A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS - This Wild Home

Up until now I’ve kept Oliver’s toys pretty minimal. He has one box of toys that is full of random items we’ve picked up over the last year, a truck that came with some Mega Bloks, and a few stuff animals. That’s pretty much it.

The thing about babies is, they don’t really need much in the way of toys. Oliver didn’t even really start interacting with his toys until he reached about one and he hasn’t been consistent with them until recently. So the need for toys, at least for my son, has not been a big one. All of that paired with the fact that household items and kitchen things seem to be way more entertaining than his actual toys and we’ve really not seen a need.

So, for this Christmas I’ve decided to go a little crazy on toys simply because, well, he doesn’t really have any, the few he does have need some upgrades, and he is now getting to a point of actually enjoying a little bit of creative and imaginative play with toys.

So welcome to my gift guide! This is including toys on the list for him this year as well as a few he’s already been loving.

STUFFED ANIMALS

Before I officially start the guide, I want to give a little insight on my experience with stuffed animals and my son and other kids I’ve seen. For Oliver, he does have some favorites that have been gifted to him, but his absolute favorite stuffed animal is this little beanie baby cat he picked out all on his own at the store. As soon as he saw this plain, grey cat amongst the bright and sparkly unicorns and platypus; he grabbed it and hugged it as tightly as he could with the biggest grin on his face and didn’t let go until we got in the car. Now, every night when he gets in his crib, he gives the cat the same big hug with the same big grin and it is heart melting every single time. - and I’ll add the he’s not usually one to grab at stuffed animals at the store which is how I knew this one was special

The point to this story (besides the fact that I wanted to tell a cute story about my son) is this: While it’s really fun to try and guess what stuffed animal could be your kids favorite or to be the person who gifts a child their favorite stuffed animal, I think for something like this it’s better to let them find it all on their own. I’ve noticed that when a kid finds their favorite stuffed animal, it’s a love at first sight experience that you can’t create artificially and will happen much more effectively if they’re not already weighed down by a mountain of stuffed animals in the first place.

So for all of that, I am very intentionally leaving stuffed animals off of this list.

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS

A GIFT GUIDE FOR TODDLERS - This Wild Home
  1. DUMP TRUCK

    This is a toy that Oliver already has and loves. We specifically got him this one that comes with Mega Bloks (which is another toy he’s starting to enjoy), but they have wooden ones if that’s what you’re into! The best part about the truck is it works as additional toy storage and is an awesome motivator in teaching your kids to help with clean up by encouraging them to put their toys in their dump truck rather than a “boring old toy bin.”

  2. SHAPE SORTER

    This is another one that Oliver currently has, but we’re thinking of getting an upgrade for Christmas. Right now the one he has is plastic and the shapes are so form fitting to the holes that it’s even hard for me to fit them in the right spots, and I’m an adult.. So we’re thinking of going with something more like this. It’s a little more neutral and the shapes look like their a good size for kids to put in the box with ease.

  3. RINGS

    This is the final one that’s been tested and passed in our home. A good stack of rings (or a very neutral option) has provided us with lots of fun, only now it’s time for us to make an upgrade from plastic.

  4. NESTING BLOCKS

    You know, the rainbows (or neutral rainbows). Well I found these really cool waves as well - can you tell I have a thing for blue? There are so many different ways for kids to play with these and they really are becoming a classic amongst kids these days.

  5. A GATHRE PLAYMAT

    If you’re ever on a trendy mom’s instagram account, you’ve probably seen these mats. We picked up this one for Oliver, but they have many other patterns and sizes to choose from as well as some plain ones if you just want a good, portable playmat. The reason I decided on a Gathre mat is because they are made with leather, so clean up is super easy if there are ever any spills. They’re also easy to move from one place to another so we can put it out in the living room, in the kid’s room, to the park for a picnic, or we can hang it up if it’s not in use! Plus the design. I mean, it’s mom’s dream neutral palette to keep decor cohesive wherever you put it, but it also has a fun pattern for the kids to enjoy.

  6. TOY VINTAGE CARS

    This is partly something I think Oliver will love, but also I have a place in my heart for old 1950’s/60’s cars for no reason besides I think they look dreamy. For Oliver, he has grown an obsession for cars. Specifically the tires, but in general he loves to watch them drive by so I figured this would be a really cool addition to his toy collection.

    We’re going with this and this to start but you can get lost in a worm hole of tons of different models.

  7. TOY TRAIN

    My parents have been holding onto a wooden train set for a while (Basically it was my mom’s older brother’s when he was a kid, and then we got it for my brother. So it’s been in the family for a while.) but I can’t wait to see what Oliver thinks of it! We went to a local kid’s museum in Waco that had a big model train set up and he was mesmerized so I can imagine it’ll be fun to see him make his own little world of trains!

    If we didn’t have the old one, we’d probably ask for something like this.

  8. WOODEN BLOCKS

    This is one my sister-in-law put on a list for her son and then I promptly put on a list for mine! It’s another one that I think could really add some creativity to his playmat by building a tiny town for his cars to drive around in. Of course, he’ll do what he will! The possibilities for blocks are truly endless.

  9. WOODEN ANIMALS

    If you haven’t noticed a theme here, I’ve basically made Oliver’s Christmas list full of things to create his own little town on his playmat. Of course he will use his toys however he sees fit, but I wanted to give him all the pieces he needed to go anywhere he wants to in his own little imagination land. Plus, these little animals come with a house that they can live in when he’s not playing with them!

  10. A WOODEN TOY CAMERA

    On a recent trip to visit my family, my brother had a disposable camera that Oliver was so interested in. He will also spend as much time as he can playing with a digital camera that I have so I figured he may be a little interested in cameras right now. I thought this one was a really cute toy to add to his collection so he can pretend he’s a little photographer.

  11. BOOKS

    I don’t have a master list of books to choose from. He has some that he loves right now and frankly, I’m tired of reading them 500 times a day. So I’ve put our family to work to find some new books for us to dig into! The only real advice I have for books right now is to have a good mixture of soft paged and hard paged books. Some that you all can read together, but also some that they can look at themselves without having to worry about the pages ripping.

WHY I CHOSE THESE GIFTS

Obviously, when choosing toys for your toddler, it is a little risky. There’s no telling what they’ll truly like and what will go unused. In addition, we like to stay in smaller living spaces which means our capacity for toys is minimal. Beyond that, I don’t ever want to overwhelm him with too many toys or have so many toys that he’s distracted from the world around him. So in order to keep Oliver’s Christmas list as intentional and minimal as possible, I ask these questions to determine what I think would be a good addition to his play time.

WHAT IS HE CURRENTLY INTO?

Looking at what your kids currently play with at home or on playdates or look at in the stores is a good way to gauge what peaks their interest. Oliver is very mechanical. He loves to figure out how things work which is why trains and cars seem like a really good fit. He can make them move forward and back while getting up close to see how it’s all happening. He also likes to make things fit together and build which is why the upgraded shape sorter and rings, along with the blocks, will be a cool addition for him.

Really, just take note throughout the year of what they get into the most. It’s a good guide for what they will enjoy as a gift.

WHAT DOES HE CURRENTLY NEED?

The nice thing about toddlers is, they don’t quite understand Christmas or gifts. They may enjoy opening the gifts and seeing new things, but they are not going to be eternally disappointed if they get socks. Maybe bored, but they’ll get over it. Last year I needed clothes so he got clothes. This year, we happen to need toys so that’s the majority of the list. For his birthday, I’m going to make a list of school supplies so we can start learning colors and shapes and letters and things when he turns two. A can confidently say a kiddie potty seat is definitely in his future gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Your kids will always benefit in the long run.

WHAT FITS YOUR VALUES?

This is a really good way to narrow down what you want on the list. I know plastic toys are becoming a big thing to avoid. Personally, if there’s not a better alternative, I’ll take the plastic but I do try to stick with wooden toys if for no other reason than it just plain looks better and our house is small so we’ll be looking at them a lot.

Beyond the material, there’s the actual toy to think about. Maybe you want to avoid barbies. I know my mom HATED Bratz dolls growing up because of the message they sent. Maybe you want to encourage more imaginative play or outside play. Whatever you want for your kids, your toys should align with that.

So that’s my guide for you all! hopefully this helps you find some good stuff for your kiddos!

What’s on your kid’s list this year?

7 WAYS TO REMAKE YOUR THANKSGIVING MEAT

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One thing you don’t anticipate when you make Thanksgiving dinner for 3 people is how many leftovers you’ll have. Let’s be honest though, I’ve seen leftovers at events with 11+ people. They’re kind of inevitable when you’re going into a day meant for over-preparing and overeating.

So, back to the fact that I made Thanksgiving dinner for 3 people. An 11 pound ham…. for 3 people… I think it’s safe to say we’re going to be eating ham for a very long while.

This is all for a family that is not big on left overs, so I’m going to have to get creative for our inevitable week of eating all the left over meat in some kind of timely manner.

7 WAYS TO REMAKE YOUR THANKSGIVING MEAT

Now, we’re not much of a turkey family so I went with ham. I’ve known people who do both turkey and ham or just turkey but I’ve never known people to not have leftovers.

So regardless of your meat choice, here are some basic recipes that you can add your choice of meat to so we can all get through these leftovers with a little bit of sanity.

  1. Quiche

  2. Omlet

  3. Salad

  4. Soup

  5. Sandwiches/Wraps

  6. Mac & Cheese

  7. Casserole

Happy leftovering!

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS

The other plus to all of this is that I get to share what I’ve done this year in a time frame that may actually be able to add some value to your holiday season to!

So I’ve decided to make it a priority to take a photo of the kids for Christmas every year. The past 2 years it’s just been Oliver, but come next year, I’ll have a 2 year old and 9 month old to wrangle together. But that’s my problem for later..

When it come to full family shoots for nice photos, I think going professional is best and if you have the budget and a photographer you love, why not support them for the holidays?

But I’ve found that with phone cameras getting higher and higher quality each year, we’re at the point now where it’s possible to do quick shoots like these all on your own and here are some tips on how to make it happen!

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR THE KIDS

FIND A BACKDROP

A good backdrop is basically the foundation of a good holiday photo. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Even a blank wall is fine as long as there’s nothing too distracting.

Last year, my set up was literally just Oliver propped up in a chair with the tree behind him. This year I just took some garland and made a tree on the wall. You can keep it simple or get creative, stay inside or let the outdoors be your backdrop! really anything besides a messy room will do

(also, how do they get so big so fast??)

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home
A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home

FIND THE LIGHT

Lighting is make or break for a good photo. Lighting that is too low or too harsh will be very distracting to the eye which will take away from the main focus: your cutie!

If you’re shooting indoors: figure out what time of day is brightest in your home and try to shoot where your scene is facing a window. Not with a window to either side, but with the window straight on. Or in a room that has a lot of windows.

It’s also good to turn off overheads. They’ll add a yellow hue to the photos that will make it look a little too homemade.

If you’re shooting outdoors: You want to go out during a time when the sun isn’t too high in the sky to avoid weird shadows that will distort your kid’s face. A good tip is to figure out when the sun sets and venture out about an hour before that to give yourself enough time to shoot with good lighting.

SET UP A SCENE

You don’t need anything crazy, but it’s nice to have a few props to make the photos a little more dynamic.

I set up a toy for Oliver to play with, an antique chair, and plant to make the photos look a little more homey than studio…y. But again, last year having just the chair for him to sit in added enough so don’t feel like you need to go crazy.

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home

SHOOT STRAIGHT ON

Basically, be on your knees and keep your phone straight when taking the photos. It might be fun to try a few different angles, but there are so many factors to keep in mind when taking a good photo that I’ve found it’s easiest to just get on the same level as the subject of the photo and take straight on shots. You can get closer or go farther away, you can even go crazy with a bunch of different angles! Just make sure you get a few photos from a straight on perspective to keep it safe.

THE OUTFIT

This is something I think about when getting their winter clothes. I just throw in a few casual items that I know will work well with a photo so that way I’m not spending extra money on an outfit they’ll wear once. Of course, I try to get the photo out of the way early so I don’t have to worry about the wear and tear that comes with a toddler wearing clothes for the rest of the season.

I like the more casual look for outfits. Something with holiday, fall, or winter colors in any style will work. PJ’s always make a really cute photo too. Then all you need to do is make your bed and throw your kids on it for a photo! (definitely an idea I’ll use next year)

WORK AROUND THEIR MOODS

Lighting is important, but a happy kiddo is crucial. Don’t try and take any photos too close to nap time or if they’re hungry. If they just want to play and hate everything that’s happening, take a break and then try again. Maybe try moving some of their toys to the scene you have set up and take some candid photos of them playing! Honestly, if you can’t get them to cooperate it may be worth it to try another day.

Whatever you do, don’t try and force them into taking photos if they are not into it or else all your photos will look like this:

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home

HAVE A HELPER HANDY

Spouses, siblings, friends, parents, just someone to help you out.

Sometimes you’ll need a little help getting them set up or getting a really good, genuine laugh. It’s just nice to have some helping hands so you can be set up and ready to get a good shot without having to also make the funny faces and fix their clothes and put them in position and all that stuff that comes with trying to take a photo of a kid.

The only way we got the money shot was with my husband running back and forth while making our tiny dog play peek-a-boo from behind me. If anyone were to see that scene, I’m sure they may be a little worried for our sanity. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.

Either way, in the end we got some great photos of our boy that will be reminders of this hilarious experience we all shared.

A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home
A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home
A DIY HOLIDAY SHOOT FOR KIDS - This Wild Home