Category: Toys + Other Playthings

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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Birds of a Feather Rattle Together

Considering the BlaBla handknit animal rattles were my son’s ultimate favorite, I was super excited to find out about their new line of little birdie rattles. (See, I knew there was a good reason that I got pregnant again). This adorable line of six music-themed bird rattles are just as pleasing to me as they are to my son. Translated, that means they are quiet, soft, and washable — the trifecta of baby rattle perfection. My advice to you is buy more than one. Once they’ve been tossed aside for something more interesting – like kitchen utensils and toilet...

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Sitting Still is Highly Overrated

At first glance, the shell-shaped plastic Bilibo seemed sort of odd to me. Is it a seat? A stool? Another container for junk? I was skeptical when it came our way to say the least. But then I gave it to my three-year-old and she literally played with it for a solid hour. Geared for kids 2 and up, the Swiss-made seat/stool/whatever found at toy shop The Crimson Wagon allows your kids to let their imaginations run wild.  My daughter made it into a spinning seat, a reading chair and a balancing stool, all on her very own. My...

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One-of-a-Kind Dolls For Kids Who are Pretty Unique Themselves

I have never seen my 12 month-old daughter take to a doll quite like the handmade cutie that arrived from Poot & Boogie. Mostly she’s happy to entertain herself with blocks or turn things like paper clips and dog kibble into playthings. It’s not surprising considering each one-of-a-kind little rag doll made by Canadian SAHM Leanna is the perfect size and weight for a little one. I know the artist’s reco is 3+ but unless yours has buttons for eyes I wouldn’t worry. The dolls are available at CMP fave shop Natural Pod so naturally the craftsmanship is stellar...

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The Greening of Playtime

Okay so it’s like that old joke about grandparents who look at your kids’ video games and say VIDEO GAMES? Back in my day we played with twigs and rocks and we LIKED IT. But the truth is, is there really anything so bad about playing with twigs and rocks? That’s exactly what Kimberly Monaghan was thinking when she wrote Organic Crafts, a book with 75 activities that get your kid out of the house to forage for art supplies. Masks can be made from grass, puppets from pebbles, even a gourd birdhouse. Plus I like the info on...

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Crafty Moms, This One’s For You

Okay you mamas with the crafty gene. Now don’t be coy, you know who you are. You’re the ones who see some of the awesome handmade stuff we feature here and turn up your noses and say pfft, I could make that myself for THREE CENTS. And you might be right. So I’m going to put aside my envy for one moment and say you’re right! You can make some cool stuff yourself. All you need is The Softies Kit from Therese Laskey. It’s more than a book, it’s an entire kit including 15 laminated cards with instructions for...

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Sok-O: The Cabbage Patch Kid for the Next Generation

For some time now, we’ve been hearing about these $49 sock animals and we just had to see what it was all about. Cashmere socks with diamond chip eyes perhaps? Nope, turns out that Sok-O is even better. These 100% handmade, one-of-a-kind, embroidery-embellished, earth-friendly creatures are the design snob’s answer to stuffed animals. Not only do each of the eight characters look like as if they were lifted right out of a Cartoon Network series, but every one is wonderfully packaged and comes with its own birth certificate. Holy 1983 redux! Although in this case it’s actually a style...

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BPA-Free Beach Fun

With Memorial Day just about a month away, I can almost smell the beach – or more like all the plastic toys that get crammed into our beach bags. But thanks to the Recycled Sand Play Set from Green Toys, you don’t have to feel quite as guilty about all the plastic piling up. Granted it’s still a plastic bucket and shovel, however it’s made from 100% recycled plastic. And even better, it’s totally BPA and pthalate-free. Sure your kids won’t be slugging milk and juice out of the bucket, but it’s still nice to know that you’re eliminating...

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The Elfin Way

Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I was so happy the day I realized my baby was old enough to hold her own in a crib full of toys. Not only does it give her a way to keep herself occupied in the wee hours of the morning, but it is a handy place to store the stuffed animals. Now we’ve got to make room for one more goodie in there: The new Elf Pillows spotted at one of our favorite shops, Chittypulga. Like everything else made by Yellow Label Kids (like the knitted cupcakes! And the cookies!) the soft...

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Handmade Dolls for Your Little Doll

Until I got involved with CMP, I confess that I had no idea there were so many wonderful handmade dolls out there. I assumed that you either had a crafty grandma in the family, or your children were pretty much stuck with whatever was on the toy store shelves. Well hooray for all of us missing the crafty gene, because that’s not the case. And the latest handmade softies we’re adoring are the enchanting dolls from Shannon of Project Grab Bag, which we spotted online at Bella Symphony. My fave is 18" tall Posie who comes dressed in one-of-a-kind...

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Putting Stuffed Animals to Shame

If you are like me and think you don’t need yet another stuffed animal, then you have not met Bla Bla Kids’ newest addition to their cuddly family, The Boogaloos. Similar to all of Bla Bla Kids’ amazing pieces, the 15 various Boogaloos are handcrafted by fairly-paid Peruvian artisans and are clearly a step above the typical stuffed animal. (Which is also why favorite pieces are often out of stock.) Some are too cute for words, some are girlie, some are just hilarious, but all are really original. Their soft cotton knit exterior makes wash and wear a bit...

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Tax Day Splurge: Italian Tricycles the Grown-Ups Will Covet Too

Buying the kid’s first tricycle was wrought with way more emotion than I had expected. It’s like the first time you tell your kid Go! Be free! Off on your own! Despite the fact that she’ll still need the occasional push off an uneven sidewalk square. The Triciclino trikes from Italitrike (Italian, of course) immediately struck me as the must-have three-wheeled gift of the season. The craftsmanship is amazing and those rubber wheels keep the ride smooth and comfy for little pedalers indoors and out. Plus the styling is so gorgeous, it will distract onlookers from the teary mom...

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