It is time again for one of my favorite type of posts where I get to share some of my favorite things. In this 'older toddler' edition (think 2yr olds) I'm going to share some things that Colin has been enjoying over the last few months. If it is Colin's favorite thing, it is my favorite thing too!
Do-A-Dot markers and books. Once upon a time I was reading something (surprised?) about how kids are entering kindergarten without the hand coordination and muscle development necessary for writing (something about video game systems I think was mentioned). Regardless, these markers were mentioned as tools to help develop the hand muscles of preschoolers. So when I saw them in Michael's I got them. We tried them out a bunch of times and Colin just loves them. Sean even used them with Colin on one of their solo nights and was so impressed at how easily Colin would 'paint' the pictures. The books that the same company makes are a little expensive ($5-6) but SO worth it because 1) they keep in mind the size of the sponge head when they make the picture and 2) the paper is super thick so no running through onto your table. I love them, Colin loves them, and now we can start sending art to all his grandparents!
Draw Thumb Animals. I have to send a big shout out to my dear ole mom on this one. This was in Colin's stocking last year or the year previous and I'm pretty sure I thought she was crazy. Colin was (and is) way to young for this. However, I brought it on our recent trip to Boston and it was a life saver! Colin was very near meltdown in a restaurant as we waited for food and I pulled it out and started helping him make the pictures using his own finger and thumb prints. While he was only involved in part of the project he loved it and it got us through until the meal arrived. Please Santa, can we have some more??
Plan City Road and Rail. While our road and rail set isn't nearly this involved, Colin has a great time with it. Sure there are many many less expensive options than this brand, but this set is a bit different. First it is made by a company I really like that uses all natural, non-toxic material and has oodles of certifications that back that up. Second, it has road and rail which adds another dimension of imaginary play (and the little cars are just adorable).Plus the expansion possibilities are just as good as with the other more conventional system (if not better), and if Colin becomes 'Thomas' obsessed like most little boys, they are compatible with those trains and tracks too.
ImagiPLAY Buddy Blocks. These are another lifesaver while waiting for food to arrive. Each face of the block has a different animal on it (for a total of six).It ends up being a two step process since you have to turn all the blocks to the side you want to work on(each animal is a different color) then you put them together. The number of different pictures keeps Colin entertained long enough for food to arrive. He also enjoys just simply stacking the blocks too so it is two toys in one. It does have a little box to keep all the pieces in, I only wish that box had a lid so I didn't loose them in the diaper bag. The whole thing is about 4 inches square (maybe an inch and a quarter high), so it is small and easy to keep on hand. The problem is I can't use it too often or he looses interest.
Melissa & Doug ABC Puzzle. In general Colin is a big fan of puzzles at this age but he seems to like this one particularly because it has so many pieces. I like it because it reinforces his letters at the same time, while he learned all his letters very quickly, I've noticed he does forget if we don't work on them occasionally. The pieces also end up being turned into towers on occasion as well.
Preschool Prep Company DVD's. I will admit that I was totally skeptical of these DVD's when I saw them advertised, but I can say these people knew what they were doing. Research has shown that movement helps kids associate objects with words or concepts (e.g.if you want your baby to learn the word spoon, make the spoon dance around in front of her). They took advantage of that, such that whatever the focal item (letter, shape, number, sight word) it dances around the screen while someone repeats it over and over with varying voice tone. Absolutely mind numbing for an adult but Colin eats it up. He now prefers these over Signing Time (although I don't really understand why) and he knows about a handful of sight words which makes for a fun party trick. He learned all the letters (upper and lower case) and numbers within a few viewings, it was pretty cool, and even after he knows them he still asks to watch.
I should note that I also love amazon wish lists. If you have a baby and you havn't made them a wish list you should check it out. Colin's grandparents and relatives love knowing what kinds of things he would be interested in come gift giving time. It is really a great system, I keep it updated as I come across items I think would be good (which is awesome in itself because I would never remember some of the things otherwise), and then the family can just check out the list whenever they need a gift and find something they want to get him. Its a win win.