B. One Two Squeeze Blocks

B One Two Squeeze BlocksThis is a great set of toy blocks for baby or toddlers. These blocks are soft enough to squeeze and squeak while sturdy enough to stack. The 10 colorful blocks have cute pictures of animals and numbers on each block. BPA free and safe for baby to chew on when teething.

Blocks are great for early imaginative play and these serve as a simple early educational toy as well with colors and numbers 1 through 10.

Mini Golf Course Toy by Step2

Mini Golf Course Toy Step2Check out this great toy Par 3 Mini Golf Course. So cute and so fun! It’s made by Step2 which is well known for their high quality plastic outdoor toys and playsets, so you know this is good quality. Suggested for kids age 2 years old and up, this toy can be setup indoors or outside in grass or concrete. Kids can arrange the pieces a few different ways so that they can create different patterns and obstacles. Comes with 2 putters and 2 golf balls.

Kids love to play with toys that imitate the activities they see parents and adults do. This is a great gift for the little guy or gal who wants to be golfer, “just like Dad”.

LeapFrog Scribble And Write

LeapFrog Scribble and Write Learning Toy The LeapFrog Scribble and Write is a great learning toy for kids 3 years old and up who are learning to write their ABC’s and 123’s. Great for Pre-school kids, this toy is durable and great to keep in the car or for learning at home.

My Pre-school age kids have logged many hours with this toy.

Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter Set

Hot Wheels Wall Tracks Starter SetWe tested out the How Wheels Wall Tracks with one of our favorite 5 year old boys. We used the “Starter Set”, but there are other sets too which can be combined together to create an even longer race track.

Setup and installing the track to the wall was easy and “parent friendly”. The track comes with 3M Command stickers that are used to tape the track to the wall. That means no holes or drilling and it will be easy to take the track down later. The track has brackets that get stuck to the wall and then the track pieces stick into the brackets. This means that even if kids play rough with the track, the track just pops out from the bracket (no wall damage and easy to just pop the track back into the bracket which is still secure on the wall).

This track has a high fun factor. There are multiple diverters that can be adjusted to make the race car take a different path.

Here’s a video of our 5 year old playing with this track.

Overall this is a great toy and fun race track.

Compassion International

Every Christmas Season since starting this toy review website in 2008, we like to take a brief break from talking about the best toys for kids and instead direct attention to a worthy charity.

Last year we wrote about Compassion International. Compassion is an organization that allows you to commit to monthly giving to support a specific child in need. My family has supported two kids through Compassion for a few years now. You can read what I wrote about Compassion last year here.

Some of you may not want to commit to monthly giving, but would be willing to make a one time donation. Compassion has provided a list of real needs that can be met for a specific dollar amount. So it’s not just giving a dollar amount into a fund and you never know what it goes towards. You can give $10 toward garden seeds to help a family grow their own food. Or $30 towards school supplies.

Or my favorite, give a Chicken for $16. That’s right, a chicken is more than a meal to a family living in poverty. It can provide a source of income, manure for a vegetable garden, and a steady supply of eggs. This gift helps a family to put food on their table and provides them with earnings.

If you would like to make a one time donation and see the full list of gifts, you can do that here.

Toddlers and Computer Toys

LeapPad and BoyI just read an article in the USA today that asks the question, “Do toddlers really need computers to learn“?

The article makes the case that young kids have too much “screen time” and not enough outdoors time. That may be true as a trend in the US, but to me, that’s really a parenting issue more than a problem with a certain type of toy or technology.

One of the hottest new “screen toys” this year is the LeapPad by LeapFrog. I listed it in my list of the 20 Top Toys of 2011. Every time I’ve been at a store and browsing the toy aisle this holiday season, the LeapPad is sold out, so I know demand has been high for this toy.

I’ve also written previously about my kids experience with the Fisher Price iXL vs. the LeapFrog Explorer. These are great electronic learning toys for young kids.

The LeapPad is suggested for Kids 4 years old up to around 9 year old. So it really isn’t a toddler toy. I’d have to agree with that. My Pre-school age kids love their LeapFrog Explorer and Fisher Price iXL — but our 1 year old don’t play with these toys much if at all.

Personally, I think that these educational toys are great. My young kids also certainly love to spend time with my iPad and playing games on my iPhone. Many of the games we let them play have an educational value, while some are “just for fun”. As parents, we make sure to limit “game time” or “screen time” (including tv) so that our young kids are getting enough exercise and “real world”, not just “virtual world” play time.

So overall, I have to disagree with the USA Today article and I think that these “computer toys” are great for young kids. But just like everything else, it’s most important for parents to monitor what their kids are doing and provide boundaries and guidance all along the way.