20 favorite baby and toddler toys

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We don’t give our toddler too many toys; we much prefer that he has a few that he really likes and not clutter him with too many options. And even the ones we assume he’ll love aren’t hits with him; for instance, I bought him a toy phone thinking he’d love pressing the buttons and pretend like he was talking on the phone. But other than a few times when he’s held the phone to his ear (at my insistence), the phone sits on the floor waiting to be played with.

That said, there are quite a few toys that he’ll easily devour. And while anything can be considered a toy, from craft materials to household items (colander, anyone?), I wanted to list the more standard toys that have kept him happily occupied (pictures and reviews below the list):

  1. Magnetic letter and number links
  2. Textured foam balls
  3. Block crayons
  4. Bowling set
  5. Art easel desk
  6. Latches board
  7. Shape sorter
  8. Magna doodle
  9. Hammering toy
  10. Legos
  11. Blankies and lovies
  12. Magnetic letters and numbers
  13. Play Doh
  14. Sophie the giraffe
  15. Activity triangle
  16. Riding fire truck
  17. Alphabet animals flash cards
  18. Stacking and nesting blocks
  19. Farm animals
  20. Crayons

Magnetic letter and number links
1. Magnetic letter and number links

This was our toddler’s Christmas gift, and for a measly $16 he got hours of fun in return. He liked identifying the letters and math symbols (particularly the minus sign, for some weird reason).
Pros: Alphabet, numbers and math exposure
Cons: Not all pieces fit well with each other, I wish they were more conscious of color-coordinating (for instance, all numbers are red, all consonants are blue, all vowels are yellow, etc)

Textured foam balls
2. Textured foam balls
These balls are probably one of those toys that will age well with any child. When he was a baby, LO liked squishing these, and now that he’s older, it’s all about throwing the balls everywhere.
Pros: Versatile, interesting shapes and textures, bounces well
Cons: None

Block crayons
3. Block crayons

I thought this toy was so unique because they’re crayons and stackable blocks, there are numbers and letters inscribed on the sides, and they even have animal- and people-shaped blocks.
Pros: Unique way to stack, multi-use
Cons: Crayon-quality isn’t all that great

Bowling set
4. Bowling set

My two-year-old doesn’t really use this toy to bowl per say, other than knocking down maybe one or two pins at a time, but he likes matching the colors and inspecting the holes on the bowling ball.
Pros: Good quality foam toys (the bowling ball even has weight to it)
Cons: None

Art easel desk
5. Art easel desk

LO has since declared this desk as a “rocket ship” where he says he flies to the moon. Can’t beat that! He also likes to lift the desk up and down.
Pros: One side is an easel while the other side is a desk
Cons: The desk part is a little bit small for large art activities

Latches board
6. Latches board

The first day LO played with this toy, I was blessed with 45 minutes straight of uninterrupted silence as he tried to figure out how to lock and unlock all these doors. He paused for dinner but resumed for another 15 minutes after he was done.
Pros: Encourages problem-solving, interesting animals, numbers and colors
Cons: None

Shape sorter
7. Shape sorter

Nothing beats the first time a kid figures out how to sort shapes through their correct holes. It’s like a light bulb just switched on in their heads. He received this toy over two years ago and he still plays with it now (just today, in fact). After the shapes are sorted inside the elephant, he can press down on its ears and out come the shapes.
Pros: Sorting skills, the elephant spins
Cons: Sometimes the shapes can get stuck inside the elephant

Magna doodle
8. Magna doodle

You know a toy is good when you yourself played with something similar as a kid. I loved magna doodles and so does my kid. We like to write and draw shapes, and he especially enjoys erasing what we just wrote.
Pros: Encourages writing and drawing
Cons: This particular toy has a small frame to write on

Hammering toy
9. Hammering toy

Melissa and Doug put a spin on a classic toy and made a pounding tower with balls instead of a bench with pegs. My toddler doesn’t really care too much for the hammering part but loves to push the balls through the holes with his hands and watch it move down the tower.
Pros: Good quality
Cons: None

10. Legos

I love open-ended toys like Legos that let you build and imagine anything. Seriously, anything. As of today, these Logos have been: feet, slides, pasta, road hazard lights, airplanes and garage doors. Somehow my kid has conjured all those images from a bunch of squares and rectangles.
Pros: Encourages imagination
Cons: Some Legos don’t stick well to each other to withstand toddler manhandling

Blankies and lovies
11. Lovey

We wanted to give LO a special lovey to help ease him into sleeping through the night, and this little duck has delivered and then some. This is the toy that he’ll grow up with and spend practically every waking and sleeping moment with.
Pros: Great for young infants (we bought this as a safe toy to avoid SIDS), soft, washes easily
Cons: None

Magnetic letters and numbers
12. Magnetic letters and numbers

As if we couldn’t get enough of magnetic letters, we bought these to stick up on the fridge. I credit this toy for helping my toddler overcome his speech delay. He would play with the letters and he learned the sounds to each one first (“buh”) before finally  sounding out the letters (“B”).
Pros: Alphabet and number exposure, helps kids easily assemble words
Cons: Again, I wish they were more purposeful with their colors so that all numbers were one color and all consonants were another, etc.

Play Doh
13. Play Doh

Another open-ended toy that I am in love with. My toddler first started out with picking bits and pieces from the balls of play doh. Now he likes to poke things into them and pretend that they’re food for his stuffed animals.
Pros: Limitless ways to play, good practice for fine motor skills
Cons: Play Doh needs to make products that don’t dry up when left out of their cups!

Sophie the giraffe
14. Sophie the giraffe

We blamed teething for every crying fit our baby had, never mind that not a single tooth popped out until one week after his first birthday. Still, Sophie the teething giraffe came in handy because he really did like to chew on her. Now he also likes to squish her and hear the funny sounds she makes.
Pros: Durable, great for teething and biting
Cons: The orange spots are starting to fade

Activity triangle
15. Activity triangle

Our toddler still plays with this toy even though he’s had it since he was a few months old. He likes spinning the beads and shapes.
Pros: Interesting shapes, lightweight
Cons: None

Riding fire truck
16. Riding fire truck

When he first received this toy, we were a bit disappointed that he didn’t exactly ride on the truck and play “the right way.” We quickly realized though that he loved inspecting everything else about it: the seat that goes up and down, the siren and bell sounds, and the wheels that spin underneath. Oh, and yeah, he now likes to ride it too.
Pros: Little compartment can be a fun place for kids to stash smaller toys in, simple and small for easy riding
Cons: None

Alphabet animals flash cards
17. Alphabet animals flash cards

Flash cards have such a bad rap these days, and I was never one to use them, at least in their intended use. These cards, however, feature artwork and would probably work just as well in a book format. I think flash cards aren’t popular when used as a quizzing tool, but when left lying around the house for toddlers to stack and identify letters and animals, I figure they can’t be all that bad.
Pros: Durable cardstock, well-designed container
Cons: Some drawings are super modern that it’s hard to identify the animals

18. Stacking and nesting blocks

When my little guy was younger he played with these blocks by stacking them up and nesting the smaller blocks into the larger ones. Now he also likes to read the numbers and words as well as identify the pictures.
Pros: Stacking and nesting skills, comparing big and small, sturdy material
Cons: None

Farm animals
19. Farm animals

This particular toy not only features farm animals, but each animal is divided into two pieces so that you can hide them under egg halves for a matching game. Our toddler prefers a simpler game of “Let’s just connect and disconnect the farm animals.”
Pros: Unique game, matching skills
Cons: I wish the egg halves actually connected the way the animals do

20. Crayons
Not only does my kid love scribbling and drawing, he also likes organizing the actual crayons in his little box. Seriously, I don’t know how interesting this can be, but the boy can play crayons for half the day. He especially likes the triangle-shaped Crayola crayons.
Pros: Open-ended toy, creative uses, color identification
Cons: None

Weekend links

What are your kids’ favorite toys that keep them occupied for a long time? Which ones have lasted the test of time?

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What you should know about separation anxiety—an interview with Kim Peterson

What you should know about separation anxiety—an interview with Kim Peterson
I remember when my then 18-month-old son wanted to be with me… and only me. Little that his dad or regular caregiver did could pry him away from me without tears. “Where’s that kid who would ‘go to anyone’?” I glumly wondered. Separation anxiety proved difficult for everybody—for my toddler who was clearly unhappy being away from me, for others who felt shunned despite wanting to help, and for me, who felt no flattery and instead exhaustion and frustration at being the object of his attachment.

Thankfully we were able to move beyond the phase, and while the little guy can still be attached to me, he’s nowhere near the anxiety he felt in the past. Other parents, however, can be struggling with their kids and separation anxiety. That’s why I’m excited and honored to welcome Kim Peterson, MA, a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor and Registered Play Therapist, to Sleeping Should Be Easy. A regular SSBE reader and mom, Kim sat down with us for a Q&A to explain the ins and outs of separation anxiety:

Sleeping Should Be Easy: What exactly is separation anxiety?
Kim Peterson: Separation anxiety is when a child experiences anxiety when they are separated from a primary caregiver. They will become visibly upset when the parent begins to leave the room or hands them off to someone else. They may attempt to clamor back into your arms or cling tightly to your legs.

Separation anxiety is seen in most babies and children at some point and can be considered a normal part of development. Still, it can worry many parents because it happens so quickly. I remember when my son was 10 months old, he went to other people with no problem. Then, all of a sudden, he cried when I started to leave the room and looked at me with distressed eyes. I felt guilty and worried, although I really had no reason to worry.

SSBE: Is there a specific age where separation anxiety begins, peaks and ends?
KP: Every baby and child is different. Some experience separation anxiety around 8 months; for others it may be around 24 months, or anywhere in between. Your child may even experience separation anxiety at multiple stages of development, or they may never show anxiety about a parent leaving.

SSBE: Why does separation anxiety happen?
KP: There can be various reasons for separation anxiety, some which are centered around your child’s developmental stage. Babies develop a sense of object permanence around 5-7 months, which means they realize that objects (and people) exist even if they can’t see them anymore. So, when mom disappears into another room, the baby knows mom still exists, but they aren’t quite confident if or when she will return. It’s around this stage of development that we start to notice separation anxiety.

At the toddler stage, your little one has likely developed a sense of attachment to you. Even though she probably realizes you will return after leaving, being away from you is just upsetting and she is most comfortable and happy when you are around.

Separation anxiety can also be brought on by a transition or stressful event, such as beginning a childcare program, changing providers, a new sibling in the home, or moving or changing schools or day cares.

SSBE: How can parents help ease the child’s anxiety and help him or her feel comfortable without the parent?
KP: This question is probably best answered with a few simple tips:

  • Maintain as much normalcy and consistency to the child’s routine, providers, diet, and environment as possible. This is especially important if there has been a significant change in their life, such as a new sibling.
  • Try your best not to express your own worry or angst about leaving when it’s time to say good-bye. Show them there is nothing to fear.
  • You don’t want to prolong your departure, but be sure you tell them good-bye. Sneaking out can be confusing and it’s good for them to see there is nothing to worry about.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. “Riley, I can see you are sad and don’t want mommy to leave. I have to go, but I will see you when I get off of work today.” What they are experiencing is normal and I strongly believe in reassuring our children of that and offering them a loving gesture, even if it’s brief.

SSBE: Is there a way to prevent separation anxiety, or a way to better prepare for it?
KP: I don’t think there is necessarily a way to prevent separation anxiety altogether, but there are a few things you can do to ease the length or severity:

  • Prepare them for any upcoming changes by talking, reading books, and drawing pictures. Let them know what to expect.
  • For babies and toddlers, present them with plenty of opportunity early on to spend time with other adults, especially relatives and potential caregivers. I recommend starting this around 5-6 months.
  • Allow the child an opportunity to meet new teachers and visit new classrooms before they will be dropped off. This helps them have a visual of what they will experience and mentally prepare.
  • Establish a routine and as much consistency as possible.

SSBE: If a parent is concerned that her child’s separation anxiety may be extreme or lasting too long, when should she seek help from a professional?
KP: With every stage in a child’s development, there are “normal” behaviors that can seem to go too far. If you have a feeling something is not right, talk to your pediatrician or child therapist. As a parent, you are the expert on your child and if something is out of the ordinary, there is no harm in getting more information to ease that nagging feeling in the back of your mind.

I treated one preschool child who developed separation anxiety after learning about the sudden death of a family member. The child cried when mom walked into another room, refused to sleep in their own bed or take a bath without mom near, and was fearful and anxious for most of the day. This is an example of extreme separation anxiety.

SSBE: What resources can you recommend?
KP: There are some fabulous books for the kids out there. Use these to prepare your child for separation or to help ease their separation anxiety.

There are also some helpful reads available for parents:

Thank you, Kim for shedding some light on this often confusing and frustrating behavior in our kids. To learn more about Kim’s background and practice, visit her site, Kim’s Counseling Corner.

How have you dealt with separation anxiety with your kids? After reading this post, what new tips will you take to help ease separation anxiety?

p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.

Why I regret rocking my baby to sleep

Flashback Friday: Why I regret rocking my baby to sleep
When I was pregnant, a co-worker advised, “Don’t rock your baby too much—he’ll get used to it.” As I nodded my head and smiled politely, all I could think was, “Cruel woman! How could she suggest such an idea?!”

Well… six months, two broken knees, and one sleep-deprived mama later, I knew exactly why she suggested not to rock my baby to sleep. (I’ll get to the broken knees later.)

After bringing my baby home from the hospital, I quickly realized how easily he dozed off after a few bouncing and rocking in my arms. Somehow he only fell asleep in mine—a fact that I actually took great pride in: “Only mama has the special touch!” I employed all sorts of crazy rocking, from the side-to-side stepping to the bob-and-weave rocking. But the constant rocking plus a growing baby meant that my arms were exhausted.

When my toddler was about four months old, I visited my sister when I noticed she had a yoga ball. “Can I try to see if I can bounce LO on the ball?” Not only did she agree, but she lent us the ball—a curse in disguise as I would soon learn. The ball seemed to work miracles: not only were my arms given a break, but the ball seemed to conk out my baby quicker than ever. But with our ever-growing dependence on the ball, my baby grew to rely on motion to fall asleep, so much so that we would have to bounce him for several minutes before gingerly placing him on the crib.

This rocking business wasn’t working out for us. A few months ago, SSBE reader Mommy Organics asked me what I would do differently if given the chance to do it all over again, and hands down I would not have rocked my baby to sleep. Perhaps with another baby or different techniques I wouldn’t have this sour experience with rocking, but as it is, below are the reasons why I wish I didn’t:

  • My baby relied exclusively on external sleeping aids. We all have sleeping aids, some of them as common as sleeping in a dark room or hearing white noise. But my baby’s sleeping aids were not only unsustainable (we couldn’t rock him the whole night) but prevented him from falling asleep on his own. He could have explored self-soothing techniques to fall asleep, whether it’s rocking his head side to side or sucking on his thumb. But because we did all the work for him, he had few opportunities to develop that ability on his own.
  • Frequent wake-ups meant the entire family was all tired. Not only was our baby not sleeping on his own, he also didn’t know how to help himself fall back asleep when he woke up in the middle of sleep. And since our baby was a light sleeper, that meant waking up every hour and a half to two. We hardly reached deep sleep; even though we technically clocked in eight hours, our bodies weren’t rested.
  • My knees gave out. Our baby required at least 10 minutes of ball bouncing per sleep session. Considering that he was still napping three times a day in addition to the evening where he would easily wake up three times a night, that’s a whole lot a bouncing. All the bouncing took a toll on my knees, and considering that my mom and two sisters already had knee issues, I didn’t want to exacerbate the pain and need surgery as well.
  • And lastly, my baby got to the point where he still cried despite all that rocking. In what is supposed to be a nurturing act—a bonding experience between parent and child—brought us both misery instead. Somehow the rocking itself wasn’t soothing enough, and he ended up crying in our arms the entire time. Something wasn’t working.

We ended up sleep-training our baby at six months old. While it’s not for everybody, sleep-training worked for our family. After two days, my baby was falling asleep on his own sans rocking. Considering that he was barely clocking in three-hour stretches of sleep, I just about died when he slept for 11 hours straight. He woke up more energetic, and we were so much happier for it.

Were I to have another baby or travel back in time, I wouldn’t jump to sleep-training as the first and only solution, but I probably could have employed a few techniques to avoid sleep issues to begin with, such as:

  • Put him down drowsy but awake. I had heard of this advice, and perhaps this is what my co-worker was referring to when she meant not to rock him too much. Instead, I ended up rocking or nursing my baby to drunken oblivion. Not only was he more likely to wake up confused as to how he ended up in a crib when he remembered being in someone’s arms, but he also wasn’t given a chance to learn how to fall asleep on his own.
  • Give him a chance to lie awake on his back. I felt this pressure to always carry my baby, and that if I even so much as lay him down I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. Letting him enjoy time on his back probably would have helped him feel comfortable in his crib.
  • Nurse him when he just wakes up, not to fall asleep. I forget where I had heard of the E-A-S-Y technique (eat, awake, sleep, you), but the general idea is to feed your baby after he wakes up. We didn’t really have a routine in the beginning, but once we started getting into a rhythm, we eventually followed this technique.
  • Decrease or eliminate sleeping aids that I planned to wean him off of anyway. Darkened rooms and white noise is fine by me, but I wouldn’t have rocked, swaddled, or nursed to sleep if I intended on taking those away from him down the line. I’d rather that he didn’t need so many external sleeping aids and instead practice his own self-soothing skills.

You now know why my blog is titled the way it is. While parenting presents many challenges (ahem: tantrums), sleeping was by far the most difficult for us. I think we did our best knowing what we did, but boy if they had that time machine, I would have done a few things differently.

As for that yoga ball, we promptly returned it to my sister with the intention of never wanting to lay eyes on it again.

For parents who rocked their babies to sleep: did you love it or hate it? For parents who didn’t rock their babies, how did you get him or her to fall asleep?

p.s. If you liked what you read, you can subscribe and receive free full-text posts from Sleeping Should Be Easy in your email inbox. Or, tell us what you think about this post on Facebook and Twitter.

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Overcoming other people’s judgment

Overcoming other people's judgment
When I was pregnant, I imagined taking my new baby out and about, happily pushing the stroller and  cooing at him as any proud new mom would. I couldn’t wait to take him to the park, maybe lay out a blanket and sit with him under the shade of a tree.

Then the baby was born. And I didn’t realize how much my baby would cry. Especially in a stroller.

We didn’t take him out on a stroll for the first few weeks for fear of another crying fit. But finally my husband and I decided, “Okay, we’re ready! Off to the park we go (insert high-five)!” We packed the stroller with every imaginable item we thought we would absolutely need: diapers, changing pad, wipes, toys, books, blankets… never mind that it takes all of five minutes to walk there. So out we went.

And the crying began.

The crying differed: on some days it was quick and we were able to pretend we were still having fun, and other times it’s all we heard during the whole walk. But most of our strolls were not the peaceful walks I had imagined with my new baby. What happened to all those rumors we heard about babies falling asleep in a stroller?! Apparently my baby didn’t get the memo.

And here’s the worst part: I was so scared to be out on a stroll not so much because my baby would likely cry, but because other people—especially other moms—might notice. I couldn’t bear the thought that they might think I’m a bad mom, or that I didn’t know what I was doing. Even the thought that they “could relate” because they were once in my shoes irked me, because as of that moment, they weren’t me, they weren’t in my shoes and they didn’t have a baby that cried all the time. Especially on strolls which apparently can knock every other baby but mine out into sleep.

I remember the first time I pushed the stroller by myself. I was grabbing hot chocolate with my husband at a shop that happened to be near a park. “You go ahead and order the drinks,” I casually told him. “I’ll walk around the park.” In reality I was shaking inside, nervous to be pushing the stroller on my own. There was a group of moms and nannies playing at the park, their little babies and toddlers happily smiling and crawling. And of course right when I walked in front of them, my baby—as if on cue—cried loudly. I was so embarrassed and assumed that they were judging my apparent lack of stroller-pushing skills.

Another time, I decided to drive to the library and pack the stroller too so that I could walk around the area with him. Once I arrived and managed to lug the stroller out of the trunk, I couldn’t figure out how in the world to unlatch the darn thing so that it would fold out. Meanwhile, my baby was crying in the car seat, still inside the car. I called my husband nearly in tears, frustration choking my voice, just so he could coach me on how to open the stroller.

I easily laugh now thinking about those scenarios considering that I can now flip and switch that stroller in two seconds flat, but in that moment, that fear of not knowing what I was doing, or of being judged, was very real. On one hand, I was too confident for my own good, and that confidence didn’t allow me to cut myself some slack and say, “Hey, you are a new mom, and you’re allowed to make mistakes and look like a fool trying to unfold a 30-pound stroller. And if you have a crying baby, you don’t have to look calm and collected while inside you’re reeling with embarrassment and fear of judgment. It’s really okay if you don’t know how to do everything, especially with motherhood.”

And it is. Suffice it to say my toddler now likes (or at least doesn’t mind) being in a stroller, and I have since mastered the art of the one-handed stroller fold down (take that, stroller). When I see moms of newborns, I try not to patronize or assume that they must be going through what I did, because they may not. I’ve also accepted that I’m always going to be a new mom dealing with new experiences as my child grows—if I’m not pushing a loud, crying baby in a stroller, I’m carrying a loud, crying toddler throwing a tantrum. And I don’t have to worry about what people think. Even if every mom is looking at me.

Did you have days when you felt like the new mom or the new dad? What advice would you offer new moms and dads from your experience?

p.s. Check out our Facebook photo album page to read the stories behind the blog’s photos.

How to prepare homemade baby food

Two years ago when my toddler was entering his fourth month, I offered him his first solid foods. (I was secretly hoping eating solid food would help him sleep longer. It didn’t.) My husband and I tend to cook meals at home, so making our own baby food wasn’t too much of a stretch. So although we bought jarred food from time to time, we opted to make our own for most of our baby’s meals. I’m so glad we did.

  • Homemade baby food provided variety
    Choosing my own ingredients provided near-limitless combinations: strawberries and cherries, strawberries and pineapple, cherries and pineapple… I tried to make every possible combination from different fruits and vegetables but there was no way I could have done it.
  • Homemade baby food helped transition to table food
    When my baby outgrew the pureed stuff, I wanted him to eat what I’ve cooked for everyone else, whether that’s chicken breasts or salad, spaghetti or clam chowder. Because we gave our baby homemade food, introducing a simple “table food” recipe wasn’t too difficult, like zucchini sauteed with garlic and thyme, for instance. Eventually his palette widened enough that he was eating exactly what my husband and I had on our plates.
  • Homemade baby food was cheaper
    Just as I saved money cooking at home instead of eating out, making my own baby food was almost always less expensive than buying food already made. Since I love to save me a buck or two, the money factor was a nice nudge towards making our own baby food.

There were times though, when homemade baby food wasn’t the ideal choice. I ran out ingredients. I just about had it with peeling and steaming. Or I simply didn’t have time to prepare anything. Plus homemade baby food wasn’t conducive for travel—when we went to Big Bear, we opted for convenience and bought jarred food.

And if I could do this all over again, I would change a few things:

  • First, I would skip the cereal. I kept hearing (probably from clever marketing preying on new moms—oh, we are such easy targets!) that cereal is the best food to start with when introducing solid foods. I didn’t see any benefits to starting with rice and oatmeal cereals, or even including them at all. When my baby started eating grains regularly, I would simply buy the Bob Mills crushed grains. Not only were baby cereals more expensive, they were probably not as tasty as fruits or vegetables like sweet potatoes or bananas.
  • And second, I wouldn’t introduce broccoli so early. Or bananas so late. I thought that the first foods I offered my baby would magically be his favorite food. Conversely I thought if I waited a bit longer to introduce fruits, he wouldn’t develop a sweet tooth. But alas, food isn’t always love at first taste—tasting  broccoli before avocado doesn’t guarantee he’ll prefer the former over the latter. And delaying the sweet stuff did nothing for my toddler’s penchant for fruits. My advice: start off with more palatable flavors and work the stronger flavors like broccoli much later.

Need some ideas on what to feed your baby and how to prepare them? Below are some of the fruits and vegetables we introduced during the first few months of solid food-eating:

  • Sweet potatoes, taro and yams: Place an unpeeled sweet potato on a foil or pan and roast unwrapped at 400 degrees in the oven for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the thickness. Let it cool, then peel and mash with a fork or masher. At a younger age, you’ll probably want to thin it out by adding some water.
  • Apples and pears:
    Peel, core and slice the apple or pear into chunks. Place the chunks into a steamer. (I just filled up a large pot with about an inch of water and left it at a low boil hot enough to emit some steam. then I placed a colander inside the pot and covered that with a lid.) Steam the apples or pears until they’re tender (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes), then place the chunks into a food processor or blender to puree. You may want to add some of the reserved water (that one inch of water from the pot) into the blender to thin it out and make it easier to blend.
  • Zucchini and summer squash:
    Wash the zucchinis or summer squash but don’t peel them. Instead, trim the ends and cut the rest into small sections to steam until they’re tender. Then, puree in a blender until smooth. Since zucchini and summer squash have a lot of water, there’s probably no need to add extra water to the puree.
  • Peas: Make sure you’re using peas taken out of the pods (the actual circles or beads). Then, place in a steamer and cook until tender before blending into a puree.
  • Banana, mango, avocado, papaya and kiwi—These are the convenient foods! Simply scoop out the meaty parts and mash with a fork—no cooking necessary. Feel free to thin with water.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower: Be warned—these were not my baby’s favorite foods. That said, I probably didn’t do what I’m suggesting here now, which is to cut just the florets instead of the stem. This will make the puree tastier and smoother. Then, steam the florets until tender and puree.
  • Beets: Chop off the leafy tops of the beets completely, then wash and peel the beets. Cut them into smaller section and steam until tender before pureeing in a blender. Make sure to thin with new water, not the reserved water from the pot, in case any of the nitrates made its way into the reserved water.
  • Green beans: Wash the beans and cut off the tips from either end. Then, steam until tender and puree in a blender, thinning out with reserved water if needed.
  • Carrots: Wash and peel the carrots and cut into chunks. Then, steam the chunks until tender and puree in a blender. Make sure not to use the reserved water in case the nitrates seeped into it.
  • Peaches and nectarines: Peel and remove the pit, then cut into slices to steam. Once it’s tender, puree in a blender, thinning out with reserved water if needed.

Did you make your own or purchase baby food? What did you like and not like about preparing the food?

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