Gift Guide:  Picks for Babies & Toddlers 2002

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It can be great fun buying gifts for babies and toddlers. The sheer quantity of toys and games available for this age group can be daunting enough to take the fun out of it, however. When it comes to toys and software, any parent will agree that there are wiser choices than others--toys that entertain and educate at the same time are ideal. Plenty of products are available that are exciting enough to give as gifts, yet still manage to encourage budding skills. Often, though, some of the best gifts are toys that inspire imagination and pretend play. So, while electronic teaching aids can be fantastic, basic building blocks and wooden puzzles are priceless. We've included topnotch software,  toys, videos, and audio products that little children will love receiving, and adults will love giving.

 

Toys


Top Pick Sorting shapes is a pleasurable activity for babies and toddlers. While there are many shape sorter toys on the market--both of the plastic and wooden variety--none are quite as satisfying and multi-faceted as this one. With the Secret Sorter, pleasing wooden shapes fit into a cloth bag in the matching slots. The cloth bag acts as a place to store the blocks, but it can also be used in a game of "guess the shape" in which toddlers feel a wooden shape without seeing it. The bag is reversible, allowing the shapes to be sorted by color as well. [Buy Secret Sorter at Amazon.com for approximately $17 US]  

Music Blocks has been on the market for a couple of years now. Though its price remains a little too high, it continues to impress us and any child (and parent) who come in contact with it. Toddlers compose music by arranging--and rearranging--colorful blocks in the electronic toy's base. The included cartridge allows each of the musical blocks to "play" a musical phrase of a Mozart melody. Placing a block on the base on its different sides produces different instruments that play the same musical phrase. Experimenting with different musical phrases and various arrangements (including violin, voice, woodwinds, and more) is a lot of fun, especially when the music sounds so rich. Though marketed towards kids ages 2-7, kids as young as 1 (with supervision) will find this toy engaging. Other cartridges are available, but be aware that they, too, are expensive. [Buy Music Blocks Composer at Amazon.com]  

Geometric Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle is a basic wooden puzzle that helps toddlers recognize basic shapes and colors. The see-inside puzzle helps children associate these shapes with things in the real world, and the large knobs on each puzzle piece makes the puzzle easy for the littlest of learners to master. While not as multidimensional as the Secret Sorter mentioned above, this puzzle is nonetheless worthwhile. [Buy Geometric Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle at Amazon.com for approximately $20 US]  

 

Sure-to-Please Software Games 


Top Pick If your toddler hasn't yet had the pleasure to learn to use the computer mouse with the excellent Reader Rabbit Toddler,
Reader Rabbit Toddler 2002 makes a perfect gift. Reader Rabbit Toddler is our favorite first software program--"first" in the sense that it is specifically designed to teach a young child to maneuver a mouse. [Buy Reader Rabbit Toddler 2002 at Amazon.com for approximately $20-25 US]

Another way to get the excellent Reader Rabbit Toddler (an earlier version that is still excellent) is by purchasing Fun & Skills Pack Toddler 2.0. Toddlers and young preschoolers will enjoy this bundle of 4 software programs. Besides the classic toddler title, another notable title in the package is Dr. Seuss ABC, though toddlers will need help with this one. Also included is Poky Little Puppy and the free-play creativity title, Crayola Magic 3D Coloring. [Buy Fun & Skills Pack Toddler 2.0 at Amazon.com for approximately $20 US]

 

Videos
 

While videos for babies were unthinkable not too long ago, all that has changed. A flood of baby videos have entered the scene, and they are now very much a reality. When used sparingly, these developmental videos can be very useful.

Top Pick Some of our favorite baby/toddler videos come from the Baby Einstein series. While the whole line is worthwhile, a few stand out. Baby Shakespeare, for example, features poems and rhymes and a myriad of other early learning concepts. Baby Van Gogh introduces children to the wonderful world of color and art. Baby Dolittle: Neighborhood Animals features familiar animals and their antics. Each video in the series features classical music excerpts, parades of toys, live-action scenes, and stimulating sights and sounds. Humor and surprises are sprinkled throughout. The variety in presentation of early learning concepts is impressive. [Buy Baby Van GoghBaby ShakespeareBaby Dolittle - Neighborhood Animals at Amazon.com]

Notable videos for this age group include the Bilingual Baby series (see our full review); So Smart! titles, which are artistic but low-key and best suited to patient children; and the Baby Songs series that will grow with your child all the way to Kindergarten! The latest Baby Songs title, Baby Songs: Silly Songs, is great fun. Children love this series that basically strings together live-action music videos with short animated clips that introduce each new song. Hap Palmer's songs are wholesome and gentle, but always manage to get kids involved. [Buy Baby Songs - Silly Songs, So Smart - Triplets at Amazon.com]

 

 Magazine Subscription, Just for Toddlers
 

Top Pick Wild Animal Baby magazine, from the National Wildlife Federation, is in reality not a magazine--it's a board book that acts like a magazine. When you subscribe, you get 10 board books in the mail per year. The content is fabulous--besides gorgeous photos of animals in the wild, there are finger-play activities, simple stories with gorgeous full-color illustrations, and more. All of these feature a nature theme that toddlers (and their caregivers) will thoroughly enjoy. Each book contains 24 advertisement-free pages. Best yet, a new high-quality book arrives 10 times a year. [Sign up for a subscription to Wild Animal Baby magazine at Amazon.com for approximately $20 US/year] 

 

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 November 2001                                                                                                      Comments? Email us.
 

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