Best Developmental Toys for Each Age – (0-9 Years)

The holidays are upon us! Time to buy toys for the little ones in our life. The age-old dilemma–what is the best toy at this age?

To help simplify the season for you and other’s buying for your kiddos, we’ve summarized what areas a child is developing at each stage and what types of toys will capture their interest and further their skills!

Remember that toys that do too much don’t allow a child to use their own imagination. Also, many of the toys they play with when they are younger may capture their imagination in a new way as they grow.

0-3 Months

Developing: 5 Senses – Sight, Sound, Taste, Scent, Texture

Toys:  Soft Toys with Contrasting Colors, Sounds, Slow Movement & Textures that Compel Baby to Focus and Interact –Mobiles, Soft Musical Toys, Unbreakable Mirrors, Soft Books, Hand & Foot Rattles, Sensory Toys.

3-6 Months

Developing: Basic Coordination – Hand / Foot & Eye Coordination, Grasping, Head Control, Pushing Up, Rolling, Teething

Toys: Play Gym, Tummy Time Mats, Hanging Toys to Reach, Teethers, Wooden Manipulative Toys

6-9 Months

Developing: Basic Mobility – Sitting, Crawling, Standing, Self-feeding

Toys: Toys that Roll or Motor Forward to Encourage Crawling, Balls, Toys that Suction onto the High Chair, Bead Mazes, Soft Spoons.

9-12 Months

Developing: Depth Perception – Pushing, Pulling, Shapes

Toys: Pull & Push Toys, Ball Poppers, Shape Sorters, Large Stacking Blocks & Cups, Bath Toys, Sand Toys, Board Books

12-18 Months

Developing: Sense of Things Beyond Themselves - Nurturing & Walking

Toys: Soft Dolls, Stuffed Animals, Board Books, Walking Toys, Activity Tables

18-24 Months

Developing: Cause & Effect & Pretend Play

Toys: Fill & Spill Toys, Sit-n-Scoots, Play Kitchens, Play Food, Doctor’s Kit

2-3 years

Developing: Deductive Reasoning & Balance

Toys: Puzzles, Chunk Building Blocks, Hammer & Peg Sets, Trains & Vehicles, Basic Musical Instruments, Story Books, Balance Bikes, Tricycles

3-5 years

Developing: Social Awareness & Writing

Toys: Role Play Costumes, Dolls & Doll Houses, Chunky Art Supplies, Clay, Paint, Basic Board Games

5-7 years

Developing: Reading, Reasoning, Advanced Movement

Toys: Beginner Reader Books, Marble Runs, Basic Crafts Kits, Mosaics, Legos, Bicycles, Scooters

7-9 years

Developing: Problem Solving & Awareness of How Things Work

Toys: Toys that allow them to Create, Problem Solve & Understand their World–Science Kits, Craft Kits, Building Kits, Logic Games (Chess, Checkers, etc.)

Of course, this is a guide of what is typical. Children can fall anywhere on the spectrum, especially because they are often hyper focused in one area until they master it and move onto a new skill.

We hope this has helped make you’re holiday shopping a little simpler and more fun for both you and the recipient! We’re happy to help you with specific items in the store.

Happy Holidays!


Halloween Costume Ideas for Pregnant Moms & Families!

Halloween is fast approaching and you have a darling little belly that can make for the cutest and most creative costume. Here’s a compilation of our favorite bellies dressed up (or dressed down) to inspire you!

Great solo costumes:

Pregnant Beach Ball Halloween CostumePrego CostumePumkin Costume
Easy CostumeEarth Mom Costume

Fun partner coordinated costumes:

Bowling CostumeBun in the Oven Costume

  (Bowler & Bowling Ball/Pin, Bun in the Oven, Housewife & the Milkman)

Solar System CostumeHumpty Dumpty Costume

(Galileo & the Solar System, Humpty Dumpty, Paulie & Juno)

Costumes that incorporate the baby or other children:

Mom & Single Skeleton Costume

Dad Skeleton CostumeTwin skeleton costume

Inviting your little one to be part of  your costume can help ease new sibling anxiety.

Skeleton Family CostumePeanut & Elephant Costume

And lastly, a few of our favorite family Halloween get-ups.

Family Elves Costume

Breakfast Costume

You’ll be sure to win any Halloween costume contest with these hilarious options.

Feel free to share your inspired Halloween creations with us.

Happy Trick-or-Treating to you and yours!

Visit the Monarch Butterfly Preserve – It’s the Season!

It’s butterfly season in Santa Barbara!

And the Coronado Butterfly Preserve is a great place to spend the afternoon enjoying the monarchs during their over-winter migration. These little guys cannot survive harsh winters so they travel, some up to 3000 miles, to roost in the Eucalyptus trees of Santa Barbara County.

Our Outing:

We made a morning excursion out of seeing the monarchs. The boys loved trekking through the “forest” to find the butterflies. We crossed a bridge over a muddy drying creek bed and they used their binoculars to try to distinguish the butterflies from the leaves.  We then emerged on the other side onto a “pasture” which they enjoyed exploring. They were especially delighted when they found the perfect climbing tree teeming with other children.  We cautiously looked over the cliffs at the gorgeous view of the beach and ocean and then settled down for a yummy picnic lunch. It was a fun, memorable outing that presented several great photo ops.


Driving from Highway 101, exit Storke Rd./Glen Annie and head south (away from the mountains). Turn right on Hollister Avenue, drive about 1.2 miles and turn left on Coronado Drive. The entrance to the Preserve is at the end of Coronado Drive. Park near the end. There is a hill with a big sign at the bottom with information about the butterflies. This is where you start!

Butterfly Tips:

  • Show up on a sunny day, during the afternoon when they’ll be flying. Look closely at clumps of leaves on the trees, they may just be butterflies!
  • The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is funded by visitor donations. Leave a donation at box located near the entrance to help keep this preserve beautiful.
  • Bring binoculars, sneakers, a sweater (it gets foggy fast) and a picnic lunch.

Fun Monarch Facts:

The Monarch is unique among butterflies in that it is the only species of butterfly that does not hibernate, but migrates in changing seasons. It undergoes four changes in form (metamorphoses) during its lifetime:

  1. The monarch begins as a tiny egg.
  2. In the second stage it becomes a black, yellow and white striped caterpillar (larva). During this stage, the caterpillar sheds its skin (molts) up to four times as it grows to its full length of about two inches.
  3. In its third stage, the monarch forms a protective covering called a chrysalis, or pupa. This pupa is shiny and green with gold speckles.
  4. In its final stage, the monarch emerges from the pupa as a beautiful black and orange butterfly.

This entire process takes about a month. There are usually three to four generations of monarchs produced each year.

The male Monarch can be distinguished from the female by the two black spots on the insect’s hind wings found within the thinner black webbing. The female’s webbing is thicker and she has no spots.

Male MonarchFemale Monarch

Kids Activity – Santa Barbara Christmas Lights Map

We just loaded the kids into the car Sunday night and made the rounds to see this year’s holiday lights!

For those of you (like myself) who still have to think about which of the streets are one way… and where to find all of the concentrations of Christmas spirit in town… We marked up a two page map (click here to download) with a suggested route and highlights that you can print and use as a guide.

Couple of tips…

  • Start anytime after 6pm when it’s dark. Most activity is between 7pm and 10pm and some lights get turned off late in the evening. One house even has a visiting Santa that comes out on the porch to wish visitors a Merry Christmas.
  • The Santa Barbara Trolley Company offers a great Tour of Lights that we’ve enjoyed in years past, but they’re currently sold out for the season (Dec 9-23rd). Be sure to book early for next year! If you come across the Santa Barbara Trolleys… we recommend you pull over, wish them a Merry Christmas and go in the opposite direction to minimize the chance of traffic jams.
  • Bring a few warm jackets and park every now and then to walk the neighborhood.

Here are a few of the highlights from our round!






If you find this map useful, be sure to share it with friends and family! If you come across other great streets to add to the list, please let us know in the comments and we’ll roll them into future versions.

Happy Holidays,

Chris, Nicki, Zachary & Theo

Kids Activity – Create a Worm Bin for Composting

Here’s a fun project… especially if you have young boys. Ours are 2 and 5 so this was a real hit. We decided to create a worm farm to grow worms. As a side benefit, you get excellent garden compost that recycles otherwise discarded kitchen scraps.

The first step was to go worm hunting which was exciting but not very fruitful. After a little Googling, I had many options of how to build or buy a worm compost bin… but a lot of conflicting information. Later the same day, I was out with the boys and randomly explaining to a friend, Rob Beno, that we were going to create a worm farm. As it turns out, he had actually done this and written up a ‘how to’ blog post earlier this year.

It’s as simple as procuring 2 storage bins and a bag of Red Wigglers from Ace (or your preferred supplier)… drilling some holes for air flow, water drainage and worm migration, adding some wet newspaper, soil and scraps… then waiting a few months as your worms prosper.

When treated well… the number of worms will double every 6-8 weeks. After 3 months, you rotate the bins by shifting the bottom one to the top… waiting for most of the worms to migrate into it… then returning the compost and worm castings to fertilize your garden. It was very easy and the kids really enjoy feeding the worms and gently turning the soil every week or so to see how their worms are growing. Do let us know if you try this (using Rob’s great instructions) and have great success or have questions along the way. Happy farming!

Life Simplification – Take advantage of Automatic Bill Pay features

I don’t know anyone with kids who wouldn’t agree that life gets a bit more complex with little ones around. Why not take advantage of any opportunity to simplify it?

If you haven’t already, spend an hour or two and automate anything related to bill payments. That way, you could literally not respond to the mail for weeks to months and never have to worry about missed payments or late fees.

It can be very liberating simply not to have to worry about making payments once it is automated. This includes the housing payments, utility bills, child services, credit card payments, etc.

I recommend starting with your utilities and services (TV, phone, etc) and setting them up from the service provider’s website to automatically bill against a single credit card. That way, you’ll at least get some reward points when paying the bills and you centralize the payments to a single card for visibility. Next, take all your other bills that can’t be paid with a credit card (your rent, mortgage, credit cards, etc.) and set them up for payment from your checking account’s bill pay service.

Once you’re done, you get to spend a few more hours with your kids each month. You only have to be sure you’re putting more money in your bank account than you’re spending. Not having to worry about missed payments or late fees? Priceless.

Tech Tip – Easily save memories to an email account for your kids!

Here’s a favorite tip that’s useful for a number of reasons. Go ahead and create an email account for each of your children. Gmail is recommended because it’s free, likely to be around for a very long time and it rocks… but you could similarly use Yahoo or any other (just not AOL as that would be embarrassing for them to access when they grow up).

The benefit of creating it now versus in 8 years is that you’re much more likely to find better email name available such as versus If you’re so inclined, you can also try to reserve other useful handles on facebook, twitter, etc that might (small might) come in handy for your child one day.

Now for the real benefit of the email address… when your child does or says something adorable / hilarious and you want to be able to tell your grandchildren about it one day… send off a quick email to your child (and any other relatives you want to share it with). You typically always have a phone or computer nearby so it’s really not hard to preserve the details, the date and any related quotes or photos. You can always search your email to come across these memories in chronological order and you can review them with your kids once they’re old enough to enjoy them!

Let us know in the comments if you find this useful… have any questions… or other ideas to simplify and enjoy life!

Chris (Nicki’s husband)