Gift Guide for 1 year olds

Gift Guide for Babies
1. Wee Gallery Black & White Art Cards for Babies $ 13

Newborns are absolutely riveted by black and white patterns and these cards are just so artsy.
2. Cloud B Giraffe On The Go Sound Machine $20
Sounds to soothe baby and a cuddly giraffe. Enough said.

3.Kathe Kruse Rainbow Baby Clutching Toy $16

Snuggly and cute with a wooden ring for babies who are just learning to hold

4.Land of Nod Knit Elephant Rattle $25

With a face like that and a soft, tinkling sound, this one is a winner. Bonus points for being organic and machine washable.

5.Little Alouette Hippo Teether $16

Made with Ohio Maple wood and finished with organic flax seed oil, this teether is gorgeous to look at and safe to chew on.

6.Kleynimals Stainless Steel Keys $24

Finally, toy keys that look and feel like the real thing, but are also totally safe and super easy to clean!

7.Giggle Discovery Box $32

For the baby who’s just discovering the joys of fine motor skills.

8.Plan Toys Stacking Ring $ 15

A true classic made with recycled rubberwood and food-grade dyes, and just the right size for the youngest stackers.

9.Haba Toys Baby’s First Blocks $29

Wooden blocks designed to enthrall babies who are not quite building towers yet.

10.Mix and Match Sea Life Puzzle $15

For babies developing their pincer grasp, each piece of this puzzle fits in two different slots. Easy and versatile.

11.Sevi Toys Push and Pull Along Cowboy $42

Italian design and a favorite toy combine to create a fun cowboy with just the right amount of detail for a baby’s blossoming creativity.

12.Eric Carle’s Very Little Library Gift Set $25

Three of Carle’s classics in board book format. Stunning illustrations and captivating stories for the budding book-lover.

A stacking peg with rings is one the simplest toys you can give a child but it can entertain and support development in so many different ways and over many different age ranges. The littlest babies will be happy simply grasping and mouthing the rings and older babies will hone their hand-eye coordination while carefully placing each ring on the peg. Toddlers and preschoolers can learn a lot about the relative sizes of objects, colors and shapes, and how to problem-solve, especially with some of the more versatile sets.

Here are some of my favorite peg and ring sets and I like them because each one offers something unique. Plus they’re all  beautifully designed, made from safe, non-toxic wood and have the potential to really grown with any child.

Plan Toys Fun Stacker: The cool thing about this stacker is that the ‘pegs’ are actually arcs . They are curved, with 2 holes each, so each arc can be stacked in 4 different ways- in either of the holes and ‘curved’ up or down.  Many possibilities = many hours of play! Ideal for 0- 2 years.

Plan Toys Cone Stacker: This one has outer pegs and inner pegs that are shaped like tubes. The inner tubes have to be assembled by size before the outer pegs can be stacked.  Great little problem to solve! Ideal for 6 months -3 years.

P’kolino Puzzle Stacker : Each peg is made up of two interlocking pieces.  While each part can be stacked independently, all the pieces will not fit on the peg unless each part is correctly interlocked with its matching piece. Ideal for 1 ½ – 3 years.

Do you want to buy a car or a truck for the vehicle-addicted little man or men in your life? Are you tired of the Tonkas and the McQueens and the Taters? Here are two cool brands that will not only be a hit with the kids but will also appeal to you as a fashionable or eco-friendly ‘green’ adult. You’ll feel good when you buy and gift these little guys, and you’ll know you’re giving something unusual that’s not likely to be duplicated in your giftee’s holiday gift stash.
Automoblox Mini 3-Packs: At the moment I’m totally digging the simple, modern lines of these cars. They are made of beechwood with removable parts (such as wheels and windows) in beautiful colors. The parts can be interchanged and combined in every possible way, making the 3 cars capable of turning into many more cars! Plus the main body of the car itself can be easily taken apart and re-combined in dozens of ways using a unique connector system, by the youngest auto fans.

They are super-stylish, super-fun and super-affordable at less than 25$ for the 3 -pack on Amazon. The cars are also available as singles, and for bigger fun, they have non-mini ‘full size’ models too.

Green Toys Dump Truck: For the green-minded environmentalists out there, or anyone looking for a light, durable, safe sump truck that’ll do as well at home as in the sandbox, the Green Toys Dump Truck is a winner.

Made in the USA from 100 percent recycled plastic milk containers, this award-winning, eco-designed toy truck has no metal axles and a workable dumper. What more do you need? If your little giftee has one dump truck too many, Green Toys also has a firetruck, a school bus, race cars and more.

I’ve been reading to Kabir ever since he was just a few weeks old. He has always seemed to enjoy it, but his interest has really escalated over the last few months, from around the time the time that he turned one. This is when he started bringing books to us on his own, presumably so that we could read to him. It was around the same time that he really started getting into cars, trucks and trains, pretty much anything with wheels. So it makes sense that, at the moment, he’s totally loving books about trucks.

After weeks of looking for and discovering some terrific ‘truck books’ on Amazon, our favorite local book store, BooksInc, and the  Mountain View library, I decided that I just had to put together a list of our favorites.

  1. Baby Touch and Feel Tractor: This is a simple but great ‘interactive’ first book for budding truck lovers. Each page features a bright image of a tractor with a touch and feel element, creating a collage-like effect.  There are bumpy tires, a scratchy bale of hay and my son’s favorite, sticky tractor tracks.  Each image is accompanied by just one or two words of text, making it perfect for the shortest attention spans.
  2. Trucks Go by Steve Light: This might be my son’s all-time favorite truck book. The genius of this book lies in the fact that each  lovely, watercolor picture of a truck is accompanied simply by the sound that the truck makes, in big bold black letters. So, the firetruck goes ‘whee-oo, whee-oo, whee-oo’, the oil tanker goes ‘vrooooom’, and so on. The slightly over-sized format (it’s longer than most) lets you really enjoy the beauty of the illustrations. The large, bold lettering of the sounds somehow just inspires you make those sounds with extra gusto. In my opinion, this is a hidden little gem.
  3. My Big Truck Book by Roger Priddy: This is the truck equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica for little vehicular aficionados. Real pictures of trucks of every imaginable size, shape and function in full, glossy glory. There’s always a new machine to discover and explore!
  4. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld: This one has the distinction of being one of the few bedtime books for all those little folks who just can’t bear to let go of their trucks even at bedtime. The book features five big construction trucks as each of them winds down, prepares for bedtime, and finally says goodnight. This pacing is ideal for gently nudging any reluctant sleeper to lie down and close his (or her) eyes. The illustrations are gorgeous, done in the warm, earthy tones of sunset and the cool blue hues of nighttime. The actual trucks are beautifully rendered with just the right amount of texture and detail. But my favorite part about this book is the lilting, rhyming text which lends itself wonderfully to reading aloud, and the authentic ‘trucking’ terms ( the boom, the scoop, the chute, the drum) which make it a mini- educational experience for both parent and child.
  5. My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis: This is one of the two story books about trucks that we love. It tells the story of a pair of dogs driving a truckload of bones on a desert road, when one of the wheels get stuck in a hole made by prairie dogs. As the story proceeds, we see the truckers flagging down an assortment of fellow travelers to help them rescue the truck. But to no avail. It is only when a tow truck comes into the picture that the stuck truck is dislodged, thanks in part to the fact that it’s become considerably lighter (those clever prairie dogs have been busy, quietly making away with all the bones). Younger truck lovers will be thrilled with the variety of trucks (and dogs) that come alive on the pages. Oder toddlers (and you) will be amused by the tongue- in- cheek humor. The illustrations are bold and full of color. The text is simple and repetitive phrases making it a great read-aloud book for the toddler and preschooler set.
  6. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry: This is one of  the sweetest little books I’ve ever read. Sort of like a feel-good rom-com for the kiddies. It tells the story of a friendly little truck who cheerfully greets all his barnyard friends as he makes his way down a country road. Enter a self-important dump truck who zooms through, without pausing to even say hi and then gets stuck in a muddy patch of the road. He calls for help but nobody comes forth, except the little blue truck, who unfortunately, also gets stuck. When they see their friend in trouble too, all the animals rush to the rescue and it’s a happy ending all around. The dump truck learns the importance of being nice and having friends, and the blue truck and the animals drive off into the sunset.

This is a follow-up to a post that I wrote a few months ago about educational videos that promise to teach language skills to children. In that post, I talked about a study that found that there was no difference in language and cognitive abilities in 1- and 2- year-olds who were repeatedly exposed to the Baby Wordsworth DVD (part of the Baby Einstein series) and those who did NOT watch the videos.

At the end of the 6 week period, all kids were tested on whether they were able to understand and produce the words that were actually featured in the DVD (e.g., ball, table, chair, fridge etc).  However, kids who had watched the DVD did not know these words any better than those who did not watch the DVD. In fact, all the children showed vocabulary gains but watching the Baby Wordsworth DVD provided no added benefit.

Finally, the finding that was the most intriguing was that those infants exposed to the DVD at an earlier age (closer to 12 months) had lower overall language scores at the end of the 6 weeks than those exposed to the DVD at a later age (closer to 24 months) or those not exposed at all. It appears that early exposure to the DVD can actually negatively impact language development. What could be the reason for such an effect?  One possibility is that because the DVD was available, presumably as a teaching tool, parents might have ended up talking less with their children.

Does this mean that children learn nothing from educational television programs? The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no.

In another study, the same researchers examined parents’ and toddlers'( 12- to 25-month olds) talk and viewing behavior while co-viewing an educational infant DVD focused on teaching language. An analysis on parent talk revealed three groups: High, Moderate, and Low Teaching Focus parents. The High Teaching Focus parents presented the greatest variety of words highlighted in the DVD, were most likely to label or describe what was on screen, and had the least amount of non-DVD related talk. Children of High Teaching Focus parents had the highest degree of engagement with the DVD. These children also said the greatest number and variety of target words and were most likely to say new words during the co-viewing session. The higher the teaching focus of the parents, the higher was the kids’ engagement with the DVD and their use of new words while co-viewing.

So it seems like educational DVDs are best utilized when the parent is also highly engaged and focused on teaching while viewing the DVD with the child.

Finally, there’s another interesting caveat. Yet another study found that toddlers (2.5- year -olds) were able to learn a new word if they interacted with the speaker or if they “eavesdropped” on an interaction between the speaker and another person—even when that interaction happened on video. The children didn’t learn the new word when the adult speaker (on video or in person) just talked about the toy but failed to interact by handing it to another adult. So it seems like the way in which educational programs are designed also plays a role in how effective the programs are. Televised scenes depicting interactions between people in the context of a new word might be more effective than an adult speaking to the screen.

To conclude, I think the bottom-line is that the value of educational programs for children (especially those aimed at language development) depends on the following factors:

  • The age at which the programming is introduced. Very early exposure might be connected to less parental interaction with their children, thus negatively impacting later language development.
  • Parental engagement with the programming while co-viewing it with their children. Higher parental engagement is related to higher children’s engagement.
  • The actual design of the educational programming. Programs depicting social interactions with on-screen characters might end be more effective in helping children learn


Fender, J. G, Richert, R. A., Robb, M. B., & Wartella, E. (2010). Parent teaching focus and toddlers’ learning from an infant DVD. Infant and Child Development, 19, 613-627.

Richert, R. A., Robb, M., Fender, J., & Wartella, E. (2010). Word learning from baby videos. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 164, 432-437.

Today I’m continuing my series on lentil-based meals for kids. This recipe for a one-pot, rice and lentils dish (aka khichdi) is super easy, takes about 20 minutes from start to finish if you use the pressure cooker, and makes for a wholesome, balanced meal. Khichdi or khichri is a mixture of rice and lentils with a few spices, with or without vegetables thrown in. Here’s a wonderful little post on khichdi from One Hot Stove, one of my favorite food blogs.

Although khichdi is a ubiquitous dish found in almost every desi home, each family has their own way of making it. So the possibilities are endless. This particular recipe comes from my dear friend Ayesha’s mom, one of the original ‘super-cooks’ that continue to inspire me.


  • ½ cup white rice (I use basmati, available in all grocery stores)
  • ½ cup moong dal (you can easily substitute with split moong dal or masoor dal)
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste (available in the Asian section of all major grocery stores) you can easily substitute with 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste (available in the Asian section of all major grocery stores) substitute with 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tbsp oil or clarified butter (ghee) *


  1. Mix the rice and moong dal in a bowl and rinse with water. Drain all the water and keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a thick bottomed pan or pressure cooker on medium high for about 2 minutes. Test the temperature of the oil by throwing in 1 or 2 cumin seeds. If they rise to the surface immediately with tiny bubbles forming around them, the oil is ready. If they just lie there, you need to wait a few seconds.
  3. When you’re sure the oil is hot enough, throw in the cumin seeds, the cloves, and the cardamom pod. Tiny bubbles should form around all the spices, and the cumin seeds and the cardamom pod will change color quickly, becoming a light golden brown. Be careful about popping spices at this point, especially the cloves.
  4. Now reduce the heat to medium (so that the spices don’t burn), and add the chopped onions. Fry the onions for a few minutes until they become translucent and then add the ginger and garlic paste. Fry for 2 more minutes, until the ginger and garlic turns a light golden brown.
  5. Add the rice and dal to the pan, and fry for a minute, mixing well with the spices.

If using pressure cooker,use following instructions:

  1. Add 2 cups of water, salt to taste, and pressure cook for 2 whistles. Then reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Make sure the cooker has cooled, and all the steam has been released before opening it. Your khichdi is ready to be eaten with ghee or yoghurt.

If using saucepan, use following instructions:

  1. Add 2 cups of water, salt to taste and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and cook until all the water has evaporated and the rice and lentils are soft enough to mash.


  1. For infants, you might need to add some water and blend for a pureed consistency.
  2. For toddlers, you can just mash the khichdi with a spoon before feeding. This is easily done as the rice and lentils become very soft in the pressure cooker.
  3. You can add chopped vegetables such as cauliflower, peas, carrots and potatoes just before you add the rice. Fry the vegetables for a minute, then add the rice, mix well, add water and cook as above.

*Ghee lends a delightful, buttery, aromatic flavor to the khichdi. It is available in Indian stores.

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