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Kids are expensive! Based on the Baby Cost Calculator from Baby Center, disposable diapers cost $72 a month, formula $105, solid food $57, clothing $59, medicine $23, and toys $35! In addition to all of these “First Year” monthly costs, you also need to make numerous one-time purchases—stroller(s), car seat, nursery furniture, the list goes on and on. Gasp, my personal calculation was over $12,000 for the first year alone!

With the spiraling costs of raising a child and the holidays fast approaching, I want to highlight some great toys that I have purchased on the cheap and are probably the most used and loved items by my son. Don’t be scared, but all of these items come from IKEA! I know, I know, I would rather go to any Black Friday Sale or Disneyland on a Holiday before stepping foot into an IKEA, but if you make a plan, stick to it, and avoid weekends (if possible) IKEA is doable.

IKEA’s toys are great. They are simple, fun, and, most importantly, very inexpensive. The best part about their toys is they encourage creative open play. So many store shelves are lined with brightly colored, flashing electronic toys that promise to teach your kids to be ready for the Ivy League by just popping in a few batteries. However, after watching my son play everyday, I feel that he learns best from simple toys where he can direct the play and use his imagination to play with them.

The number one item from IKEA that my son plays with in multiple ways are the Mula stack & nest cups for $2.99! Not only does he stack and nest them, but he loves talking into them to amplify his voice. They nest up tightly so they can fit in the diaper bag when traveling. They are also great for bath time. I would recommend buying three sets one for the playroom, bathroom, and diaper bag—amazingly, the cost will still be less then $10.

When babies start crawling the Busa Play tunnel, $14.99, is so much fun for them to crawl back and forth through and it collapses flat for storage, perfect if you have a small apartment. Then when they start to walk the Ekorre toddle wagon/walker, $19.99, is great to help assist them in this new adventure. My son also loves to fill the wagon up with his favorite toys to push around.

The Lillabo Play mat (more like a small rug), $12.99, has a race track and parking lot printed as the design and works great with the Lillabo Cars, $9.99. The cars come in a set of three and are interchangeable to create numerous, fun combinations of play.

IKEA also has a great selection of soft toys like the Torva Broccoli, $7.99, Carrot, $7.99, and Strawberry, $4.99. The best part is for every soft toy or kid’s meal bought from IKEA between November 1st – December 24th, 2011, the IKEA Foundation will donate approximately $1.30 USD to be split between UNICEF and Save the Children to support the education of the most disadvantaged children. Click the link to learn more about the Soft Toys for Education program. You can even support this cause without having to step foot into an IKEA—a few of the soft toys can be purchased in the IKEA online shop.

Check out my original post on Salt & Nectar The Goods: Children’s Toys from IKEA