Ride-On Plane
Lyons Cub is a fan of Minnie Mouse! He has a plush one he’s sleeping with, and he has this cool plane to dash through the living-room with. When you press different buttons, it produces quite realistic lift-off and landing sounds. The best things are the two propellers that rotate to changing light-up patterns. While this is certainly made for 1-year-olds, Lyons Cub is still flying around on it at 3.5 years of age and lovin’ it! He’s had it for a year now. One of his first words when he started talking was, “Fukinana,” which was supposed to be “Flugzeug” (German for “plane”). Maybe that’s because we kept flying to Germany for vacations. Well, he can say “Flugzeug” very well now, but his love for his old, little pink “Fukinana” has remained the same…
Basketball, soccer, and loops – 3 in 1!
Do you have a tiny baby? Lyons Cub could barely walk when he already wanted to shoot goals. This little blue giraffe made it possible: the lowest setting was perfect for a 1-year-old to reach, and the higher settings will still be a challenge for 3-4-year-olds. We used this basketball set, which also sports a soccer goal and loops for throwing, both indoors and outdoors. Here, you see him cheating 😉
Magnetic Drawing Board
What’s better than a drawing board that can be erased without messes? Lyons Cub loved and still loves to draw on his magnetic drawing board. Lyoness has to draw bears, cats, dinos, caves, volcanoes, and other things for him, and he fills them in. They show up in red, green, blue, and yellow, depending on which corner he draws in. A bonus are the stamps that come with the board. Lyons Cub is also doing his own artwork, as you can see. Plus, it’s an easy way to trace letters without wasting any paper. You can’t lose the pen, because it is attached with a string! How quiet a car trip can be when this board comes along! And if little Picasso is chewing on the pen while thinking about his wondrous creation, who cares, as it has no color he could get in his mouth 😉
Before Lyons Cub was tall enough to use a big-kid trampoline outdoors with his cousins, he trained on a small indoor trampoline from Little Tikes. We picked this one because it was small, ideal for a 2-year-old, sturdy, and easy to assemble. He had these without handles at his local gym where he was taking lessons with other children, and they were always his favorite activity besides their huge offer of balance boards, foam blocks, balls, ropes, cloths, etc. This trampoline is for one little toddler at a time. It will cause big crocodile tears if more than one want on it at the same time! If you have more kids or a bigger child, get the next level up!
LED Star Light Projector
Does your kiddo need a baby night light? Lyons Cub is still afraid of monsters. When he saw that his cousins got this beautiful Delicacy LED Star Light Projector for Christmas, he wanted one, too. Isn’t his room magical? He can use the remote control all by himself and choose between blue, green, red, and white light, and a mixture of them, including green laser beam stars that come and go. It’s a “breathing” light and can be dimmed. The waves created on the ceiling are fantastic! We are not even using the music feature. Falling asleep has never been that easy. We can also use it as a party light, once friends can come over again after Corona. I bought three of those so far, as presents. Come to think of it, mommy wants one, too!
Puppy Activity Home
Lyons Cub grew up with two real doggies, Honey and Sally. So it was only natural that for his first Christmas, he got a musical puppy activity home from Fisher-Price. He could open the door, twist the yellow button, turn the light on and off, rotate the roll, and listen to songs. A voice told him,
“thank you for making the door shut,” and “thank you for making the door open,” etc. The toy has three levels of difficulty, so with more speech ability, baby can advance to the next level. It also speaks Spanish, which Lyons Cub learned in his Montessori kindergarten. What a perfect toy for kiddos under 1! And there’s also a next level for kiddos with more dexterity, where baby can put a doggy inside.
Gopher Splash Mat
It’s summer, it’s hot, and what’s more fun than to step on a water-filled gopher that sprays you wet? This gopher mat is a great activity for little toddlers and bigger kids alike. It’s connected to a water hose, but even when it’s switched off, there’s still enough water in there to provide fun for the littlest. It’s not as scary to them as a deeper pool with full submersion; Lyons Cub loved the sprinkles! Invite the neighborhood kids over and make a contest who can flatten the most gophers 😉
When he thinks tadpoles become sharks…
Doing science with Lyons Cub is so fun! We collected tiny tadpoles and some frog eggs from our garden pond and put them into his Aqueon Betta Castle Kit. He put the little red flags up all by himself, and then, he admired his babies. We had them until the froglets had legs and were ready to go back into the garden pond to hop out. What a lesson he learned! When I asked him what tadpoles become when they grow up, he said, “sharks!” 😉
Well, ideally, you’d have two children for that, but it works alone, too! 😉 Lyons Cub’s first seesaw, which he shared willingly with the neighborhood girls, was just right for a small toddler, especially for one who loves horses. It was sturdy, but easy to carry around. Ours held kids up to 9 years of age, but was ideal for the 2-3-year-old children. You can use it in the playroom or outside. Ours was strictly outdoors, and it didn’t fade or crack in the sun, of which we have plenty in Tennessee. It was essential for Lyons Cub to develop his balancing skills.
Can’t start early enough…
… to make your child a good housekeeper 😉 This cool Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Light-up Learning Vacuum sings happily, “Clean up, clean up!” while your toddler follows mommy with her grown-up vacuum cleaner around the house with the toy one. Too cute! Lyons Cub still loved it as a three-year-old. It can make vacuum sucking noises or songs and phrases. And if mommy gets fed up, she can switch off the sound altogether and enjoy quiet housecleaning by her offspring. For some reason, Lyons Cub was in love with vacuum cleaning, especially between 1 and 2 years of age. The next passion will probably be a lawn mower 😉
Tummy Time a Problem?
Well, not anymore with this Splashin’kids Inflatable Tummy Time Premium Water mat. We actually did it for gross motor delays during our Early Intervention practices, and Lyons Cub managed to strengthen his arms for crawling. But also for non-IUGR babies who need extra tummy time or who just like squishy things, this water mat is fun. There are cool sea creatures floating inside it. If it isn’t dried out well, it will get moldy after several months, but by then, ours had served its purpose well.
The right high chair…
… is hard to find. I feel we made a good choice with our Graco Blossom 6 in 1 Convertible High Chair. Lyons Cub started using it between 5-6 months of age, when he began eating baby food in addition to milk. It can recline, you can take out the inner cushion part for very little babies (we did not use it at all), and when kiddo is bigger, you can use the black, hard seat underneath separately in the scaffold, or tie it to an adult chair, which is what we did. This way, the high chair lasts for a long time and serves as a transition for your child to sit on a standard chair, while still being able to see the table. Our Graco Blossom was easy to set up and to clean. The tray has an upper part that can be taken off. This mommy was very satisfied!
Paw Patrol skates for little fans
Have a child who loves Paw Patrol? Yes? Maybe it’s time to start acquiring new balancing skills, and what better way to use veeeeery slow, nice, safe toddler skates? They grow with the foot, are adjustable without tools, have sturdy frames and secure buckles, and the knee pads for safety are a great addition. If your kiddo is a huge fan, there’s a matching helmet, too. The instructions say “ages 2-6,” but come on, at age 3, Lyons Cub outgrew the slowness of those beginner skates. He still loved them but definitely required a bit more action. It’s amazing how sportive my little dude who once got Early Intervention for gross motor delay has gotten! Those skates definitely helped with self-esteem and coordination.
Cool dude with sunglasses
Also have a light sensitive toddler? Lyons Cub was blinking, and most of all, he wanted to look as cool as mommy, so he got his first Baby BANZ Ultimate Polarized Sunglasses. He won’t lose them, as they stay safely on his head with the adjustable straps. They fit perfectly and look nice, don’t they?
Summer is in the air…
… and a pool becomes a welcome relief from the heat. Lyons Cub loved his Inflatable Pool with 2 Seats, Headrest, and Cup Holder. It was big enough for mommy or nanny to join him, and he could bring his swim toys, too. Tip: put rubber yoga mats underneath to make the bottom nice and soft! This high-quality pool is durable and not easy to break and promises splashing fun for the whole family – or the neighborhood friends. It measures about 213 x 207 x 69 cm (83.86 x 81.50 x 27.17 inches) and is quite roomy. You will need an electric pump to inflate it; took me at least half an hour. The best thing is that if one layer gets a hole, it won’t affect the other layers. Lyons Cub spent lots of hours in this pool during the summer when he was 1.5. And if that pool is still too small for you, look at the upgrade below…
Giant pool with bench
When Lyons Cub was 2.5, we upgraded to the next level pool: 229 x 218 x 76 cm (90 x 86 x 31 inches), with a long bench for mommy to lie on or him to jump on. This pool is Lyoness’ favorite. It was so roomy, he swam around in it with his inflatable pelican. The Intex Swim Center Inflatable Family Lounge Pool is THE summer sensation for bigger kids or a whole family. Have no money to make vacations on the beach? Staycation will be a HIT with this lounge pool!
Before the balance bike comes the push trike…. With his first tricycle with sun shade, Lyons Cub was very satisfied. He got it at 1.5 years old, when he was still too short to reach the pedals, but there are foot rests he could use while mommy pushed him. I remember how I had to push him in circles through the basement; he enjoyed it that much! At three years of age, he learned how to ride by himself and drove through the whole park. The sun shade can be removed; we leave it at home most of the time. We love the basket in the back, which is big enough to hold his food bag with a change of clothes. At the handle, it has a bag for mommy’s cell phone, drink, and wallet. Perfect for long walks!
Dinosaur Rocker for Baby
Lyons Cub loves dinos! The Fossil Dinosaur Rocker was his first rocking chair, which we used for gross motor training with Early Intervention when he was sitting up around 8 months. It has 4 different songs, which are very agreeable and not like the usual plastic music that gets on parents’ nerves. One is about the ABC, one about numbers, one about colors – and that’s the one that Lyons Cub and Lyoness liked most, the rainbow song. “Rainbows are red, rainbows are blue….” The dino rocker is very soft, comfy, has crinkly crests and two squeaky horns. Very nice for baby to train his hands. He can choose the 4 songs himself by pressing four buttons on the back of its head. This dino is a keeper, meaning mommy will hold on to it when the boy is off to college 😉
My Yellow Digger
Lyons Cub was excited to dig through the sandbox with his little helper riding his Mobby Dig, while he was shoveling caves and heaping up volcanoes. The digger is sturdy to sit on and perfect for 3-year-olds, and the shovel is very strong and doesn’t break like so many of the flimsy ones. This guarantees hours of happy play and can be shared with a friend, so each one is content. The helmet fits the head of the 3-year-old well and looks very professional. The stickers hold up well, too. The digger is not too heavy or big to carry along to playgrounds. Great for pretend play!
Waterproof Painting Apron
Especially during Corona, one has to do many things at home with the toddlers. We are always doing crafts and painting. Here, Lyons Cub is protecting his clothes with a long-sleeved painting apron, so mommy doesn’t have to wash clothes right after. There are three in a package, they fit 2 to 8-year-olds, and they can be easily cleaned. Kids have fun, and parents can relax!
June 2021 – Get your ALDI Balancing Bike Right Now!
By coincidence, Lyons Cub and Lyoness went shopping at ALDI South on June 12th and found this adorable balancing bike for EUR 24.99. He wanted the pink one. They’re either pink or baby blue, with a brown saddle and brown handles. Mounting it together was quick and easy, and of course, the height can be changed for saddle and handlebar. Nice bike for the transition to the real deal! Can’t beat that price.
Toddler Slide & Rocker
Still looking for a 1st birthday present for an active toddler? We chose the 2-in-1 slide and rocker. Turn the slide around, and you’ll get a motorcycle rocker. It’s as simple as that. This was one of our activities for Early Intervention. Lyons Cub was able to climb, rock, and slide. Three things in one, actually. It’s also a nice addition for a day care or kindergarten. Kiddos won’t get bored that quickly if their toy is a “transformer” 😉
Short Sleeve Toddler Swimsuit
Worried your tot might burn his shoulders? I got this short-sleeved toddler swimsuit for Lyons Cub for the hot days in the yard. It’s well made, comfy, and looks great. It prevented him from getting cool, while he could also get a little tan (with sunscreen, of course). This swimsuit dried quickly, felt good on the skin, had tight stitches that would not rip open, and the material was elastic and gave way. YOU want this!
Great Pretenders Dragon Cape
A whole-body dragon costume is too hot for summer (Lyons Cub had one of those for Halloween as a baby), so he got a Great Pretenders dragon cape he could put over his shoulders and head. It’s light, glittering, and beautiful. Here comes the big, dangerous dragon; fear, ye people! ROAAAAR!!!
Toothless with Light, Sound, and Projectile
Look at that little dragon trainer here! Lyons Cub loves his cousin’s Toothless and Stormfly dragons from DreamWorks Dragons. At 3.5 years old, he is interested in the toys of his older cousins and loves pretend play with the “big, dangerous dragons” that can hiss, light up, and shoot projectiles. Watch his video to see the fun!
Doorway Playhouse – Use the Space You Have!
Don’t have enough space to set up a bulky plastic playhouse in your child’s room? A 2-sided doorway playhouse like ours from Crate & Barrel might be the solution. Here, you see Lyons Cub’s post office (the backside is a veterinary clinic). It comes with a big fabric mail box, a mail bag to hang from his shoulder, and several envelopes, postcards, stamps to attach with Velcro, and a fabric parcel to open and place something inside. The windows are open, the door can be climbed through, and the “open/closed” sign on the vet’s office can be turned around with velcro. There are lots of different versions out there, including puppet theaters. We love this thing. It’s been hanging under our staircase, and between the door frames of his room.
Role Play and Door Frame House
Here, you see the backside of Lyons Cub’s door frame house, the veterinary clinic. Lyoness had to dress up as a witch for Halloween (all the German teachers were witches that year), and the door frame house could also double as haunted house 😉 By the way, you can make those yourself! All you need is a shower rod or PVC pipe, some cloth or felt in different colors, scissors, and glue or a sewing machine. For DIY ideas, check out doorway theater or doorway playhouse on Etsy.
Pikler Arch, Triangle, and Ramp
Are you fond of Montessori education? Do you have a little climber in your house? Providing Pikler gear is easier than plucking your kiddo from the shelves (believe me, Lyons Club needed to be taken off the top of the grand piano and from several shelves). My son climbed way before he could walk, so the Pikler triangle combined through a ramp (or, a slide on the other side) with an arch was the perfect activity for a one-year-old.
Volcano Mat with Dinosaurs
Does your child love volcanos and dinosaurs, too? Do you need a spot on the floor where he/she can play undisturbedly? This jurassic mat can solve the problem. Lyons Cub and his dinosaurs are inseparable. But most of all, since he could speak his first words, he loves his “cano.” He has different volcanoes, and we usually fill them with bubble bath balls and took them into the bathtub with him in the evening. In his bedroom, he has his awesome mat, where he plays dino fights and chases. When picking a mat, check its size so it fits in your toddler’s room. Ours is small, 39” x 36” (100 x 91 cm). It’s not thick and soft, so it’s not for baby’s tummy time but really for big brother’s/sister’s dino play. We added different dinos and volcanoes with time, so this activity never gets old.
“The ground rumbles. Steam and smoke escape from the mountain top…” This is how Lyons Cub’s favorite volcano book starts, and he can recite it gleefully. He has a bunch of volcanos, including this Learning Resources Beaker Creatures Bubbling Volcano Reactor. Just pour some water with a little oil in it over the bubble ball, and green wonder slime emerges, in which a tiny creature in an egg is hidden! Cool for preschool science and homeschooling experiments! Here, you see Lyons Cub carefully dipping his hand in, not knowing what creature is gonna bite him 😉 Of course, we did it outside…
Dinosaur Race Track with Battery-Driven Cars
Does your kiddo have a 3rd birthday coming up? Any dino lovers out there? Lyons Cub was so happy to get this dinosaur race track for his 3rd birthday from his Aunty Mary from Carbondale, IL. Those cars dash off like crazy when you put a new AA battery inside (better use a half-empty one, so they don’t have that much power!). This toy can engage the whole family. I found it a bit too difficult to snap together for a just 3-year-old (in the meantime, Lyons Cub has learned it), but the adults have just as much fun with this race track as the children. If you combine some similar tracks, it’s really worth while. Here, you see the size of just one track. It was fun already, but not as intricate as it could be. We simply HAD to splurge and get an additional set!
Ryan’s World Dino Universe Fizz N’ Dig Volcano Surprise
Does your kid watch Ryan’s World on TV? Lyons Cub loves the little scientist and was thrilled to get his blue volcano for Christmas. You can take it apart. There’s a sand mix on top that dissolves when kiddo pours water in it. With a fork or spoon (or the tiny, included yellow spade), kiddo can shovel to find a dinosaur fossil and three surprise-filled eggs. After we had discovered everything, we put bubble balls into the top and used it in the bathtub. Never-ending fun!
Whether you call it “Kerplunk,” “Marble Mayhem,” “Murmelmikado,” “Topple,” or whatever, this game has been around for a long time, and Lyoness remembers playing it with her daddy and sister in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It’s just as much fun as ever, and although it says it’s for 5+, a 3-year-old can practice his dexterity by inserting the rods through the holes and then carefully pulling them out again, without making too many marbles fall. It’s for up to 4 players, so if you have a bigger family, this might just be a nice afternoon’s entertainment. Fine motor skills and lots of patience needed!
Do you have a child who loves to make soap bubbles? Lots of ’em? Lots of soap bubbles? Well, try this lawnmower, then. Kiddo won’t get soap on his lips all the time, getting too close to the stick to blow through. Just push the lawnmower, and the bubbles come out the top. It’s great fun while it lasts! It would make a cool summer birthday gift. Alas, you will need lots of liquid soap…
X Shot Hydro Hurricane Water Gun
What’s more fun on a hot summer day than spraying oneself and other people? The X Shot Hydro Hurricane has lots of power, holds 1.5 liters of water, and reaches as far as 9 m. Lyons Cub took all his strength together to man this huge water gun, and all the trees, shrubs, flowers, and family members in his vicinity benefited from it… he himself most of all!!!
Track Cars with LED Lights
Remember the dino tracks Lyons Cub got for his birthday? Well, half a year later, he has managed to lose all four battery-operated cars, so I got him replacement track cars that have LED lights. Best thing ever! They are meant for the glow-in-the-dark tracks, which he doesn’t have, but it was still fun to let them run on his dino tracks and turn the light out 😉 He has a fire-engine, a dump truck, a police car, and a bus. The fire-engine is his favorite. They are very powerful and run with a high speed. Plus, they are transparent at the bottom and reveal their interesting inner life to the toddler. Mommy will have to make sure they don’t vanish under furniture again.
Little People Construction Set
Got a little builder? He or she will enjoy the Fisher-Price Little People Work Together Construction Site Playset with light and sound. The vocal prompts let the child explore a work process that happens in a specific order, which is based on team work. If your tot presses the red buttons, either holes open up to release the boulder, or voices and lights start. There are two Little People figurines of different race and gender. A truck and three boulders are also included. And there’s a secret hidden on the underside…
Duh, what need is there to explain… playdough is the most obvious children’s past time I can think of. Weren’t we all raised with it? Don’t we all remember our fragile constructs, which were reshaped so often until the colors melted into marble-like structures of “something”? Our snow men, little people, trees, animals… The available color palette is much greater nowadays. There is softer and harder playdough, there’s ecological playdough without chemicals, and you can also make it yourself. Did you know that playdough originally started off in the 1930s as a wallpaper cleaner? I didn’t!
Sidewalk Chalk for Toddler’s Creativity
Sidewalk chalk has been with us for generations and will continue to be. So far, Lyons Cub isn’t drawing any discernable pictures on his own yet, but he wants mommy to draw dinosaurs and helps fill out their crests. It’s a great way to teach letters without using up too much scrap paper. And if any neighbors complain, the rain will wash it off some day, anyway. When we go for a walk, we always have a little bucket full of colorful pavement chalk in our tricycle or stroller basket, for emergencies. This way, we always have some form of entertainment with us that never fails.
John Deere Tractor Go-Kart
Off we go on our John Deere tractor! It was easy to assemble with just two Allen keys and a wrench and is ready to go within minutes. Doesn’t it look cool, like a real one? Lyons Cub’s American heritage is coming to life here. That thing runs fast, and mommy had problems keeping up with it. Of course, kiddo wears a helmet. We got a nice discount from myToys for the tractor, and in addition, had a EUR 20 coupon, so the price was great for what we got! My only worry is the other children around the block will want one now, too–sorry, parents!! 😉
Playing Banana Blast…
… didn’t quite work as planned with my toddler, but he loved to insert and pull out the bananas. However, he threw a tantrum every time someone else caught the jumping monkey, so grandma lion and Lyoness had to agree on letting Lyons Cub catch it. We’ll wait until he’s a bit older to play Banana Blast with the correct rules! In the meantime, he can practice his fine motor skills 😉
Plush Rocking Horse
with stirrups! We got ours for about ten bucks at a second-hand store in Clarksville, TN when Lyons Cub was under 2, but he’s still riding on it at 3.5 years of age. Now, at least his legs are long enough for his feet to fit into the stirrups 😉 The horse used to have sound, but luckily, we bought it without its voice. It looks quite realistic and rocks well. We’re reading the Yakari books to him right now, so he’s always the Indian Yakari, and his horse is “Kleiner Donner” (Little Thunder). He loves to do pretend play on this rocking horse and relives entire sections of the stories we read to him.
Which kid doesn’t like slime? Lyons Cub was fascinated by the gooey, stretchy “alien blood” and smeared it everywhere (on his clothes, onto grandma’s carpet, and, alas, into his hair). The pink one in the small jar was “Puuupsi Schleim,” which can make farting noises (luckily, he hasn’t figured that out yet), but the green one was the best, super extendable and a big bucket full. Needless to say, Lyons Cub went into the bathtub afterwards and had his hair combed out really well, while our clothes went into the washing machine. Everyone and everything was successfully restored to before-slime condition!!
Radio Flyer Inchworm Ride-On Toy
Now, this one is a classic. At least for American children, because in Germany, I had never seen it before. Lyons Cub loves his inchworm. You can get it from Walmart or Ebay, and they exist in green and pink. It is a fun activity toy for practicing gross motor skills, but I have to say inside the house (on parquet flooring), it is VERY noisy! Kids will figure out quickly to jump on it, and I don’t think the tenants below will be very amused… So I will reserve this toy for outside play and times when nobody holds an afternoon nap… 😉
Lego Duplo Jurassic World
Finally, a toy that makes no sound!!! (If you don’t count my son roaring like a dinosaur…) Lyons Cub loves volcanoes! His present to commemorate his first day of kindergarten was a cute Lego Duplo Jurassic World set. He loves to play with it in his Peppa Pig pool. He built a volcano, a bridge, let the guy on the motorcycle race through the water, and the T-rex and Triceratops baby smash his bridge. The bricks have no stickers, so they’re perfect to use in the water. These are for kids ages 2+, so they’re fairly easy to assemble, there aren’t many parts, but they provide enough separate pieces for fun pretend play. “Now the lava died me, aaarghhh!!!”
Mega Bloks First Builder Build ‘n Learn Table
Does your tot have lots of Mega Bloks, but nowhere to store them and no surface to build on? Then, this learn table comes in handy. When your tot opens up the lid by turning the red star in the middle, he/she can store blocks inside and close it back up. It has a race track as a bonus. The legs fold inward, so you can store it easily. It doesn’t cave in when your tot climbs on top of it (VERY important, at least for my child!). Get your kiddo off the floor and let him/her build at a comfortable height with this Mega Bloks learn table.
Lyons Cub loves dinos. They are everywhere — on his socks, on his carpet, in his fold-out books, in his toy crates, on his bed sheets, on his jogging suit, and of course, on his sweaters! So I’m constantly on the hunt for dinosaur pullovers. I’m looking for those that don’t dissolve after multiple washing cycles and that don’t lose their color. This one is among his favorites, and it looks great with jeans. Here are some dino sweaters from his collection.