As a mum of 4, I have accumulated a healthy collection of toys and books over the years and I would like to share with you my favourites so that you can see what we value and have benefitted from, as the festive season is almost upon us. I have divided the list up into categories rather than age groups, as most of the items in the list are enjoyed by the majority the ages of children I have (which, at the time of writing, is 11 weeks, 2y3m, 4y5m, 5y11m). Please note: I have included some (not all) affiliate links in this text.
You just can’t go wrong with Duplo! This is a staple open ended toy that never fails to entertain all of my children. We have had a classic number train set since Benedykt was a toddler and it’s still going strong, with an additional small set added along the way.
Magnetic tiles are another fantastic open-ended toy. We first invested in some around 2 years ago, and I am so glad we did. At first, you might find the magnets are not as strong as you expect. But don’t worry, they are just the right strength for creating some fantastic temporary structures. I find, unlike Lego & Duplo, magnetic tiles constructions aren’t the type to keep out overnight and play with for a few days. But, both my boys think they are fantastic and they have learned to accept that they get put away at the end of a play session, or the constructs are easy to fall – that actually makes part of the fun! Plus, they are super quick and easy to build with anyway!
But which brand? Truthfully, you can’t go wrong. We have both Connetix & Magnatiles, and I know other brands are available. I would only recommend you steer clear of Amazon knock-offs, because not only do these carry risks of safety, and poor customer service, but you are also taking away the profits of an independent, hard working brand that have offered you safety assurance by fairly producing a safety tested product.
My best sensory toy is by far the Muffik mats we have from Happy Feet Playmats. We got the large set a few summers ago, and all of my children love to explore the textures of each mats. Sometimes I set them out in a line, or more of a rug shape for the children to explore near their toys, or if they are piled up on the shelf, the boys will often get them out and use them to make a stepping stone path, and play games like “the floor is lava” with them. Endless fun, and a lovely small business to support.
If you have a climber, like me, then you will love the Ette Tete Fipitri wooden indoor climbing frame. Pikler triangles, as they are often called, are a fantastic set up to have to encourage gross motor development, and to refine climbing and balance skills. My little gymnast, Otylia, has used this almost daily since we got it in the summer. She’s the kinda kid that climbs all over the furniture, toilet, kitchen counters, you name it. So, having the Fipitri available to redirect her climbing to has been a godsend.
The boys LOVE to use the Fipitri as a den. They hang blankets and fabric over it, and use it in combination with our play sofa to create elaborate assault courses. Benedykt, ever the actor, also uses the Fipitri as a backdrop for his theatrical plays he likes to imaginatively put on.
If you are looking for a Christmas gift that’s a little less toy and a little more academic or reflective, then why not look at the Happy Self Journal? Francesca, the creator behind the company, has developed a wonderful product for children to learn to become mindful, and to journal. We got Benedykt’s around a year ago, and it offers him a space to write about things we have done, or even things we would like to do. There are areas in the diary with activities too. They sell a couple of different types in a couple of different colours aimed at different age groups. Read more about Happy Self Journal on their website.
Practical life subscription box – Benedykt & Sylvester
While there are possibly hundreds of ideas for practical life items to gift your little ones, why not have a look at our past subscription box topic? In this box, you’ll get a child-size 5pc wooden baking set, a chef’s hat and apron, as well as a special edition Routine topic Montessori Learning Tiles. It’s a great box full of activities encompassing “practical life”, with enough resources to last a long time!
I can’t skip by the practical life topic without recommending our favourite children’s kitchen knives. Khun Rikon have developed a kitchen knife that has all the attributes of a “real” sharp kitchen knife, while keeping it sized and styled with kids in mind, as well as keeping the blade blunt but functional. We’ve had ours for more than 4 years and they are in use every day. Highly recommend!
By far one of my top purchases since I’ve had children is our Yoto player. The Yoto offers so much, where to begin? It delivers a young child technology while keeping them screen-free, it offers them the world of audiobooks- from fairytales to fiction, to real life podcasts & non-fiction, all of my children would hands-down tell you the Yoto is the BEST. For 1-2 year olds, they have the magic of learning how to use the device independently- cause and effect for the win! We have enjoyed the Yoto radio, daily podcasts and enormous collection of audiobooks every day for years.
Other features of the Yoto which are just the icing on the cake are: it can be a Bluetooth speaker, (the main Yoto) has a nightlight and visual alarm & clock feature, you can listen to a huge range of radio stations, they have dual language and language learning cards & stations.
Not sure whether to buy the original Yoto or the Mini Yoto? See my Instagram story about this here.
The Chameleon Reader is a nifty device that is ideal for pre-readers and also bilingual children. Coupled with Benedykt & Sylvester Montessori Learning Tiles, children can explore topics by themselves with the very clever system of stickers. Simply apply stickers to book pages or learning tiles, assign recorded audio to those stickers and then your child will be able to independently listen to those recordings.
Benedykt & Sylvester are now proud UK stockists of the Chameleon Reader.
We have SO many books, so I am limiting my recommendations to 4 categories. I only buy fiction books that are relatable and realistic - i.e. we don't like unrealistic characters (like talking animals).
Non-fiction - Magnificent Animals
Relatable fiction – Shirley Hughes Alfie Gets in First
Early reading - Jolly Phonics Stories
So that’s a round-up of what we already own and recommend, but what have I got for each of my kids this year?
Benedykt – Age 6 years
Sylvester – Age 4 years
Otylia – Age 2 years
Olympia – Age 3 months*
*Being the 4th baby, there’s really no need to get her anything else!
Please let me know if this has helped you or do come and find me on Instagram to ask any questions!
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