Thursday, June 25, 2015

Favorite Summer Toys + Gear for Toddlers


Today is Pinterest Day for the Babywise Friendly Blog Network and we're all sharing on the topic of Summer. Follow us on Pinterest for more great tips, or check out the posts from the other ladies directly on their blogs.

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In anticipation of baby Mary's upcoming arrival, I've been thinking ahead as to how I want to manage Drew's time this summer. Toddlerwise talks about the importance of balancing your toddler's time between free play and structured play; today I'm sharing some of our favorite outdoor free play toys and gear. Once baby Mary arrives, the major change in Drew's daily routine will be spending much more time at home, which means less outings to the beach and park for outdoor play. Fortunately we have some great outdoor play spaces at my dad's house (where we currently live), so I've been busy setting up summer fun stations to keep him occupied over the next few months. Summer came early this year which means I've been able to test out the stations the past few weeks to ensure that the outdoor toys and activities we have on hand are going to keep him entertained for the long haul. So far, so good!

Note: You can find many of these items (plus additional suggestions) in the Giving it Grace Amazon Store.

{ Favorite Summer Toys + Activities for Toddlers }
{ 1 } Water play: toddlers love water play in any shape or form. We have a Step2 Water Table similar to the one shown above, and it's worth every penny (but do try to find a used one because they hold up great over time!). Last summer I also picked up a small hard plastic pool from Fred Meyer; I like the plastic over the inflatable because I don't have to blow it up or worry about it ripping. (photo source)

{ 2 } Sports equipment: anything goes in this category, so keep your eyes peeled at garage sales and local consignment shops. Drew has a random collection of sports balls that keeps him busy. He also likes the basketball hoop a lot, but only if you are there to watch him and applaud him when he gets the ball in (such a showman!). The golf club set is a hit because both my husband and my dad like to play golf, and Drew likes to be like them. So if Papa (my dad) has his golf set out then Drew wants to get his golf set out. My husband also really likes the little kid golf set, so he opts to play that often with Drew.

{ 3 } Hands-on activities: we have a plastic 3-drawer organizer in the garage that houses the sidewalk chalk, bubble machine and extra bubbles, and remote control cars. Those three activities keep him very busy!

{ 4 } Climb-on toys: whatever it may be, something to climb on really helps get the wiggles out. Some of my girlfriends have invested in small to large play structures, and this is something we plan to do once we have our own house with our own yard (unless you're giving us one for free...then we'll take it now!). For now this slide is enough to keep Drew entertained (I hope!) in the climbing department.

{ 5 } Pretend play toys: toddlers like to mimic what adults do, so when Papa is mowing the lawn Drew likes to get out his lawn mower and "help". We got this lawn mower from Zulily, but I always see them at consignment shops and sales. We also have a small toy rake that Drew likes to use to rake the driveway when he sees Papa sweeping - too funny!

{ 6 } Ride-on toys: anything with wheels! We have the Step2 wagon and use it frequently either for wagon rides or for Drew to just push up and down the driveway. We don't have a Cozy Coupe, but I know they are wildly popular for toddlers and I do hope to find one at a garage sale over the summer!

{ Favorite Summer Gear for Toddlers }
{ 1 } Sunscreen: always a hot topic for moms as soon as we have our first nice day - amIright?! I chose to go with Blue Lizard after reading the recommendation on Lucie's List and then looking it up on the EWG website. It's not too thick or too oily, and they offer all of their sunscreens in a variety of sizes. You can order directly from their website (which I do), or from Amazon if you need it Prime. I generally place a large order in the spring time and then stock our various sunscreen stations around the house and in the car.

{ 2 } Outdoor lounge chairs: We purchased two Tommy Bahama outdoor lounge chairs using our Costco rebate last summer, and I just love them. Maybe it's because I'm short and regular size chairs always end up hurting the underside of my legs after a few minutes? I couldn't find them on the Costco website but last week I saw that they have them again at our local Costco, so I'm guessing most Costcos have them in stock right now. (photo source)

{ 3 } Beach towels: always good to have lots of these on hand, and ones you don't mind getting dirty. I keep these scattered throughout the house and car to avoid wet and dirty feet needing to go upstairs to the hallway closet to get one. (photo source)

{ 4 } Outdoor blanket: somehow we have several brands of this same type of blanket, but the JJ Cole one is my favorite. It's easy to fold up, easy to carry, and easy to wash down.

{ 5 + 6 + 7 } Swim gear: Carter's is my go-to for Drew's clothes, and I've been happy with their swim gear. The shirt and shorts are both UPF 50+, so I put him in these when he's playing in the direct sun (along with the Blue Lizard Sunscreen - yes, it's my goal to make sure he's the palest kid on the block!). The reusable swim diaper I use when I'm taking him somewhere in public to play in water (like the pool or the splash pad). We cloth diaper, so it just made sense for us to also use the reusable swim diapers.

{ 8 } Hat: I've been training Drew to wear a hat almost since birth, and my diligence has paid off in that he never protests wearing the hat and thinks it's just a part of going outside - summer or not. I love the hat for keeping the sun off his head and out of his eyes (just gotta make sure to put sunscreen on his ears and neck!). I let him wear the hat in the water at the pool and at splash parks and then just hang it on the clothesline to dry overnight.

{ 9 } Waterproof shoes: I love Crocs for kids - they are easy to get on and off, easy to clean, no Velcro, and they protect his toes.

Whatever you choose to keep your little ones busy during the summer months at home, I recommend setting up several outside play stations if you have the space for it. I try to limit Drew's outside play to one area per chunk of play time so that he's not playing with all the toys everyday and then getting bored with them. Fortunately he's two and has no concept of time so this tactic works well right now! I look forward to someday in the future when we have our own house where I can really organize the play spaces for maximum use and then have all the neighborhood kids over for summer play all summer long!

Anything I missed? What are some of your favorite outdoor summer toys, activities, and gear for toddlers?

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