Oh, the tea sets. HUGE fan of them. A dear friend of mine, Nicole, got her this one (Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Say Please Tea Set) when she turned a year (LINK); it currently runs about $16:
This was a great gift. She loved the music that the teapot makes, and it was a great hiding spot. For what, you might ask? Anything a 13-month-old might not want to eat:
(We really do provide better snacks, she just begged for a Nutrigrain bar that day)
It was the perfect size, and the little cakes are a toddler's dream! Nothing is choking hazard-sized, the cups are actually a great way to try and get a little one drinking from an open cup if you want to put water in them, and it's fun-colored and cute.
Once she was a little bit older, she wanted more options for her tea set in addition to this one (believe me, that first set is not out of commission). My parents found this set for her, the Fisher-Price Magical Tea for Two (LINK), also around $16:
This one doesn't make music like the toddler one, it's designed for older kids. The "tea" inside of the teapot appears to disappear when you tip it sideways to pour. My girl is obsessed with this thing. She will make my husband, J, and I each a cup. She puts into it: tea, sugar, milk (she incorporated a cup from her kitchen for that), and "creamy." You can't forget the creamy. It also comes with two cute little cookies, which she will put on the saucer.
Then, she hands it to us. We start to take a pretend sip, and she says we can't, it's too hot. So we sit there and make idle tea party chit-chat like sophisticated people, and then ask her about five minutes later if we can now drink it. Nope, still too hot. We'll repeat that about one more time, at which point it's been at least 10 minutes since the tea was poured, and she'll still say it's too hot. We usually try to give back the tea or ask for ice cubes at this point, because we just want to drink our freaking pretend tea, so she'll finally allow it. We, of course, then need some more tea in our empty cups, so this process is repeated.
If I am drinking Powerade Zero or the G2 no-sugar Gatorade stuff, Miss A also likes to steal some of it and drink it out of these cups. Because that makes "purple water" fancy.
I think these are great purchases. They're both durable, don't really have any parts that will break without you taking a hammer or something to it, and it really doesn't make a big mess. You throw in some funny hats and a princess dress-up dress, and this will entertain a three-year-old for about two hours. They're also really, really easy to store - we keep these usually on a little wire shelf in her playroom, it takes up about a third of a small shelf. The tray makes it easy to clean up quickly. We use these to teach manners and etiquette, so I personally think it's actually a nice jumping-off point for a discussion of that nature. Not sure how much of that is sticking at 37.5 months old, but at least we're laying the foundation. I guess we should probably stop giggling whenever she does her "shaky butt" dance when she's naked to really drive that point home, but that's sort of ticky-tack.