If you have a toddler son (or nephew, or grandson) you can appreciate the fact that these little mini-cavemen require a LOT of energy. Because I had a girl first, I was unable to truly grasp the vast chasm that is the difference between boys and girls. I also have a very boy boy who is obsessed with all things sports, transportation, and pretty much anything that one would think of in the stereotypical BOY. I have been focusing on raising this said boy into a good man here, because sometimes it feels overwhelming.
My son, whom I call “Bear” in the blog world, turned two in late April which adds words (and sound effects) to our busy days. During the school year we have pre-school, but the summer is just me and my kids
and a glass of wine, so I have to be ready for a combination of Princess Fashion Shows, riding bikes, playing with play-dough, and having a sword fight all within the span of 15 minutes.
Because our house had a lot, I mean a LOT, of pink, lace, and generally glittered paraphernalia poor Bear was relegated to some very feminine play for a very long time. With time and gift-receiving occasions his Boys Toys collection has grown substantially. There are a few favorite items that we could not live without. Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep Bear
from driving me crazy occupied.
1. OUR PERSONAL ALL-TIME FAVORITE: If we were playing the “If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have one toy for each of your children, what would it be?” game, my answer would, without pause, be the balance bike. This is my favorite for several reasons, chiefly that it keeps Bear (and his sister) occupied for soooo long. The concept of this “bike” is that it teaches very young children (who would otherwise not be able to bike) how to balance, which, as we all can remember (some of us still have the scars to show for it) is the most difficult part of bike-riding. For years parents have given kids bikes with training wheels, which does help them learn the idea of steering and pedaling, but leaves out the whole notion of balance. The balance bike allows them to move the bike with their feet, so that they can decide the speed at which they wish to travel, and also gives them the ability to stop any time. The bike steers just like its grown-up counterpart. Bear has learned to “run” his feet super fast, building up speed so that he can lift up his feet and coast (yay, Gross Motor Skills!), which is what supposedly makes it the best way to teach a child to ride a future “big-kid bike” with pedals. I found my on sale at Zulily, but I know they sell them at specialty toy stores and bike stores, as well.
2. BEST INVESTMENT: We love our fully-enclosed trampoline. It is the fastest and most efficient way to get a ton of energy out in a fairly short time. Bear constantly asks to jump and we change it up by putting in those mini plastic play balls or large beach balls… Even little jumpers can make these go flying on this tramp. There are numerous ideas to keep the tramp new and fresh, such as adding a sprinkler (obviously this makes it slippery, so make sure their motor skills are ready for this!), coloring on the mat with chalk, or adding bubbles (we set up the bubble machine). What could be better than popping bubbles while bouncing? Nothing, asserts Bear.
3. CHEAPEST (AND MOST USED): For my husband’s first-Father’s-Day-with-a-son I randomly bought two foam swords from Hobby Lobby as part of his present “from Bear”. Little did I know that my silly gift would become our absolute favorite indoor go-to play pieces. I bought them several years ago so I can’t remember their exact price, but I am certain it was less than $8 for the pair (and there’s always that weekly 40% off coupon you can use). Boys, or at least my boy, wants to “dit ba duys” (translation: “get bad guys”) and finds ways of making weaponry out of pretty much anything. These swords provide a cushiony, non hurtful way for him to get his mini-macho urges out without breaking the lamp, or his sister. Additionally, as I am not a fan of super “real” looking weapons, these are whimsical enough to not feel inappropriate for his age group.
4. BEST D.I.Y.: My brother and sister-in-law had a Star Wars themed birthday for one of my nephews. While weren’t able to make it to Oklahoma for the party they lovingly provided my kids with the fabulous, and home-made, party favors: Princess Leia buns (a headband with braided yarn buns) for CG (my daughter), and a Lightsaber for Bear. Perfection.
The best part of these lightsabers? They were CHEAP-O and DIY… two of my favorite things. I’m sure there are tutorials online somewhere, but basically they just got pool noodles, cut them in half, and put basic silver masking tape and black electrical tape on one end to create the look of the handle. My only warning is that the “handle” is actually pretty hard and can hurt, so rules about only “hitting” with the noodle end (or, for those into focused pretend play, the “light” side) is imperative.
5. BEST SIMPLE STAPLES: Here are a few super basic but super beloved must haves if you’re new to boy-dom. These are the classics that have been around forever, and rightly so…
* Blocks: These are tried and true, friends, and there’s a reason these have been popular since the dawn of time (or something like that). Building up, and, more importantly, tearing down structures Godzilla style is as boy as boy could be. We try to find different ways to tear them down – kicking, karate-chopping, and even sitting-upon has been attempted once (without the desired effect, I might add). And the best part is that he has no idea he is working on his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while he creates his soon-to-be destructed towers.
* Cars and Car-Zooming Structure: The reason every boy in the free world owns 17,000 of these is because they are 1. easy/small to carry (think: zoom zoom distraction at a restaurant), 2. pretty much indestructible, and 3. fast (there is a reason Top Gun and its “need for speed” is on the top of almost any guys Favorite Movies List). If you don’t have wood, concrete, or otherwise smooth floor (these cars are pretty sluggish on carpet and pretty bumpy on tile) having a large play table will help get your little guy zooming along. Also, we love our “car garage” that has a winding ramp. Bear can watch the cars zip down that spiral forever.
* Train and Train Track: I am “that mom” who doesn’t let my kids watch much TV, so my kids aren’t super familiar with Thomas the Train, but Bear is nonetheless a train fanatic. He has trouble setting it up, just yet, so it’s absolutely a group effort. He makes the noises and generally races the trains along the track, inevitably causing the most gloriously fascinating (to him) crashes.
* Construction Equipment: Bear got several noise-creating, moving/functioning CAT construction equipment vehicles for Christmas this past year. He loves that they move forward and reverse at the push of a button, and I’ve been excited that with the help of road construction (the city of SA is always willing to help give toddler boys city-wide lots of opportunities to see road work machines!) and our favorite book Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, Bear can correctly identify almost any machines.
* Tools: There is little better to my son than doing what he sees his Daddy doing. Since we just moved, there has been much fixing, hammering, and hanging so Bear has gotten slightly obsessed with his “toos”. He even bathes with them. No, I’m not kidding. He actually knows the difference between a flathead and Phillips head screw driver, which I find wildly impressive. When I’m at a loss, directing him to “fix” something is generally a sure-fire way to get an enthusiastic 10 minutes in.
Toddler boys are singly the most hilarious, frustrating, energetic things on this planet. I hope you can join me embracing the crazy, while never forgetting to remind yourself daily that this, too, shall pass. Happy Entertaining!
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