Category: Toys + Playthings

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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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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