Category: Toys + Other Playthings

When is a Box Not a Box? When It’s a Mansion

Like all parents, I’ve learned that indeed it’s true, kids are often happier playing with the package a gift comes in than the gift itself. Of course it doesn’t stop us from giving them more than cardboard boxes. Until now. The cardboard playhouse is maybe my daughter’s single favorite plaything. The very sturdy (and easily assembled) recycled construction has doors, windows, and fun little peep holes galore, and the white walls are just waiting to be the canvas for your next rainy day painting project. What you give up in glitziness, you get back in imagination. Trust me, we...

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Bring Home a Kitten for the Holidays

I am a little melancholy as I embark upon my first holiday season in close to two decades without my beloved, nasty, shedding, crazy, man-eating cat. But if the trade-off means that I can justify bringing home these Little  Dear Fatkitties from artist Aimee Ray, it might be worth it. Each one is totally handmade and one-of-a-kind, some sweet, some irreverent, some just plain bad. We spotted them at the wonderful online toy store, Bright October, which is filled with plenty of our favorite brands. We even found something new to us – the beautiful handmade wool baby balls...

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Yo. My Blocks are Cooler Than Yours.

So blocks are blocks, right? They’re wooden, you build with them, you knock them down. Blocks. Yeah, well, not the Graffiti Blocks from Rockin’ Blocks. No alternababy or rock n’ roll love child’s toy collection is complete without a set. They’re handmade in Brooklyn, NYC (where else?) and coated with non-toxic glaze; you know, just in case Granny decides to police your joint and wipe them clean. Forty bucks will get you a complete set. Bring them home before some subversive graffiti terrorist decides to tag right over them. -Kristen ...

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C’mon, Get the Kid a Pony Already

I honestly didn’t understand the appeal of stick horses until I set my two year-old loose on a toy store display filled with them. My God, you would have thought they were real ponies the way her face lit up as she mounted one and took off down an aisle towards the train sets. If the horse heads hadn’t been made of some kind of ugly molded plastic, I’d have bought one then and there. Needless to say, my horse-loving lass will be on the moon next month when she opens up her handmade stick horse from CMP favorite...

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The Real Meaning of Christmas (And Also Toys)

Here’s a story for the holidays we absolutely couldn’t resist: A couple falls in love, gets married, she’s diagnosed with cancer soon after, she survives (beautifully!) and goes on to give birth to two wonderful babies. Then they open an awesome toy shop to help spread joy to other kids, all while helping to support children’s charities. Wow.  Such is the story of Jennic and Justin Law, the owners of KangarooBoo. The shop plays host to a wonderfully curated selection of our kind of toys and gifts including CMP fave brands Haba and Vilac, as well as the always...

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A Pillow Worth Grabbing

Everyone knows that babies go nuts for tags, but not everyone loves the mass produced tag blankets made from synthetic materials. (Raising hand here.) In which case, the Grabby Taggy pillows from the wonderful shop, Nico & Zoe might be more your style. We found them under the boutique’s lovely Made in the USA section, and indeed they are. Handmade in Seattle by Nico & Zoe owner Pamela herself, they’re formed from vintage and new fabrics and backed with super soft fuzzy goodness. As far from mass as it can get, each one is absolutely one of a kind....

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Europe on $40 a Day

When I was little, I was lucky enough to go to this super cool place in Holland called Madurodam, an entire city done in miniature. You could even drop a coin into certain displays and watch a teeny wedding party enter a teeny cathedral or have a teeny boat cruise down a real teeny canal–it was absolute magic. Ever since then, I’ve loved those play sets of that recreate little European villages. We found a charming one at the Wooden Wagon, a fantastic source for beautiful wooden and folk art toys. While the 17 pieces of this miniature town...

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Pieces of 14

If your child loves puzzles as much as mine, maybe you’ve got a collection (like we do) featuring boring animals and licensed characters that really have no business being called "a collection." But puzzles based on original art, like these from Seattle-based artist and children’s book illustrator Mary Maki Rae, are worth holding onto for years to come. Hand applied images of a country boy or girl are meticulously carved from baltic birch by the artist’s "perfectionist" husband, making these puzzles sure to satisfy even the pickiest young puzzlers. And maybe, if you’re lucky, your kids will like them so...

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A Rattle With Your Baby’s Name On It

Ever since our Safer Toy Guide went live, I’m growing more and more into the idea of getting all the mass produced plastic stuff out of my baby’s hands and mouth. (Hear that, grandparents?) Wood and knit rattles were good enough for babies for decades and hopefully they’re good enough for my girl. Our latest find along those lines are the absolutely adorable, vintage looking Lil’ Sock Dollie Rattles like the one seen here from etsy shop Chickabiddy Boutique. Just $14 gets you a one-of-a-kind, locally handknit little rattle with bells safely knit right into the downy stuffing. Even...

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Click. Take a Pic.

I’m beyond tickled that my daughter has taken an interest at being behind the camera. But for now, I’m thinking the wooden version from North Star Toys is probably the safer bet than my Canon. This nearly functional camera, including a turnable focus "lens" and a button that actually clicks, is one of the many wonderful wooden toys we found at this shop. And considering this family-run business has been making safe wooden playthings since 1979, I’m willing to bet they know exactly what they’re doing. It’s a fantastic way to foster creativity in your kids. And the best...

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Logs Abe Would Approve Of. Honest.

Recently I mentioned having discovered that the beloved Lincoln Logs of my youth are now mass produced in China, and a savvy reader pointed me towards Roy Toy. Score! If you’ve got a budding Bob the builder (or Brayden or Bianca) on your hands, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t love the Roy Toy log camp sets. They were first made in Maine in the 1930s by Roy Dennison and now, two generations later, his grandson is continuing the tradition. The company continues to employ hand-cut pine logs stained with non-toxic dyes that fit together tightly and beautifully. The prices...

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Safer Toys For Kids. You Know, The Unleaded Kind

For almost two years now, we’ve been pointing our readers towards cool gifts, toys and gear alternatives to the stuff you find in your local ginormous mass retailer. But now that buying handmade, indie or fair trade can actually be safer for your kids, we’re feeling even better about what we do here every day. So for your browsing, buying, and drooling pleasure, we’re happy to present The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide, featuring some of our favorite playthings for younger kids. From teething toys (Run away from the plastic! Run away!) to blocks to cars to super...

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Here Kid, Fix My Hem

Crafty parents – we know you’re out there with your embroidery floss and glue guns, waiting for the day that your kids will be old enough to start crafting alongside you. In the meantime, Nico and Zoe has the perfect little project to introduce your child to needlework.

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Dolls Made in Not China

As I sit here, gazing at my four month-old as she sucks the end of a silver rattle, I know I’m doing the right thing in limiting the mass-produced plastic garbage that enters our house. And enters her hands. And thus, enters her mouth. My latest focus: Dolls.

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Stuck On You

With all the bells and whistles – literally – that are the hallmark of modern toys, I’m always happy to find those that put a new spin on an old classic without the use of batteries–or the need for a bottle of ibuprofen for mommy.

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