A few things my wife and I recently discussed as really being the best gifts/things we ever received/purchased for our Catherine (outside of her car seat and miniature kitchen which both count as necessities in my book).
- The Learning Tower-http://www.sensationalbeginnings.com/Item--i-F-3-699X I thought this thing was just a super safe step-stool at first but it has quickly become a real learning tool and way for me to include my daughter in everything that goes down in the kitchen. The tower enables me to happily oblige her when she says “I want to help!” I include her in everything from meal preparation (she mostly just mixes ingredients I’m not really using and pours liquids from one container to another) to “washing” plastic containers and metal bowls we refer to as “dishes”.
- Swing Chair- http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=2384&e=product&pid=45667 Would never have been able to take a shower without one.
- Dog (Newfoundland)- http://www.ncanewfs.org/ Our Dog Lulu is Catherine's absolute best friend in the world (next to our neighbor’s daughter Sophie)…also read somewhere that pet dander helps children develop a healthy immunity and resistance to allergies...not to mention the fact that our dog is much more efficient under the kitchen table than a Roomba.
- Badger Basket Stackable Toy Bins- http://www.target.com/p/badger-basket-three-bin-storage-cubby-white/-/A-13849987#prodSlot=large_3_25 A place for everything….and now she is responsible to sort all her toys and put them back in their appropriate place. Really a gift for everyone.
- iPad- http://www.apple.com/ipad/ From Face Time with grandparents to math and language games…this also keeps her entertained in the car, on the potty, at a restaurant…and we, surprisingly, have not had any difficulty limiting her exposure to TV/iPad time to under 2 hrs./day.
- Bouncy Balls- http://www.alibaba.com/productgs/528105899/Plastic_Balls_for_Playgrounds.html You know those 8.5” bounce balls you see stored in wire cages at the supermarket and Toys R Us? Well, I could remember being a kid and always thinking it would be cool to have a whole room full of them (perhaps a result of watching Richard Pryor in “The Toy” more times than I could count). I was grocery shopping one day and randomly decided to buy a whole shopping cart full of them. When I realized that the balls were on sale for 79 cents and that the whole cart only cost about $8, I decided to fill another cart and bring home 20 of those balls…which looks like a lot more when they’re all over the foyer. We had so much fun bouncing, kicking and tossing those balls all over the place the night I brought them home! We ended up putting them in Catherine’s playroom along with about 60 helium balloons for her birthday party… which was immediately dubbed “Balloons Room”.
- Seaside Sidekicks’ Sand Cupcakes Set- http://www.melissaanddoug.com/seaside-sidekicks-sand-cupcake-set Colored Plastic Cupcake Sand Molds that we first saw these at the Westin in Grand Cayman. Catherine showed interest in playing with another child (for the first time) who was playing with these plastic cupcakes at the pool one day so we picked up our own set at the gift shop the following day. They not only serve as our go-to beach or pool toy, but also as the perfect icebreaker at playgrounds with sandboxes.
- Simply Hero Boys Superhero Cape and Mask Set- http://www.sears.com/search=simply+hero+boys+superhero+cape+mask+red+super+hero+cape+costume+toddlercatalogId=12605&autoRedirect=false&storeId=10153&yikes_prod=true The best five bucks we’ve ever spent! Picked it up as an impulse buy at Wal-Mart and turned into Catherine’s costume our (almost) daily game Catherine invented called: “Super Bunny Saves The Day!” …and a more productive game that Daddy invented called: “Rescue the mail from the mailbox!”.