Baby’s First Birthday Toy Haul Review

Hello, friends! As some of you may know, I wrote a 3 part series of reviews for all of the toys that Liam got for his first Christmas (if interested, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). Well, his first birthday was less than a month later, on January 23rd, and he got some great toys! About a week has passed, and we have had time to thoroughly explore and play with all the new toys, and I thought it would be fun to do another toy haul review! Unlike my Christmas toy haul, I’ll be doing just one post for these reviews, as I am only doing 6 toys.

As with the previous posts, I will post the name and link for each toy, as well as an image. Beneath these, I will be using a 4-star system, rating each toy on their:
Attractiveness: Colors, shapes, detail, and how well it captured and kept my son’s attention.
Interactivity: Age settings, movement, how much can he do with it, etc.
Noise: (If applicable) Music, sounds, volume control, sound quality.
Quality: Flimsy plastic, not baby-proof, etc.
Overall Score: A mix of my opinion and my son’s opinions.
I will also list Pros and Cons.

Here we go!

1. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros: Amazing learning toy! Very interactive. Power and volume control, as well as four ways to play (learning time, Spanish, music time, and play time with real sounds). Very colorful and eye-catching. My son attacked it and wanted to play before I had even put it together. The piano keys are our favorite!
Cons: None!

2. Bizzy Square – The Buckle Toy
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟✰✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟✰✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros
Colorful, soft material. The back has several numbered tabs that baby can lift to reveal animals. Clips are very easy to clip and un-clip, great for babies who like to play with and chew on clips, with little risk of pinching their fingers. Comes in several colors/characters.
Cons
Toy is smaller than it appears in pictures, has a cheap feel for the price.

3. Fisher-Price Little People See n’ Say
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: 🌟✰✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟✰✰
Pros: 
Colorful. Features a variety of animals, a song option, and a little game.
Cons: 
Lever is a bit difficult for my 12-month old to pull, and can be awkward. So power or volume control, and volume is VERY loud. Animal noises are unrealistic and sound a bit weird.

4. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Speedsters, Monkey & Sis


Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Noise: 🌟🌟✰✰
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros: 
We have the full set of 3, and they make excellent learning tools, that double as great, cheap toys, and my son loves them. Colorful and eye-catching. Move very smoothly.
Cons:
No power or volume control. The volume on the Monkey car is much higher than the other two, and his voice is very shrill. I actually get headaches from that little green car.

5. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Tablet
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Noise: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Pros:
Great learning tool, features power and volume control, as well as 3 stages of learning. Each button has the option of saying the letter, character/object, and the sound it makes. Plays several different songs, different on each learning setting. Lights on top and sides light up in several, bright colors.
Cons: 
NOT a touch screen, which is fine, but baby does need to press a bit on the buttons, which seemed to put my kiddo off a bit. When you are playing with the alphabet buttons, it randomly cuts you off and plays music, which is a bit annoying.

6. Mega Bloks Jeep Lil’ Off Roader Building Set
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Attractiveness: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Interactivity: 🌟🌟✰✰
Noise: N/A
Quality: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟✰
Pros:
Instantly caught my son’s attention in the store. Great size for toddlers. Looks like a realistic, tiny Jeep! Comes with 7 pieces, which includes a little removable character, and 6 Mega Bloks blocks. Blocks can be played with on their own, or can be arranged on the roof of the Jeep.
Cons:
Very basic, limited interactivity. A bit expensive for what little it does.

There you have it! I have to say that my favorite toy is definitely the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Learning Table. I love how many settings it has, and I actually really enjoy composing short piano pieces with the 4 colorful piano keys. Liam loves the piano keys, too, and plays with me! I’d say his favorite toy is probably the Learning Table as well, but he is definitely a fan of his Mega Bloks Jeep, as well as his Fisher-Price Tablet (but only if I’m using it with him), and his Fisher-Price train that he got for Christmas, of course!

We are really loving all of the Fisher-Price learning toys! I love toys that have multiple learning stages, and look like “real” items that mommy and daddy use, and these are all just fantastic! I hope this helped out a few folks out there who are hunting for gifts for little ones!

Thanks for reading, friends.

Jan

Egg-less, Oil-less, Boxed Cake Recipe

Hello, friends! Today is Liam’s first birthday! In honor of this momentous day in our lives, I decided to write a post about Liam’s birth story, which you can read (if you want, it is a birth story after all) by clicking here.

We quietly celebrated this special day yesterday, since Kyle is working all weekend. Unfortunately, Kyle’s mother was also working, so we celebrated at home, with just the three of us. We started the day off with blueberry birthday pancakes, which were a hit, but the real treat of the day was Liam’s birthday cake!

Well… cupcake, that is.

Liam doesn’t have any allergies to eggs or anything, but I still wanted to find a cake recipe that was a little bit on the healthier side. I also don’t bake, and couldn’t really afford to go out and buy a bunch of baking supplies and ingredients, that I will never use up. After hunting around online, I managed to stumble across a “healthier boxed cake” recipe, from the Dr. Oz Show, and decided to go with a boxed chocolate cake recipe (because it had the lowest calorie count and sugar content, surprisingly), though I did have to tweak it a bit.

The recipe reads as follows:

  • 1 package cake mix
  • 1/2 – 1 banana, mashed
  • 3/4 – 1 1/12 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • water (amount not specified)1. Just use a normal chocolate boxed cake mix (that calls for you to add water, egg, and oil), but make the following substitutes:
  • Instead of egg, use a mashed banana (1/2 banana per egg).
  • Instead of oil, use 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt per cup of oil.

2. Then follow the instructions on the box to finish making          the cake.

Now, I ended up using the recommended amount of bananas, but needed DOUBLE the amount of Greek yogurt (my recipe called for 1/2 cup of oil, but I used about 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt). Since the amount of water wasn’t specified, I used only 1/4 of a cup, but I probably could have used a bit more. I also added a bit of cinnamon to the mix, since I planned to top it with cinnamon graham cracker crumbles. It was very difficult to mix by hand, and the batter was very thick and sticky. This also made it quite difficult (and messy) to put into the cupcake liners. Usually when I bake cakes, cookies, cupcakes, etc. the cooking time is fairly accurate, but I needed to take these out about 3-4 minutes earlier than called for, and they still felt slightly overcooked.

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They smelled amazing, and the batter (which I shamelessly ate from the bowl) was delicious. However, it ended up not making 2 dozen, which it should have. We ended up with 16 total cupcakes, and they were yummy! The bottoms did end up being slightly overcooked, but the cake itself was surprisingly moist, all things considered. The banana and chocolate combination was really tasty, and reminded me of banana bread, or even cocoa zucchini bread, both of which I love!

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I topped Liam’s birthday cupcake with whipped cream, instead of icing, cinnamon graham cracker crumbles, and a blueberry. His favorite part was the whipped cream and graham crackers, but he did finish the entire thing! He didn’t care for the blueberries, however, which were still slightly bitter and firm (which is how I like them). But overall, as you can see, he loved it!

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I’ve also been snacking on the cupcakes, and love them! They are slightly better for you, as far as boxed cake mixes go, and are a good alternative for moms who can’t bake, or don’t want to waste baking ingredients that they may never use, and kiddies with allergies. I recommend!

Thank you for reading, friends!

Jan

 

My Thoughts On First Birthdays

Unpopular opinion time.

A baby’s first birthday is a big deal, there is no denying that. But how big should it be?

Liam will be a whole year old in 15 days, and Kyle and I have made the decision to not throw him a birthday party. I know, I know. I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaws up off the floor and compose yourselves.

That’s right. No party. No big cake, no balloons, no streamers. Why not? Let me tell you.

A lot of things need to be considered before diving into throwing a huge bash for your little bundle of joy, who is not so little anymore. The first thing you should consider, in my opinion, is your CHILD. Specifically, their personality. Yes, your one-year-old does have a personality.

First and foremost, this is your child’s party. A celebration of their life up to this point, and their accomplishments and milestones from their first year. And who wants to have a party thrown for them and have a miserable time? All babies are different, so this may not be relatable to some, but it certainly is for my little guy.

Liam, much like his mama, has a bit of social anxiety. He only lets a very select few hold him, and if you are lucky enough to let him grace you with his cuteness, it is only for a short period before he panics, and searches for mommy and daddy. I suppose, in a way, I am partially to blame for this… sort of. You see, I’m a stay-at-home-mom in a small town, where I don’t know a single soul. We only have one vehicle, but I don’t drive anyway. My fiance works 70-80 hours a week, and on his one day off every other week, socializing isn’t exactly at the top of our to-do list. No, it goes more like: rushed grocery shopping, rushed bill paying, rushed odds and ends, rushed trip to the laundromat to do our mountain of laundry… you get the idea.

So, baby and I don’t get much human interaction, aside from family get-togethers for major holidays, and occasional, planned meet-ups with Kyle’s mother (who is pretty much the only person Liam will remain content with). I wish it were different. I wish Liam was the kind of baby who could be passed around a room full of strangers, and keep a smile on his face. I’ve received so many judgmental glances from family members, when they beg to hold him, even after my warnings about his stranger anxiety, and then he fusses after a solid 60 seconds.

That’s just how he is.

So, back to my original point. Does your baby handle strangers well? Or even family? If not, then is it really worth it to put them in an uncomfortable situation, just so you can attend a party? No. Not to me.

Next up, we have noise. Now, Liam handles noise well. Heck, he’s a noisy boy himself. He handles loud TVs, music, sudden noises, peoples’ voices, etc., all really well. But many babies don’t. Large, noisy crowds, even if filled with familiar faces, can be very stressful for little ones. Even in the arms of mommy or daddy. Popping balloons, screaming little kids, and other sudden loud noises can make for a very bad time if your baby doesn’t handle noise well. And, as we all know, nothing kills the mood at a party quite like an inconsolable, screaming baby.

Now, remember how I said this is a party for your child? Well, it is, but it is also a party for YOU. You, your partner, whatever. This is a celebration of you, and everything you’ve made it through over the last year as well. All of the late nights, early morning, poopy diapers, feedings, stepped on toys, tears and fits, teething pain, baby-proofing as they learned to crawl and walk, and chasing them throughout the house. It is a celebration for you as well. So, while keeping your baby’s personality in mind, what do YOU want?

For me, there’s the stress. I stress easily. I don’t like parties. Even my own. I don’t like birthday parties, I don’t like New Years or Christmas parties, or Halloween parties. Like I said, social anxiety. Even with family. I don’t like feeling like I’m being secretly (or not-so-secretly) judged for every decision I make. I also have a tight budget, and stress out easily when I need to plan get-togethers. So… why go through the stress of planning, cleaning, buying party supplies, blowing up balloons, dealing with who to invite, settling on a date that accommodates peoples’ schedules, maybe even finding a location, if you’re not going to enjoy yourself either? If you’re unhappy, your baby will be unhappy.

That does not sound like a good time to me.

Will they even remember their first birthday party? Probably not. Will they remember how much stress you put on yourself to pick the perfect napkins to match the plates? Doubt it. Will they even know what is happening? Nah. I’d much rather make some baby-friendly cupcakes (don’t even get my started on my opinion of spending oodles on fancy smash cakes…), and snap a few cute pictures, surrounded by the people who have had the biggest impact in Liam’s life up to this point.

So why do it? Because your family want to celebrate? Because you’re afraid of being judged? Well, with all due respect, it is not their baby. Pressure from family plays a huge roll in the decisions we make as parents, and it definitely shouldn’t. This is YOUR baby. This is YOUR time to celebrate. There will be other holidays, and other birthdays. But, in my opinion, this one is a big one, and should be for you and your little one.

Now, that’s not to say it has to be just you guys. We may not be throwing a party, but we want Kyle’s mother to be there. She loves Liam just as much as we do, and I honestly couldn’t imagine her not being there to celebrate this milestone with us. But, honestly, she’s the only one I want there. Just the three of us, and Liam’s grandma.

Of course, as I said before, this may not be relatable to some. Maybe your idea of celebrating all that you’ve accomplished as a family is to throw a big bash. Maybe you have a loving, supportive  family, and they make you feel comfortable, and you want them there with you. And maybe your baby takes after you, and is outgoing. Maybe they love being bounced, cuddled, and smothered with love and affection from everyone they meet. But not all babies (or parents) are like that. And that is perfectly fine.

These are just a few of the reasons why I’ve decided that I don’t want to throw a big party for my little guy. I want to quietly celebrate all that we have overcome, and accomplished, in the first year of his life. I want to reflect back on each and every special moment with the man that I love, and our sweet boy.

I know you want to make memories, but that doesn’t mean that you need to include everyone in the making of them.

Unless you want to, of course.

But, when he turns two… that’s another story.

Thank you for reading!

Jan