Our Favorite Toys at the Moment.

By: Jen Shoop

*Mini “fixing” micro’s ride-on Baghera with a tool kit.

It’s interesting how toys will fall into and out of favor with little ones. For months and months, my children played obsessively with Fisher Price Little People. Then they were heavy into Picasso Tiles. Now they are hooked on a couple of other sets that, interestingly, despite their nearly two-year age difference, they both thoroughly enjoy at the moment. (For reference, micro is 20 months and mini is just shy of four years old.) I think this is in part having to do with access/availability. I try to rotate their toys with some regularity, and often “invite play” by repositioning a set of toys somewhere new, like on our coffee table or the floor of our dining room, organized into color-coordinated stacks, etc. Below, a couple of toys that are in heavy use chez Magpie…

My First Safari Magnetic Animals. I’ve written about these before, but these are fun, re-configurable magnetic components that children as young as 12 months can safely enjoy. I’ve loved watching micro figure out which pieces attract versus repel one another, match the right color/shapes, and even learn what is magnetic in our home (I found him sticking these to the side of his metal diaper pail!). A cool (attractive) STEM toy that can be used a lot of different ways.

Melissa + Doug Wooden Wooden Bear Dress Up Set. Mini has enjoyed playing with these for awhile, and now micro gets in on the action, too — it’s not depicted well in the photo, but the top of the box has an indentation for the figure of the bear so micro has been figuring out that he must put the head at the top, then the arms and legs pieces next, then the legs. A very simple (three-piece) puzzle but with lots of different configurations. I’ve noticed he’s figured out which outfits “go” together by matching the patterns. When mini was younger, I noticed that the bear’s different expressions prompted frequent conversation about emotions with mini: “She’s sad,” mini would explain, pointing to the tear on the bear’s face.

Tinker Totter Robots. Super cute set of configurable robots that both children adore. Micro is actually quite good at putting them together!

Dinosaur Figurines. Great for imaginative play — and a good size for little hands. I like how realistic the figurines are, and mini has enjoyed matching each dinosaur to its page in the corresponding book. Micro just loves to pretend they are roaring at one another.

Duplos. My children spend hours and hours building towers and monsters and cars with their Duplos. A classic for a reason.

Melissa + Doug See and Spell. We primarily use this for letter recognition and, now, a little bit of sounding out words with mini. It’s also a great puzzle for little fingers, as the indentations are pretty shallow and it takes dexterity to get the letters to stay in place. I noticed that micro used to be frustrated by this but has learned fairly quickly how to manipulate the letters into place (after we give him the three or four designated letters for a given paddle).

Melissa + Doug See Inside Alphabet Puzzle. Another great letter recognition/alphabet song tool. We use the letters from this puzzle and the see and spell set for other activities, too, like sensory bins, letter tracing, spelling on the carpet, etc.

Tool Set. There are even cuter tool sets for little ones (love this pastel set, this wooden toolbox, and this workbench), but I bought these for micro back when he was just a year old or so, and these were the most age-appropriate. I have been surprised to find how frequently mini plays with this set, marching around the apartment asking what she can fix.

Musical Instrument Set. You’ll love and hate me for this recommendation — the whistles in particular haunt my dreams, but I love how much they enjoy participating in music with this set. We recently installed a HomePod mini in my daughter’s bedroom and nearly always have music playing in there, so these have come into heavy rotation for our frequent dance parties. (If I have to hear the “Freeze Dance” song one more time…)

Doctor Kit. Both children absolutely love this set, which mini received when she turned one.

Maileg mice. I’ve talked too much for too long about these darling plush toys, but they remain in good standing with mini, who has played with these since she was only a year old. (Micro is not as interested in them, though.)

What toys are your children into at the moment?

Note: Many of these toys first appeared in my roundup of slow-burn toys here. And if you are scrambling to find some Valentine’s Day treats for your little one, many of these books are still available for delivery by the 14th! I bought this one for mini and this one for micro.

Another note: I always get questions about toy storage solutions for little ones. I shared a lot of thoughts on that here, but wanted to point out that these stackable woven boxes (so chic!) are back in stock, and big woven bins like this ($10!) or this are great for corralling bulkier toys and stuffed animals.

P.S. Mini’s favorite book at the moment is The Anthology of Intriguing Animals, a gift from one of her loving aunts. We read about two animals each night before bed. She is obsessed with the built-in ribbon bookmark and loves the ceremony of finding the page. I have to say this has been a lovely development for me — the profiles on random animals are actually very interesting, and the images are incredible. It is also a welcome departure from reading Pick a Pine Tree and, before it, Goodnight Gorilla — she was transfixed by both of those books to the point that I think we read them every single night for a string of two months with only a handful of interruptions (!) Micro’s favorite books at the moment are The Bear Snores On, Some Bugs, and any of the Spot board books.

P.P.S. My favorite bedtime books for children here, and some of the hottest children’s books on the market right now here. On a related note, like many of you, I have worked towards a more diverse and inclusive library for my children this past year, and I think We’re Different, We’re the Same is my favorite of those recent acquisitions. It does a remarkable job of recognizing and celebrating differences.

P.P.P.S. Really cute clothes for a little lady.

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