Okay, friends. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I finally sat down to do it! Introducing: ABChristmas! This is a roundup of the Barlows’ favorite toys – things we used for developing with Jack, as well as things we simply enjoy! When Jack was younger, I so wished someone would have written a list like this! I searched and searched for things that would be fun for him but also help him grow! So, here it is… practical, fun, smart gifts! I’ll tell you what’s not on here… that Melissa and Doug puzzle that teaches kids how to UNLOCK things! Who invented that?!  

Let's get to it...


I’m not sure when the OBall was invented, but I’d done my fair share of babysitting by the time I had kids, and I felt like they were new when Jack was a baby. His therapists loved them for that midline work referenced above, and because Jack loves sports, we used it as a crawling and rolling incentive for many years! This little froggy is adorable… you’ll probably eventually have a few of these guys in different shapes. But the frog head may make this easier to see and find for a baby that have visual perception and discrimination struggles.

Crawling tools

To incentivize Jack to crawl, we used all sorts of toys like this that moved. Jack was pretty motivated to crawl and walk, but I have tons of clients and friends’ kids that used these for religiously.   

Fischer Price Toys

Before I had Jack, I thought these toys were just classics. Then, I realized all of the benefits to them… Container play (the dumping, the putting back in, the repeating!) is an important developmental milestone, and man, did Jack ever rock that one! We dumped and stacked these rings and shapes millions of times! 

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Suction Toy

This one falls in the category of Smart Parenting! Your kids will throw EVERYthing off of their high chairs, including the things intended to entertain them! Some super smart guy invented a suction cup toy… this saved me with the Jackman! Pro tip: buy suction cups. Attach to the bottom of the tray with a string. Tie cups to the string… no more bending over!  

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Every Barlow knows this is Mom’s favorite book. There’s no reason really. I just love it. And you have to hear Jack say, “Neddy Buttercup!”  


I wanted books for baby shower gifts. I was so afraid that I’d have girls and that people would give me uncomfortable dresses and glittery princess wands! I told anybody that would listen that I wanted books, books, and more books! Both of my boys are avid readers, and I attribute that to their nature – but also to the language- and literacy-rich environment that we created. We read every night before we go to bed, and we’ve always used books to teach new lessons. Have a hard day? There’s a book for that. Starting soccer? There’s a book for that. Feeling big feelings? I have a whole library on that topic!!! My mom, an elementary teacher, says that what’s important is not WHAT you read but THAT you read… so we read, read, and read!!! Here are a few of our favorites…  

You haven’t lived until you’ve heard my dad read this book! I used to beg for it as a kid, and while I’m quite as good as Kurtie, I’ve love reading it to my boys!  

This book is simply ridiculous and makes everybody laugh! A teacher at the boys’ elementary school recommended it years ago!  

These are the best baby books. They teach vocabulary, are quick, and have interactive little textures for babies to feel. Forever a book addict, I think I had the whole collection years ago!!!  

This is a fun Cause and Effect book that Jack has always loved. It’s interactive, beautiful, and sweet!  

Okay, okay, you know I love a pun! This is the silliest book, and I’m not even sure Jack enjoys the language-based humor, but I find this book highly entertaining, so we have it in circulation often!  

Griffin gave Jack one of these anthologies and a stuffed Curious George when Jack was born. I don’t think it’s coincidence that George is Jack’s all-time favorite character. We’ve worn out both anthologies that we have! 

Every year on the night before school starts, we read this sweet book at a raccoon baby going to Kindergarten, and every year on the first day of school I give both of my boys a Kissing Hand. Just thinking of this one makes me cry nostalgic tears!  

These are the most beautiful books with the best stories. They have the classics like “The Gingerbread Man”, some Usborne originals like “How Deep Is the Sea?,” and some with science and social studies lessons like, “On The Moon.” We have two shelves dedicated to these beauties!  

You know my boys are named after Jimmy Buffett, right? Yes, they know this book -and this song- by heart!  

Don’t tell Griffin I told you this… I still read this to him after hard days. It’s kind of like I Love You, Stinky Face. It goes through hard lessons and reiterates that parents always believe in their children. I get eye rolls, but the book says it better than I ever could! 

These are the books that got G reading. He started them on Spring Break of First Grade, and we basically didn’t see his nose again until he started middle school!!!  

A few weeks ago, I asked you all if you’d like me to add a genre for young male readers. Griffin was a voracious reader, and whenever I shared the books, he was reading on Facebook, it would start good conversations! You all wanted this list, so here it is (without his help, because I can’t ever get him out of a pool long enough to get this kind of info!). I haven’t written descriptions for everything, but he’d highly endorse these series and books for any young boys!  

G was consumed by these books in second and third grade. At least every couple of months he answers a weird trivia fact, and when asked, he’ll say that he read it in a Magic Treehouse book! Hello, ACT test prep!!!    

These are silly as all get out, but they are so relatable. G read them at least through middle school even though he knew it was silly and immature! 

I think this is the only series I’ve ever read, and it’s such a classic for kids. The language and vocabulary are amazing. Griffin finished the third book in three days – almost entirely in our magnolia tree! 

I think this is G’s favorite series ever. He loved anything by this author, Rick Riordan, who has also written several additional series. 

I know G read this is 4th grade for a project, and he LOVED it. I think he may say it was his favorite book ever.   

I can’t tell you how many hours G spent reading the weird accomplishments of people in this book! Hours of entertainment!

This is another fascinating, entertaining book about the language people use in different parts of our country. It’s also a beautiful book! Do you say pop, Coke, or soft drink?