Friday, July 18, 2014

Favorite (Affordable) Toys for the 2-3 Year Old Boy

Good morning!

HAPPY FRIDAY! It's a day to play the music louder, to take a moment to dance a little, and to choose joy - regardless of circumstances. Mmmmm I feel it rising!

Well, this post is going to be a little different for me. I've just wrapped a five part series on girlfriending (here's part one, part two, part three, part four, and part five) and this morning, I NEEDED to write something light and frankly, something that didn't require me to pray a lot before typing! Ha!

So - what is the obvious choice for my topic of writing this morning? Toys for boys, of course! It's not a type of post that I consider to be in my wheelhouse but here's the deal: Liam is about to turn THREE YEARS OLD!!!!!!!! How did that happen? Can't wait to write about that precious man-child soon. I am always looking for great leads on toys that tap his imagination and prompt him to deeply play. So - this is going to be a run down of some of our top toys over the past year.

What qualifies as a top toy? First, it must be a repeat offender. It must be a toy that he goes back to again and again even if he takes a break from it for a while. Second, it must be $50 or less. We do all of our toy receiving at birthday time and Christmas. The $50 limit keeps things reasonable and many of these top toys are far under that price point.

Don't expect this list to blow you away with genius idea after genius idea! These are no-brainer toys that have been big hits at our house - not revolutionary approaches to play time. And many will be just as applicable to girls! The list is not in order of most wonderful to least wonderful. It's just a comprehensive list of what we've loved over the past year.

Let's GO!

1. Jumbo Dinosaurs by Learning Resources

These have been GREAT. Liam adores them and went a straight three months playing with little else. He continues to play with them often. When I say jumbo, I do mean jumbo. These are not hand-sized - they are more like fore-arm sized (a two year old fore-arm that is) and the quality and details are solid. Highly recommend!

2. Mega Bloks (Duplos)

The large size of the blocks is helpful for little hands but still teaches the concept of sticking things together in order to build. It's been very cool to see how Liam's building skills have developed over one year. Now he builds things that really look like what he wants them to be! Planes, rockets, Lightning McQueen.... but of course!

3. Diggers!

This toy could not be a better value! This set on Amazon goes for about $6. And these diggers have been a fixture in our play lives since the moment they were opened. Great great great.

4. Melissa and Doug Fireman Outfit

Melissa and Doug ANYTHING is a winner in my opinion. So far, this is the only role play costume we have but we are getting ready to add more because Liam has used this outfit so much. From a young two to an almost three year old, this is relevant and so much fun to watch him play with.

5. Giant Cardboard Blocks

LOVE these. It's great because these are truly made of cardboard (require assembly) so if one gets hurled - it's going to hurt a lot less than a wood block. Yikes! In my experience with being a boy mom thus far - things are going to get hurled occasionally. I love the size of these because they can easily build a tower that is as big as they are and then fall into it without getting hurt. Lots of Daddy and Liam towers have been built with these.

6. Train Set

We have loved Thomas and all things trains for a long time. This particular train set is great because it has some intricacy and lots of generic trains, cars, houses, trees, etc included. 100% compatible with all Thomas trains so it's a win! Also, I'm a huge train table fan - if purchased used. These things are monsters and expensive new. We bought ours on Craigslist for $50 instead of $120-$150 new. Get one that has drawers - very useful.

7. Reusable Sticker Books

REUSABLE STICKERS!!!! Thank you Melissa and Doug. Liam loves stickers. But it irritates me that stickers are so expensive and done after one stick on the page. These are the opposite - they are able to be used again and again. Each pad comes with five different big scenes with coordinating stickers (train stickers go with a train station scene). It's a little work to put it all back together again....but this is way to go for stickers. And hello - at $7/pad it's a great deal.

8. Hero Bath Toys

This is my favorite for bath time. We use these every single time we take a bath and Liam loves them. They can be a little pricey if you think about them being bath toys but Buy Buy Baby is the place to purchase if you have a coupon. In this case, a better deal than Amazon. Elegant Baby makes many different theme sets and they are all great!

9. Curious George Books

We have all kinds of books and Liam loves to be read to. But these Curios George books are on the very top of my list. We have seven different CG books and I love them for a lot of reasons. First, the stories are a great balance of simple/complex. I think they have pulled him along in terms of listening to a story but the illustrations are so great that if he doesn't follow all of the words - he knows exactly what's going on by the pictures. Plus, the stories are precious! Second, hello price point. Amazon sells the paperback versions for $2-$3/book. Can't beat that. We plan to add more and more to the collection.

10. 100 Bible Stories

My Mom and I found this Bible at Easter this year. Actually Liam picked it out! He instantly gravitated towards it and he loves it still. It takes the Bible stories and puts them into an easily understood story for toddlers. Plus it has great illustrations and a take away point or message on the corresponding page. We have a few other toddler/kid Bibles but this is the one he really likes.

I hope this is valuable! The last year of play time with Liam has been fascinating. A lot happens between 2 and 3 years old! Hey - pass on what your favorites have been. I am always looking for more ideas.

Happy weekending y'all! And happy playing :).

Lots of love,

Friday, July 11, 2014

Girlfriending Part Five: It's Never Too Late

Blog Friday strikes again!

My brain is tired today...maybe it's the small man-child I'm providing housing for in my middle or perhaps it's the five hours of sleep I got last night. Mmmmmmm last night. Let me tell you - what happened last night couldn't have given us a better back drop for this last post on girlfriending.

College brought me some of the dearest girlfriends. The dearest. For quite a few years after college we were so good at getting everyone together for a weekend once a year. Here'a pic from one of those weekends - five years ago.

Last night, we were all together again. It had been quite a few years since we had all gotten together! I may be wrong, but I think it had been four years since all of us were in the same place at once. I wish I had the group pic on my camera but we used another camera. Pic to come later :). Here's a few shots of us last night:

Now first, I should say - these were pretty random shots. Perhaps not our most flattering moments....but still a moment to treasure.

Last night reminded me so clearly of one of the most important things I've learned in girlfriending: It's never too late to reach out.

In this case, we hadn't lost touch, it was just that we hadn't been able to make a face-to-face reunion happen. But then Heather emailed and said 'We're having dinner! Get here.' So we got there. And just like that - the four years disappeared as if it had only been two weeks since we had last been together. Heather hosted us in her delightful abode with a delicious meal....and then to top it all off she prompted each of us to share updates of our lives as they really are - the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty. All it took was a bee in Heather's bonnet and we were back in our groove. We spent three hours sharing life stories together in honesty, tears and laughter. It just took a Heather.

It just took a Heather.

Those moments are actually some of the most pivotal in whether or not girlfriends make it the distance. There are some friendships that are meant for a season and it's maturity to know how to identify those and graciously let life happen when the season is over. But there are many that may not work in one season, but are a true delight when they are rekindled in the next. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in girlfriending is to trust your ponderings.

If it's been a few years, a few months, many years, or many months, but all of the sudden you find yourself thinking about her, do something! Text her, call her, email her, do something. It doesn't mean you're signing up for starting to get together every means the connection is worth rekindling and even a small amount of reconnecting may be all that's it's about.

Be the big girl. Be the one who's willing to reach out. Be the one who's willing to apologize. Be the one who's willing to say 'come to my house!' Or - as I have learned over and over again - be the one who's willing to drive four hours to her city just to get some face-to-face time. Be the one! I can guarantee you - you will reap what you sow. Or should that be 'what you sew?' LOL! I'm going to stick with my original 'sow.' But just know - that I know I may be wrong :).

As wives, daughters, moms, aunts, friends, etc. I'm not suggesting that our lives be driven by girlfriending. In fact, we all know that there comes a point where too much of a good thing is just too much. BUT I am suggesting that there's a time to sacrifice for it. There comes a time to make it a priority. There comes a time to go the extra mile. There comes a time to say 'Okay, it's been too long and I am thinking about you and I will be the one to break the silence and jump back in.' There comes a time.

Friends, your time spent reading these words humbles me. I am so relieved to get this series off of my chest and onto the screen. I hope to revisit these posts over time because I am fairly certain most of these thoughts have been half-baked at best. Hopefully I will continue to learn and be taught and will be able to come back to revise some of these concepts as they mature inside of me.

In closing, may I take a moment to encourage you?

I encourage you that healthy girlfriending is something that God does have for you.

I encourage you to take heart and have courage if the point of all of this is that He wants to bring out more health in you before healthy girlfriending becomes a big part of your life. It will be worth the journey, I assure you.

I encourage you that you can change.

I encourage you that He wants to keep teaching you and He wants to keep teaching me how to have His heart in girlfriending. The more in touch we are with His heart, the better these girlfriend things go.

And finally, I encourage you to take a step. I encourage you to open yourself up when you see signs of health in someone else. I encourage you to be the kind of girl/woman who makes others comfortable in their own skin. I encourage you to be one who speaks life and calls out life in others.

Girlfriending is one of God's sweetest, most challening, and most rewarding gifts to us. Let's have the humility to say that there IS a lot to learn about healthy girlfriending. And let's jump onto that road of continued learning together.

May your weekend be full of grace and encouragement!

Lots of love,