Category: Toys + Playthings

9 smart ways to organize video game controllers and reclaim your home at last!

It’s about this time every year that we need to ramp up our efforts to get our homes organized and looking awesome for holiday guests. It’s like, what the heck happened to all that spring cleaning I did six months ago? Yeah, well, welcome to parenthood. And one of the organizing solutions that can be the biggest bane for families is all those gadgets, video games and controllers; especially if you know that a few more of them may end up in your homes around oh…say, December or so? So we’re really happy, on behalf of our sponsor, the brand new VTech InnoTV,...

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Pop culture peg dolls, for fans of The Penguin, Harry Potter, pirates, princesses, or Percy Jackson.

Though there are sure to be many awesome high-tech toys out there this holiday season, our latest obsession is the adorably low-tech wooden peg dolls by Wooly Llama on Etsy. I mean, what could be better than hearing your kids playing their own imaginary game of Star Wars while making their best beep-beep-boop noises for the wee little R2D2 peg? Or doing their own version of Harry Potter complete with a rolly-polly Hagrid? Beyond those two huge franchises, Wooly Llama has even more incredibly cute wooden peg dolls, with sets paying homage to the casts of Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson so you can pick one that appeals...

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YOXO: Affordable gifts that build imagination. Oh, and maybe a pegasus.

With holidays coming up, we’re seeing a lot more interest in building toys and maker toys, a trend we’ve loved since, well, before it was a trend. And earlier this year at Toy Fair, when I saw the new 5-in-1 pegasus kit from YOXO I thought whoa, that’s going to be one awesome gift for the holidays. Now that it’s finally available, I’m so excited to share it because it’s one heck of a building kit. First off, everything is US-made from recycled wood pulp. This gives the Y, X and O (get it, YOXO?) pieces kind of a cardboard feel, but...

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You never forget your first unicorn.

As we’re browsing the web for our huge annual holiday gift guide (it’s coming readers, sit tight!) I just had to stop to share this amazing find: A plush unicorn rocking horse. Or, I guess, a rocking unicorn would be more apt. While we’ve shared lots of amazing modern rocking horses over the years, I’d say this is up there among my favorites and if my kids were toddlers again, this would totally be a fixture in their rooms. Related: 7 cool playroom ideas for kids that help you reclaim your living room Of course since actual unicorns are hard to come...

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Unicorn horn headbands for Halloween or everyday. Because being a magical, mythological creature never goes out of style.

When these adorable unicorn horn headbands landed in my inbox over the weekend, I immediately forwarded it to Liz and said “Cool, right?!” which is why you’re seeing them right now. If you’ve got an indecisive little one in your house, or hey, want a little quick and easy Halloween something for yourself, hurry up and order one of these. The handmade unicorn horns from BrooklynOwl.com are actually something my kids would wear all year long because really, winter, spring, summer, or fall, they’re all-season creatures. Ha.   Related: 9 really creative, last-minute Halloween costumes for kids you can DIY They...

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An artist transforms Bratz dolls into real female role models and the results are amazing.

When we first discovered Tree Change dolls, our readers went wild and with good reason — mom Sonja Singh is taking one of the most polarizing children’s toys (Bratz) and refashioning them into some of the most beloved children’s toys (wholesome little girl dolls). So now we’re so excited to see that artist Wendy Tsao has found inspiration in Sonja’s own work, and credited her as the impetus for her Mighty Dolls project, an art project in which she upcycles the same Bratz dolls, turning them into a powerful and diverse collection of female role models. Take a look at her site and you’ll recognize author JK Rowling, Nobel...

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Toyboarders: Little green army men like, totally transformed, dude.

I know a lot of parents have a fondness for those little green army men toys of their youth (and the Toy Story franchise) but not everyone wants their kids playing around with guns. So I have to give props to Toyboarders which transformed the idea into a kinder, gentler, and more rad toy option. The sets of 24 little 2″ tall men — and women and kids  — can include skaters, snowboarders, or surfers. And these guys clearly know their stuff, considering actual skaters and boarders will recognize the 8 different poses. but whether your kid knows a tube ride...

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How to scare up the hot new LEGO Monster Minifigures in time for Halloween

You know what’s scary? When LEGO comes out with a new series of 16 LEGO Monster Minifigures that would be perfect for Halloween, but when you go to their website to snag a few to surprise the kids, you see that they are all sold out. {cue scream audio} OK, so maybe this isn’t really a tragedy on any level, but have you gotten a look at these fabulously horrific creatures? We’re looking around at our affiliate Amazon and wow! There’s the disheveled Zombie Businessman minifig holding a tiny newspaper whose headline only says BRAAAINS. There’s the bright green Plant Monster minifig, the creepy Spider...

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cuddle + kind: The new handknit dolls good at snuggling, playing, and feeding kids in need

We love companies that help us do a little extra good when we purchase their products, like TOMS shoes and Bears for Humanity and Mitscoots Socks which each have “buy one, give one” business models. And now we’ve discovered a line of adorable new handknit dolls called cuddle + kind that not only will make our kids squeal from the cuteness, but also help combat child hunger in the US and around the world by providing meals to children in need. Based on the incredible amount of support they’ve received just a week into their Indiegogo campaign, clearly we’re not the only ones who...

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Remember trouble dolls? Now Worry Eaters dolls are helping kids manage anxieties.

Emotions seem to be a big topic with kids at the moment, from help from the Pixar’s Inside Out and the ubiquitous emoji. I like that these are giving us the opportunity to pay more attention to our kids’ feelings and figure out the best way to support them. So I was happy to discover the new Worry Eaters dolls, whose purpose is to help kids address and handle stress and other concerns with friendly support. In my day we had trouble dolls. For my nieces there was “monster spray” for under the bed. And now our kids have Worry Eaters, a new line of plush friends that eats up children’s worries and carry their burdens so that they don’t have...

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Baby play gyms as beautiful as they are fun

A new baby may be small, but they all have some magical ability to fill an entire home with all of their things. So we’re always looking for those gifts and gear essentials that both baby and you will love looking at, like baby play gyms. I love all three of these wooden play gyms that I found from makers on Etsy; they’re all such beautiful alternatives to those big plastic contraptions that can be eyesores in the middle of your living room. But while these are all simple and modern in terms of shape and design, there’s still plenty of accessories and other options to keep...

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10 of the cutest pirate gifts for kids because, argggg it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Avast, me hearties, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. And since this esteemed annual holiday falls on a Saturday this year, our kids can plunder the living room and giggle about the “poop deck” all day long without getting in trouble in the classroom. To get you and your little buccaneers in the mood, we’ve rounded up ten great pirate gifts for kids that we love.   Flatout Frankie’s Stack Up Pirates come together to make a fun plaything or bit of room decor for your pirate lover. Made of 100% recyclable cardboard, these two pirates are also a bit of a...

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10 ways to make driveway bike riding more fun for kids

It’s hard to feel like King of the Road when really, you’re King of Don’t  Go Beyond the End of the Driveway! With three kids and one long paved driveway, I’ve been there!  So, whether you live on a house on a high-traffic street, or you just need to keep your kids a little closer to home for whatever reason, I’ve got 10 fun ideas to make driveway bike riding more fun for those kids who love their wheels but could use a little more excitement. And don’t forget the helmets! Even if it is “just” in the driveway....

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My Big Art Show: the fun family card game that might turn your kids into art history whizzes.

Two of my kids have now outgrown some of my own favorite childhood board games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders — classic versions only, please. (And yes, I admit I do like Candy Land. Don’t ask why.) My kids are now into the kind of strategy board games that take 30 minutes to explain the rules and another 30 minutes to set up the board. They can be a lot of fun, but I don’t always have the time or inclination. So I like to have a few games on hand that we can all play quickly and easily. This week we’ve been binging on My Big Art Show by Susie Hodge....

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6 ways to entertain kids in restaurants without (gasp) pulling out a screen.

The very first thing my son does when we sit down to eat at a restaurant (well, after ordering both ice water and milk) is ask for my iPhone. I’ll admit that I’m often tempted to hand it over because it’s such an easy way to keep him entertained while we’re waiting for our food in restaurants. I mean, I always have it on me, and he can play any number of kids’ apps, watch a movie, or find kid-friendly clips on YouTube. But, he’s four. I know doesn’t need all that extra screen time. (Do any of us, really?) Plus,...

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Trend alert: Donuts are everywhere! (What? You don’t have a donut pool float yet?)

I keep being told that donuts are the new macarons, which used to be the new cupcakes, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m seeing them everywhere. And my kids are clamoring for them. They are emblazoned on stationery, tote bags, t-shirts, even toys and cosmetics, making them perfect for birthday gifts, or to tuck into a camp care package for a donut-deprived child of yours. I will say that though my favorite donuts are more simple cinnamon sugar or glazed, the frosted variety with sprinkles definitely seems to be winning out in the kitschy donut gift category. Hey,...

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Little Passports’ new gift subscription now lets younger kids get in on the world travel adventures too.

Even before she had made her first trip out of the country, my daughter loved the subscription her aunt bought her to Little Passports when she was in grade school. Each month, she’d receive a packet of information and little trinkets about a new country that she could tuck safely into her small blue suitcase. If you have younger kids, you may be happy to learn that even they can take a virtual trip around the world now, with Little Passports Early Explorers. It comes with specially designed materials and items for kids between the ages of 3-5, no real passport needed. Or expensive tickets to Egypt or France....

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Shark Week is back! Here are 7 of our favorite shark picks for summer

Starting today, it won’t be safe to turn on the television without knowing Shark Week has come ashore, with an entire week of programming on the Discovery Channel dedicated to those creatures of the sea. And while we’re happy to keep the bitey kind of shark in its rightful place in the ocean, we’ve also netted some great summertime shark finds for your kids should they have a soft spot for those toothy fish — and maybe aren’t quite old enough to watch Jaws with you just yet. Related: 14 of the coolest Shark Week picks for kids (whether they’re old...

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Letting kids make beautiful music with Compose Yourself. Now this is cool.

It may take special talent and years of study to compose music for a symphony, but we’ve discovered a fun shortcut with Think Fun’s new Compose Yourself, a creative, musical card game which lets kids 6 and up — and even adult neophytes like me — create beautiful music in minutes. You don’t even have to be able to read a note of music. Which is why I like it too. Related: How to foster a love of music in your little kids The system was created by Philip Sheppard, an accomplished composer and musician who has recorded with David Bowie, served as music director...

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7 great new beach toys for kids to make sand play even more fun

Before you pack up the kids and head to the beach (yay summer!), take my advice and do a quick inventory of last year’s beach toys. Between missing shovels, broken pails, and maybe some toys that are no longer in the best shape, it may be time to add a few new sand toys to the kids’ collection. We’ve dug up (haha) a bunch of new sand toys for our kids to play with when they aren’t burying our feet in the sand or chasing waves. And since many of these toys make great playthings for their sandbox too, they...

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8 tips for bringing even more imagination and creativity to store-bought toys.

We talk a lot about toys that inspire creativity and imagination, and the thing is, in a kid’s world, pretty much everything is a source of creativity and imagination. (See also: Pillow forts, scarves that become hula skirts, and monsters under the bed.) So as much as we’re all for handing a kid a blank sheet of paper and saying, “here you go, kid,” of course they like getting new toys as much as anyone. So I’m always looking for ways to help make my kids’ toys more fun for them — that is, if they don’t beat me to...

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Handmade baby gifts with an Australian accent. (But no, they don’t talk.)

It’s not often I discover a new Etsy shop and automatically think okay, every single thing in there is adorable. But that’s the case with Babee and Me, which I can forgive for being based in Byron Bay, Australia, considering what beautiful work is coming out of the shop. From soft handmade baby toys, to funky teething rattles (oh, those cameras!), and tons of gorgeous personalized wooden blocks in all kinds of styles, everything just has a wonderful sensibility about it with terrific typography, and modern color combination. I like that the selection also includes lots of black and white gifts,...

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Turn your kids into toymakers this summer

Wow, is our email box and social media feed getting packed with parents stressing out about what to do with kids during downtime this summer. Seeing as how we can’t let kids play in the park by themselves without 8 “concerned” neighbors calling 911 (grrr…but that’s another post for another time), we’ve been actively seeking out fun crafts, projects, and educational activities that keep them busy until you can get out with them. Or even just let them have a little fun time indoor on a rainy or zillion percent humidity day. Related: summer fun Now our friends at Cate +...

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The Swurfer: Not your grandma’s backyard swing

When I first saw a picture of The Swurfer in my local toy store’s summer catalog, I thought that it looked like a nice wide swing for those of us who can’t quite, ahem, cram ourselves into our kids’ smaller swings. And while it can definitely be used like a traditional swing, it wasn’t until I a YouTube video of the Swurfer in action that I realized that this swing really, really rocks. As the name implies, The Swurfer combines the motion of swinging with surfing so adventurous kids, teens, and even adults can surf through the air. My kids saw...

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6 sets of cool wooden blocks for older kids that are anything but square

Just when I think it’s time to put the baby blocks away, my kids will surprise me by building some huge creative structure on the living room floor, enhanced by LEGO men and dollhouse furniture. Still, I can tell the basic square blocks we’ve had for ten years aren’t quite cutting it anymore. In my search for some cool wooden blocks for older kids like my own, I’ve found some incredible sets that look more like inspiring works of art than baby toys. These wooden block sets might even keep my kids from asking for more screen time, and I say that’s worth...

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A paper block city that’s ready to travel with your kids

If your kids like building blocks as much as mine, you’ll want to check out Paper Punk’s new Urban Fold paper blocks which allow kids 6 and up to build a sprawling metropolis without the bulk and weight of traditional blocks. This is such a great toy to toss in the car when you’re headed out for a few days at the beach, or to keep on hand for one of those hot summer days when just dragging out heavier wooden blocks is more work than anyone can imagine doing. Related: A creative activity book that could make your kid a future Duchamps or Dali Instead...

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Handbags to drool over. Literally.

When you’re going through the pain of cutting teeth and the indignity of drool everywhere, you deserve a little reward, don’t you think? Of course, there’s no more appropriate gift for your teething six-month-old than a designer handbag. As long as it’s this Chanel handbag wooden baby teether spotted at Fig & Fawn, made by NYC-based LexyPexy. From designer bags to the perfect French croissant, there isn’t a LexyPexy wooden teether that doesn’t make me smile. They are all so fun and clever; they’ve moved straight to the top of my list for go-to baby shower gifts this summer. And maybe they will keep your baby from chewing...

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Play tape road rolls that let kids bring imaginative play on the road

With three vehicle-loving children, there was a time when I feared my living room would be overrun with sections of train tracks and makeshift “roads” built out of blocks. I wish I had known about InRoad Toys; clever  play tape road rolls which turns any flat surface into a road or train track without creating an obstacles should you need to walk from one side of the room to another. Plus, it’s just fantastic for summer travel. The self-adhesive paper tape road rolls makes it so easy for kids to roll out and stick to a hardwood floor, coffee table, flat-pile carpet, bookshelf —  really...

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Candylab Toys: Our kids can’t wait to get behind these wheels

We fell so in love with Candylab Toys and their gorgeous, modern-looking wood cars when we saw them over the holidays last year, they easily made 2014 Best Toys, Dolls, and Games list. Now our engines are all revved up again to see that they are adding to their fleet of vehicles with five new styles of handmade wooden cars. Like their original cars, these new Candylab vehicles run not on batteries, but on the imagination of the kids playing with cars like the iconic yellow cab, a mini tow truck that actually tows, or a 1970’s era Woodie station wagon which comes with...

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Little Bellwoods toys: The smaller the creatures, the bigger the awww…

My kids have a penchant for falling in love with tiny things. I can’t blame them; I’m the very same way. The smaller and cuter a toy happens to be, the more we all adore it. So how could we resist the heart-meltingly adorable creations over at the Little Bellwoods Etsy shop? Short answer: We can’t. Every little stuffed animal is cuter than the next. Skunks, foxes, and, well, the cutest toy birds I have ever seen in my entire life. And every little one is made by hand –and obviously with love, too– by a Canadian mom. (Toronto, represent!) I’ll...

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