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    Giveaway: Doodlehopper Toys and Gifts

    Today we team up with Doodlehopper 4 Kids, a magical mom ‘n pop toy store in Falls Church, Virginia with an extensive online shop. Read on as Executive Manager Alison Brown answers our burning playtime questions and see how to enter to win one of two $50 gift cards!

    We’d love to hear your top toy selections by age group: 0-12 months, 12-18 months, 18-24 months, pre-K and Kindergarten.

    New Baby/Shower Gifts 0-12 months 12-18 months
    Aden & Anais swaddling blankets Floor/crib mirrors Ball drops
    Robeez Soft Soles Baby Paper Shape sorters
    Hooded towels Oballs Pop! Pop! Piano
    Boo Bunnies Water mats Flash Beat Drum
    The Mommy Hook Skwish Roll & Play
    Bestever Baby Mat Munch Mitt Bathtime toys

    (squirters, sprinkle cups, etc.)

    Sophie the Giraffe NogginStik Green Toys
    Stacking cups Pic ‘n Pop
    Soft/crinkle books Pewi Elite
    First Puppets Viking Toy Chubbies


    18-24 months Preschool (~2-4) Kindergarten (~5-6)
    Wooden train sets

    (i.e. Thomas the Train)

    Pretend play toys

    (doctor kit, tool kit, food sets)

    Board Games

    (Zingo is a best seller)

    WOW toys Pop up play tents Rocket Balloons
    Jumbo peg/chunky puzzles Tiggly Learning Sets

    (these work with tablets)

    Intro to Engineering

    (GoldieBlox, Zoob, Lego)

    Crayola Double Doodle Junior Stomp Rockets “My First” Science Kits
    Gertie Balls Dress up/role play accessories Spy gear
    First Crayons Puppets/puppet theatre Jigsaw puzzles
    Musical instruments

    (shakers, tambourine, drums)

    Cooperative Games

    (we like those by Peaceable Kingdom)

    Butterfly garden/ant farm

    (think seasonally!)

    ALEX Button Art Magna-Tiles Stomp Rockets
    Stacking/nesting cubes Floor puzzles Plushcraft Pillows
    Green Toys My First Sticky Mosaics Marble Runs

    What are some “mistakes” you see parents and caregivers making when selecting toys for their kids?

    Any “mistakes” usually revolve around disregarding or overly-adhering to age suggestions on products. It goes both ways: some shoppers can be way too flexible on the age suggestion and buy something completely inappropriate that the child won’t be able to use for years. Or some can be super strict about what the product suggests and miss out on a perfect fit for the child. The “+” really does means plus, so 5+ can still work for a 7 year old. There is definitely some fluidity in choosing a toy–it’s not a hard-and-fast science because no kid is the same, and there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether a toy is a good fit (an often-overlooked factor is the projected level of parent involvement). Additionally, there can be a huge difference between a “young 2” (a child that just turned 2) and an “old 2” (one just about to turn 3). I look at the age on a product as a suggestion and try to determine the best fit on a case by case basis. Keep in mind that, if a toy is suggested for 3+, a one year old probably can’t use it (or will be too rough with it) unless the parents plan on doing the activity with the child. It’s important to note that a lot of “3+” toys are labeled as such because of choking hazards.

    What are some of your favorite toys to encourage creativity?

    Creativity can also mean messy. And some of the best creative activities are a mess (i.e. paint, glue, baking/cooking, etc.). But I also try to suggest tools or toys that don’t necessarily make huge messes or require drop cloths. Some examples include:
    My First Sticky Mosaics
    Paint with Water Pads
    Do-a-Dot markers/books
    Play Foam

    What are some of your favorite toys to encourage gross motor play? Fine motor play?

    Crawl tubes, Wonder Wagon (by Hape), Pop up play tents, Jr. Stomp Rocket, Pogo jumpers, Monster Clompers/EZ steppers, hopscotch rug

    Gator Grabbers, lacing cards, Peg Stackers, Spinning Gear Sets, Squigz/PipSquigz, ball drops, shape sorters, Chicken ‘n Egg Stackers, SmartMax building sets, peg puzzles

    *Note: creating sensory bins is a great way to develop motor skills, and we have all sorts of good things that can go in them but to list them individually would be pages long.  Check out this site for ideas!

    What are some great tools/resources for helping parents organize their kids’ toys?

    Have realistic goals. For toy storage think about what can actually be achieved and maintained. There are amazing ideas and pictures online and in catalogs, but real life may not have toy bins that are labeled and sorted by color and size, etc. My son is 16 months old–if I can just get everything thrown into a couple of baskets, it’s a good day. If you can have everything stored and sorted like on Pinterest (and maintain it that way), MAJOR KUDOS, seriously. Also be realistic about your child’s play space. In my case, my son’s main play area is our family room/ kitchen. So gone are the days where my family room actually looked like adults lived in and decorated it. We’ve had to remove items, and just accept that a sea of primary colors and plastic is our reality. So at the end of the day if we have put the toys into some baskets and the trucks parked by the fireplace, that is what a “clean” family room is for us. If you have an area with doors so you can close it off, that is amazing!

    Edit yourself. Most toys have dual purposes, so you can get more life out of them. Having a new baby and working at a store like Doodlehopper, I totally got carried away buying everything under the sun for him and before he was even 6 months we were completely overrun. It’s so easy to get excited, but a lot of your toys (especially those for little ones) can be used for several things. For example, basic ABC blocks can help with grasping, passing hand to hand, stacking, color recognition, numbers/counting and alphabet recognition. As time goes on, go through what you have pulled out and made accessible. Children tend to “move on” from a toy, or developmentally lose interest. I do this every month or so and save a lot of space that way.

    How to enter the giveaway:

    Write a desciption of your child’s favorite toy in the comments at the end of this post. It’s that easy! We’ll choose a winner using a random number generator after 8 p.m. EST this Thursday, April 7, and will announce the winner in Friday’s blog post.

    What you get:

    One of TWO $50 gift cards to spend as you please on Doodlehopper’s website (or, if you’re a NoVa local, in-store). Generous baby shower gift? Just because treat? Bribery in anticipation of a doctor visit? Happy shopping! And please share this opportunity widely with friends!

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