Category: Toys + Playthings

Crafty genes by mail order

Update: This site no longer exists. RIP Kid’s Busy Box.   I thought that 4 hours of preschool every day would satiate my daughter’s immense hunger for crafts, but alas, she still comes home from school running directly for the glue and construction paper.  I am totally prepared now thanks to the Kid’s Busy Box. This is a genius invention by five smart moms (of course!) who have put together twenty (count them!) ready-to-make toddler and preschool crafts along with simply directions and every supply needed to complete them all in one big box. Got more than one kid...

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Eeboo – Going Green Through Flash Cards

I’m always on the lookout for ways to teach my four-year-old about conservation other than asking her to turn off the lights 400 times a day (followed by my long boring speech about saving the earth). Thankfully, Eeboo has created these cool Respect the Earth flashcards that can help support your message. This set of 48 brightly illustrated cards along with a helpful parent guide offer simple lessons for kids 5 and up, like recycling plastic, turning off the water, and my favorite, playing with toys that don’t require batteries. Here here! We all know that learning by example is great,...

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Haba Biofino Play Food – Putting My Own Cooking to Shame

I won’t be winning any cooking awards any time soon, but as far as the concoctions my daughter and son are creating in their play kitchen, courtesy of Haba’s new Biofino line of cloth play food, they’re on their way to winning Top Chef. Like everything I’ve ever seen from Haba, these imaginary edibles feature smart, durable, kid-friendly designs. Each collection from the adorable veggie crate (pictured) to the sweet muffin trio–all of which is available at online toy shop Petit Baby— is also created under strict safety standards, so if your child decides that the pizza does in...

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Made in China? Absolutely.

When it comes to buying gifts for my friend’s kids, I really try hard to find unique items that no one else would think of, but aren’t so obscure that the poor kid has to ask his parents what the heck it is. Enter the Dumpling Dynasty Explorer Kit, one of a slew of super cool new Wu & Wu products from illustrator Fiona Hewitt and Asian kitsch expert, Andy Tainton. The funky retro-Chinese tin is filled to the brim with cool goodies like a magnifying glass, flashlight, knot-tying guide, metal compass, and notebook — all of which are...

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Yadda Yadda Yadda Blah Blah Blah

You wouldn’t think a bunch of blabbermouths like our family would need help starting a conversation, but I’ve got to thank The Chatterbox for providing some welcome encouragement in that area. Instead of questions about obscure Baby Boomer-era trivia, the cards are all about stuff parents really want to discuss with their kids but often don’t know how.  The categories admittedly sound a little dry – like Building Character and Goal Planning – but the questions are conversational and really do inspire kids to open up. Maybe too much. When we asked my six year-old “Do you know anyone...

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The Best Combination that Dado Squares Make? Kids + Imagination

“Oh my”, I thought,”these look like a bunch of colorful floppy discs. What in the world are the kids going to do with these?” Silly mommy. Don’t you see that they easily fit together and make…a rocket ship that I can fly around the house? A s-u-p-e-r long diving board? A tall skyscraper? A parking garage for a dozen little cars? Clearly, my kids can see the possibilities. They have taken to the Dado Squares like mini architects, fitting the pieces together into an array of buildings, vehicles and 3D whatnots. They don’t have to know that they are...

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This Little Piggie Makes Us All Go Whee Whee Whee

I used to think that a rattle was some generic baby gift that people gave when they couldn’t think of anything more original. Wow, was I wrong. My babies adored their rattles so much, we kept them in every diaper bag, crib, Pack n Play, stroller and car seat in our possession. I’m not sure if any of them were as cute as this vintage-inspired pig rattle from Old School Acres, however. The pink piggie, found at The Baby Gardner, is beautifully handcrafted, and you could probably clip that tail with a toy clip to keep it in the...

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Ugli-er Dolls

I have a strong sense of empathy for the uglier creatures of the world. I have an English bulldog, not a lab, always thought those misfit toys from the Ruldoph movie were cooler than the non-misfit ones–even if I never was entirely sure what was wrong with that doll. So of course I fell in love with the handmade plush creatures from Cutesie Not Cutesie. These crazy one-eyed monsters and somewhat ferocious beasts are so huggable and awesomely hand-stitched and a wee bit bizarre, that I have to wonder what goes on in the head of Philly area designer...

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Make My Own Monster: No Sewing Required

In theory, I do love those make-your-own-doll kits, but even with the craftiest of kids (and moms) at the helm, they still scream “homemade” a little louder than you’re hoping for at times. (Oops…there goes Teddy’s eye.) With Make My Own Monster, a cool service from the folks from North American Bear Company, you get the best of both worlds – your kid gets to design his own monster, and someone else gets to make it for you. Purchase of one of their kits and you get a few drawing pages, coloring pencils, and a series of questionnaires to help...

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EthiDolls: Not just a Barbie with darker skin

You should know right off that I am not the biggest Barbie fan, for all of the obvious reasons. But there did come a day when my daughter’s begging got the best of me, and I went out to survey the choices. I came home with a doll we henceforth referred to as Ambiguously Ethnic Barbie. She was Hispani-afric-asian. I think. Better than platinum blond Barbie, I suppose, but still an epic failure in terms of cultural diversity. If only EthiDolls had existed back then, I could’ve proudly presented my kid with an authentically African Makeda, the Queen of...

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A Natural Teething Toy to Give Tylenol a Run For Its Money

Aside from my finger and a random corners of our furniture, the only thing that temporarily relieved my teething babes’ sore gums was a frozen wet washcloth. So leave it to a fellow mom to create a teething toy with just that very thing attached. The handmade Ringley Natural Teething Toy found at Kai Kids features a natural maple ring that fussy little ones can safely gnaw on. Add the organic cotton terry cloth and you’ve got the best of both worlds all in one teether. You’ll find two styles–knotted or straight. Either way, it’s a definite must-add to your arsenal...

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These Toys Have Feelings

Q: When is having Mixed Emotions a Good Thing?   A: When they are the super-cute kind that comes inside a Kimochi.    What is a Kimochi you ask? Kimochis are soft, cuddly, stuffed toys that come in a variety of shapes, with a surprise inside–a set of three “feelings” in the form of stuffed little guys, each one with a facial expression that’s identified by an emotion (happy, jealous, shy, grateful) on its back.    With a background in children’s therapy, I can tell you that Kimochis offer almost limitless possibilities for instructional play on the topic of...

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DJ in Da Playhouse

Generally speaking, I pry out the batteries from those loud plastic toys at first opportunity. But upon seeing the New School DJ Mixer at Ollie Bollen, the only thing I could think about digging out were my go-go boots; you know, if I could still fit my big pregnant feet in them.     Sporting six different rhythms along with a tempo control, this toy is way hipper and less annoying than half of the the mini keyboards and kid guitars out there. Aside from the two “scratch” turntables, the only thing it’s missing (and for this I thank God), is the microphone.  The...

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Ice Cream + Bubbles = Magic

I bombed Goody Bags 101 at my youngest daughter’s party. The Play-Doh bits ended up all over my couch, the babies ate the crayons, and the cheap imitation slinkies broke faster than you can say choking hazard. The one thing I did get right were the bubbles. Or as Paul Rudd said in Knocked Up, “I wish I loved anything as much as my kids love bubbles.” If you’ve got a summer birthday coming up and are lucky enough to have a few kids sticking around town for the party, you have to get your hands on the scented...

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Big Brands Doing Cool Things: Aurora’s Eco-Plush Animals

Mostly we’re fans of handmade plush around here, but we also understand that not everyone wants to spend $85 on a penguin hand-knit from recycled sweaters then hand-stuffed with locally harvested cotton (even if it is totally awesome and you would be seriously the best gifter ever). So we’re happy to see that now there’s an affordable choice for the masses that’s eco-friendly too, courtesy of Aurora’s Naturally Line. The critters are fashioned out of 100% soybean fiber and oh my God are they soft. Even the stuffing is green, a sustainable rainforest crop called Kapok. Best, they start...

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Attention Pretend K-Mart Shoppers

Pity the average supermarket shopper; we have to push around banged-up, one-wheel- jiggling, sticky-handled metal shopping carts when we do our food shopping.  If our carts looked more like the toy shopping cart from Plan Toys, I may enjoy the experience a bit more and not notice that I’m paying almost $8 for a gallon of organic milk.   I love how this sturdy cart can hold everything from my kids’ play food to their favorite stuffed toys, and has a stopper in back that keeps the cart from flipping.  They can wheel their toys down the street for...

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Eco-Friendly Rattles in Technicolor

While I’m definitely way pickier when it comes to buying rattles for my upcoming third baby, I admit that at times, the eco-friendly choices in their various shades of brown almost make me miss the bright colors of some of our retired plastic ones. So when I saw the beautiful bright rattles at Earthentree, I thought something was wrong with my computer screen. Each piece is handmade with Hale wood by Channapatna artisans in India, and lacquered using a safe traditional technique. Got kids that have graduated from the rattle stage? You’ve got to check out the amazing selection of bigger kid toys and musical instruments....

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Regifting Just Found Legitimacy

One of the best pieces of advice I got at my baby shower was to save the gift bags. Sure enough, I reused almost all of them–except that one that already looked reused enough. I’ll withhold names to protect the regifter. Mom Jennifer Paretta liked the idea of reusing gift bags so much that she created ones for that very purpose. The Friendship Gift Bag is basically a bag meets a coloring book meets wheresgeorge.com; you know, the site where you type in your dollar bill’s serial number and see where it’s been. Kids can color in one of...

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Rolling in the Dough

The smell brings me right back to childhood, but the first time I found my daughter with a wad of Play-Doh in her mouth, I wondered, “what the heck is in this stuff?” An all-natural alternative is the unscented eco-dough, made by a family in California My kids loved its creamy feel that didn’t get hard or crumbly over time; in fact, our tub of dough is still as soft as the day we got it. If you leave it out overnight, a little bit of olive oil added to the dough will bring it back to life. Original...

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Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie

With my kids loving their play kitchen (hello, best investment ever!) I’m getting a little tired of the heavy spaghetti and meatball dinners. How about a little summer fare, like this adorable BBQ Grill set found at Nico & Zoe? Almost identical to the real thing (except for the not-so-kid-friendly fire part) this adorable play set is a must-have addition to any budding chef’s kitchen. Made in Thailand using eco-friendly plantation wood and brightly colored non-toxic inks, the veggie skewers are probably almost as healthy for them to munch on as the real thing. Not that you would have kids that might...

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Doodle Do’s

My daughter is destined to be the artist of the family, no doubt about it. If she’s awake, she’s got a crayon in her hand. This is great news when we take her out to restaurants because she’s easily occupied. But it’s bad news when I forget to pack some crayons which, pretty much is always. Apple Blossom Toys, who we recently reviewed for their lovely handmade jingle balls, has just made a crayon caddy, called a Doodle Caddy, after my own heart. It’s handmade, she can customize it in any of the great fabrics you see in her shop, and best, it’s small! Like, wallet-sized small. It even includes a little pad for moms like me who forget the paper too. Which, pretty much is always....

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Dolls After Your Children’s Own Hearts. And Drawings.

We’ve found a whole lot of companies that transform your children’s art into everything from custom lamps to chic jewelry to delicate handbags. It’s so cool to us that those favorite scribbles and stick figures can have a life beyond the refrigerator door. So I am totally wowed and excited to have discovered the inspired dolls from Wooberry. The dolls themselves are absolutely charming, each one one-of-a-kind and handmade from sketches made by artist Melissa Conroy’s own child. My daughter went nuts over them when she first saw their spindly legs and awkward, welcoming smiles. And she definitely cracked...

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Scooter Smackdown!

At last count, we had twelve ride-on toys in our garage so I am definitely an expert in that department. Of all these toys, I want to sing the praises of two that stand out from the crowd: The Mini Micro scooter and the oddly named Skoooch. (Yes, there are three o’s) We tried a lot of scooters until we found the Swiss designed Mini Micro (shown at top). With widely-spaced, cushiony front wheels, it’s smooth and stable whether on a paved driveway or going down a bumpy sidewalk. It is super light, so you won’t mind bringing it...

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Shiny Happy Eco Toys

If there’s one complaint I have about some eco-friendly toys it’s that they tend to look pretty eco-friendly. That’s great when you love ecru with a side of pale, but not so much when you’re trying to engage your little one with bright fun colors. The festive, vibrant soft toys from Organic By Nature are far from boring. These boldly colored animals, like my personal fave, the not-so-rubber duck (pictured), are created using ecologically friendly and non-toxic dyes by fairly-paid Sri Lankan artisans, then stuffed with a safe plant fiber called kapok. In other words, you can feel comfortable with your baby sucking on...

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Lead-Free Toys, 100% Totally Guaranteed.

Last year’s scandals about lead levels in toys were really a wake-up call for many of us. Toy safety became serious business, and while you can always turn to resources like our Safer Toy Guide (and a new one coming out soon!) what’s a Mama who just wants to go shopping to do? Are the days of just browsing and buying over? Au contraire, my cautious friends. Check out No Strings Attached Toys, an online and brick-and-mortar store that really gets how important it is to us to know that safe toys are truly safe. Every single item they...

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Color By Name

Ever since my daughter was pegged as The Budding Artist, she gets about 14 boxes of crayons at every gift-giving holiday. Boy would she love to get her hands on the custom name crayons from Story Blox. For around $5, depending on the length of your kid’s name, the company will melt down recycled crayons to form one of the best and most inexpensive kid’s gifts around. You can also order a random bunch of letters or the first letter of each party attendee’s name for some pretty great goodie bag favors. Who knew those annoying broken bits of crayon...

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Memorial Day: The Beginning of Outdoor Ride-On Toy Season

It’s hard to be one, or so it seems to my one-year-old niece who longs to keep up with her older brother. Try as she may, her wobbly legs are no match for her brother’s racy, zig-zaggity gait. Things have changed now that she rides the Cheeky Chic, a sturdy and smooth walker/ride-on toy for babes as young as one. With large wheels and a low seat, even those who are barely standing can get themselves on and off this stylin’ ride. And parents will love that the Cheeky Chic comes with the best three-word phrase in children’s toys:...

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The Wii Fit: Getting In Shape Hasn’t Been This Fun Since…Well, It Never Has.

As bathing suit season approaches, I mourn that I am not more of a gym person. I am more of a sit on my butt and play Guitar Hero then complain about how bad I look in a bathing suit person. So I decided to give the new Wii Fit a whirl. Oh my goodness, am I smitten. No wonder these things fly out of stock as fast as they come in. Basically there’s a little balance board-like thingie that’s got a remote sensor to the Nintendo Wii system. It functions like a scale tracking weight, balance and BMI...

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Have a Ball

I don’t care how technologically advanced baby toys get, how many bells, whistles, batteries, voice chips or solar panels  they have – a baby’s favorite toy is still going to be a jingly clutch ball. Also a spatula. Massachusetts mom Kwan Chan-House of Apple Blossom Baby makes such beautiful handmade jingle balls for babies that it’s hard to believe we were ever satisfied with the made in China stuff from the big stores. The fabric combos are lovely and for an extra $2.50 you can even get them filled with an eco-friendly corn-based fiber instead of poly. Kwan is...

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Petite Luxe: French for What Recession?

La vie really is pretty rose-y if you’re looking at it from the pov of new online shop Petit Luxe. If you’ve got a francophile in you yearning to breathe free – or just super picky taste in baby gifts and gear, you’re going to fall in love like a newlywed couple sipping Montrachet in the honeymoon suite of the Georges V. There’s the most goooorgeous selection of fancy frocks and dapper threads at this mom-run shop from the likes of Flora and Henri,  Baby CZ and Dagmar Daley (shown). The Eliza Gran sundresses are to die for. But...

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