A TODDLER’S STOCKING FILLERS

And just like that, Christmas is imminent again. I am characteristically a last minute festive shopper; I have all the intentions of buying months in advance, but in reality I’m awful at decision making and spend way too much time ensuring that each gift is considered. I have definitely mulled over Madeleine’s presents more times than I can count this year. She is 19 months old, so her interests are changing and developing all the time. I really wanted to get her things that would grow with her, but would also allow her imagination to thrive; and that has been trickier than I thought since there is so much choice out there.

Part of our family tradition is to open gifts after lunch, so Madeleine has a stocking from Santa which contain things that she loves and will entertain her for the morning interim. I am utterly obsessed with my recent stocking find for her. It is handmade by Ruth from Gathers & Bows. She crafts them from Liberty of London prints and teams them with the softest velvet cuffs. The size is perfect to fill, and the finish is beautiful; you can really see the amount of time and attention that has gone into each piece. I love that this special stocking will become a part of her festive tradition, and will carry her through every childhood Christmas.

I have compiled a run down of my toddler’s stocking fillers, which I thought would be fun to share. I find these kind of posts really useful when I’m looking for age appropriate gift ideas, and I also love seeing how others celebrate Christmas too.

ALPHABET ANIMAL MATCHING

I have always tried to make sure that, where possible, there are opportunities for Madeleine to learn through play. I think that puzzles can be brilliant for this, because so many skills are required in order for them to be completed; fine motor, cognitive and problem solving to name a few. I love this alphabet pairing game from Wilko. Madeleine can place pieces together in simple two part jigsaws, so this puzzle will allow her to build upon that skill whilst also teaching her the alphabet. It will also help her to broaden her vocabulary, as it requires her to match up animals with their corresponding letter.

THE GRUFFALO SNAP

My daughter’s fascination for problem solving also inspired this next stocking filler. Madeleine has a number and shape puzzle which she almost instantly grasped, not because she recognises digits by sight, but because she can match colours. This game feels like a progression of that idea and skill, making it a brilliant development aid for her. As with any game of snap, Madeleine has to pair cards together. I love that each set has a coloured border so that those that match are easily identifiable. Madeleine loves the story of the Gruffalo, so I’m excited to see her interact with this tale again.

HAPPYLAND CHARACTERS

Madeleine is really enjoying role play at the moment. She loves to provide characters with individual voices, and finds so much joy in getting them to interact with one another. Early Learning Centre has a fantastic toy range called Happyland; these are sets of people, animals and scenery. Madeleine has a few already and they are easily her most played with possessions, so I was keen to add to her collection. I love that they encourage her to use her imagination, and also help to develop her language further. I chose two character sets; the first were farmyard creatures and the second a gardening family.

WOODEN SWISS ROLL

I recently found myself reading about the Montessori method of education, which has been really useful in terms of understanding Madeleine’s needs. The approach mentions that there are development phases that every child goes through; these are called ‘schemas’. By pinpointing which schema your child is in, you will be better equipped to supply them with toys and activities that build upon their current interests. When I observed Madeleine, I found that she was exhibiting all the behaviours of a transporting schema. She loves to collect objects together and carry them, and she adores pushing her pram. So, in response to that we bought her a shopping trolley and some play food for Christmas. This wooden swiss roll is a precursor to that gift; it cuts up into six little pieces, making it the perfect toy for her to gather up or push around with her other groceries.

POSTMAN PAT FIGURES

Anyone that knows my daughter, will be all too aware that she loves Postman Pat. In fact, her adoration for this program is so great that, whatever the public place, anyone and everyone is subjected to ‘Pat’ screamed at the top of her voice (and on repeat). It will come as no surprise then that one of her stocking fillers is dedicated to this postman. I found a set in our local toy shop which contains all of the main characters. They are a great size for little hands, and have moveable legs and arms which make them perfect for role play and sitting in toy vehicles.

CLASSIC FAIRY TALES

Madeleine has always enjoyed being read to since she was small. As a baby she loved books that were interactive, from flaps to lift to textures that she could feel. Now though, she has transitioned away from these and adores deeper stories. I came across a little collection in Marks and Spencer’s and thought that they were perfect for our bookworm. They have an entire array of short fairy tale classics to choose from, all of which are beautifully illustrated and written. I chose Little Red Riding Hood, The Princess and the Pea, and finally Three Billy Goats Gruff. They are great for her to listen to now, but also serve as early reader books too; they will be brilliant for her to read to us in the future.

What do you put in your children’s stockings? What did you have in your stocking when you were little? 

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READING WITH YOUR BABY: MY BOOK PICKS

I am sure I am not the first to admit, but when it was suggested to me that reading to my baby would be a great activity, I was dubious. How could this little human being, who has no understanding of what I am chanting at her or why, gain anything from this? Is it not a waste of time when she would rather grab, dribble and chew each beautifully illustrated page instead of looking at them? I have since eaten my words – the opposite is true! Madeleine absolutely loves being read to, in fact I would even say that it is her favourite mummy and daughter pastime.

Reading to Madeleine has been one of the best bonding exercises. I gain such a feeling of closeness from it: we snuggle up together in a blanket, and she sits happily nestled in my lap. That is such a saving grace for us, because now that Madeleine is so mobile it has become near impossible to keep her in one place for any length of time. I love that it comforts her too. Whether it’s tiredness or teething, I have found that if she is upset or unsettled, I can always reach for a book in the knowledge that it will calm her down, and maintain her interest. Amazing!

As Madeleine’s interest in reading has grown, so too have the number of hours we have spent trawling book shops and our public library. Shopping causes me to break out in a sweat nowadays, not because of overdressing nor a lack of air conditioning, but because I have a baby who views artificial lighting and cheesy music as an invite to scream hysterically. Despite this, and now dripping from head to toe, I can safely say that it was worth the effort; Madeleine has a collection of books that she babbles and rocks excitedly at, every time they emerge. I have gathered up a selection of mine and Madeleine’s favourites, which I am excited to share. I hope that these prove useful to any of you that, like me, now find that ‘browsing’ is impossible.

THAT’S NOT MY DUCK – FIONA WATT

Fiona Watt has recently released her 50th story in this series of board books, which comes as no surprise to me (being an avid fan myself). The pages are brightly coloured, and have big, bold illustrations to match. Each story focuses on the features of a particular being; that could be an animal, a mythical creature like a unicorn, or even a form of transport such as a tractor! That has proven brilliant for Madeleine’s language awareness, as she now recognises the same animal in other books when I use their name.

Without doubt though, Madeleine is most excited by the textured patches that can be found on different parts of the animal (for example), at the turn of every page. Her eyes are instantly drawn towards them, and her hands love grabbing and exploring every touchy-feely surface. Now that Madeleine is sitting and crawling, I often let her investigate these books on her own too; since they offer endless amounts of sensory stimulation. I think that these stories are a great investment, because they are fun and relevant for young babies through to toddlers.

WHERE’S MRS LADYBIRD – INGELA ARRHENIUS

Madeleine and I adore this series by Ingela Arrhenius. I remember vividly the first time that I read ‘Where’s Mrs Ladybird?’ to her, when she was four months in age. It was the only story (of countless that I had tried) that really grabbed Madeleine’s attention and ignited in her, a love for books. Each title follows the same clever format; there are five brightly coloured, carefully illustrated pages, and on each is a creature that is hidden under a luminous felt flap! I cannot stress enough how perfect that is for little hands. Madeleine happily grabs at the felt and explores its texture, whilst unveiling the animal underneath, and all without any card being ripped.

These books are great for developing minds. Ingela repeats the same key phrases again and again; ‘Where’s Mr … here he is’. I have seen such a change in Madeleine’s understanding of this. She has learnt to respond to these cues; she now waits patiently for me to ask where Mrs Ladybird is, before lifting the flap to see her!

By far my favourite aspect of these books, though, is the inclusion of a mirror on the last page. It is no secret that babies love looking at human faces, and that is so evident in madeleine’s reaction, every time she sees herself. The story always ends by asking ‘where are you?’, which is such a great way to help your baby understand that the reflection staring back at them is, in fact, their own. Madeleine and I may have read these countless times, and they are still as exciting as ever. I could write about how great they are all day but, in short, I would really recommend!

 

TALES FROM ACORN WOOD – JULIA DONALDSON

This series consists of four stories, all of which are written by the famous children’s author Julia Donaldson, who was the brainchild of the Gruffalo. These books are perfect for Madeleine now that she is heading towards her first birthday, because there is more of a tale to follow. The illustrations are beautifully detailed, and each page contains a little flap for your baby to find and lift. I love that each of these is a different size and shape, and forms part of the illustration; I think that it really helps madeleine to engage with the story. The only shame is that the flaps are made from card, so you may find yourself reaching for the Sellotape!

Aside from being visually exciting, these books are also written brilliantly for little, growing minds. Julia Donaldson uses rhyming couplets to make each of these tale’s fun and engaging. She also ends every pairing with a question, which I find so useful as a parent because it allows me to show madeleine how my words relate to the pictures on the page. I think that these, too, act as perfect aids for learning new words. Since the same characters are pictured and referenced throughout, it offers ample opportunity to repeat each animal name. In summary then, if you are looking to move your baby from basic picture books to stories, then this is a fantastic collection to have.

What types of books have your little ones loved reading? Have you got any recommendations? I would love to hear them!

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