Thomas the Train is a Big Winner!

Thomas the Train is a Big Winner!

Norton’s first train

Last week, I’d mentioned that we were thinking about getting some Thomas the Train toys for Christmas this year… in spite of the complete and utter lack of interest he had in train sets last Christmas.  We went to Gingerbread Toys, our local toy shop yesterday, so that Norton could investigate their rather amazingly well set up Thomas the Train wooden track table set up.

This year’s reaction was far different than last year’s.  He loved it.  We don’t watch Thomas and Friends or Chuggington, but he was still absolutely riveted by the set.  He spent his time putting the trains on the track, connecting them, and moving them through.  The look of intent concentration on his face while he focused on not derailing his line of trains as he pulled them around a curve and through the tunnel was phenomenal.  And I loved watching him try to puzzle out why a particular car was too tall to fit through the tunnel.  (There was a giraffe in the car.)

He was also thrilled by Harold the Helicopter, as helicopters are one of his favorite things.  (That’s because he likes to watch his daddy fly RC helicopters around the basement.)  It was the perfect set of toddler toys.

The only downside was that Norton was so engaged that he threw a tantrum when we tried to get him to leave.  The husband started to walk towards the front of the store and said, “Bye, Norton!”  Norton didn’t even look up; he just said “Bye bye, Daddy!”  We even tried to bribe him into leaving by buying him an Early Engineers Thomas the Train.  No dice.  In the end, I went up and bought the little engine in hopes that it would be helpful in settling the tantrum in the van.

So, yup, we’ll definitely be investing in some other train bits.  He’s been hauling around his little train since he’s gotten it, rolling it along and saying things like “Choo-choo!”  He went to bed with the little catalogue the toy store included.  He was looking at the pictures of the other trains with great delight.  With that in mind, we have to have more Thomas the Train Christmas gifts under the tree.

Is your little one a train fan?  Where did you find the best supply of trains for the buck?

LeapFrog Tag Junior – Not this Christmas

LeapFrog Tag JuniorWhile the husband and I were out together (without children!) doing our Christmas shopping, we stopped and looked at the LeapFrog Tag Junior.  The LeapFrog Tag Junior is an interesting little device.  Like the first LeapFrog toy we’d ever had (for Andy, around ten years ago), it’s a device that will read stories to your children with a pen touching the words.

For Andy, we got it with the hope of it helping him read.  Instead, though, he dragged the pen across the page and let it read to him.  (Back then, it was a terribly monotone voice thing.  The newer incarnations of LeapFrog reading devices have gotten much better.)

Considering how much I love everything else that we have that’s by LeapFrog, some might be surprised that we’re skipping the LeapFrog Tag Junior… especially considering Norton is the right age for it now.  So why are we skipping an awesome tech-y gadget?  LeapFrog Tag and Tag Junior read to your child from expensive books with technology built in the pages so that the pen sensor can “read” them.  In essence, it will read to your child for you.

I don’t want gadgets to read to Norton for me.  I want to spend that time with Norton to read to him.  I want to do what I can to promote early reading.  I want him to sit down with my husband for story time, too.

Some of the most wonderful fun times that Norton and I have together are when we’re snuggled up over a Spot the puppy book.  When we read a Spot Loves story, it always ends with that grown up snuggling up with Spot or giving him a big hug.  Norton will turn to those pages repeatedly because I snuggle him and give him kisses when we read that part of the book.  I don’t want to blow off those occasions with a pen.

My husband and I have agreed that we never want to have the “problem” of being too busy to read to our children.  Maybe when Norton is starting to learn sight words, it’ll be time to consider a Tag device.  But not right now.

Do you have the LeapFrog Tag Junior or Tag?  How do you (and your kids) like it?

Sesame Street Elmo Toys Will Still Be Under My Tree

Sesame Street Elmo is still a fixture in our homeI won’t lie.  The sudden news about Kevin Clash’s alleged sexual misconduct sucks.  I’m not thrilled that the man who voiced the Elmo on Sesame Street has been accused of having relationships with two men while they were still underage.  I don’t care that it’s homosexuality in action.  The world could use a little more love, regardless of gender.  I’m not too pleased that one of the men claims to have been the same age as my son, and that’s the long and short of it.

Some people are wondering what impact Clash’s resignation will have on Sesame Street.  He’s been the voice of Elmo for over 25 years.  Sesame Street says that Elmo is bigger than one man and will continue on.  Some people, of course, are going to decide to boycott Sesame Street.  I won’t be one of them.

Norton is two and a half.  He has no concept of sex, sexual misconduct, gay or straight, or anything else.  All that he knows is love.  He loves his Pillow.  He loves his puppies.  He loves Eudora and the rest of us.  And he really, really loves Elmo.  I hear “Elmo pee!” (“Elmo please”) about a dozen times a day.  Sometimes he even requests Elmo when we’re watching Sesame Street so that I will skip ahead to Elmo’s World.

We’re not going to get rid of Norton’s beloved Sesame Street Let’s Rock Elmo, nor am I going to get rid of his Sesame Street bedding or replace his Sesame Street toddler bed.  He loves those things.  As long as he enjoys Elmo, Elmo will stay in his room.  As long as he continues to learn from Sesame Street, we will continue to watch it.

Has the news about Kevin Clash had any impact on the role of Elmo and Sesame Street in your home?  Will it change your holiday shopping plans?

Toddler Toys – What’s Under the Tree for Norton? (Sesame Street Edition)

Now that I’ve discovered that Norton has a deep and abiding love for Elmo, toddler toys for Christmas became significantly easier.  In fact, it’s safe to say that I am currently done shopping.  Or at least, the husband has decided that I’ve bought enough toddler toys for Norton’s Christmas and it’s time to stop shopping now.  Boo.  I haven’t even put up a Christmas tree, and he’s already telling me to stop shopping.

Because Norton finally likes something and I can identify it without watching him for a reaction, Norton is getting a Christmas that’s a bit Sesame Street influenced.

[Read more…]

The Toddler Toy Gift Idea That Didn’t Work

I desperately wanted Norton to be interested in trains.  Trains are a stereotypical toddler toy for a little boy, right?  Even better, trains are a toddler toy that I kind of think are awesome and I could get down on the floor and play with.  Play them with Norton, I mean.  Then, of course, there’s the whole “Prince George is a railroad town” thing.  And that one of those train lines runs near my house and can easily be observed.  And that Norton’s Grumpy worked for the railroad and loves trains, so it’s something that they would play with together… and… well, really, I could list a thousand reasons why I would love for Norton to develop an obsession with trains. [Read more…]

Christmas Shopping Just Got a Little Easier

For years, my biggest complaint about moving to the central interior of British Columbia from Florida has been one thing: the shopping.  There are a lot of things that I used to take for granted when I lived in Tampa… like twenty-four hour grocery stores, Target, and Wal-Mart supercenters the size of Disney.  (Okay, not quite that big, but still, huge.)  Even online shopping in Canada sucks.  (Take a look at the shipping on your favorite store.  Most don’t ship outside the States.)

Another target of my rants has been Amazon.  I love Amazon.com.  You can get everything there.  It’s just amazing to me that you don’t have to leave your house to do the majority of your shopping.  Amazon.ca?  Not so awesome.  At all.  But things just got a little better.

*cue the Hallelujah Chorus*

Amazon.com now ships some stuff to Canada now.  Including toys.

Okay, I can’t get every toy that I want online from Amazon.  There are some products that don’t ship.  But you know what?  There are so many more things that do ship than what I could get before, I’m on cloud nine.  Thank you, Amazon!  You’ve just made Christmas shopping a lot easier!

Toddler Toys for Christmas – What’s Norton Getting?

Shopping for toddler toys is always an adventure.  There are things to look at, like is it actually a good toy?  Is it educational?  Will my kid enjoy it?  Is it a toddler toy that will get played with?  Or will it end up languishing in a bin, forgotten?  Obviously, I’d prefer my choice in toddler toys to be things that Norton will love and play with, and then outgrow and be in great condition when next kid is ready to play with them.

Not that I ask much or anything.

We haven’t gotten much so far.  Part of the problem is that we keep handing Norton toys to play with while we’re trying to shop and we buy them for him.  And he gets to keep them, of course.  I think he’s too old to get to play with toddler toys in the box at the store and then put them away for Christmas.  So, yeah. [Read more…]

The Difficulty of Toddler Toys and Christmas

Last year, I thought that shopping for toys for Norton’s Christmas was hard.  He was only nine months old, and there really aren’t a whole ton of toys for that age group.  The older a baby gets, the more there is to choose from.  Still, in the end, Norton got a ton of toys to play with… some of which are toys that he didn’t develop an interest in until roughly six months ago.  This year, I’m struggling with Christmas gifts for Norton.  I’m not struggling with toddler toys because of a lack of selection.  I’m struggling with toddler toys because I want good stuff that he’ll play with for a long time.  I don’t want to throw my money away on crap.

So I did what any reasonable, research obsessed mom would do.  I checked the “hottest toys of 2011” lists.  And that’s when I started to run into problems. [Read more…]