So here are some baby/toddler things that we've grown to like, in case you're in the need of being in the know....
(Fleece on the Cheap...)
Frighteningly, I have to admit that Kohl's "jumping beans" line has decent fleece separates for kids that are usually cheap ($5.50 per piece when on sale, sometimes less) and cute and wear/wash really well. They usually have pants and tops (hoodies and crewnecks) in solids and fun patterns. Miss B. just loves them. We've gotten a bunch both last season and this season.
I also got B. some fleece this year at the Gap as they were having a big sale before Christmas. I got her a matching top/pants set and then I got her a second hoodie dress. The Gap gets points for style-- the first set was a multi-color stripe and the top portion of it was a turtleneck a-line. It's very cute and it just so happens to coordinate perfectly with a Catimini poncho that we have. The only but? The Gap fleece doesn't wash too well. The top and the hoodie dress have been okay so far but the pants got all kinds of nappy.
LLBean. LLBean has a trail-model fleece jacket. We bought one for Miss B. for our Italy Trip and she loved it (so much that we had to buy a second after the first went through the wash with a sticker stuck to it and it permanently fused to the fleece) and we just got her another one (thanks to a BIG sale at the LL Bean in Marlton).
Yes, I hate to say it, but when it comes to playwear and toddlers, sweatpants are a necessity. As such, you want something that's at least a little bit stylish (read: doesn't have elastic at the ankles). Surprisingly, this comes in the form of the Garanimals line at Wal-Mart. You can get great sweatpants for girls, in a wide range of colors, for $3.50 (or, if you go when they're on sale you can get them for $2!) I'm sure they're made in some third-world sweatshop where laborers are making ten cents a week or something, but what can I say-- they wash up great and they look decent. I just bought a second gray pair and a purple pair. These work well with tunic tops and fleece-y tops.
This year we got two pair of "Jaliyah" boots at Target. One in dark brown and one in Pink (turns out they made purple too, had I known, we would have gotten those!) They look like little Uggs at a fraction of the price. They are suede (but with a faux fur lining). So far they've been great for us-- comfy and warm and very cute.
If you're looking for other kids shoes, Marshall's frequently carries good brands (Lelli Kelly, Umi, etc.) at good prices and the Nordstrom Rack is another great source. We got two pair of Ecco maryjanes very reasonably at the start of the season at Nordstrom and they've been our go-to fancy dress up shoes since the fall.
In addition to fashion issues, what about entertainment? Here are a few of the shows that we've grown to like over the past few months...
Penguins of Madagascar on Nick! This is the show based on the Madagascar movie series and it has cute story lines and most importantly, family appropriate yet still adult-oriented humor.
Kipper the Dog, Kipper apparently used to be on Nick, Jr. but now he can be found on Sprout. Kipper DVD's can also be located on Amazon. Kipper is great because the stories are all very nice and easy going and the pace of the shows is very relaxing (my Dad complains that they put him to sleep, but that's what I love about them!)
Miss B. likes Make Way for Noddy (about a bobble head doll in Toyland) but I can't get the damn theme song out of my head whenever we watch it so it tends to be on the bottom of my list.
Both the Husband and Miss B. really like Annie's Organic fruit snacks. We're also a fan of Annie's mac and cheese mixes (I like the one with the pre-mixed cheese sauce packets the best).
IKEA has some great play options. This play tent is a big hit and is priced terrific at $14.99. Here's a great play tunnel. This bead roller is also priced nicely, at $7.99.
Ikea also has a terrific easel with room for a paper roll on one side and a chalk board on the other.
Now I know we shouldn't be going to fast food with much frequency, but if you find yourself at a fast food establishment, here are some toy tips:
McDonald's Happy Meals: These can have some great toys. It usually depends really on what the current promotion is. We've gotten Avatar action figures, a talking Alvin the Chipmunk, a lego car and a mini beanie-baby Grimace. All decent. On the un-decent end... an American Girl paper doll book and a Strawberry Shortcake stamper and pad.
Wendys? Ugh. Not only is the food scary but the most recent toy was a madlibs door tag. To be fair, a recent under-3 toy was a Monarch Butterfly finger puppet, which was cool, the regular toys leave a bit to be desired.
Chick-Fil-A. They really can have some of the nicest toys. For the under-3 set they usually give out board books (Paddington, Barney, etc.) and recently we got a "Between the Lions" audio-book CD with songs and stories. This is great for in the car.