Since having Evelyn we’ve learnt a lot about the wonderful world of baby and toddler toys – its amazing just how many toys they get through in those first couple of years! As we don’t have a play room its very easy for the toys to completely take over the house, so we would frequently remove the toys she’d outgrown to the garage making space for even more toys. With the influx of new toys this Christmas and for Evelyn’s second birthday, we were in serious need of decluttering her toy collection. Now looking back over the past 2 years we’ve quickly forgotten which toys she enjoyed the most at each age, so this prompted me to write this post as a way of diarising them all and as a reminder for next time. It was a surprisingly difficult task but I’ve tried to keep it fairly condensed, narrowing it down to a top 5 for each age. I’m sure that theres many other great toys out there, but for us this was more than enough toys!
- Activity mat – From just a few days old Evelyn would be so happy laying in her Magic Stargaze Light & Sound Playmat and Baby Gym, listening to its gentle and relaxing music and gazing up at the little lights and unbreakable mirror. As she got older she would kick the touch pads creating extra noises and flashing lights. Once Evelyn was able to move and sit up she would reach out for the dangling toys, but when she became old enough to cruise she would use it as climbing frame so time to put it away! Note we also bought a larger unbreakable mirror for the car as it was a great source of entertainment and distraction for Evelyn between her meltdowns in the car!
- Lots of links – These links are such great value for money toys – only a few pounds but they’d keep Evelyn entertained for agers. She’d use them as rattles, teethers or I’d hang them from her play gym or car seat.
- Rattle bracelets/socks – Another great simple and ingenious way of keeping Evelyn settled and entertained during that awkward stage when she would drop any rattle or toy that you gave. These Lamaze ones were fab.
- Cot mobile – An amazing friend of mine handmade Evelyn a beautiful floral cot mobile to match her floral themed nursery. Evelyn used to love watching it spin above her head when she was a newborn and it would allow me 5 mins chance to get dressed/shower in the mornings.
- Baby Sensory Video – We discovered this Youtube video when we took Evelyn for her newborn hip scan. Evelyn wasn’t a very happy bunny having to lay on her side for the scan, but once the sonographer showed her this Mozart psychedelic video she was immediately mesmerised and settled!
- Jumperoo – The Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo definitely has to be one of the best toys that we’ve had for Evelyn. She started to use it from around 5 months old (once when she could sit up) and it lasted her until around 9 months. She would easily spend half an hour in there swivelling around exploring the different stations and bouncing up and down trying to grab the hanging animals. Its pretty large and takes up a bit of room but its a real essential and totally worth it. Note often the lining would become sodden in Evelyn’s teething dribble but luckily lining is removable and washable!
- Baby seat – The Baby Snug and Activity Tray was another great, safe alternative place for Evelyn to sit in to play or feed. The detachable activity tray was a nice addition. As Evelyn was quite a chunky little monkey we found the Bumbo baby seat a bit too tight and Evelyn didn’t like it very much either. The Baby Snug was a bit more roomy and it lasted us a long time.
- Teethers – Evelyn’s front 2 teeth came through just before she turned 6 months old so we needed some good tethers in the run up to this. The Sophie La Giraffe was her favourite – long lasting, easy for her to hold and beautiful. She’d often smile at it! We started off with their smaller round teether when Evelyn was around 8 weeks old so that her little hands could hold it, and then bought her the larger squeaky teether which doubled up as a toy. Her Sophie was an essential addition to her changing bag for out-and-about teething and play. I’d also recommend the Gummy Glove, innovative and really handy for the awkward stage when babies are constantly dropping their teether! I also found teething necklaces useful especially when we’d be at baby groups.
- Soft rattle toys – It was at this age that Evelyn really started to be able to use and enjoy rattles. The soft ring ones were the best in order to reduce those inevitable self -inflicted injuries! We had a beautiful knitted soft bunny one from Mothercare and a grey soft bunny one from Mamas and Papas. Her soft colourful sensory blocks were also great soft rattle toys and we later would stack them on top of each other as Evelyn’s development progressed.
- Soft Animal Skittles – Although Evelyn couldn’t play skittles at this age, she loved to shake, grab and munch on these lovely safari animal skittles. We’d take them out in the car or put some in her changing bag for some on-the-go entertainment. When Evelyn later started crawl she’d have fun chasing after the soft ball.
6-9 months (Crawling)
- On-the-go toys – Lamaze definitely have to make the best on-the-go toys. They have such a huge range of colourful, exciting sensory toys that are essentials for travelling, they have certainly been lifesavers during long car journeys or holidays. Evelyn would love exploring their different compartments and textures as well as chewing on not only their teething rings but basically the whole thing! Evelyn cut 8 teeth between the age of 6-9 months so chewable toys was a must during this age. She had the Lamaze Freddie the Firefly and a Flutterbug on-the-go toys, as well their activity spiral which was great for her car seat handle and stroller.
- Books – Evelyn has loved books from an early age and reading a story quickly became a part of her bedtime/nap routine. Her first few favourite books were simple and bright animal/numbers/alphabet books. The Skip hop elephant puppet book was also a lovely toy book which has lots of peek-a-boo surprise windows, textures, tethers and a baby-safe mirror.
- Peek-a-boo toys – This was Evelyn’s favourite game for a long time and would be a garenteed way to make her to smile. She loved playing peek-a-boo with her monkey and unicorn puppets and her Peter Rabbit Jack in the box.
- Bath toys – Up until around 6 months old we didn’t really have many bath toys other than her bath thermometer rubber duck. We bought Evelyn the Munchkin Farmyard Bath Toys which although she loved them as she could easily chew on them, it was tricky avoiding them filling up with mildew residue! We later bought some great animal Skip Hop Stack and Pour Buckets and a Nuby Bath Watering Can which Evelyn still loves playing with in the bath now.
- Sit in walker – Once Evelyn could sit unaided she really started to enjoy her walker as she could go whizzing around the house! The music is a bit annoying after a while but its a good value walker that lasted her a good few months.
9-12 months (Cruising)
- Cruising/Walking toys – Evelyn couldn’t wait to get up and start exploring with her V-Tech First Steps Baby Walker. If she wasn’t cruising around with it she would sit or kneel playing with the different doors/animals/toy phone on the front panel and enjoying the flashing lights and music. You’d probably find most family households have one of these sort of walkers, and theres a reason for it, babies love them!
- Musical toys – To encourage Evelyn’s musical side we bought her the Baby Einstein’s Discovering Music Activity Table. The gentle classical music is a welcome change from most children toys and the musical instruments features are great for her to discover. The removable legs are also a handy feature and can be added/taken away depending on their age and standing ability. I’d also recommend the Skip Hop Musical Instrument Set which Evelyn liked to shake and chew on. The Early Learning Centre Musical Maracas were great to use in the car or as distraction whilst changing her nappy. Evelyn also went on to have a lovely Xylophone for her first Christmas which she still enjoys playing with now.
- Teddies – It was around this age that Evelyn began to become more interested and attached to teddies. Her Fleur My Hummy teddy was and still is one of her favourite comforters for bed and nursery. She became very fond of the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Puppy when parents bought it to leave out at their place in France, Evelyn loved it so much and it worked so well at keeping her occupied that she ended up keeping it and my parents had to buy another one!
- Pull along toys – We bought some lovely handmade wooden toys from a little stall in Covent Garden, London. We have an animal train set which Evelyn still loves now and they look just as good ornamentally! Evelyn also really liked her Peter Rabbit pull along toy at this age too. We also bought a lovely wooden carousel from the stall in London (photo below).
- Books – Continuing on with Evelyn’s love of books, at this age she really started to enjoy more interactive books – musical, touch-and-feel and lift-the-flap books. The Usborne ones are great. We have their Baby’s Very First Big Playbook and Baby’s Very First Nursery Rhymes Playbook. Evelyn’s read them both so much that the books are falling apart and most of the flaps have been ripped out! Their “That’s not my…” books are also lovely and great for taking out and about. Evelyn also of course loves her Peppa Pig Soft Play lift-the-flap book too though.
12-15 months (Walking)
- Pushing toys – Evelyn’s Fleur Pram was definitely her favourite present that she received for her first birthday. She absolutely loved it and would literally spend hours pushing it around the house, putting her teddies in and out of it and also getting in and out of it herself (with the occasional toppling over of the pram!). It’s a beautiful classic toy which can be personalised. Evelyn still loves playing with now, though now putting her baby doll in it instead of herself! Another good pushing toy that Evelyn played with a lot at this age was her Peter rabbit stick push toy.
- Kitchen – A close second favourite first birthday present was her Fleur Play Kitchen. I wasn’t sure whether a play kitchen would be a bit young for Evelyn at 1 year old, but she really enjoyed playing with it straight away. She loved opening and closing the doors and drawers and lifting the sink in and out. Its such a pretty little wooden kitchen that comes with a lovely floral apron and tea towel. To go with it we have some wooden pots and pans, wooden food and chopping board set and a wooden cupcake set. I wanted to get Evelyn a matching wooden tea set but we bought her the Leapfrog Musical Tea Party Set after she loved my parents set in France so much.
- Pretend play toys – Although Evelyn was still a bit young at this age for pretend play, she did like beginning to ‘act out’ things and we hope that its been through the practice and play of basic medical examinations (using our own medical equipment and Evelyn’s Junior doctor) set that she’s now quite happy to be examined by the GP! She also loved ‘answering’ her play smart phone and using her remote control , both handy for out and about play. Her Piggy Bank has been another great pretend play toy that would keep her entertained for car journeys.
- Wooden blocks – Such a simple but great developmental toy/game for toddlers. These lovely Peter Rabbit Wooden blocks also doubled up as ornamental for her Peter Rabbit themed birthday party. Similar to blocks, stacking rings are a great classic toy for this age but the sensory features of the Sensory stacking rings also helps with their colour/texture skills.
- Sit on toys – My parents have a great ride-on toy Mini Cooper car that Evelyn and her cousin Ruby spend the majority of their time at Nanny & Grampy’s house playing with. Although they both want to sit in it at the same time, they love pushing each other in there around the house for hours. Evelyn also loves rocking sit on toys and she’d often turn over our sheep foot stools to use them as a rocking horse! Though she did have her own lovely Rocking Horse given to her by some lovely friends for her first birthday. It lasted Evelyn up until 23 months old when she clearly had gotten too big/strong for it as she managed to propel so much force rocking back and forth that she managed to flip off it!
- Sticker books – It wasn’t until we bought Evelyn a “Keep ‘Em Quiet” travel bag for our trip to St Ives that she had her first sticker book. She loved it and is still obsessed with stickers now! A meltdown saver and a guaranteed way of keeping her happy and occupied when we’re out for a meal, or any situation for that matter. I now appreciate the power of stickers for a toddler, so without fail if I see a toddler/young child in clinic I’ll always give them a sticker! Peppa Pig sticker books are by far Evelyn’s favourite, she’s pulled each of the Fairy tale, Amazing Adventures and Dress-Up books apart from repeated use. The Peppa Pig Super Stickers Activity Book is more durable and although some of the activities are a bit advanced, its got over 1000 stickers in it so is keeping Evelyn occupied for agers. A great reusable alternative to sticker books are magnet books, Evelyn loves her Peppa and Friends Magnet Book.
- Tech toys – Although Evelyn prefers to play with my iPad (I’d recommend the Ladybug app) as an introducer first tech toy, Evelyn’s Little tikes play laptop was great for her shape/colour/sounds development. Nowadays she loves playing with (and is getting quite good at) the games in the World of Peppa Pig App.
- Ball – A cheap, simple must-have toy for any toddler. Her blue one in the photo below has a big smiley face on it and was bought at the beach. Evelyn can’t quite catch it yet but she loves kicking and chasing it around the garden/house.
- Shape sorter – We bought Evelyn a shape sorter when she was around 9 months old but it took her until around 15-18 months to figure it out. As didn’t know the different shapes she would just take the lid off and put the blocks inside instead! I can’t blame her though, thats a lot easier and quite clever! She recently received a lovely wooden lion shape sorter which is better as its got a sliding lid so less easy to take off!
- Toy cars – Following in Daddy’s footsteps, Evelyn loves cars! She’s even recently been able to recognise our cars. She enjoys chasing around after Daddy’s remote control car and pushing her own play cars around her big road play mat. This foam foldable mat is a great buy for creating additional safe play areas in the house, I have my eye on their alphabet/animal one!
18 months – 2 years
- Building toys – These types of toys have to be Evelyn’s favourite thing at the moment. She started off building and knocking down towers from the larger Mega Bloks. Now she loves and has taken really well to Duplo lego. She had the Playground Brick Box for Christmas and the amazing Frozen Castle for her second birthday. She can easily spend an hour or 2 throughout the day playing with lego! Maybe as her collect grows we could create her own lego table later on. Another great ‘building toy’ that she enjoys pretend play with is her Bosch Toy Tool Box.
- Colouring – Colouring is another big favourite thing at the moment, so for Christmas so we bought Evelyn an Ikea Children’s Desk for her to do her colourings on and to store all her favourite colouring books and pencil case. Of course Evelyn prefers the more messy felt tip pens compared to crayons/pencils though but for less mess colouring on-the-go/holiday we the Water Magic Colouring Book and the Crayola Colour Wonder Frozen 2 book are both amazing. The Peppa pig Magna Doodle is also great for travelling.
- Baby doll – A must-have classic toy for any little girl (or boy!). Until this Christmas Evelyn didn’t actually have a proper baby doll, just a rag doll and loads of teddies. She’d started to become really interested in other babies so buying her her own ‘baby’ at this age was perfect for her. She has the Chad Valley Baby and has taken a real shine to it, naming her ‘baby’ and loving the pretend play. She enjoys pushing her around in the pram, changing and feeding her and cuddling up to her during story time. Its so sweet plus I think its a good way of getting her ready to become a big sister one day.
- Story books and Teepee – As Evelyn’s all time favourite thing has to be reading books, we decided to create a lovely little reading den in her bedroom this Christmas – a Teepee! They are such a huge trend for children at the moment and I’ve totally bought into it. Ours is from Groupon, it was a real bargain and is great quality. We decorated it with fairy lights, rose garlands and bunting with her name on. She was so excited on Christmas morning when she saw it (below photo) and loves going in there all the time, not just for stories! Evelyn loves any book but her favourites have to be any Peppa Pig ( the Peppa’s First 100 Words is a great one for developing speech and the Peppa Pig: Little Library is great for out-and-about), ‘We love you Evelyn‘ and John Lewis’ Excitable Edgar (we also managed to buy the matching teddy before they sold out). We also have some really lovely and special personalised books by Wonderbly that I’d highly recommend. We bought their bestsellers ‘The girl who lost her name’ and ‘Goodnight Evelyn’ and most recently, ‘Happy 2nd Birthday book’. They are a bit pricey but definitely worth it as they are a real keepsake.
- Cleaning toys – Evelyn loves to get involved with and copy anything that we do around the house. Although Evelyn has always created a lot of mess, to be fair to her, as soon as she could she wanted to help clean it back up. She would always help wipe up her high chair tray and attempts to push our sweeping brush and vacuum cleaner. The ‘clean up’ song from Role play lane is a guaranteed song to get Evelyn dancing and Nursery tell us that Evelyn’s always tidying up after the other children there! So this Christmas we added a Hetty Cleaning Trolley and Dyson Kids Cordless Hoover to her toy collection so Evelyn can carry on starting her chores at a young age!
- Doll’s house – Evelyn is loving houses at the moment so it seemed like the right time for her to have her first dolls house! We initially bought the Ikea Doll’s house wall shelf for Christmas to use as a bookshelf in the living room, but as her love of houses and imaginative play has come on, I couldn’t resist turning it into a dolls house for her second birthday. Doll’s houses hold fond childhood memories for me as my parents and grandparents refurbished and decorated a beautiful Victorian 4 storey Townhouse doll’s house for me. It was my favourite thing for years and it’s still at my parents house now ready to be passed down a generation (maybe after another redecorating and TLC though!) but for now hopefully our Ikea Doll’s house hack version will withstand our heavy handed toddler! There are so many amazing hack’s on Pinterest, we decided to go with a white/grey/exposed wood theme with some pink and floral touches. We painted it with the left over tester paint pots from our house and decorated the rooms with wallpaper sample pieces from B&Q. It took me a while to find some simple neutral dolls house furniture by Petite Amelie and a wooden family doll set from John Lewis. She seems to love it and is really enjoying playing with it so far.
- Jigsaws puzzles – Recently Evelyn’s interest and ability to do jigsaws puzzles has come on and she loves the wooden animal one that she had for Christmas. She’s still not quite got the hang of these classic puzzles but is really good at the simpler wooden alphabet/number jigsaws.
- Toy shop – I had my eye on this lovely wooden Toy Shop and Café from JoJo Maman Bebe ever since Evelyn became obsessed with her Little Toy Shop from M&S (photo below) and Peppa Pig Cash Register. The M&S version was a great cheap option that withstood several months of a lot of play, but the JoJo Maman Bebe should last her well. Its a classic and the storage available in it to put all her toy food in sold it for me – no more toy food all over the kitchen! We’ve also updated her food, tea-set (plus the high tea set as we love afternoon tea!) and trolley for the wooden versions in JoJo Maman Bebe. We bought all of these at their outlet store in newport and had such bargains! I much prefer the classic wooden toys, they are much nicer to look at which is important when you don’t have a playroom to contain all the toys! JoJo Maman Bebe have such a lovely good quality range of wooden toys.
- Baby doll accessories – Since Evelyn’s really taken to her baby doll and loves attempting to change her nappy, accessories for the doll seemed like the perfect present. The Chad valley range is great, we have the wooden crib and plan on buying the changing bag and set of outfits at some point too.
- Riding toys – Evelyn actually already had her Scooter and Balance Bike for Christmas but I thought that I’d put them in the ‘2 years old’ section as she was quite young having them. Although she really liked them, its only since she’s got closer to 2 years old is she starting the use them properly. Both were from my parents, and the original plan was for the scooter to be given for Christmas and the Balance bike for her 2nd Birthday. However on Christmas Day Evelyn’s cousin Ruby brought round her new Balance Bike and Evelyn loved it so much that my parents decided to give Evelyn her balance bike then so to settle 2 tantruming toddlers fighting over 1 balance bike on Christmas Day! Typically she preferred the scooter from then onwards! The scooter’s got some great features – a seat and wheels that light up multi colour when she goes fast which she loves.
- Advent Calendar – We initially bought Evelyn the Disney Story Books advent calendar as loves books so having a new bedtime story book to read every night in the lead up to Christmas seemed perfect for her, but I think Evelyn was a bit too young for it this year. She didn’t quite understand the concept of an advent calendar and would threw a tantrum every evening as we tried to stop her from opening all the books in one go! She would also just whizz through the pages in the books so we barely had chance to finish a sentence on each page. Needless to say, after 5 days in we decided to stop using this advent calendar so it’s packed away for next year instead! The Peppa Pig Figurine advent calendar was much more suited for Evelyn’s age. Again she didn’t get the concept of waiting each day but she was a bit better as it wasn’t until December 12th that she’d managed to open all the doors! Evelyn absolutely loves Peppa Pig and she was so excited for all the different figurines each day. She enjoyed putting them back into their individual slots in the calendar too so it doubled up as a shape sorter! I didn’t really want her to have a chocolate advent calendar as she had so much other chocolate to eat in addition, plus at least we’ll be able to continue to make use out of the Calendar toys.
- Elf on the shelf – Evelyn loved her elf cuddly toy that we bought at the Cowbridge Christmas weekend. We didn’t go all out and just kept it simple but Evelyn’s been happy enough and enjoyed finding it in different places around the house each day.
- Christmas Eve – We continued the tradition this year of a lovely new pair of pyjamas for Christmas Eve (a floral 3 set from Next) and a Christmas themed book to read before bed, this year it was a Mr Men book from her cousins Ruby and Grace. Last years was T’was the night before Christmas.
- Stocking fillers – I planned on doing a stocking for Evelyn and filling it with a Santa rubber ducky and Reindeer rubber ducky (both next) and some satsumas, chocolate coins and hair clips, however I didn’t actually get round to doing it so she had them all loose. Again that’ll be the plan for next Christmas.