Play & Learning: My Favorite Things for Physical Play

Last week I shared toys for manipulative play. This week I am going to continue sharing some of my favorite things with you! This time we are looking at toys for physical play!  Get ready to move!!!

Great Toys for Physical Play:

  • Balls While a ball is a favorite toy for me (and all the kiddos I work with) I do not have a favorite ball. It depends on the child I'm working with, their developmental skills, and their personality. There are balls with rivets that can help with sensory issues, balls that light up, ball that are huge, balls that are small. You pick! The one I'm sharing with you here is great for sensory due to the rivets, light weight, but it can also be stretched! Lots of fun things, but it's also $10. A child can have just a much fun with a ball from the dollar store.
  • Catch Me Crabbie How adorable is this crab?!? My aunt actually bought this toy for my daughter. I loved it so much, I've bought 2 more for Tiny Feet. Haha! When you press the button on his head, he plays a jingle & goes crawling across your floor. This is such a great gross motor activity! I use it with babies and toddlers, whether we're reaching for the toy, crawling, walking, or running after him! The activation button is great for cause and effect as well!
  • Pop Up Tunnel Kids love crawling in, crawling through and playing games such as peek-a-boo. Really the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. We pretend to be fish swimming in the river or a truck going through a tunnel. I use this with my crawlers, but the older kiddos love it as well! If you turn it vertically and hold it in place, your child can practice seeing how high her or she can jump!
  • Melissa & Doug Chomp & Clack Alligator Push Toy These little alligators open and close their mouths as your child is pushing it forward! Very durable (it's Melissa and Doug!) Perfect for that child who is cruising along furniture but not ready for walking independently! Really, any push toy is great, but this one is my favorite!
  • Push Mower I would say all boys love this toy, but really, all the girls love it too! It's a great outdoor toy for the back yard. It has a place for bubbles. The faster you go, the more bubbles come out! Perfect for the ones who are walking or just beginning to walk! It promotes more independence and working towards that faster walk/run.
  • Melissa & Doug Dust! Sweep! Mop! This set is lots of fun for your little one to "help" you clean your house. Model cleaning activities and they can follow right along with you! It's a great set for siblings because between the broom, mop, brush, and dust pan, there is something for everyone! Once again, it's Melissa & Doug, so you know you're getting a high quality, durable toy!
  • Slide with Stairs One of the skills I'm constantly asking parents about is, "How does your child do with stairs? Does he alternate his feet? Does he hold on to the rail?" A toy like this is a great way to make these gross motor skills play rather then routine. Through play, it becomes fun and children practice over and over again! And of course, you go up the stairs to get the reward of sliding down! Excellent reinforcer! The one I'm recommending also has a swing!
  • Balance Bike This one might seem a little scary at first, but really, a great way to teach your child to ride a bike. With a balance bike, you'll never have to worry about training wheels! You can look around at different designs; some are for children as young as a year and a half. The balance bike pictured is the one my son has. It has been great for us! If you make the purchase, know that is takes most kids a month to get the hang of it (and they just keep getting better)!

Each of the toys listed have a link to Amazon so you can see more details of what I'm recommending. However, as you guys know, I'm a thrifty lady, and I always shop around before purchasing!

We all know that for physical play, you don't necessarily need a toy. So here are... 

Some of My Favorite Activities for Physical Play-

  • A riveting game of tag! We run circles in our house trying to catch one another! 
  • Duck, Duck, Goose! While they may not completely understand, tapping each other on the head and running in a circle is always loads of fun!
  • Jumping in rain puddles! I know the Mom in all of us wants to hold back on this... BUT... Life is short, go put on your rain boots, and get a little messy with your kiddo! You won't regret it! The look on your kid's face will be enough.

What about you? What are your favorite toys and activities for physical play?

Play & Learning: My Favorite Things for Manipulative Play

While this is a really fun portion of the Play & Learning blog series to write, I feel I must begin with a caution. Some researchers are hesitant to recommend specific toys because there are so many factors present as to what is an effective toy for your child. Some contributing factors include- the personality of your child (and you know your child like no one else, certainly better than me), However, as an artist has his or her paint brushes, I have toys. For an Early Interventionist, toys are the tools of the trade. And I do have some that I love more than others. 

Last week, we discussed 4 different types of play: manipulative, physical, dramatic, & creative. Over the next four weeks, I'll be sharing my favorite toys of each of these types of play. This week, we are going to focus on my favorite toys for Manipulative Play. Each picture is hyperlinked to Amazon so you can see more details for each toy! Get ready to have some fun!

Great Manipulative Toys:

  • Links- These links are crazy cheap (Currently $1.89 on Amazon). They are excellent for a baby who is learning to grasp because of their shape and light weight! To top it off great colors for visual stimulation & a variety of edges for tactile stimulation! Later your child can use these for higher level developmental skills such as transferring the link from one hand to the other or reaching for a toy that is held up by a strand of these links! Really with these links the possibilities are endless.
  • Rattles- If you go to the store, they're going to have 15,000 rattles for you to choose from. The reason I'm sharing this rattle is you can hit a variety of skills with this one rattle- light so it's easy for young ones to hold, same great shape as our links which are easy to hold, makes a nice rattle sound when shaken, without being too loud, the egg piece & two movable links allow for child to spin or manipulate as higher level developmental skills take form.
  • Mirrors- A cheap $5-$8 mirror can be found at the local dollar store, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Turn it on it's side and mount to the wall in your child's play area. Make sure it's low enough that your child can see himself or herself. You child can pat the mirror, point to himself  or herself, point to body parts, or point to other people when named through the mirror. This is a great social-emotional activity for your child!
  • Wooden Blocks- We are big fans of Melissa & Doug toys at our house. They're (typically) wooden which makes then pretty sturdy. They're classic, colorful, and oh-so-much-fun! When it came time for us to invest in some wooden blocks, there was not question that the Melissa & Doug Wooden Blocks were the brand for us! Here is a brief developmental progression of how to use these toys (reaching to grasp, transferring the block from one hand to the other to get a new block, banging the blocks together, building a tower (try getting to 9!), making a train, and making a bridge!
  • Ring Stacker- When I found this stacker on Amazon while researching for this blog post, I was shocked to see that my favorite ring stacker is $21 when bought new. I would never pay that in a million years... However, I will maintain that it is my favorite because when you stack a link, the whole thing lights up and plays a lively song! It's great positive reinforcement for getting those links on and both of my kiddos have enjoyed bouncing to the music (pulling in that physical play!). I was able to find my ring stacker for $4.50 at Switch-A-Roos! So keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about!
  • Mega Blocks- Once your child is able to start connecting the over-sized prongs, he or she will be engaged in play for quite a while. These blocks are heavy duty! I've had my same set since I first started working as an Early Interventionist. If they get dirty, throw them in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning and you'll be all set for another round of play!
  • Shape Sorter- Shape sorters have a multitude of options. However, this hippo shape sorter is a ton of fun! I give my kiddos on shape to insert at a time and once they get them all in, they get to push the spinner watching the blocks go round and round until they fall out the hippos mouth! A variety of skills and so much fun!
  • Big Knob Puzzle- These big knob puzzles are so great for tiny hands! My favorite brand for a big knob puzzle is Melissa & Doug (...again...). We have the house, the barn, the fish bowl, and house pets. We LOVE them! My kids start out just pulling out all the pieces, and I use hand over hand to help them insert. As children grow older, they can match the picture of the puzzle piece to the hole in the puzzle. These are high-quality wooden puzzles that last and last!
  • String & Beads- Why string beads when you can string a farm??? ALEX Toys Little Hands String A Farm is sooo cute! Very colorful! And you can practice naming animals and their sounds while stringing them! 
  • Water Beads & Fine Motor Tools- These water beads provide SO MUCH FUN!!! They start out teeny tiny, soak them in water for 6-10 hours, and then they come out as these marble sized jello-like balls (though firmer). We gather all our tools- water beads in a nice sized bowl, some smaller bowls, spoons, and fine motor tools all contained on a baking sheet. The baking sheet really confines the mess because these little beads sure can bounce. All the children I work with and my own kids adore these beads. The wetness of the beads provide a great sensory activity and the fine motor opportunities are endless! 

What about you guys? Do you have any great recommendations for manipulative or physical toys that I might have missed? I'm always on the lookout for great new toys! I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

Play & Learning: Where to Buy Great Toys


I must confess... I am a bargain hunter. I do not like buying things full price, even if it is more convenient. I love the thrill of the hunt. Love, love, love it! And when it comes to toys for my children, I refuse to pay full price. The toy is either going to- break, get lost, or no longer be of interest. You will not see me buying toys from Toys R' Us or Target unless it is some crazy Black Friday 80% off screaming deal. So today, I'm going to share with you my top 5 favorite places to buy toys.

  1. Consignment Stores- The  #1 place I buy toys is from the local consignment stores in my community. If I have 5 extra minutes and I'm near one, I always go check it out. Now you have to know your prices and the quality (and by quality I do mean nicest toys for cheapest prices...) of the consignment store. Consignment Stores are certainly not all created equal (one down the street from me totally gouges prices). The Greenville area has some great consignment stores-

    • Once Upon a Child- I feel like I'm sharing my secret... But Once Upon a Child is my absolute favorite consignment store when looking for toys! I don't know how they do it, but they consistently have the cheapest prices for some pretty amazing toys. I've gotten Melissa & Doug wooden toys for $4.50. I seriously cannot say enough about this place... They have a wide selection of big and small items.

    • Little Pampered People- I love this store because they consistently have adorable boutique items as well. They are also very consistent with baby equipment.

    • Kids & More Consignment Store- Touted the largest consignment store in Greenville, but my favorite thing about Kids & More is that the price of items are reduced the longer they take to sell. I have gotten some excellent deals on books (I am obsessed children's literature) and toys!

    • Miracle Hill- Everyone has a Miracle Hill near them somewhere. I have found some great diamond's in the rough while perusing the aisle at Miracle Hill. Definitely worth the stop!

  2. Consignment Sales-  I would say that Consignment Sales are my favorite places to buy toys... Oh, all right... there's no doubt that Consignment Sales are my favorite places to buy toys. But the reason they didn't make #1 on this list is that they are only a couple days a couple times a year. If you are a thrill-of -the-hunt junkie like me, you will feel so pleased with all your prizes after going to a consignment sale. Here are some of my favorites for those of us in the Upstate-

    • Switch-A-Roos- In my opinion, Switch-A-Roos is the Taj Mahal of consignment sales. Total fan girl right here, guys. It's held bi-annually at the TD Convention Center (Greenville location, but they also hold a Spartanburg sale as well). Best part? IT'S COMING UP!!!! If you're a new mom, you can get in before they open to the public on Thursday, February 9th (you do have to sign up). Switch-A-Roos is open to the public Friday, February 10th.

    • WeeCycled Wear- This consignment sale is coming up March 17th-19th. Not nearly as big as Switch-A-Roos, but still a great sale with lots of great finds! This consignment sale is also at the TD Convention Center in Greenville. 

    • Upstate Kids- One of my favorite things about this sale is that it's offered in a variety of locations and provides something closer to those west of Greenville. This year, Upstate Kids is having sales at the Anderson Civic Center (March 16th-18th, also the biggest of the 3), Clemson Center Rec (April 20-22), and Seneca Shaver Rec (May 11-13). I've been to this sale multiple times and loved it! Once again, this sale is much smaller than Switch-A-Roos, but nevertheless, great is it's own right.

  3. Amazon- In the world of honesty, sometimes you know the toy you want/need & you don't have time to go look around for an amazing deal. And who could possibly hate on free 2-day shipping? Thank you for changing my life, Amazon Prime!

  4. Ebay- Right before I buy something off Amazon, I always price check with Ebay. Sometimes things are significantly cheaper on Ebay than other places. I am one who is not bothered at all by waiting a couple days to win an auction (I've gotten some great items for $1-3 by being a little patient), it never hurts to compare!

  5. Garage & Yard Sales- I love garage sales and highly recommend them. My best friend got an amazing vintage wooden kitchen for $50 once. The only trouble is that as a Mom, how often do we actually get to go get a coffee and peruse local garage sales? Certainly not as often as I'd like! Furthermore, you never know what you're going to find... You might find all kinds of bargains, but then again, you might not find anything after a whole day of exploring. But isn't that also part of the fun? 

Here is one photo of the rows upon rows of toys at Switch-A-Roos! Makes my heart beat a little faster!

Here is one photo of the rows upon rows of toys at Switch-A-Roos! Makes my heart beat a little faster!

Hope some of these ideas were helpful! What about you? Do you have places you love to find a bargain that I didn't share? I'd love to hear!