Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Things to Love: Winter Survival Toys

On most days, if my son has not left the house by 10am for either a walk, playtime at the park, or a few moments on the front stoop to watch the neighbors walk their dogs, I start to sense he might go crazy. He's an extrovert with a lot of energy and curiosity. And I try to make sure I provide as many opportunities as are reasonable for him to get out and explore our city. But, let's face it, no one really wants to take a walk when it's 20 degrees and freezing rain outside. So, there have been a few days these past few months when we've never left the house.

Here's my list of things that have gotten us through the Winter and kept us busy on the days when a walk around town is just not an option:

Balance Bike

Granted, this toy would not be as effective if my son were already a pro. But, since it's a new toy--his big gift for his second birthday in January--he is only just learning how to ride it and he moves slowly and carefully enough to ride it in our home. Our version of the balance bike is similar to the one shown in the photo and those available at this link, but is not labeled with a brand name. I purchased it on a whim about six months ago when I saw a listing on Craigslist with an unbeatable price for one made by "some European manufacturer" that the seller couldn't recall. (Local favorite Park + Vine sells a version, too!) Either way, we love the bike. It's very well made, looks great, and will be awesome for playing outside this Spring. Also, since the seat moves up and down, it could last us another year, easy.


My husband said his mother never let him play with Play-Doh as a child. She was an art teacher and her taste in materials was far too advanced for the stuff. Heck, I'll admit it. I would have never purchased it for my son. But, a friend gave it to him for his birthday and he ABSOLUTELY LOVES IT. I cannot overstate this: he's crazy over Play-Doh. I, on the other hand, cannot stand the smell of the stuff and have been hunting around for homemade versions to take its place. Since there are a million recipes online, I trust I can find a kinder-scented alternative. But, in the meantime, it's kept him happy for hours these past few weeks.

Library Books

One of my favorite things about living in Over-the-Rhine is that awesome cultural amenities like the public library are only a short walk away. My son's recent borrows include: a book about Curious George and a firetruck; Dino Parade; a really advanced "Learn German" read-along CD (which we laughed at and then put back in the bag to return on our next trip); Woodie Guthrie's New Baby Train; another adorable book to prepare him for being a big brother called There's Going to Be A Baby; and a book about tubas (at his request). The library isn't only good for books, though. We attend a storytime there on the Monday mornings when I don't work. And there is a computer for him to use (since I won't let him fiddle with mine). Even on cruddy-weather days, the 10 minute walk is bearable when we can spend a ton of time wandering around the library hunting for books for me and books for him. Sometimes we bring a snack; sometimes we stop for a snack on the way home; sometimes we wait until we get home and can crack open a new book while we eat our lunch. Either way, we try not to go more than two weeks between visits to the library to freshen-up on books for both Mama (sometimes Daddy) and son.

Sprig's Eco-Trucks

Last year, my mom purchased my son an amazing toy made by Sprig. This company produces toys made from "Sprigwood," a composite of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. The toys have no painted surfaces, minimal packaging, and don't require batteries for fun. I absolutely LOVED the toy she bought him last year and mentioned that she could purchase him as many toys made by the same company as she wanted. For his birthday this year, she brought him two more of their toys--the Eco-Trucks. Just like their predecessor, he loves them. Learning to manipulate the digger and dump truck's movable pieces has taken some time, but it has also kept him occupied and requires brainpower and coordination. Unlike some other brands of environmentally-friendly toys, we have been impressed by how well the Sprig toys roll and move. And I think they look super cool, too!

What about you?
What has helped you keep your kids occupied during cold and rainy stay-inside weather?

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