Category: Toys + Other Playthings

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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Please and Carrots – a baby toy subscription box that’s all about developmental milestones.

You buy all sorts of toys to fill the nursery while prepping for baby, then they start to grow and you find yourself wondering which toys are right for them and for which developmental milestones. Those long aisles full of very brightly colored toys at the store can be a little overwhelming, which is why I’m liking the new Please and Carrots baby toy subscription service, which helps take out the guesswork for new parents. – Don’t miss an exclusive discount for CMP readers below –  Curated by team of expert advisors including pediatricians, psychologists, educators and parents, each box is designed to engage...

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A colorful toy mail bag for kids that’s ready to deliver fun

Since most of the mail I get in my own mailbox is junk or bills, I’d love to see my kids playing mail carrier and delivering me something really special using Miss Pretty Pretty’s colorful felt mail bag. Perhaps delivered to this cute printable mailbox we shared a while back? Coming from Julie the same Etsy artist that has given us the most creative and well-made handmade playhouses we may have seen, ever, Miss Pretty Pretty’s child-sized mail bag is ready to go to work. Or play. Through rain, sleet, snow, or just across a messy playroom. She can even customize it in whatever color combination your...

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A toy to help kids with autism (and without) understand more about their moods

Whether you call it Autism Awareness or Autism Acceptance like one of my good friends, April is a great month to learn more about autism and how to make our world more supportive to those families living with it. That’s one reason we’ve long supported Creative Kidstuff’s partnership with St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development to identify some of the best playthings for kids with autism. And it is on their special month-long Autism Awareness Celebration Sale page that I discovered a toy that could help kids on and off the autistic spectrum learn and understand more about their moods....

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The custom action figures for the woman who already is a superhero.

Since we’re always saying that moms are superheroes, it makes perfect sense to actually turn her into one this Mother’s Day. That’s why we’re doing backflips, and possibly leaping tall buildings in a single bound, over a new company that creates affordable custom action figures, complete with a custom face on them. Whoa. Related: The coolest personalized Mother’s Day gifts After a successful Kickstarter campaign, You Kick Ass custom action figures (love the name) created by two ass-kicking entrepreneurial women, are ready for preorder. They’ve got both adult and kid figures, but if you’re shopping for mom, pick one of the four...

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Because girls like dinosaurs. And well, boys like purple.

I just love when parents get fired up about not being able to find the kinds of off-the-beaten-path things their girls are interested in. Because really, that just inspires entrepreneurs to come up with such things and now we all get to reap the benefits. Such is the case with everything at mom-run shop Nawi Kids. – Don’t miss an exclusive discount below –  Moms Nas and Whitney started their company years ago when Whitney’s daughter was potty training and into dinosaurs. Surprise, there was no dinosaur underwear for girls anywhere to be found. So, smart mom that she is, Whitney decided she...

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Handmade kid-sized hammocks that rock. In both senses.

When my kids try climbing onto the huge woven rope hammock in their grandparents’  back yard, it inevitably flips over and leaves them dangling inches above the ground, hanging on underneath for dear life. It’s so hilarious. I mean…awful. Right, it’s awful. Either way, it’s not nearly as relaxing in awesome kid-sized hammocks from Sluice. This Etsy shop-turned-small-business out of North Carolina (where they know a thing or two about getting outdoors and enjoying nature) creates handmade hammocks that hold up to 400 pounds. Just in case the whole family wants to enjoy an al fresco nap together. But what I like is the Hammie, a kid-sized hammock, which makes it easier...

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Piki Piki: It’s a bike! It’s a trike! It’s the new top of your toddler’s wish list.

Vroom vroom! That’s the sound of one very happy 21-month-old zooming around in my living room on the Piki Piki from Gallo and Spence Toys, a great new bike-trike hybrid for toddlers and preschoolers. And with my own toddler (and soon-to-be toddler, eek!) am so happy to have found this! Made in the USA and created by a mom and dad who grew up in South Africa where they still get that independent play is more important than hovering over your kid every moment, the three-wheeled Piki Piki offers toddlers the independence they crave– while reassuring slightly nervous parents like myself with its solid...

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11 of our very favorite travel toys and books for kids to help make those miles pass quickly

If Spring Break or Easter has you heading out by plane, train, or automobile, you may be wondering how to keep your kids happily occupied beyond the iPad, as you travel from Point A to Point B. And since we all know how hard it is to hear “are we there yet?” for the 200th time, I’ve pulled together 11 of the most portable, fun, and quiet travel toys for kids that we can all vouch help make the miles whiz by. CMP is an rstyle affiliate   Related: Road trip help for families: Tons of sanity savers, tips and our favorite essential products    Magnetic Toys I...

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19 very (very) special non-candy Easter basket gifts kids will love.

Between school parties and Easter baskets from their grandparents, my kids will be coming home with chocolate bunnies and cream-filled eggs to last us till the Fourth of July. So I’ve been looking for some extra special Easter basket gifts for kids that go beyond what you might find on your drugstore shelves. They’re perfect for those of you who want to ease up on the sugar; or for kids like ours, who are already going to have more than their fill from other sources. Mix them in with some traditional Easter fare (it is hard to resist jellybeans after all), or limit...

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Cardboard food truck playhouses for kids just not satisfied with the same old cottages and castles.

We’ve seen lots of awesome cardboard playhouses over the years, from European village squares to castles to pirate ships. We even featured OTO’s gorgeously designed ice cream truck playhouse when it was a mere Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and now we’re thrilled to see that that dream became a funded reality. What’s more, the line has recently expanded to include an absolutely clever cardboard taco truck playhouse. Austin, Brooklyn, and Silverlake parents? You’ll totally appreciate this one. Related: 12 awesome toys you can actually make from cardboard boxes The design is amazing, with really beautiful non-toxic offset printing. I also love that these cardboard food truck playhouses are made in...

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The hipster ABC matching tile game, for parents who value reading proficiency and irony.

Most preschoolers can tell you that M is for Monkey and N is for Nut, but a hip preschooler may know that those letters also stand for Moustache and Narwhal. Since I’m pretty sure my three year old doesn’t, I’ve got my eye on this Hipster ABC matching tile set that should increase his cool cred faster than he can say, “The glasses-wearing narwhal played ping pong in a log cabin.” Mostly because he’ll first want to know what the heck a narwhal is. Related: A cool counting book for your hipster-in-training. I love children’s toys that speak to my own design sensibilities and I get a a...

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8 of the coolest Year of the Sheep baby gifts for your little lamb

I’ve always loved the Chinese Zodiac and not just because I’m a Chinese American. I am fascinated by the history of the signs and their meanings. So with the Chinese New Year just a couple of days away, we thought it would be fun to round-up cool Year of the Sheep baby gifts. If you happen to be expecting a little baby lamb (we’ll go with the lamb instead of the ram) in 2015 or know someone who is, here are some wonderful Year of the Sheep baby gifts to help celebrate. Kung Hei Fat Choi!   The beautiful knit dolls from BlaBla Kids have...

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A rainbow of handmade sorting games bringing beautiful, old-school play to kids

Ever in search for more colorful playthings to brighten up the dreary northeast weather, I am so happy to discover Laughing Crickets, an Etsy shop creating the most beautiful, bright, happy-making handmade toys for kids, with a focus on handmade sorting games. The shop overs brightly beautiful natural  sorting games featuring the likes of giraffes, hearts, birds, lady bugs, and rainbow clad peg dolls in their own little wooden beds. Plus, Easter eggs which should be a big hit in the coming weeks.I love that they’re painted with non-toxic paints and finished with natural beeswax and olive oil, by makers who clearly...

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Wood you be mine?

As I’m looking around the web for ideas for a little token Valentine’s Gift for my kids, I came across this adorable wooden stacking heart blocks toy from Natural Family Shop on Amazon and yes, I heart it. It comes with 8 natural, beautifully handmade and non-toxic wooden heart blocks for stacking and sorting, or it just looks pretty displayed up on a child’s bookshelf. Good news, Amazon Prime members–you can still get one in time for Valentine’s Day, too if you’re quick.   I see them available shades of pink too, and in rainbow sold by Magic Cabin; though you’ll have to wait a bit for delivery...

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Building a better bear with Bears for Humanity

It’s pretty easy to find a teddy bear that my kids will love. Cute and stuffed? Check. But finding one that I love for them is a bit trickier. Bears for Humanity is a winner for all of us. My favorite thing about Bears for Humanity is their buy one, give one business model which husband and wife team Vijay and Renju Prathap modeled after TOMS. Each purchase means an equal bear—not some cheaper facsimile–goes to one of their U.S. partner organizations, like Toys for Tots, pediatric cancer org Expect Miracles, and Save the Children, all to brighten up another child’s day. Beyond that, Bears for Humanity hits so many of my...

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A LEGO Hogwarts that’s not to be believed.

I am always a little proud of myself when I help my kids with a difficult LEGO design, or find just the piece they’ve been searching for in our big bin, but my accomplishments pale in comparison to what one dedicated mom in Seattle did with those little plastic pieces. She made an entire LEGO Hogwarts. Alice Finch’s labor of LEGO love took 18 months and more than 400,000 bricks. The finished version of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is so detailed and accurate, Hermione Granger herself would approve.  You can read the full story and see more of...

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The Mini Life: When you feel like you’ve seen every baby and kid gift out there, here’s where to go.

I’m always happy to introduce you to beautifully-curated independent web boutiques and here’s one more  new one that’s caught my attention since its launch just a few weeks ago. Mini Life is an exquisite children’s lifestyle boutique packed full of gorgeous toys, decor, home items and more, all cultivated from around the world. It’s definitely not the kinds of gifts you see in every shop in the mall. Founder Athena Rotolo has a modern sensibility I just love, and if you’ve got little ones to shop for–or maybe, splurge on–then you must look around this exquisite site. Here are just...

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Tree Change Dolls: Turning trash (i.e. Bratz Dolls) into treasure.

Like many parents I know, I have never been a fan of the pouty-lipped, heavy-lidded, overly-made-up Bratz line of dolls. But after I saw what this mother-daughter team has been doing to “rescue” the discarded toys, I was totally charmed by the sweet little dolls who it turns out were were hiding behind all those false eyelashes and lip injections. Renamed Tree Change Dolls, from an Australian phrase that refers to a move from urban glitz to a more down-to-earth style, these repurposed dolls aren’t even recognizable as their formerly wide-eyed selves. Their eyebrows are repainted to be more natural, their lips look less injected, and even their hair is reconditioned...

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