Guide to Choosing Age Appropriate Toys for Babies to 9 Year-Olds (By Guest Blogger, Katie Santos)

In addition to getting safe toys for kids, it’s also important that kids have toys that can help with their developmental and motor skills as well. Whether they are a few months old, or a few years old, children’s brains are constantly progressing and we must recognize which toys fit which stage of growth.

Although kids develop at different stages, it’s essential to help them stimulate their mind as they continue to grow. To help you find the perfect gift for a child, Gifts.com put together a comprehensive list of toys and activities for babies and kids up to nine years old. In order to provide children with the proper gift, it’s essential to learn the developmental stages.

From birth to five months old, babies are beginning to grasp objects and show emotion. Everything is new to them, so soft toys and textures are ideal.  

By six to eleven months, babies can now use their fingers and hands at the same time. They enjoy banging things together and throwing objects, and also need to be introduced to constructive play.

A one-year-old can stand by themselves and might be able to eat on their own. They are at the point where they want to investigate everything, and imitate sounds you create. Any toys that can stimulate motor skills and memorization skills are great for this age, such as non-toxic markers or shape sorters. 

Two-year-olds grow quickly! They want to run away, play hide and seek and enjoy interacting with others. Focus on toys that require physical strength for your two-year-old, to give them both language and social skills.

When it comes to a three to six year old, they have more strength and coordination skills. Since they have control over movements, get toys that strengthen muscles and stimulate their brains.

By seven to eight years old, your child knows the concept of cause and effect, and can write full sentences. Since they are willing to learn, introduce science toys and educational board games for this age range.

For nine years and older kids, they are becoming more independent than ever, and are beginning to face academic hurdles. Encourage your child to read, as it stimulates imagination, communication skills and vocabulary.

7 Unusual Gift Ideas for Children (By Guest Blogger, Luke Douglas of Ripped.me)

Are both you and your kids bored of the same old gifts, such as teddy bears, plastic robots or car models? If the answer is yes, then this year get them something a little bit more unique and creative. There are so many different things in toy stores and it can be quite hard to make a choice, so we made a little guide to make your decision easier. Take a look.  

Cool night lights

No matter how old your kid is, a cool night light will always come in handy, whether it’s used to scare away the monsters or simply to provide them with some soft light to show them the way to the bathroom. Your kid will sleep safely knowing that the force from a lightsaber night light is there to protect them or illuminate their way through the house.

Memberships

If your kid loves going to the zoo, aquarium, museum, theatre or music concerts in your city, why not give them a membership card as a present so they can visit it as much as they like. This gift will not only give you something you can regularly do together, but it will also allow them to get interested in something more serious. Do you have a big family? Not a problem!  These places usually offer a “family rate” with a discount.

A piggy bank

If you want to teach your kid a valuable lesson in life, but want to do it discretely, you can use a gift such as a piggy bank to help them learn how to manage their finances. Help your kids learn budgeting and saving skills and teach them about responsibility and ownership. There are piggy banks in all shapes and sizes, but the ones that stand out are those with separate compartments. One can be reserved for spending, one for saving and one for pocket money. You can even put some money in the bank just for starters.

Musical instruments

Music has such an important role in every human’s life. Even though listening to music is essential, creating and reproducing sounds, melodies and rhythms is even more important. You can go as little or big as you like, from some small maracas and recorders to a larger guitar or keyboards. Playing an instrument is not only super fun, but it also inspires creativity and shapes both mind and spirit.  

Something to track time

Not only does wearing a watch make your kid look super stylish, it also helps them develop their sense of time and gives them more independence. Knowing when something will happen or knowing what it means to have an hour to complete a task can be quite an empowering and encouraging feeling. Another great time-tracking gift is a calendar. No matter the design or print, it will help them keep track of birthdays and important events. It’s a great gift for kids in the 6-9-year-old range who are still developing a sense of longer time periods and who want to know exactly how many days there are until the end of school, when someone’s birthday is or how long it is until that family trip.

A skateboard

Kids love skateboards. They do not only provide them with some physical activity while spending time in the sun and fresh air, but also have other health benefits. They will keep your kids fit and strong; help them build confidence and new friendships. Get your kid a board like this fun Bart Simpson skateboard that’s light and perfect for their little feet. They’ll love to show it off to their friends and cruise through the neighbourhood and around the skate parks. Get them some protective gear to match and let them sk8 on.

A digital camera

This amazing gift will give you a chance to see the world through your child’s eyes and give them one of the greatest gifts in the world: the gift of discovery. If you’re worried about the price, you’ll be happy to hear that there are brand new digital cameras for as little as $60, but you can also look for some used ones for an even lower price. There are also cameras specially designed for kids, but if you get them a “regular” model, you’ll actually get a better and longer-lasting product. You can maybe even throw in some photography classes as well.

As you can see, there is more to gifts than simple toys and money. Get your kids one of these unique presents and watch their faces light up while they unwrap their surprise.

Author: Luke Douglas of Ripped.me.

Images are taken from pexels.com and pixabay.com.

Dear Holly: The Pink Unicorn Your Brother Won for You at the Fair

1 year, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend we made our annual visit to the Williamson County Fair. Your brother Jack had entered an amazing picture of a sheep so we enjoyed seeing it on display. But really, his main agenda was to get over to the carnival games. Thanks to Nonna and Papa being in town, his “game allowance” was a little padded.

While Jack definitely enjoyed throwing darts at balloons and picking up “lucky ducks” in the water, he tried out a new game that was just right for a 1st grader boy. He used a cork gun to shoot green Solo cups off of a shelf. Inside some of the cups were special markings, which determined the value of the prize he would win.

After much consideration of the prizes, he ended up choosing a small white tiger stuffed animal. However, he had earned enough points to win a larger prize instead. But he liked the face of the small one better, so he didn’t mind choosing a less valuable prize; because to him, the smaller tiger was more valuable.

Once the man in charge of the game realized Jack’s decision was final, the man looked up to you in Mommy’s arms and said, “Well, since your brother didn’t take the bigger prize he won, I’m going to let that pretty little girl have a prize too!”

Mommy and I checked out on the prizes available. There was an undeniable, obvious choice…

A pink unicorn!

You were so happy to get your prize. And truly, it’s all because of your brother Jack.

So the way I see it, he won you a prize at the fair. I know that made him happy.

What also made him happy was the samurai sword he won from the “lucky ducks” game.

Love,

Daddy

American Plastic Toys: Study ‘n Play Desk & Chair and School Bus Ride-On

Since the beginning of the summer, it has been a daily routine that my daughter and I go outside on the back porch and play golf, thanks to American Plastic Toys sending us their outdoor sports equipment for children.

With fall is on its way and now that the new school year has begun, American Plastic Toys sent us some more goodies; this time for inside.

Little Holly now has a little chair and desk for to play on, as she watches her older brother Jack sit down to do his homework after school. And actually, Jack has been using the chair to sit on as he puts on his socks and shoes each morning before we leave for school.

Plus, Little Holly also has a tiny school bus to ride on or push across the floor.

I love seeing her pretend to be a bus driver as she practices getting herself into the seat, and that once she finally is able to, it’s as if she reminds herself, “Hey, wait… I can move this much faster if I just stand behind it and push it!”

Of course, her older brother likes to push her, too. I am amazed at how she is willing to be pushed so fast. Really, she should like going that fast, but she’s all about adventure; so it all works out in the end.

The bus is just the perfect size for her. She has another pushing/riding toy, but this new one is the ideal height for a 15 month-old little girl. It’s also very light, which makes it very easy for her to turn around as she pushes it back and forth from the living room to the kitchen.

And of course, as the name implies, American Plastic Toys are actually made in America! Imagine that.

Dear Jack: Today was Your 1st Day of 1st Grade and You Were More Than Prepared!

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

It was exactly 30 years ago in 1987 that I started 1st grade, with my spikey mullet haircut and my neon shorts and shoes. Meanwhile, you had much better style this morning as Mommy and I sent you off for your first day of 1st grade.

You literally just got back last night after spending 10 days with Nonna and Papa in Alabama. And the very next morning, it was time to start 1st grade. You didn’t even meet your teacher yet, though Mommy and I did earlier this week.

As you and I were in the car this morning, I attempted to help explain where your classroom is in the 1st grade hallway, but you stopped me, “Daddy, I already know where it is.”

And I thought, “But how? How could you know where to go and what to do and what to expect?”

It simply serves as another reminder that you are one confident little boy. I feel like most of my boyhood consisted of me not knowing what to do, no matter where I was or what was going on.

No. Not you.

Even when I dropped you off today, I hugged you and said a little prayer with you, then you smiled and waved. You then immediately joined the other kids in the class.

I sort of walked away backwards to make sure you weren’t looking back for another wave from me.

Nope.

This doesn’t make me sad. This makes me proud.

I love the confidence you have. I have a feeling that years from now when you begin Junior High, it won’t be that awkward for you, the way it definitely was for me.

Here you’ve spent the past 10 days in a different state, then came back only to immediately begin a new school year.

You are one cool kid.

Love,

Daddy

How Metallica’s Song “Prince Charming” Explores Parenting Gone Wrong

Metallica’s now 20 year-old song “Prince Charming” from their 1997 Reload album, is told from the collection of perspectives of unfortunate people who have ended up in undesirable situations as adults; being deemed disappointments and/or threats in society.

They are self-described as junkies, prostitutes, sufferers of suicidal tendencies, and potentially dangerous loners. In other words, they are the kinds of social outcasts who Jesus seemed to care so much about; which in turn infuriated the religious zealots.

The chorus of song presents an unexpected twist, as the focus is turned to the parent of that social outcast:

“Hey, look, it’s me! What no one wants to see.

See what you brought this world… Hey Ma! Look, it’s me!””

It’s a reminder that even the people who are seen as lowliest in the world, still had parents who to some degree, had a major influence on how that their child would group up; for better or worse.

One of the reasons Metallica has become one of my favorite bands is that they are able to expose our conscious minds to the darker side of morality, especially in songs like “Sad But True,” “Devil’s Dance”, and “Am I Savage?”

I enjoy the challenge of these kinds of songs; as they serve as a subtle yet blunt reminder that life is not simply as “right or wrong” as we would like for it to be. This is evident in popular TV shows like Breaking Bad and Lost, where even the good guys struggle with being bad guys themselves.

The older I get, the more I understand how truly imperfect I am as a human being. So there’s definitely some irony in the fact that I am responsible for morally leading two young children.

Imperfect adults parenting imperfect children. I suppose there’s a learning curve in there for all of us.

Dear Holly: You are Very Serious about Riding the Electric Princess Scooter

1 year, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

I honestly don’t even know how it ended up at Nonna and Papa’s house, but what I do know is this, you’re sort of obsessed with the electric princess scooter they now have for when you visit.

Last Saturday while I was filming a video of Nonna explaining how she makes her Italian vegan soup, Mommy was outside with you; pressing the gas handle for you and helping you steer.

(video)

You loved feeling the breeze blowing through your hair. You loved being able to drive down an actual road, as opposed to the living room carpet you’re used to at our house. You loved the freedom.

Once it was time to come inside for lunch, you got very upset. Here you had just made this amazing discovery, and now you had to forsake it!

So later that day, I took you back outside to your glorious new ride. Mommy wasn’t joking when she had warned me how much you loved that electric princess scooter.

It’s funny because the thing is so small and low to the ground, yet moves pretty quickly for what it is, I had trouble keeping up with it, as I awkwardly hunched over while holding on to the gas and helped you steer.

Fortunately, you gave me a break right about the time I really started needing it. You decided you wanted to push your electric princess scooter down Nonna and Papa’s driveway. So let you.

I followed behind you, though you didn’t really need me at that point. You had it all under control.

As I watched you push the scooter, it was like seeing the equivalent of a teenage kid who gets their first car, then proudly spends time washing it, when they could be driving it.

My little girl is serious about riding! Hey, I can dig it.

Love,

Daddy