The play items I'm going to list here have all been "in circulation" for quite some time now. I'm fairly confident that they'll keep A's interest for a while longer-he plays with most of them on a daily basis.
Play kitchen. I had my heart set on a play kitchen for A practically since his birth, and didn't even entertain the thought he might not like it too. Thankfully, he has adored every play kitchen he's come across, so I knew it was going to be a worthwhile purchase. Of course, I would've loved to have had this painfully adorable retro kitchen from Pottery Barn Kids, but I have neither the space nor the mountains of cash necessary. In the end, we went with a simple Ikea kitchen. Every time we took a trip there, A spent all of this time in the kids' section with the kitchen. It's basic, super easy to put together, and appealingly devoid of stickers shaped like food or flowers, which I appreciated. There are lots of great DIY play kitchen ideas out there-I'm sure Pinterest is full of them-but I'm not handy or creative, and truth be told, I'm a bit lazy about those kinds of things. We supplemented the kitchen with a dishwasher that I scored on Zulily, felt food from Ikea (fruit and vegetables, cheap and adorable), and the Ikea cooking accessories set. I splurged on these adorable wooden play food toys-A loves to run over with the milk and juices and pretend for us to drink them.
alphabet train since A was six months old. At the time, he could sit up next to the train, listen to the music, and inevitably stick the letter pieces into his mouth. Once he could move around more, he grew more enraptured by the train, attempting to push it around and pushing the number buttons. After that, he figured out how to snap the letters into place. Now, it's something he turns to regularly, usually every day. It's a battery-operated toy, complete with borderline obnoxious music, but it's one of the best toys we have, enriching even more now because A knows quite a few letters.
Music table. This is another toy that has stood the test of time. I purchased one as soon as A could pull up on things, and he was mightily entertained by the music, textured plastic, and even a little compartment where I kept puffs. When he received a second music table for a first birthday present, I almost returned it, thinking we didn't need another. I debated sending it to Texas to keep at my dad's house, but my laziness kicked in and I decided I'd add another toy to the repertoire. As it turns out, he far prefers it to the original table, and dances to the various musical options every. single. day. I'm so glad we kept it. Note: We still loved our first table, and I think it's a bit more interesting.
Balls. This may seem a bit obvious, but I felt I had to include it anyway. We have a wide assortment, from a solid basketball to soft pillow balls. It never needs to be fancy-A's favorites are probably the super cheap balls we indulge him with on trips to Safeway.
Cars. Also a bit obvious, but just as much a part of the play routine. We have many, and while some of my favorites are the fun B cars pictured above, A's might be the drugstore Superman car his dad picked up for him while we were on vacation last week.
None of these suggestions are particularly special, but they have all continued to provide A with loads of entertainment. Next topic: toddler essentials for dinner time!