Category: Toys + Other Playthings

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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The Least Raggy Rag Dolls Ever

It’s been a while since we found some handmade dolls that we’re really crushing on. After all, December isn’t the only time we need great gifts for the special girls in our lives. A new find comes courtesy the etsy shop Little Big Pants, and its visionary, mom/designer Terra LaChance. Her original Audrey rag dolls are more Madeline than Raggedy Ann, dressed for outings like the library and the museum. Audrey’s pretty stylin’ for a rag doll with her body suits, removable skirts (no buttons = toddler friendly), red mary janes, and ocassionally a Euro neck scarf to hold...

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Why Is This Finger Puppet Different From All Other Finger Puppets?

For those of you who have searched high and low to find a finger puppet in the shape of a piece of matzoh, you are in luck, for we have found that very thing in the set of plush 4 Questions Finger Puppets. The matzoh joins reversible friends Reclining Chair, Radish, and Horseradish Root (sounds a little like a PeeWee’s Playhouse episode) and can definitely make the Seder more engaging for little ones. And if you don’t know what any of that means, then maybe you should start with My Own Hagaddah – a great primer-slash-coloring book for kids...

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When I Think Nursery Decor, I think Deer Head

When brainstorming decorating themes for my daughters’ bedroom, the first thing that comes to mind is definitely hunting lodge.  Okay, so it’s not. But I would consider fun-ing things up a bit with this 3-d deer head puzzle mounted over the bed. You or an older child can put it together, and then proudly display your treasure. It’s a toy! It’s art! It’s a conversation piece! And best of all, it’s totally 100% PETA-approved. Find it along with lots of other baby goodies, stationery and beautiful gifts that and you’ll find hard to resist at the online boutique of...

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Deglingos: French for Toss the Teddy Bear

I often find myself gravitating towards European stuffed animals. There’s something quirky and inventive about many of them relative to our own teddies with their ubiquitous neck ribbons. Plus there’s that matter of the stringent EU safety standards that inspires an added jolt of mommy confidence. A recent find: The hilarious Les Déglingos. The name is some kind of French pun that’s totally over my head, but I’m loving the backstory about how they all speak in words ending in -os. Although mass produced, each one definitely has that handmade feel about it with all those fabrics and colorful...

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Origami Mommy

I’m all for broadening my daughter’s exposure to new cultures (Dora not included), and the art of Origami seemed to be a good way to merge craft time with cultural studies. Unfortunately I was doing all the folding, and the animals ended up looking like she was. So, how about this Choki Ori (translated: snip and fold) Animal Friends Kit instead? Designed to be easier than origami (thank God), all you do is cut out the shapes and fold them a few times to create cute animals that are great for pretend play. You’ll get 10 pre-printed creatures and a couple for your...

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Adoption Dolls: Take One Home. No Red Tape.

At Toy Fair last month, I was taken with the series of Jambo Kids adoption dolls. Founded by a mom/pop team who wanted to create a toy their adopted Chinese daughter could relate to, these doll and book sets handle cultural and racial differences in exactly the right way. As in, no big honkin’ stereotypical BS. (Maria is Mexican and likes to eat tacos and take long siestas!) The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether your daughter (or son, sure) is adopted or not; surely she’ll love the huggable dolls and accompanying books that help her learn about about...

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Turn The Beat Around

At Toy Fair last month, I spent wayyyyy too much time with the very enthusiastic music maker John Hayden of Jamtown, investigating his selection of fair trade instruments from around the world. Okay, so I wasn’t investigating so much as I was playing with them. Sue me. The selection of artisan-crafted percussive instruments for your little musical prodigy are absolutely authentic and wonderful, like a beautiful Indonesian gecko drum, colorful fire-burned gourd shakers from Chile, vibrant Vietnamese animal shakers (some of which kids can paint themselves), and lovely affordable handmade flutes. But what really sucked in was the Sun...

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Reading For All

I recently had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Felicia Steves-Niles and was thrilled to learn that she was not only a cool mom, but a cool mom who ran her own cool online shop which sucked me into a marathon browsing session. Nairobi’s Knapsack features a nice little selection of stuff for kids with an multicultural bent. There’s a sweet array of toys and dolls beyond what you’ll find in the local Tar-zhay, although what really anchors the shop is the virtual bookshelf. You’ll find award-winning titles like Ellington Was Not a Street from poet Ntozake Shange, but...

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Don’t Sit Over the Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me

In our house it’s called "the thingie with the round bead-y thingies on it." But now I’ve finally learned the proper term – Bead Maze! Who knew? Whatever it is, my wee ones love it. And one of the sweetest ones we’ve come across is this new Apple Tree Bead Maze from ImagiPLAY. We’ve been fan of ImagiPLAY’s toys for ages, given their commitment to using sustainable, earth-friendly materials and non-toxic paints. This toy is no different, giving you all the more reason to love it – besides the great price, just $12.99. It’s a super toy for kids...

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Toy Stables For Kids Who Aren’t Horsing Around (Heh)

As a young girl, I was a die-hard collector of lifelike plastic horse models and gear, but the best accessory of them all was my wooden stable, lovingly handmade by my grandfather and accurate in every detail. Black Beauty was thrilled with his lavish digs. If there’s no carpentry expert in your family, you can give your horse-crazy kid his own handcrafted stable from parent-run Streamside Farm. Each one is individually made from reclaimed cork pine wood, originally used in barns that housed (gasp!) real live horses. The barns are based upon real life spaces, so they resemble buildings...

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Eco Friendly Dolls That don’t Look Like Eco Friendly Dolls (If You Know What We Mean)

When it came to finding that perfect baby doll for my daughter, I quickly realized that most of the traditional ones are mass-produced in China. While I’m not averse to Chinese-made toys as a rule, my standards have definitely gone up since the recalls. Too bad I never knew about the gorgeous, Petitcollin dolls. Made at the last remaining doll factory in France, these sweet little vanilla-scented things are created using pthalate-free vinyl, which will make you rest a bit easier when you see your child chomping on its face. The clothes are all spectacularly handmade – just take a look...

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Idle Hands

My three-year-old must always be doing something with her hands – coloring, painting, or her current favorite, going through my entire jewelry box. Twice on a good day. So, when I saw these Maple Landmark Lace-A-Shapes I figured it was worth a try to save my sanity and my jewelry. Created from sustainably harvested local wood and covered in a completely non-toxic finish, your preschooler will have a heck of a good time lacing up the four different animal shapes included in this pack. Great for the car, the plane, or at home when you’ve simply exhausted all other busy work...

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Matryoshka Dolls: Hard to Spell, Easy To Love

As a wee lass, I was obsessed with a matryoshka doll my parents had brought me back from Eastern Europe. All the time spent banging those little schmata-clad wooden nesting dolls around yielded plenty of chipped paint and battered edges, turning a stunning keepsake into a well-loved but fairly sad looking plaything. A more durable option can be found in the amazing, totally handcrafted soft matryoshka dolls by artist Denise Mollison. There’s close to a dozen beautiful girls to be found on Quiet Hours Toys, each one made of cotton socks, Japanese kawaii fabric, and hand embroidery. They’re just...

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Ground Control to Major Aidan

We joke that since the lead paint recalls, that we’re all happy to let our kids play with cardboard boxes. But the reality is – kids like to play with cardboard boxes. So when is a cardboard box better than a cardboard box? When it’s actually a rocket ship. If you live in a more temperate climate, stick this sturdy, recycled paper rocket in the backyard and watch the kids go nuts. If you’re still in the tundra zone like I am, make space in a playroom or den, get out the crayons and paints, and keep the kids...

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Longing For the Days When We Wondered What the # Button Was For

I still remember my childhood fascination with our old rotary phone. I mean, they looked pretty cool and you could crush a coconut with it, although it did take way to long to dial a freaking phone number. But boy did they make really fun toddler toys. I admit a pang of nostalgia when I saw this old Fisher-Price phone from long ago. No, I wasn’t digging through consignment shops and garage sales, but perusing the pages of Warm Biscuit, a vintage kid decor shop that just so happens to carry some oldies-but-goodies. (And yep, it’s made in China, but Fisher-Price...

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Tastes Like Chicken

Okay so they say that newborns aren’t exactly ready for poultry. But when it’s this funny little MiYim pink chicken rattle spotted at Essere Organics, I suppose you could make an exception. It’s guaranteed free-range, hormone free, and 100% organic. And despite the fact that it’s probably a little undercooked judging from the rosy color, I’d say it’s safe to let your little toothless one gum it to his heart’s content. –Liz Enter code coolmom10 in the promotion box for 10% off all orders  at Essere...

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My Kingdom for a Horse

Okay so I know that most any child is imaginative enough to grab a broom or a Swiffer or even a paper towel roll, and turn it into a horsie. But if you’re like me, your heart will ache and swell and torment you until you break down and get that kid a real hobby horse. A beautiful option can be found at Craftsbury Kids, which is now selling the heirloom-quality horses from Irish toymaker and dad, Dan Hillman. These handcrafted wooden playthings are each hand painted and stained usiing only eco-friendly, plant-based paints, then signed and numbered by...

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All Natural Teddy

I tend to avoid buying friends and family plush animals as new baby gifts. I figure that like me, the last thing they need is another stuffed bear to collect dust on an already full shelf. But then, browsing online shop Petit Baby, I saw the new organic bears from French company Kaloo. And I changed my mind immediately. This classic boutique line of stuffed critters features 100% organic cotton fibers, hold the pesticides and chemicals. So aside from being incredibly soft and huggable, you can feel good about giving one to a sensitive newborn. The 100% recycled round box...

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Give Me Liberty!

I’m always on the look out for something to do with my favorite pictures, other than frame them. Custom bags, jewelry – you name it, I’ve got it. But puzzles? Not until now. While it’s easy to be mesmerized by Liberty’s unique vintage children’s puzzles with images from classic nursery rhymes, don’t stop there.  Click over to their custom page and you’ll see the masterpieces they can create with your own photos, which go well beyond some ordinary slice-and-dice grid puzzle that some of the photo sites offer. In fact Liberty does this really cool special thing in which...

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Because Not All Great Gifts Come From Santa

My son has a birthday that falls right after the biggest gift giving holiday of the year, making it a bit hard to figure out what to get him that feels "special." Considering how well he cleaned up at Christmas, it’s not easy giving the old guy in the red suit a run for his money. This simply gorgeous toy block wagon from fourth generation US toymaker John Michael Linck is a strong, strong contender. Handmade of woods like black cherry, walnut, and hickory using good old-fashioned workmanship including dovetail joinery and dowels (no nails or Krazy glue), the...

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Ballsy

Thanks to the toy recalls, I am much more concerned about where and how the toys I’m purchasing for my kids are made. But it’s not always as easy to get the backstory on your playthings as Fair Trade Sports makes it. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like having a certified fair trade soccer ball or basketball or rugby ball is such a big deal–but don’t you think a ball should make more of an impact on the child playing with than the child who is forced to hand stitch it for 4 cents an hour? Order Fair Trade Sports’...

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Good Vibrations

With my son working on teeth numbers 7 and 8, I’m desperate to find anything that will keep him chewing on something other than me. You think I’m kidding. But with all the research on the effects of some plastics out there, it’s tough to do better than a frozen bagel. I traded crumbs all over my floor for a chance to try out the JeJe Vibrating Teether from Baby Vibe (that always cracks me up), a completely safe teether that is BPA, Pthalate, and PVC-free. We found at one-stop safe baby gear shop The Soft Landing – a really...

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It’s a Bird. It’s a Train…

We’ve got our first ever two-child plane trip coming up and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little nervous. I figure if I can pack enough fun stuff to keep the two year-old entertained, maybe I can actually suck down a cocktail and relax. On my must-pack list: The very clever First Train Sets from high-end Swedish toy company, BRIO. The cute little penguin (or dog or cat or frog or squid) may look like your ordinary plush toy, but unzip it and out comes all these miniature penguins on wheels. So it’s like two...

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The newest teething solution for babies: Mushrooms

Continually asked for safe teething toys by parents, we’re always quick to suggest Sophie Giraffe, Vulli’s European fave for decades. But now the company has transitioned from the animal kingdom to the vegetable garden, with a trio of totally cute mushroom teethers. Blue Chan, pink Pie and yellow Gnon (a play on the french word for mushroom, champignon)  might even be safer than their real world counterparts–they’re made from sustainable rubber, painted with food dyes, and free of phthalates. Also? No fungus. Which, come to think of it, is a mushroom first. Find the Chan Pie Gnon teethers at...

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Cute Bear ISO Good Home. Fingers Will Do.

All I can say about Cheryl A Smith is that she’s a nut. A crazy, creative, crafting nut. Why else would she personally number each and every sweet little finger puppet that she makes and sells? Especially considering that she’s now past the 2,000 mark. That’s a whole lot of felt. While Cheryl’s selling out fast for holiday orders, hit her shop now and you can still delight a child with a totally adorable pengin, a bunny rabbit, a vulnerable bear, and a not entirely menacing green dragon. Put them together and that’s one interesting finger puppet show you...

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