Building A Toy Collection With Purpose

Before I had children I had a few loosely held ideals about the kinds of toys and the volume of toys I wanted my children to grow up with.  I want toys that are fun and engaging, but help promote age appropriate cognitive and physical development.  I want toys that can be manipulated in multiple ways, and can serve as a catalyst for a growing imagination.  I don’t want so many toys that my children become overwhelmed with choices, and think they are always deserving and needing the next new thing. I don’t believe in getting a new toy every time we go to the store or just because its Monday.  I believe in rotating toys to maximize toys so they are “like new” and are looked at in a different way the next time they show up in the playroom.  I believe a little boredom is OK.  It often sparks the best ideas and adventures through creativity.

While controlling all of the factors that go into a growing toy collection is impossible (we are blessed with many family and friends that love our daughter!), I do try and be conscious and mindful (when I’m able) of the kinds of items that make our way into home.  Whether it is the few items we wrap up for certain holidays, or a toy here or there I know will fit perfectly with her current interests and growth, there are several areas I try and hit on.  All focusing on different cognitive skills sets and motor development.  While the list is not comprehensive and could surely be organized in different ways, I thought I’d share some of the areas I try and build on.  We’re still working on ours! If you’ve got a birthday or special occasion coming up, it may help fill a gap or two in your own collection!

INFANT – Because infants use all of their senses to make sense of the world around them, the key is incorporating as many of them as possible. Think different colors, different textures, different sounds, different motions, and different ways to grasp and hold.  Mirrors are also a big hit!


SHAPE SORT – Promotes fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial relations, problem solving, and as they get older.. learning their shapes!


BUILDING BLOCKS – Could be blocks for stacking and balancing, or blocks that fit within each other. Its open ended thinking, and will be a classic for years and years.


CLOTH AND BOARD BOOKS – There are a million and five reasons to start reading with little ones from the get-go, but also try and find books with familiar shapes, pictures, and items.  These will help with recognition and the basic ideas of language. Interactive/sensory books with different textures are also a hit!

PUZZLES – start small with a few pieces (shapes, animals, etc) that have large knobs to grasp. As they get older, work up to more pieces with more intriguing and challenging pictures and configurations.  Promotes problem solving, fine motor skills, and hand eye coordination.


NESTING/STACKING – Cups, rings, boxes, shapes, etc




MUSIC – xylophones, little pianos, tambourines, symbols, drums, maracas, etc. The different movements required and different sounds through cause and effect are great to experiment with



ACTIVITY CUBES – Most activity cubes offer an array of options for different fine motor skills.  Pushing, pulling, sorting, and sliding all in one!


BOOKS – Yes, I listed it above.  Yes, I’m listing it again.  Books! 🙂

ARTS AND CRAFTS SUPPLY – Start with the larger markers and crayons that are easier to develop grip strength, and eventually move to our standard sized items.  You never know what route some crafts can eventually take, so start compiling a supply of different papers, paints, sponges, markers and crayons (all washable! everything washable!), cotton balls, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, an artist smock (to try and save some of their clothes?), googly eyes, glue sticks, poms of all sizes, etc. (Obviously make sure whatever supplies you use are age appropriate – no choking please!)



PUSH, PULL, AND RIDE – Once they’re sitting, make sure you start to get ready for pulling up and walking with the assistance of a push toy.  Low rise riding toys are also great for gross motor development!


PRETEND PLAY TOYS – A lot of times you can scrounge things you already have in the house to help build this collection. Try and think of every day tasks or items we use that they can use safely to build imagination.  Play phones, kitchen sets (try with food, utensils, and a grocery cart), a work bench, dress up clothes, medical kits, brooms and vacuums (child size!), cash registers, dolls and animals, puppets, etc.  Help them learn to master every day tasks through imaginative play.




WATER – This includes bath toys or outdoor toys for nice weather days. Let them fill, empty, and splash! A lot of times household items will do just fine.  Think of big spoons and bowls!

SIT TO CRAWL TO STAND – I love toys that allow for growth with the child.  Whether its legs that come on and off a pull-up stand toy, or a toy that has areas for sitters, crawlers, and standers, they last a long time and can be used in many ways.


GROSS MOTOR FOR TODDLERS – Sand boxes, low ride toys, tricycles, low climbing toys, balls of all sizes, sit and spin, scooters, push lawnmowers, bouncers or ball pits, mini trampolines, etc.

USE OF BOTH HANDS SIMULTANEOUSLY – A necessary skill for many pre-school/kindergarten type activities. Help build that skill with toys that require both hands to be doing something at the same time, even if its just one hand holding an item while the other manipulates it.  Think wind up toys or something like a Mr. Potato Head!


EDUCATIONAL TOYS – These can vary greatly, but could include things like large letter flashcards with pictures, toys that teach letters, animals, animal sounds, shapes, etc, baby sign language materials, Leapfrog readers and writers, counting toys, bilingual toys, science kits, etc.


BE MINDFUL OF GENDER ROLES & COLORS – I’m a firm believer in exposing both boys and girls to a lot of the same toys and opportunities for play.  While we may have always dreamed of having a twirling princess or a star football player, those may not be the kind of children we raise.  Tayler has her dollhouse and a kitchen set, but she also has a tool bench and a 5 in 1 sports complex toy.  And while choosing all masculine or feminine colored toys can be fun for your first, if you choose to have more children that end up being of the opposite sex, you’ll want several gender neutral options.


If you’re family is anything like mine, they are always asking for ideas for holidays and birthdays.  If you’re anything like me, you have no problem giving them ideas (while never expecting any of it!).  If that sounds like you, check out Babylist.  I’ve used it for Tayler’s baby registry, holiday ideas, and birthday ideas.  It puts any item from any store into one central location that is easy for family members to look at! Plus, its free!

Enjoy play time with your children! 🙂




An Exaggerated, But Not That Exaggerated Day Inside the Head of Today’s Moms

One of my biggest frustrations as a mom in today’s overloaded information age is the endless stream of hazards, studies, chemicals, toxins, and recalls we are continuously made aware of.  It’s incredibly easy to feel like every single decision you make carries immense weight, and everything you do or give your child during the day has potential hazards involved.  Article after article about children’s products pour through my social media feed each day, and to keep up with it all is utterly exhausting.  Is the study valid? Is it a real concern? What is a safe alternative? How can I make the best choices without breaking our budget? I swear some days I consider going back to work just so I can pay for a research assistant to help me sift through the crap and get down to what  really matters.  While I’m thankful that we as moms today have information available to help keep our children safe, I also sometimes think a little ignorance is bliss.  Generations before us didn’t have access to all of this information – yet somehow, they survived and thrived?

In honor of this daily struggle I wanted to write about what it looks like in the head of today’s moms.  It’s not all to be taken seriously, but some days it sure feels close.  Finding that balance between staying up to date on products and practices and keeping your sanity and focus on what really matters is no easy task. To all you moms that make decisions every day with nothing but your children’s best interest at heart and cross your fingers that it all works out, I applaud you and adore you.

My body naturally rises at 6 a.m. Before I muster the energy to get out of bed I quickly sift through my news and social media feeds, which always contains something about child safety. First up is an article about infant and toddler mattresses emitting toxic chemicals our little ones breathe in all night.

Because who should ever test those to make sure they’re safe? I peek at my daughter on the monitor sleeping peacefully with her bottom in the air. Look at how sweet she is… just soaking up toxins through that cute little nose.  Son of a B. 

I’m ready for the day, and she begins to stir upstairs.  I get her cup ready with some milk.  Having recently read about BPA free cups being just as dangerous due to substituting with unregulated chemicals and carcinogens, I fill it reluctantly.

What the F am I supposed to do? Pour the milk straight into her mouth? Here you go, sweetheart.  Drink up out of your toxic sippy. 

After her milk we head to her playroom to work out some morning wiggles and get an appetite for breakfast working.  As she plays contently with her play food at the kitchen set, I can’t help but look around at what an apparent danger trap the room is.

Hmm. She just climbed up and stood on the back of the chair to play with the blinds and cords. Should probably replace those.  That shelving unit needs mounting.  The outlet covers she now picks off with ease need to be replaced with something heavy duty.  Oh, and those are a choking hazard now. Half of that basket of teething toys have been recalled due to choking hazards… should probably throw those out, too.  There’s her old Bumbo.  The queen bee of fall hazards.  Where were people putting their children while in this seat?!  There’s the jumper she once loved, happily bouncing her way up to projectile spit up.  I just read that those are “amputation and fracture” risks.  YIKES? Clearly this room is not fit for children. Let’s make some breakfast and go play at the park.  

I cut up some toast, wash and chop an apple, and get her some organic fruit smoothie.  I eye the baby food pouch, but get sick thinking about the video I just saw of someone finding live larvae in one of those pouches.

The bread is whole grain, that’s good right? The apple isn’t organic, but I washed it, soooo? Hopefully that’s good enough? Naked brand just came out with the fact that their wholesome smoothies contain other ingredients and chemicals that aren’t listed.  Is this one legit? Here’s to hoping? Eat up, pumpkin.  

I clean her up, get her dressed, and change her diaper.

How can I still use these Kirkland wipes from Costco without letting that article I read about them getting a low safety rating creep into the back of my head?  I love these wipes! 

I grab her bag and go to put her in the car seat.

Chest buckle at armpit height. Check.  Shoulder straps perfectly on top of shoulders and can’t pinch them at all.  Check. Fleece on, but its really thin, so that doesn’t really break the big coat rule, right? Sure.  Check.  Still happy rear-facing. Sweet.  Double check. The fact that we paid for a top of the line car seat and still deal with safety recalls.  Really flipping pisses me off.  

We get to the park filled with children of all ages.

I wonder if anyone else saw that article about people taping small razor blades all over equipment at playgrounds to intentionally hurt children? Hopefully this one is blade free. Of course it is, Erica… chill.  

I do a quick scan of all adults at the playground.  Obviously looking for the creep that the news always tells me will surely be there.

Kinda creepy.  Could be creepy.  Definitely creepy.  Did these people come with children?!

Tayler is happily playing, and being the paparazzi mom that I am, I snap a few cute pictures of her playing.  Our family digs them.

Wait. Shit. Did I turn off the location service for my phone camera? I don’t need any of these creeps knowing where we are all the time. THEY WERE ABLE TO MAKE MAPS OF KIDS’ BEDROOMS WITH THAT STUFF. 

After some fun-filled park adventures, we come back to the house for some lunch and a good nap.  I take her upstairs to her room to lay her down.

Crap. I haven’t washed out that cool-mist humidifier in awhile.  I think the max you’re supposed to let it go is a week.  I’m pretty sure its been like seven.  Noise maker on.  But not too close to her or too loud.  Those are apparently a noise risk now? I’m pretty sure dad’s TV volume level and our dogs’ barking take care of that already for her.  Her breathable mesh bumpers are pushed down a little low.  Oh well, I’ll leave them.  Despite her full body control, I’ve been taught to be terrified of those things. 

She wakes up rested, but a little grumpy from her three teeth trying to push through.

Can’t use baby Orajel.  Can’t use teething tablets.  Our pediatrician said those teething necklaces leak arsenic. Hopefully a low dose of Tylenol is safe.  Here babe, chew on this frozen washcloth. I’m so over this.  

We decide to head back outside for a walk in her new push car.  I opt out of the Bjorn, because I guess those don’t support her hips enough.

I knew I should’ve gotten an Ergo. 

Before I put sunscreen on her, I’m left feeling guilt ridden again. I had just read that most popular sunscreen brands are actually full of harmful chemicals.

Well which is better right now? No sunscreen and turning her fragile baby skin to leather? Or putting it on again before we can get over to Target and buy a “safe” baby brand? Get over here lady.  Let’s lather you up.   

We enjoy our walk and play in our court for awhile, and then devour our string cheese snack.  We head to back yard to kick a ball around.

God our yard looks like hell after this winter.  I’m assuming we can’t use fertilizer? What can we use? Anything? Rely on all the dog poop that needs to be picked up? Shit.  This yard is a minefield of poop.  We can’t be back here.  

So we head back inside for a little bit to play in her danger room.  Followed by what I can only hope was a somewhat safe and nutritious dinner.  We eventually head up for bath time.  We just ran out of our Burt’s Bee’s Soap, so I grab some Johnson and Johnson from our baby shower stash we accumulated.

Is this stuff safe yet? How obnoxious.  Formaldehyde? Really? Maybe just this once? I need to invest in Honest Company stock.  

Pajamas on. Books read.  Lights out.  Milk drank.  Noise maker on.  Rocking into sweet dreams.  She’s sleeping safely and comfortably in my arms.  But I dare not fall asleep with her, because apparently that’s too dangerous.  Pshht.

Whew.  We made it through another day in this battlefield.  I shouldn’t be called Mom.  I should be called Master Crisis Averter.  Or Doctor of Danger Assessment.  I guess Mom will do for now.  

I lay her in her crib, kiss her goodnight, and quietly close the door.

Shit.  I wonder if she’ll be ok with the blanket I left in there? 












The Registry Motherload – A Must See!

For many first time moms (and even second or third time moms!) knowing what products you’ll need and can rely on for baby can be quite overwhelming.  We have so many choices available today, which gives us power as a consumer.  But as much as choice is a blessing – its also a curse.  How are you supposed to know what’s good and what’s not?! Have you read how different all reviews are?! And if you’re a first time mom, its hard knowing out of the million products what you’ll actually use and what will end up taking up space in a closet.

So, I consulted my Momtourage.  A group of 37 smart, resourceful, and savvy women who are first time moms like myself with children around 1 year old and under.  True warriors in yoga pants. 🙂 We shared and discussed all of our absolute must-have items – the things that made our life as new moms that much easier.

We are not product experts, we have not tried every product out there, this is not a comprehensive list, and we realize every mom and baby is different – these just worked for us and I hope you find some use in it! 🙂

The first thing I want to talk about is the baby registry itself.  Instead of going to a few select stores and registering for only their items, a few of us used Babylist and absolutely LOVED it.  On Babylist you can register for any item, from any store, as long as it can be found online.  All items, all on ONE website.  Its free, organized, and is set up like a normal registry.  It shows the price of certain items at different stores so buyers can get the best price, and you can put a message under each item explaining what you’ll be using it for.  I had items from Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us, Target, Amazon, IKEA, Etsy (decorate that nursery exactly how you want it!), and other independent websites.  Babylist now even has its own smart phone app so items can be added anywhere, anytime.  Oh and did I mention its FREE? (I am not a paid endorser of Babylist – but Natalie, if you’re reading this – I’m open to talking about it!).



Their new mobile app


Now that you’ve got the website to use, below I’ve complied our list into easy to use categories.  And yes, I even linked some of the items for you with a description or how we used it if necessary.  Pretty awesome, right?


  • The overwhelming favorite here was the Rock n Play.  Used as a bassinet by many for the first few months – LOVED by all. The Summer Infant Napper was another favorite!

  • A wrap or carrier of some sort.  Many of us have either the K’Tan or the Ergo.  Great with newborns for skin to skin, closeness, and getting stuff done around the house when all they want is to be with you.  They offer different positions for carrying as baby grows.  A must.  Personally, we also use the Bjorn a lot now that Tayler is bigger.  Feels more structured and sturdy.
  • Many of us found use in a pack n play.  Us c-section moms especially loved the ones that had the changing table on top. The one I used is linked below and worked well for having downstairs (naps & changing table), and rarely needed for travel. One of our moms that travels all the time and has tried several different ones HIGHLY recommends the Bjorn pack n play. Super light, no bars, and very soft and comfy! A little pricey, but if you’re on the go all the time – worth it. Also linked below.

  • An overwhelming amount of our moms use the Chicco Keyfit 30 travel system.  All of them love it and would highly recommend it.  All Britax car seats are also recommended – a little pricier, but worth it in safety and construction.—fuego/05060796970070.html?cgid=gear_travel_systems#gclid=CNTJ44GtvboCFeY-MgodAgYAFA&selected=bcKK6iaagYFgwaaac9PXhYxHls&start=4&cgid=gear_travel_systems

  • If you’re a runner or an outdoor enthusiast and you know you’ll be logging lots of miles once mom and baby are ready, the BOB joggers (especially with the infant attachment) are the heavy favorite.

  • The Britax B Agile stroller was another favorite.

  • If your budget is a little tighter on the car seat/stroller/jogger situation, I would recommend the Baby Trend travel system I got.  We loved both the car seat and the jogger!{keyword}

  • A play mat for those first developing months.  A soft pad to lay on with vibrant colors, textures, and toys to reach for.  A soft place to practice tummy time, coordination, and eye and brain development.  There are so many of these that would do the job just fine, but many of us have the Baby Einstein, and can vouch for its quality.  Some of us also loved the Kick and Play Piano.  Grows with baby from laying down to sitting up and so much fun!

  • An exersaucer.  Once baby is able to hold up their head easily, its a great place for baby to play and learn and strengthen core and neck muscles while giving you the assurance of knowing where they are.  Among other things!  Like the play mat, there are several great options out there but our group can vouch for the Baby Einstein (are we keeping them in business?).


  • The heavy favorite here is the Medela Pump in Style double electric breast pump.  This is an area to splurge if you plan to breast feed for awhile.  Especially if you plan on working and pumping.  All LOVE this pump.

  • Bottles can really vary depending on the needs of your baby, but a favorite is Dr. Browns.  Those bottles also hook onto the Medela Pump in Style listed above.  A double bonus! Several of us used Avent bottles and love those as well.

  • Gerber cloth diapers! Not used as cloth diapers, but as burp cloths/every day clean up cloths.  I bought two ten packs and use them all, all the time.  They absorb well and wash up nicely.  A must for all those messes!

  • Tommee Tippee Bibs.  Their neckline is unmatched – absorbs everything! Great for excess drool and messy eaters!

  • My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow.  We decided it wasn’t necessarily a “MUST”, but many nursing women get a pillow and this was our favorite.  Unlike the Boppy, it goes around your entire waist to help ensure correct posture while nursing, which keeps you relaxed and breast feeding a success.

  • Fresh Food Feeders.  We’ve found these to be more helpful when those pesky teeth begin to pop through, but you can put fruits, veggies, or ice chips in them for baby to gnaw on.  Our babies LOVE THEM!!!

  • A high chair.  We had two favorites.  Moms loved the OXO high chair – modern, comfortable, versatile, and grows with baby till 5 years of age.  A little pricey, but worth it.  If you’re like me and don’t have any extra room in your kitchen for another chair, I went with the Space Saver.  It can recline in three positions for infants, and turns into a booster to grow with baby as well.  Stick it on top of an existing chair and you’re set! (Plus, can’t beat that price!).

  • Lansinoh Products.  If you’re planning on breast feeding, a must.  We used the lanolin, breast pads, and gel pad soothers.  Loved them all! Keep your milk makers happy while adjusting to nursing!


  • Burt’s Baby Bee entire line! Shampoo, lotion, diaper cream, etc!

  • Blooming Bath for those first few months.  It turns any sink into a soft and cozy bath for baby.  Hang it up when done!

  • PUJ tub

  • A cozy swaddle towel for those first few months.


  • Homedics Noisemaker.  Great price.  Great sounds.  Great night light.

  • Diaper Genie.  Great price. Works well.  Gets the job done!

  • A great chair or glider.  We all have different ones, and for good reason.  Its a personal choice.  Splurge a little here.  You will spend a lot of time in it and you’ll be glad you chose well!
  • Baby Monitor.  The moms that have one without video said they wish they did, so if you’re able – get one with video.  It’ll keep you from getting up and peeking in all the time! There are two main monitors people loved, and while they do a lot of the same stuff, the difference is in how you envision using it and what aspects are important to you.  If you’ll have a lot of other people using the monitor, go with the Motorola MBP 36.  The moms LOVE IT.  I’m a stay at home mom, so we went with the Withings Smart Baby Monitor.  It turns your smartphone into the monitor and you can get live feed into your baby’s room from anywhere.  Literally.  Anywhere.  Think about how you’ll use it, and see what’ll work for you!


  • The HEAVY favorite here is the NoseFrida aspirator.  When I registered I was freaked out by the mechanics of it, but the moms assured me no boogies can get in your mouth! When they are stuffy or sick you want something that gets the job done!

  • A humidifier – most work just fine!
  • Nasal Saline drops or these swabs linked below

  • Safety Gates.  Most baby proofing items for outlets and cabinets are pretty cheap, but if your house will require a few gates for safety, I’d put them on the registry.  The good ones can be quite pricey and add up quickly if you’ll need a few!
  • Johnson Safety Swabs.  They are thick in the middle to prevent going in the ear too far.

  • Diapers.  Between us all I think we’ve tried them all.  Seriously.  The general favorites are: Papers Swaddlers and Target brand Up and Up diapers.  After trying almost every kind of diaper, the Up and Ups are the only ones that could contain my daughters dirty explosions and overnight wetness.  They are my favorite, and friendlier on the bank account!
  • Some of our moms also really like Honest Company diapers and products as well as Baby Bear Shop.  Worth checking out if you want to go a more natural/organic route with your products!

  • During the winter I swear by Babyganics Kissy Face Lip and Face Balm.  Only a few bucks, but it works great during the colder months for dry lips and faces!


  • JJ Cole Bundle Me. During the winter this is a MUST! It’s not safe to layer up baby in the carseat, so this allows you to keep baby warm safely.  It fits great, washes up great, and is oh so snuggly!

  • Go Pod.  A lifesaver! Super light, packs up quickly, and is great for travel! I even use it in my house when I need to “contain” her in different areas of the house!

  • Ciao! Baby Highchair.  If you travel a lot or know grandma and grandpa’s house won’t have a high chair this is your answer.  Like the Go Pod it folds up like a normal chair and takes up very little space.  Vinyl top for easy clean up and normal straps for safety.  Awesome!


  • Aden and Anais Swaddle blankets.  Lightweight, big, comfortable, and hold a good swaddle.  A little pricier than some swaddle blankets, but the extra few bucks is worth it.

  • Halo Sleep Sacks.  Especially the newborn swaddler one to start.  That thing will hold a swaddle for even the toughest of escape artists!  If I had to register over again, I would get at least one sack per size with what the weather will be like in mind per size.  They come in the thicker fleece, and the light and breezy cotton.  Carters also makes One Size sleep sacks that are a hit as well!

  • For the colder months, these two items below come highly recommended!

  • Carters body suits.  Get a bunch of the plain long sleeve/short sleeve/sleeveless body suits for every day play and as undershirts for different outfits.  They save your cute clothes from diaper disasters, add an extra layer of warmth when its cold, and keeps their belly covered when wearing t-shirts (among other things!).  Great quality, great fit, great price.

  • Onesie extenders! Keep your baby in some of your favorite bodysuits longer with a onesie extender.  These fit on Carters, Old Navy, Gap, etc.


  • You’ve seen Sophie the giraffe everywhere, and its for good reason.  Its the perfect developmental/teething toy.  Kids LOVE Sophie, and is worth the $20 (hard swallow, I know, its a lot for a little toy!).

  • Baby Einstein DVD’s.  Let me be clear when saying I am not encouraging you to just sit your child in front of the TV all the time.  BUT, these DVD’s are visual crack for most babies, and can bring them down from a tantrum or give you 27 minutes of uninterrupted time to get stuff done if needed.  I would start with Baby Mozart and Baby Beethoven, then move up as baby gets bigger.  These DVD’s are also very visually stimulating with different colors, movements, and sounds – all great for development!

  • Edushape 6×6 foam playmat.  Ok so this one isn’t a “must”, but I love it for several reasons! Not only is it cute, but its a soft, large area that cushions the blow for the million spills and falls your baby will take as they learn to sit, crawl, and pull up (especially if you have all hardwoods or tile).  As they age, the mats can be taken apart and put into big blocks for fun.  And as they get even older, its just another tool to help learn letters and numbers.

  • Winkel by Manhattan toys.  Some of our moms swear by Manhattan toys! This one is easy to practice grabbing and more importantly – gnaw on!

  • A few of the pull-down toys for car seats, strollers, etc.


  • Wubbanub.

  • Honest Company and iBaby Feed apps for smart phones (not something to register for, but something to consider!)
  • Baby Briefcase.  Keep all those important documents in one place! Fits right into a normal file cabinet as well.

  • Pacifier Clips.  Oh, do these help!!

  • Atlas Band for recovery after baby


  • Milk Trays.  Eliminates frozen breast milk waste as you can store it in one ounce sticks to put in any bottle.

  • The Woombie.

  • Molar Muncher for teething.

  • Bath tub divider–648239.html

Anddddd done! As I mentioned before, every mom and baby are different and everyone has different price points to work within.  Hopefully this list helped you get started, gave you some ideas, or at the very least gave you some things to consider.