In the kitchen: baking mince pies 

I have a love-hate relationship with mince pies. I actually (whisper it!) don’t much care for mincemeat. But there is something so wonderfully festive about eating a mince pie, preferably warm and with some sort of boozy cream on top, that I still enjoy them. Strictly in December only, mind. 

With that in mind, Frida and I have been busy in the kitchen this afternoon baking our own mince pies. They are a brilliant idea for baking with young children, as they can do so much! 

First Frida chopped all the butter using her crinkle cutter (asking each time “Is this piece perfect? Is this one perfect?”) and added it all to the flour. This was also a good opportunity to use words like “half” and “quarter”, or give instructions like “cut it in half, and then in half again”. 

Then she started mixing the butter and flour into breadcrumbs (I finished this to achieve the correct texture, plus she got a bit bored), then added an egg yolk which I had already separated for her, scraping the bowl with a spoon to get all the yolk out. 

She gradually added some water, which she fetched herself, and helped to mix this in. I then pulled the mixture together into a dough which she was able to roll out (again, with help as the dough needed to be thin – I think we still made it too thick). 

After we cut out pastry together she helped to fill the pies  (I helped as by this point she was needing to move around a bit!) then give them their pastry lids which I cut out and passed to her. We used pre-bought mincemeat – as I’m not a huge fan I didn’t have a burning desire to make my own! 

I then cut the slits and put them in the oven, although she could have done the cutting with supervision. By this point she was done with baking though and wanted to go and play. 

I will freely admit it – as mince pies go, these are pretty poor. I think the pastry was too thick, and because we were baking together the lids were not as well sealed as if I’d been baking alone. I’m planning on serving them warm, with a healthy sprinkle of icing sugar and some brandy cream, which I hope will hide their multitude of sins! But as ever when cooking with Frida, the real joy was in the baking. 

Have you been baking mince pies this December? What is your go-to recipe? 

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Holiday gifts at two and a half 

I really enjoy picking out gifts for Frida. She is into so many different things at the moment, choices feel potentially limitless. This year I’ve gone for things which I hope will bring her joy through deep play, just as her other toys do. 

Our family celebrates both Christmas and Chanukah, so we will be giving her gifts for both festivals. For Christmas, we will be giving Frida one toy and one book under the tree, and a stocking containing some smaller toys. For Chanukah, she will recieve a gift every night for the eight days (though these will also be from family, and not all will be big). 

Christmas stocking. In Frida’s stocking she will find:

I loved putting together her stocking and hope that she enjoys it!

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Ostheimer well. This will be Frida’s “tree gift” this year. One of our beloved local gardens has an old well in it, so when I first saw this well many months ago I knew it would make the perfect Christmas gift for her. I am really looking forward to seeing how she uses it in her play.

The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker. I can’t wait for Frida to find this under the tree! This is the second Story Orchestra book; the first (Four Seasons, with music from Vivaldi) has been one of Frida’s constant favourites. The beautiful illustrations and snippets of classical music make for the most enchanting books, and I think she will love this as much as Four Seasons.

Maileg matchbox mice (we went for the “Christmas Mum and Dad Mice” and the “Little Sister Mouse“. Frida will be getting these for her Chanukah gift, along with some chocolate coins as tradition dictates. I have been umming and ahhing about buying these for Frida for a while; they are quite different to the toys we usually buy – and not very Montessori! – but I just know that she will love them.

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos. Frida, unsurprisingly, has for a long time been interested in Frida Kahlo. She has a good grasp of her life story, and often when we talk about her she asks me about the pets that Frida Kahlo had. I was therefore so delighted to find this book – it looks absolutely perfect! I am really looking forward to Frida opening this for Chanukah so that I have an excuse to read it too.

You may have noticed that we’re not giving Frida many books, considering how much I talk about them! The simple reason is that I tend to buy and give Frida books throughout the year (as I do for myself, ahem). However most of the other children I am buying for will be getting beautiful books rather than toys. 

What are you looking forward to gifting your child this year? 

I have a couple more wintry posts planned over the next few weeks on how we will be celebrating Christmas as a secular family, and some tips for a greener Christmas. Have you seen my Montessori-friendly gift guide, my list of things to make and do this winter, my Waldorf star tutorial, and my list of winter books we are enjoying

Things to make and do in Winter 

As the weather gets colder, we are naturally slowing down more and more. Mornings give us long, quiet, candlelit breakfasts. Huge chunks of the day are given over to play. Evenings are spent under a blanket on the sofa.

It is easy to while away a whole day between cups of tea, books, and playing, and whilst I am loathe to suggest anything more in necessary, sometimes it’s nice to have an activity planned. I hope you enjoy this short list of ideas for the coming months, and please let me know what you have planned!

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Fresh gingerbread

In the kitchen

  • Bake. We bake all year round, but there is nothing better than delicious goods fresh from a hot oven on a cold winter day. We have already made gingerbread, and we are planning mince pies, fruit cake, and stollen – alongside our usual bread and scones. I wasn’t organised enough this year to made Christmas pudding, and I won’t be attempting my own doughnuts for Chanukah, but apart from that I’m hoping we can make most of our own sweet food for the festive season.
  • Cook. Alas, we cannot live off baked goods alone! I’ve recently been enjoying making my own chicken stock, and to me winter always calls for soups, casseroles, roasts, winter salads… and hot chocolate. Frida loves helping in the kitchen and I adore cooking and baking alongside her. I always enjoy leafing through cookbooks in winter and trying new recipes.
  • Mull. Wine, cider, or apple juice. It’s practically compulsory. Plus your home will smell incredible.
  • Make chocolate! We are going to attempt to make some raw chocolate for some gifts this year – I’ll let you know how it goes… I love chocolate, and eat too much of it, and Frida is already a fan too. I love the idea of making healthier chocolate which I don’t mind Frida eating as much.
  • Make pomanders. A delicious smelling fine-motor activity which young children can do (whilst you drink the wine you just mulled…)

Waldorf stars in the window

Art and craft

  • Create wrapping paper. I find this kills two birds with one stone; Frida can enjoy some process art and rather than disposing of the finished product (I’m not a monster, I promise – but I can’t keep everything!) we get some beautiful, personalised wrapping paper.
  • Make seasonal greetings cards. Either freestyle, or in a more structured manner. We don’t generally send cards out, for environmental reasons, but this year we will send a few homemade ones to Frida’s friends. I plan on cutting out green Christmas tree shapes for her to decorate with stickers, paint and glitter then sticking these on plain card.
  • Make Waldorf stars. I love making these for the beauty they add – especially in winter as they often manage to catch the elusive sunlight. You can read my simple tutorial here. This is a craft for adults or older children as they are fiddly, but you could make some from plain paper for your younger child to decorate.
  • Mix up a batch of scented playdough. I am very lazy and tend to make no-cook playdough but I might branch out this year and try a cooked version. I love adding wintry spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. For added fun collect twigs together to use as playdough tools.
  • Get the art materials out. Frida is really into painting at the moment, and winter is a wonderful time to get out art materials as we tend to spend more time indoors.
  • Pottery painting. Frida and I recently went to a pottery cafe for her to make a couple of gifts. It was expensive – maybe you have a cheaper one near you! – so it’s not something we can do very often, but we had a special morning and she was so proud to make gifts for loved ones.

Candle-lit tea time with poetry and snacks

Cosy up

  • Read together. I love nothing better than snuggling under a duet or blanket with Frida and a pile of books. We will continue to read our winter books and make regular trips to the library throughout winter, and make time to read through the day as well as bedtime.
  • Light candles. We do this throughout the year but we light more in winter. A simple candle turns a winter breakfast from an ordeal into a joy. Snacks suddenly become a little bit magical. Simple suppers feel like feasts.
  • Stage a simple puppet show. This is a Waldorf tradition that I just love. This is a great blog post explaining how they work and there are many ideas online. I will be taking some time to plan a couple for Frida, as I have seen how she loves the ones at her Waldorf playgroup.
  • Take long bubble baths. For parents, this goes without saying (add Epsom salts for added loveliness), but at this time of year Frida often has long baths in the middle of the day. Some Lush bubbles and a few Schelich animals give her a good hour of fun, and make for some very easy parenting for me, perfect for days when one of us isn’t feeling 100 percent.

Walking in the woods

Outdoors

  • Feed birds. At this time of year it’s harder for them to find food, so sprinkle seed, install a bird-feeder, hang homemade bird treats, or make animal friendly reindeer food. This is a lovely way to care for our feathered friends with young children.
  • Go for long walks. I love walking in woods on a frosty, sunny winter morning, telling tales of Jack Frost and talking about the animals who are hibernating away from the cold – almost as much as I love walking in late winter, spotting new buds, shoots and flowers on each walk. Bring a flask with you, and appreciate getting warm afterwards!
  • Collect treasures to bring home. Sprigs of holly, pine/fir/cedar cones, interesting twigs, beautiful leaves or branches. I love the tradition of decorating our homes with nature at this time of year. Just mind that you cut and/or collect responsibly, always from public spaces and always leaving some behind. I like bringing a little bag for Frida to fill with her finds.
  • Track down your local advent fairs. We will be going to our local Steiner school’s advent fair, which promises to be magical. Our nearest common is also holding a Christmas fair. Mulled wine, home made gifts, and lots for young children to look at and take part in. I can’t wait.
  • Visit museums and galleries. This winter I’m looking forward to planning lots of visits to London’s museums and galleries to enjoy whilst it’s cold out. I can’t wait until Frida is old enough to take ice skating!

Winter light

Self-care

  • Take time to reflect. I am planning on making time to reflect on the last year, and set some intentions and hopes for the year to come. I would like to do this alone, but also with my husband. The end of the year feels like the perfect time to do this, as we look forward to the new. I’m also really excited to have booked onto a day retreat with Ray Dodd in early January which I’m hoping will encourage me to clarify my feelings about the past year – which has definitely not been the easiest one, but has in many ways been absolutely wonderful – and the one to come.
  • Declutter. I always feel really drawn to sorting and decluttering in winter; I think it is to do with spending more time indoors and wanting our surroundings to feel cozy and welcoming. For me, this is a kind of self-care, so I try to make time to sort, declutter and deep clean, little and often.
  • Look after yourself. Winter can often mean packed calendars, more food and alcohol than usual, and more tiredness. For me, looking after myself will mean taking time to do nothing – long bubble baths, early nights, soups and winter salads between roast potatoes and mince pies, and paying attention to my skin more than usual. For Frida, it will mean making sure she has plenty of quiet time to balance busy days, looking at her nutrition, and ensuring she is warm and well-rested.

I would also love to try and find a carol service to take Frida to, but I’m unsure if I will find one which isn’t too late in the day, and that fits into our diary.

What are you most looking forward to this winter?

I have a few more wintry posts planned over the next few weeks on how we will be celebrating Christmas as a secular family, some tips for a greener Christmas, and sharing the gifts we have bought Frida. Have you seen my Montessori-friendly gift guide and my list of Winter books we are enjoying

On Our Bookshelves: Winter Books

It is officially December! This morning I showed Frida our new rotation of books, which are all about winter and the holidays we celebrate (Chanukah and Christmas). I have been so excited to rotate in our winter books this year! I think because it has been a difficult summer and autumn for us, winter this year feels a bit like a fresh start, and I have been really looking forward to the festive season.

As well as rotating fresh books onto the shelves, I hung up Frida’s advent calendar and we also put up our – tiny, fake – Christmas tree. We bought this tiny tree last year when our cat was a small kitten, to test the waters (verdict? He goes wild for baubles.) This year after some deliberation we’ve decided to stick to the tiny tree; partly because the cat still goes wild, and partly because buying a bigger tree – even a real one – just for the sake of it seemed a bit wasteful. Frida is just as delighted by a small tree, and was it really worth getting an “impressive” tree (and taking up space in our small house) so I could share pretty photos of it and delight guests? Nope. I’m not saying we’ll never get a real tree again, but for now I’ve made my peace with tiny tree.

Anyway. Back to books! Many of these books are Montessori-friendly, but as I have written before I am not strict when it comes to books and many of Frida’s (and our!) favourite books include elements of fantasy, namely talking animals. I am more interested in whether the language is rich, whether the plot is interesting, and how the characters in the story interact with one another.

(Excuse the cheesy lights – I found the in the back of a cupboard and thought Frida would enjoy them!)

Top row L-R:

The Snowman. A winter classic. Montessori friendly, if you accept that the little boy was dreaming!

Winter Story. The Brambly Hedge books are really wonderful, with spectacular illustrations and sweet plots. Although these are not Montessori friendly as they feature talking mice, I would defy anyone not to fall in love with the illustrations.

The Emperor’s Egg. I love the Nature Storybooks series so much, and this book is no exception! A lovely, chilly tale of how Emperor Penguins raise their young. Montessori friendly.

Robin’s Winter Song. A sweet story about a little Robin’s first winter.

Mog’s Christmas Calamity. Mog the cat causes chaos at Christmas. We love this story! Mog doesn’t talk so I feel that Mog books are Montessori compatible, but each family to their own.

Paddington and the Christmas Surprise. Paddington is such a British institution, and we really enjoy reading the various Paddington stories together.

Middle row L-R:

Winter Hedgehog. A story about the smallest hedgehog in the wood, who decides to stay awake rather than hibernate because he wants to see the wonders of winter for himself. The illustrations are very lovely.

Little Christmas Tree. A beautiful book filled with lots of flaps to peek under. Montessori friendly.

The Polar Bear. A very special factual book about polar bears. This is a stunning book, and would make a wonderful winter gift for a child. Montessori friendly.

Stick Man. Stick Man goes for a jog, but a series of unfortunate events leave him in peril far from home. Will he be home in time for Christmas? Not for Montessori purists unfortunately.

Eight Candles to Light: A Chanukah Story. A simple picture book depicting a family celebrating Chanukah in different ways. Montessori friendly.

The Mitten. A winter tale of a lost mitten which becomes a shelter for a surprising number of animals! Quite Montessori friendly; there are no talking animals, though the story is not realistic as a lot of animals squeeze into one mitten! Last year we had a lot of fun acting this out with a glove and a basket of wooden animals.

Bottom row L-R: 

Alfie’s Christmas.  A sweet, realistic Christmas tale; we love Alfie stories. Montessori friendly.

Chanukah Lights Everywhere. A beautiful book about a family celebrating the eight nights of Chanukah. Montessori friendly.

Mog’s Christmas. More mischief from Mog, who is scared by a Christmas tree and all the commotion of the festive season.

Together At Christmas (Melrose and Croc). Frida really enjoys the gentle Melrose and Croc stories. Their relationship is very lovely, and I like how kind they are to each other. Definitely not Montessori friendly though as these feature a talking dog and crocodile!

Winter.  A stunning picture book without words. We love Gerda Muller; I feel the lack of words adds so much as there is space for telling our own stories. Montessori friendly.

Winter (from the Nursery Collection). A gorgeous Shirley Hughes book with stunning illustrations and short poems. Montessori friendly.

What are your favourite winter and holiday books?

I have a few more wintry posts planned over the next few weeks on our plans for things to make and do this December, how we will be celebrating Christmas as a secular family, some tips for a greener Christmas, and sharing the gifts we have bought Frida. Have you seen my Montessori-friendly gift guide

Kuhn Rikon kinderkitchen knife review 

Frida is really enjoying helping me in the kitchen at the moment, which is lovely. She has become very proficient at chopping, always using her trusty crinkle cutter (this is the one we use). This has been one of our best buys ever for Frida – it is so easy to use, even for very young children, and therefore so empowering. With it she can chop most things, from soft fruits to hard vegetables like carrots, and I feel confident that she is safe.

Because of the nature of the crinkle cutter though, Frida’s knife skills were not really being developed (the action required is very different), so I thought the time had come for a next stage knife. After some research – and some Instagram advice! – I recently bought Frida the Kuhn Rikon kinderkitchen Children’s Knife.

I have been really impressed with it. It is sharp, ie. it is a functioning knife, but feels safe due to its rounded end, chunky shape, and sturdy build. This means I can give Frida more independence with it, leaving it out on her kitchen shelves and not feeling that I have to hover over it when she uses it (although of course I would never leave her using it unsupervised). I feel much happier with her using a sharp knife which works well than her using a blunt knife which may require more force to be effective; I feel it’s much safer.

As a bonus, Frida really enjoys that this knife looks like a dog. She is two and a half, after all!

Frida is very much still learning how to use this knife, as this is the first time she has had to use a sawing motion to cut. As such, I am doing a lot of modelling cutting myself (we usually work in the kitchen side-by-side), and am giving her practical guidance by helping her to position her hand correctly. I trust that she will get there in her own time.

Although using knives obviously does carry an element of risk, I believe it is absolutely worth it. Even very young children can make a very real contribution to their home, and I think that it is our role as parents to teach them how to use these tools safely rather than shielding them from anything which might harm them. Kylie from How We Montessori has a great blog post on this topic here. 

Knife progression

Whilst Frida is still getting the hang of using a “proper” knife, I imagine she will continue to use her beloved crinkle cutter for a good while yet.

She also uses a child size table knife for spreading which works well.

When she is comfortably using her kinderkitchen knife, I will buy her the OPINEL Le Petit Chef knife. I have heard really good things about it, and I really like that it has a hole to encourage correct finger placement, but it feels like it’s a little too advanced for where Frida’s knife skills are at currently.

Does your pre-schooler have their own knives for cooking? Which do you like the best? 

Montessori Gifts for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers

With the festive season fast approaching, I have updated my Montessori-friendly gift guide. I hope you find it useful!

Below are a selection of toys I feel pretty sure would be welcomed by any family with an interest in the Montessori ethos –  or actually, any family at all. They are well made, beautiful, mostly made of natural materials, and invite open-ended creative play. A few are classic Montessori, a few are Waldorf-inspired, and a few are just classic toys which any child would love.

I have categorised these items by type rather than age (apart from infant). This is because our children are all different, and tend to pay no attention to age restrictions on toys – a 13 month old and a 28 month old might well both enjoy the same item, albeit perhaps using it in a slightly different way (that’s the beauty of open-ended toys).

I haven’t included books in this list – it would be too long if I listed all our favourites. Needless to say, books make a fantastic gift for any age child. Some of our favourite non-fiction books can be found here, and I’m confident that most young children would enjoy finding one of these under their tree!

INFANT

Rainbow bead grasper. Such a beautiful toy for babies – a sensory delight.

Mobile. There are just so many mobiles out there that I didn’t have time to go through them all! A simple design which could be hung anywhere would be a winner though.

Interlocking disks. A Montessori classic material for babies. Really well made and a treasure for any keepsake box.

Soft baby. At 7cm these are ideal for babies who are just beginning to grasp.

Pop-Up Toy. A classic toy, which Frida played with for a long time, and one which I have gifted many babies. One of our all time favourite toys, and very reasonably priced.

Nesting cups. A great gift for a younger baby or toddler, and can be used for imaginative play as they get older. Again, this is one of my go-to gifts when buying for a new baby. Frida still plays with hers daily at two and a half!

Rattle. How beautiful is this rattle? It would make a lovely gift for a young baby.

Soft ball. A beautiful felted ball to engage the senses, this would be used for years.

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GRIMMS WOODEN TOYS

We really love Grimms wooden toys in our home!

Open-ended, ethically made, and beautifully tactile, these toys are really very special. They make such wonderful gifts, and can be used in endless ways.

Some of my favourites include the large rainbow, the semi-circles, the stacking boxes, the dolls and doll’s furniture (including the gorgeous mobile home), and the many different stackers (we have the cave and waves).  They also sell stunning building sets, blocks, cars, peg dolls… I could go on.


FOSTERING IMAGINATIVE PLAY

Dolls (Anatomically correct plastic baby / Waldorf-style dolls). Frida has a very simple plastic baby doll with a soft body (similar here) which has served her well. Dolls are so important for boys and girls alike and I think young children are really drawn to them.

Doll sling. A wonderful gift for a child who already owns a doll!

Blocks (simple blocks here / beautiful natural ones here). A staple for every household.

Play silks. These are such a beautiful, open-ended material. In our home they are used as doll slings, as backgrounds for playing, as decorative materials, for hiding and playing peek-a-boo, for dressing up… These make a lovely gift for a child of any age!

Wooden animals and figures (Holztiger / Ostheimer). Frida’s Holztiger wooden animals have been such a joy, for her and for us to use with her. Beautifully made, pleasant to handle, and perfect for open ended play for years to come. She plays with them day in, day out, and I often buy them for gifts. We also love the trees, and this year I have bought Frida some play grass and a wooden well.

Schleich animals. I am sure these are found in every Montessori home! Anatomically correct, versatile, resilient, these are amazing and make fantastic gifts. Frida has some farm animals in adult / baby pairs (great for matching activities for younger toddlers) and some sea animals which she uses in the bath.

Vehicles (cars / fire truck / fork lift / horse on wheels / aeroplane). I love simple vehicles (we have the Grimms cars and a Plan truck), but I’m sure most would go down well with toddlers.

Dolls house. These would make an incredible gift for an older toddler or child. Frida has a simple Grimms doll house frame, which I love as it’s versatile (doubling up as a cafe or stable) and easy for little hands to navigate.

Farm house or stable. Ditto – an amazing gift to go with wooden or Schleich animals.

Plan Toys vegetable garden set. The loveliest toy to go alongside small dolls and animals!

Toy kitchen (IKEA / Myriad). A classic toy for toddlers and young children, again available to suit every budget. There is a debate within Montessori families about the use of toy kitchens, some eschewing them altogether, some preferring to use them alongside real crockery and food, and some using them for imaginative play whilst ensuring the child gets plenty of access to real food preparation. We fall in the latter camp.

Train set. A classic gift but a great one! Again, you’ll be able to find one to suit every budget. We have a cheap IKEA one for now. Setting the track up is like a puzzle in its own right too.

Frida loves using natural materials in her imaginative play, including precious stones, conkers, pieces of wood, stones, shells… A collection of natural “loose parts” gifted in a bag or basket would be the most wonderful gift for an older toddler or preschooler.

PUZZLES AND GAMES

Object permanence box. A wonderful, classic Montessori, gift for a baby. You can see Frida using hers here when she was 10 months.

Simple peg puzzles (shapes / three circles / circle). Classic Montessori and brilliant for older babies as an introduction to puzzles. I loved using the three circles puzzle with Frida when she was younger, and it was a good way to introduce her to size.

More complex peg puzzles (shapesfarm animals / wild animals / vehicles). Good for older babies and toddlers.

Shape sorter / shape sorterimbucare box. Young children love posting, and shape sorting is great for their hand / eye coordination. The animal shape sorter I linked to would be good for older babies – Frida was bought a second hand one and loved playing with the animals.

Two piece / multiple piece puzzles. Great for younger toddlers who are just starting to learn about how puzzles work.

Jigsaw puzzles. There are so many to love! We especially like the Ravensburger frame puzzles.

Magnetic fishing game. A lovely game which encourages coordination and fine motor skills. We have a cheap one my mum bought for Frida but I’ve linked to a similar one and there’s another here.

Animal dominoes. Animal matching, plus putting things in and taking them out of their box. What’s not to love?!

Bird Bingo. A Montessori family classic! We have learnt so much from ours. There is also a Bug Bingo as well as cat and dog versions.

Where’s My Piglet? A beautiful matching game with adult and baby animals to match. When children are older this can be played as a memory game. 

ART MATERIALS

Stockmar crayons. I love these so much. They smell divine as they are made from beeswax, their colours are beautiful, and they are a great shape for little hands to grasp. Putting them in and taking them out of a tin is an activity in itself! They come in sets of 8, 12 and 16.

Paint. I especially like these GALT squeeze and brush paint pens for young toddlers, although those looking for something more natural might prefer finger paints like these natural ones.

For older toddlers and preschoolers I cannot get enough of these Stockmar opaque paints. The colours are amazing and they are such good quality.

Colouring pencils.. We adore Lyra pencils – their quality is second to none. For a cheaper option IKEA do great cheap, chubby ones too – pick some up if you are making a trip!

Modelling clay. I love this Okonorm clay as it doesn’t dry out at all, and the colours are gorgeous despite being natural.

Colour paddles. Great for all ages, to use as a sensory item through to learning about colour mixing.

PRACTICAL LIFE

Cleaning set. A set which children can use to really clean alongside their parents

Clothes pegs. A slightly odd gift idea perhaps, but children love clothes pegs! If you want to push the boat out Grimms do beautiful ones. Frida also loves using her own clothes horse.

Apron. A lovely idea for little ones who enjoy baking (this might be better for older toddlers as infants will probably find it easier to use a full-sleeve bib or art coverall).

Gardening set. Even children who don’t have access to a garden will enjoy these tools as they can be used in a sand pit, or in a local wood, or to help pot up plants on a balcony. We have this set and they are perfectly suitable as well as reasonably priced.

Puddle suit. A brilliantly practical gift for any age child. Even babies who cannot crawl yet can use a waterproof suit for sitting outdoors and exploring the earth with their hands.

Crinkle cutter. The perfect stocking filler! Frida uses hers all the time, and has done for a long time now. It’s a great “first knife” and enables young children to contribute to cooking in a meaningful way.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Glockenspiel. These come at all price points and in all colours and styles. Frida’s was a gift and I love that it is a “proper” adult one rather than a toy one – having a better quality of material makes a big different for instruments as the sound is so much clearer.

Hand held bells. Perfect for all ages. These are a more natural looking option.

Tambourine. Great for making lots of noise!

Shakers and maracas. A great gift for little ones who have just started grasping.

There are more beautiful instruments on the Myriad website here, any of which would be a perfect gift.

FINE MOTOR SKILLS 

Grimms threading bead set. This set is fairly expensive for what it is, so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials, however I think it would make a beautiful gift.

Bee hive set. A truly lovely toy which encourages fine motor skills, colour matching, and imaginative play.

Grimms rainbow sorting bowls. These are also quite expensive so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials. Again though, a really beautiful gift which I am sure would be treasured.

Stickers. At two and a half Frida is still really into stickers, and the peeling makes for a great fine motor activity (for a younger child I would peel the backing off to make it a bit easier to begin with).

Letter work book. This is a great gift for older toddlers who might be starting to show an interest in letter work. This is a lovely book with textured letters to encourage tracing.

GROSS MOTOR SKILLS

Sheepskin rug. Perfect for a new baby to lie on next to a mirror, observing their movements. Great for an older baby who is sitting, and a lovely addition to a chair or floor in a toddler bedroom.

Crawl-through tunnel. Brilliant for infants who are just starting to crawl, for playing peek-a-boo, and for imaginative play. Can be used indoors or outdoors.

“First” slide. Frida has a very small slide which she was bought for her first birthday (similar to the one linked to though not the same) and it was a great gift – small enough that she could play on it without us hovering over her, and for her to feel a sense of accomplishment. It was also small enough that if we wanted to it could easily have been brought inside our home.

Wobbel board. Frida was bought one last year and it has just been brilliant. I cannot recommend it enough.

Micro-scooter. This 3-in-1 version is suitable from around the age of one (dependent on motor skills obviously) and will last for years to come. Frida was bought this for her first birthday and it’s been a fantastic present.

Rocking horse. These can be as expensive as your budget will stretch to, though I have linked to an IKEA rocking moose as this is what we have and Frida loves it! At two and a half she still uses it all the time.

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I hope that this list has given you – and your family members! – some inspiration for birthdays and celebrations, as well as some ideas for toys your infant or toddler may enjoy.

Do you agree with the list? Think I’ve missed something? If you end up being inspired let me know how you get on!

None of the items I have mentioned have been sponsored, although this post does contain some affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Why we love… Nature Storybooks 

As a family, we read a lot of books. I aim to take Frida to the library regularly, I read children’s book reviews, greedily soak up recommendations, and love discovering new books to share with her. One of my happiest discoveries has been the Nature Storybooks series, and I have been meaning to share a little bit about the books for a while now.

The Nature Storybooks series is perfect for Montessori and non-Montessori homes alike. Each beautifully illustrated book tells a fact-based story based on one animal.

Some of the stories feature a child learning about and observing the animals with a family member. White Owl, Barn Owl features a little girl building an owl box with her grandfather, Growing Frogs shows a child collecting frogspawn with her mother and growing frogs in a tank, Yucky Worms has a grandmother teaching her grandchild all about how helpful the worms in the soil can be, and Just Ducks! depicts a girl visiting local ducks. Each of these stories is factually correct, and includes lots of information about the habits and biology of each animal.

Other stories are told about the animal themselves, as they go on a journey. Tigress tells the story of a tigress who needs to find a new home for her cubs, The Emperor’s Egg is all how the lengths emperor penguins fathers go to to protect their eggs and chicks, and Tracks of a Panda tells us about a panda and her growing cub.

I love that these books convey factual information through story. They are so engaging for young children. Many of these books have really inspired Frida’s play and imagination. She might be pretending to be the newborn panda cub from “Tracks of a Panda” eating its first bamboo shoots, or making her toy guinea pig make the noises described in “I Love Guinea Pigs“. She has learnt so much effortlessly, and loves to tell us about the different animals we have been reading about.

Frida has been enjoying these books since we discovered them just before she turned two, and she was able to understand the sweet, simple stories and the facts included within the books. The books themselves say they are targeted at children in UK school years 1-4 (so age 5-9) but I certainly think far younger children could enjoy having these books read to them.

I cannot recommend these books enough. Luckily our local library does have a few of these books, but we have happily bought a number of them as they are a joy to read – for us as parents as well as Frida. I have actually learnt quite a lot from them!

Next on the list for us to find a copy of will be Seahorse: The Shyest Fish in the Sea or Caterpillar Butterfly. The back of each book has a list of some of the others in the series, so Frida loves going through, saying which ones she has read, and choosing which she would like to read next.

These books would make lovely gifts, especially when paired with a matching toy animal or two to deepen the play opportunities.