Hey, I’m Liezel and I’m a bit of a neat freak. This was fine in my pre-motherhood life but now that my baba is turning into a toddler, I’ve had to make peace with the fact that my home will probably be delved in chaos for the foreseeable future. I also know that when it comes to kids, mess is good. They need freedom to express creativity, explore, learn, and literally get their hands dirty. On the other hand, I have no desire to spend my days scraping crayon off walls or trying to get playdough out of carpets.
One of my lockdown tasks has therefore been a deep dive into the internet in search of educational toddler toys that develop a range of functions, and some of which offer textural experiences and creative outlets without ALL of the mess. So without further ado, here are a few that I’ve bought so far:
There are a couple of lacing beads options online but these are particularly great because they offer so many play options. They click together, twist open, and lace together, and the multitude of colours and textural finishes add another dimension. They are suitable for kids from 10 months up to 36 months.
Hape Country Critters Play Cube
Hape is probably my favourite toy brand, partly because of the aesthetic appeal but also because they have so many levels of educational potential. We bought this for her birthday and she absolutely loves it. You have five different activity centres with various puzzles to keep kiddo busy. I can’t find it online locally but we got ours from Toy Kingdom at the V&A Waterfront.
Toby Tower Splash ‘n Learn Bath Crayons
R69 for set of 8, Takealot
Crayons without the mess? Yes please! Baba can draw on bathroom tiles and you can just sponge it off with soapy water afterwards. It takes a bit more TLC to get the crayon off the bath itself but it does remove pretty easily with Handy Andy.
Melissa & Doug Water Wow colouring books
R99 each, Takealot
These colouring books activate with water, so you can encourage colouring and painting without constant water spills and paint splashes. You pour water into the back of the pen, close it and leave your kiddo to do their thing. We got a few of these books to simultaneously teach her about colours, shapes, and animal names.
Djeco Wooden Magnetics
If you are tired of a toddler trying to climb up your leg while you make dinner, give these a shot. Our kid loves searching for the various animals, trying to say their names or imitate their sounds. As a bonus, they’re really pretty.
Jeronimo Magic Stretchy Sand
R71 for 500g, Takealot
This is probably the strangest thing we’ve bought lately but also pretty fun. The texture is something like gum that’s been mixed with peanut butter and sand, so it is a whole lot of textural stimulation. It can stretch, smash, fold and tear apart. Note, it’s not 100% mess free and it is more like playdough than sand. Keep it away from carpets.
My mom always says that if she could have a do-over with her kids, she’d only buy Duplo. I get it. These building blocks teach so much, from fine motor functions to problem solving and eventually creativity when they start to imagine their own creatures and structures. You can get it from most toy shops – we bought ours at Spar.
Does your kid have a favourite toy? I’d love to hear from you!