Tag Archives: Toys for Little Ones

At-Home Toys Inspired by The Little Towns Children’s Museum

[Note:  This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children.   She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ items as well as local explorations with little ones. See more of them here, herehere, and here.]

 

If you’re not ready to venture back into the DC area’s indoor play spaces, this post will bring one of my family’s favorite places to you. The Little Towns Children’s Museum opened during the pandemic and was somewhat of a secret until recently, with play sessions now filling up. The play space, designed for kids ages 6 months to 8 years, is modeled after a real town — and actual local businesses — with every storefront a child could imagine

Little Towns is more modern and impeccably detailed than some of the other mini town play places you may have been to. And the space is large yet contained, making it conducive to lots of independent play. You can follow your children around, or enjoy a moment of solitude in the café space. Along with limited capacity, Covid protocols include temperature checks, mask requirements, and sanitation between play sessions.

However, if you are keeping your activities to outdoor-only, I’ve highlighted our favorite features of the space below, along with at-home items they’ve inspired. Whether you’re ready to start your holiday shopping extra early, or just need more independent play — like asap — this list is for you.

 

The bakery, modeled after Georgetown Cupcake, is always the first place my kids go, and the one place they return to again before leaving.

At-Home: This Cupcake Party Game has been a long-standing hit in our home. My kids don’t actually play the game, they just put together the cupcakes—over and over and over again.

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After the bakery, my daughter always heads to the fire station to put on one of the complete firefighter ensembles.

At-Home: Dress-up has been an activity with the longest shelf life (pun intended) in my house. Mix up the princess dresses with dress up sets like this.

 

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The beauty salon is modeled after Drybar, and you’ll find little ones “styling” hair there with brushes, clips, and rollers for a surprisingly long amount of time.

At-Home: We paired this Elsa Styling Head with this Hair Salon Toy Kit to get lots of kid-initiated, independent play. The battery-operated, blowing hair dryer is a favorite.

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The kid-operated vehicles at Little Towns are my son’s favorite. He loops around and around the town until it’s time to let another patiently waiting kid have a turn.

At-Home: If you have a loop of open floor space in your home, I highly recommend an indoor-only vehicle. My best purchase of the year may be our plasma car, used for this purpose.

 

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The diner is the newest room at Little Towns and is so well done. Kids love to reverse roles here and serve their grown-ups—a nice change of pace, even if it is just pretend!

At-Home: Pretend food that kids can “cut” has been a winner for us, and is still one of our go-to quiet time activities. We have a fruit and veggie set; this set is fun too.

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A do-it-yourself grocery shopping experience is always a hit with little kids, and the grocery store at Little Towns is as real as the pretend ones get.

At-Home: Toy shopping carts have been a favorite of both of my kids at one point or another, more so than any other push toy. This pairs well with the pretend food mentioned above.

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The dance party room set-up for dancing and pretend DJing, takes the excitement up a notch—and is just so darn cool.

At-Home: We’ve had this kids microphone for several years and the magic of Bluetooth in a toy never gets old. This one with LED lights is great for older kids.

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Every kid must be the veterinarian at some point during their visit to Little Towns. They love to dress up and attend to one of the toy animals in the cages.

At-Home: Vet kits are maybe better for independent play than doctor kits, since grown-ups tend to be the patients for doctor check-ups. Stuffed animals can get endless check-ups!

 

What’s your child’s favorite pretend play activity? Share with us in the comments!

 

And if you’re up for out-of-the-house, in-person play…

The Little Towns Children’s Museum
Where: 4931 Wyaconda Road |North Bethesda, MD
When: Mon–Thurs, 9:30am–4:30pm; Fri–Sun, 9:30am – 7pm
Admission: $25/child for Open Play
*Reservations required (limited capacity); book in advance 

 

 

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Filed under Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Maryland, Preschoolers, Product, Shop, Toddlers

Guest Post: My Favorite Preschool Age Toys for the Pandemic Age

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, a local mom, writer, and navigator of pandemic life with two young children.]

 

It’s that point in the pandemic winter where I just want all the things that will keep my little ones busy. And I mean busy quickly, independently, and for extended periods of time. The allure of the @busytoddler DIY sensory and creative play has faded as pandemic-fatigue has left me with little set-up and clean-up energy to expend. My son is also in the “sudden burst of throwing everything” phase. He can have his rice sensory bin this summer, outdoors.

Over the past year, my almost 2 and 3.5 year-olds have gone through many play phases and explorations. My daughter’s puzzle obsession has left us with cabinets full of them for another day. Our crafts corner is fully stocked, waiting for the moment it will finally be utilized unprompted. A supply of Legos is ready for its heyday, and stronger hands. Only a short list of items have risen to the top for us, consistently used eagerly and unsolicited.    Here are my tried and true items for preschoolers.

 

Climbing Rope Swing

This rope swing may be my best purchase of 2020. I had seen them around my neighborhood hanging from large trees — which we don’t have. After some assurance from Pinterest that they could be used indoors, we installed one in our basement this past fall. My 3-year-old has sustained enthusiasm for it since then, and even sneaks off downstairs to use it unprompted. It has a long life ahead holding up to 120 lbs. 

 

Magnetic Tiles

Magnetic tiles have been a household favorite for awhile but made a big resurgence when my son was old enough to join in — aside from being the tower destroyer. Now, both kids will play with these together for up to an hour. We recently added a set with gears to our collection, plus some window and door tiles, and are on the lookout for more accessory sets like this

 

Melissa & Doug Activity Pads

This brand is a classic for a reason! Their activity pads are my favorites, giving us lots of extended and/or independent play. My kids can do these Scissor Skills activities (with assistance) for an oddly long time, and do these reusable Puffy Sticker books over and over again. These Seek & Find sticker pads are my go-to when I need some uninterrupted time, and this one has quiet time written all over it. The painting pads with built in watercolors like this are genius. 

 

Board & Card Games

We’ve tried a dozen games during the past year but only a few are in heavy rotation. The trick has been finding ones that don’t exclude my youngest child, and bonus points when it’s mildly entertaining for the grown-ups. Zingo is as good as you’ve heard. We’ve had success teaching our little ones to play Go Fish, even if they are playing with open hands. Disney’s Eye Found It! is a winner, and there is a board version.

 

Playdoh

I had an aha moment with Playdoh at the start of the pandemic but it went out of favor after I realized it had to be cleaned up and capped — quickly — to avoid drying out, and also monitored to make sure someone didn’t smush ten new colors into one brown blob. After trying the alternatives, I brought the ‘doh back into the rotation, and I get it again. It just works so well for all preschool ages, especially if you add the right tools to the mix. 

 

Bath Puzzles

At some point, every parent realizes that bath toys are no good. The mold is annoying at best and dangerous at worst. I recently discovered bath puzzles with foam pieces that stick to the tub and walls without holes to collect or squirt water. Perfect for a much-needed extended bath time! After a quick search, I have a few more on my wish list like this alphabet set and this numbers set. This one is cute too.

 

Honorable Mentions

Building toy alternatives like Flower Gardens and LeapBuilders products (more toddler-friendly than Duplo’s) have given us lots of independent play. My eldest preschooler enjoys workbooks, particularly the mazes which don’t require much assistance, and the dry erase ones where mistakes are welcome. 

 

*What are your go-to items? Share in the comments and help a mom out!

 

 

 

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Filed under Coronavirus, COVID-19, Educational, Guest Post, Indoor Play, Preschoolers, Social Distancing, Toddlers