Ella's Modern & Minimal Toys

In this blog post, I’ll be featuring a few tried-and-true baby products that Ella has grown to love over the past few months. Like most moms, I look for baby products that are easily accessible and affordable… which means I do most of my shopping online through Amazon! Below I’ve listen a few affiliate links for products that I bought for Ella that I would absolutely recommend to my friends and family. I’m not sponsored by any of these brands (I wish!), but I do want to share them with fellow mammas our there who are on the hunt for quality baby products.

Let’s dive into it!

Melissa & Doug Giraffe Wooden Grasping Toy

Around 6 months of age, Ella became interested in the way certain objects could bend back and forth. I wanted to find a toy for her that was flexible but safe to go in her mouth (hello teething!). This meant I couldn’t have any small parts breaking off and becoming a choking hazard. Thus, I was so excited when I came across this Melissa and Doug Giraffe!

The giraffe is made up of interlocking pieces of wood, that can bend back and forth with a flexible connection. A strong, black elastic band is threaded through the giraffes body and pops out of the giraffes bum to form a little tail. Ella loves playing with that tail!

The neck is nice and long for babies who are learning to grasp onto objects. I’ll put this in front of Ella with the giraffe on all fours so she can practice knocking it down. The wood is nice and light-weight, which means this isn’t very destructive when it hits your floor. It’s perfect for throwing in the diaper bag before we head out the door. I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for a baby toy that is simple and engaging for baby!

wooden baby toy melissa and doug giraffe
wooden baby toy melissa and doug giraffe

Uncle Goose Uppercase Alphablank Blocks

You can’t go wrong with a collection of toy blocks.. right? Wrong!

Many of the blocks I was coming across had loud, cheesy baby designs that I didn’t want scattered all over my house. I wanted to find Ella some blocks that were minimalistic but still engaging for her. I’ve always loved Grimm’s Set of Wooden Blocks but I could never justify spending $150 on a set of toys that, let’s face it, will eventually get colored on, spit on, and sat on. No way! I needed to find something that was affordable yet beautiful. These certainly fit the bill.

Uncle Goose sources their wood from tree’s in Michigan and carves each design right here in the U.S.A. You can also choose to paint them any color that you wish or leave them unstained like we have. Once Ella starts learning about the alphabet, these blocks will be a perfect tool to teach her about all about vowels, sounds, and spelling. I know these blocks are going to get used around our house for years to come!


Manhattan Toy Skwish Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy

You may have seen these aesthetically pleasing rattles floating around Instagram lately, and that’s because babies go absolutely bonkers for them. Sometimes I have to pull this one away from Ella because she’ll get so excited she starts whipping it around in the air like a crazy person. It’s pretty cute though. Which is why we’ve accumulated a collection of these that are situated around our house. Let’s jump into the details!

When I first saw these rattles online, I thought they were entirely made out of wood. But there’s actually a strong elastic band threaded throughout the entire toy that makes this rattle flexible for your little one. I also didn’t realize that some of the wooden knobs are loosely wrapped around the wooden shafts, which means your baby can tilt this back and forth and watch as the beads glide across the toy in complete awe. Ella also loves chewing on the wooden knobs that are fixated around the perimeter of the toy. You can’t really find a toy that is easier to grasp than this one is! They can grab onto the beads, the elastic or the wooden shafts easily and rotate it around, almost like a ball.

This toy makes just enough noise to keep your baby interested, but not enough to drive you crazy as a parent. A total win!

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Skip Hop Baby’s View 3-Stage Activity Center

This product from Skip Hop is Ella’s most used baby product at the moment, and there are a million good things I could say about it.

Let’s start with the design. It’s modern, it’s minimal and it’s light weight. It comes in two color profiles, one that is Pastel (pictured below) and another that is Primary (see here).

This activity center set’s itself apart from competitors because it’s not only an activity center, but it converts itself into an activity table once your child is old enough to sit in a chair unassisted. This means I won’t have to spend money on a child-sized table once Ella grows out of the activity center. You can actually purchase a matching set of stools for the table if you wish to have a set that is cohesive. I haven’t bought those yet but I definitely will once she’s big enough!

Ella honestly spends hours in this activity center throughout the week. It’s the perfect spot for me to put her down when I need to make myself a cup of coffee or fold the laundry. I love putting her in this because I don’t have to worry about her crawling away while I’m not looking. And she loves all the toys that came with it! They rattle, spin, squeak and bounce. She’s great at entertaining herself in this thing.

My favorite part of this activity gym is how easy it is to clean. She’s had her fair share of spit-up’s down the seat and I can easily remove the fabric cover and throw in in the wash. All the toys around the perimeter also detach so you can thoroughly wipe the surface without having to work around the toys.

Without a doubt, this is the baby product I get asked the most about on my Instagram account. It has a unique, almost spaceship looking design to this that always peaks the interest of anyone that see’s it! And when I tell people that it converts into a table they just lose their minds! Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But still. Everyone seems to think this thing is pretty cool.

It’s stood up to a lot of abuse from Ella over the last five months and hasn’t been damaged a single bit. This thing is durable.

While it may be a higher ticketed item, I wanted to include it on this list because of its versatility. When you factor in the cost of buying an activity table for your child in the future, this things is actually a steal for what it’s capable of. I’m so glad we made this purchase!

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If you enjoyed the nature of this blog post and would like to see more like it in the future, please comment below or give this post a little “like” by hitting the heart below.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions regarding the products I’ve mentioned above, either via email at mariah.mpls@gmail.com or you can always direct message me on my Instagram account.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sincerely, Mariah

Essential Baby Products for Colds & Fevers

It’s been a rough week over here at the Smith house!

Ella is currently recovering from double ear infections, wheezing in her lungs, a bad cough, runny nose, a fever & to top it all off... teething! We’ve been trying every trick in the book to help Ella feel as comfortable as possible throughout these long days and nights.

I asked my Instagram community for advice on their favorite products and tricks to help take care of their sick babies and they all came up with some great stuff! Below I will be linking the products that I have been using this week alongside the suggestions they made. As always, consult with your doctor before using any medications on your baby. 


kinsa smart ear thermometer review

It’s so important to have a thermometer on hand to help you asses the severity of your babies illness. We have been in close contact with Ella’s doctor over the last few days, and the main thing they want us to keep monitoring is her temperature. I have been so grateful for this in-ear digital thermometer that we got as a gift before Ella was born. You can create profiles for each member of your family as it seamlessly sync’s its temperature readings via Bluetooth. The grip on it is nice and big so you can’t miss it when you’re searching for it in the middle of the night! 


This is essential if baby is dealing with congested sinuses, especially during the dry winter months here in Minnesota. Simply fill it with water and let it go to work. Before we started using this, Ella would wake up in the morning with hardened booger’s in her nose that were difficult to remove. With this humidifier, the air in her bedroom stays moist which helps keep her airways flowing.

nosefrida review

Speaking of airways, this product is the absolute best at helping you clear baby’s stuffy nose. Unlike a bulb syringe, the Nose Frida’s suction is created by the parent, via the mouthpiece. But it’s not as gross as it sounds! There is a filter that prevents any “artifacts” from passing through the system. Babies booger’s accumulate in the main container and since it’s transparent, you can see what is coming out unlike your typical bulb syringe. Once you’re done suctioning, the cap detaches so you can easily rinse the Nose Frida out in a sink. We honestly never leave the house without this thing because it comes in handy more times than I ever would have anticipated. This thing is a must! 

Having an essential oil diffuser is super helpful whenever anyone in your household starts feeling sick. I like to keep ours running in the kitchen while I diffuse a few drops of thieves to disinfect any germs that are floating around in the air. This helps soothe a stuffy nose / sore throat, and for bonus points, it smells great!

burts bees baby wash review

Keeping baby clean while they are sick is also a huge deal, especially if they have a runny nose & cough. We’ve been bathing Ella every night which has been helping her relax & seems to provide her with a lot of relief. Be cautious though, our nurse told us to make sure she stays warm and gets dried off very quickly, because you don’t want to induce shivering while baby is sick. This is my favorite body wash & shampoo we’ve been using with Ella. It’s gentle, smells great, and doesn’t dry out her skin. 


If Ella’s sinuses get completely blocked up, these are an absolute must to have on hand. You can use Little Remedies saline as a nasal spray, or if that’s too startling for your little one, you can use them as nasal drops.

A gentle method for soothing coughs & sneezes. We rub this on Ella’s chest after bath time so she can enjoy the benefits throughout the night.


I always have a box of this cough syrup on hand at our house. It’s great to pull out when you notice the first signs of a cold coming on.

Infant Tylenol & Ibuprofen 

Consult with your doctor before you use any of these on your baby. Some doctors will recommend alternating dosages between Tylenol & Ibuprofen which means it’s helpful to have both on hand. Previously Ella has responded well to the Tylenol for things like teething pains, but during this spell of sickness, she has done much better on the Motrin. Again, consult with your doctor so you can get professional advice tailored to your babies symptoms. 

A few more recommendations from mama’s in my Instagram community:


  • ”Visit a chiropractor that is familiar with infant adjustments. This will help rule out any discomfort associated with their alignment, and can also help them sleep better at night.”

  • ”Creating a steamy shower to help loosen up any mucus. You can either hold baby in the shower with you or put them in a chair next to the shower. You can also add a few drops of essential oils to the shower. We like to use eucalyptus and lavender.” 

  • ”Extra cuddles & feedings while baby is recovering. Let them sleep on your chest during naps if that provides them with extra comfort. Plus it usually helps with congestion if they can nap at an incline.”

Recommended Products: 

Elderberry Syrup

Hylands Vitamin C Tablets 

Infant Probiotic

With all these little tips and tricks, we were able to provide Ella with little bits of comfort throughout her recovery. Patience has been so essential throughout this whole process, especially in the middle of the night when all she wants is to be held by mamma and dada. I just keep trying to remind myself that this is only temporary and to be grateful for modern medicine! Within time, she’ll be back to feeling like her normal, smiley self.

If you have any other products that have worked great for your family, please add them to the comment section below! I hope to spend more time creating blog posts like this, which round up products we’ve loved alongside ones that have worked for the families in my community. If you wish to to see more posts like this in the future, give this post a little love by hitting the heart icon in the bottom right hand corner.

Until next time,


Moments with Ella

The days are long, but the years are short.

Ella is officially 5 months old and I’m not sure where the time has gone! Hoping I can check in on this blog every so often to record some of the details that I hope to remember.

In her five little months of life, she’s been to Washington D.C. and Disney World, with a few short road trips to Duluth, Crosby & Illinois. At every doctor appointment, we get told that she seems to be very advanced for her age, both in her mental & physical abilities. She loves it when Perry hold her & helps her jump up and down. She just started eating solids and enjoys sitting in her high chair.

Overall, Ella really doesn’t want to miss out on anything. She is always observant & in tune with whatever is happening around her. This makes her easy to take out in public because she loves being in new surroundings, but she’s hard to get down for a nap! We are currently renovating our kitchen & living areas and Ella has been incredibly flexible with all the commotion & changes in routine.

Thankful for a baby that has turned out to be so adaptable! She is now rolling over in all directions, and loves sticking anything in her mouth... including her feet.

We love this little bundle of joy and feel blessed to be her Mom & Dad.