Category: Toys + Other Playthings

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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Custom dolls from your kids’ drawings. Now that’s a keepsake.

My three-year-old son brings artwork home from nursery school by the armful — if you consider a couple of paint drops on construction paper to be art, that is. Every so often, however, he creates something that actually resembles a person, place, or thing, and I want to save it forever. The coolest way I’ve discovered to immortalize a child’s doodle is to turn it into a custom doll. We’ve covered quite a few impressive artists who make custom dolls from drawings that kids make and now there’s one more. Enter Yaela, a designer and mother of two. She runs an online studio called Dolls ‘n’ All...

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LEGO goes to the birds

It’s going to be a while before I can look out my window and see anything bright and colorful fluttering around my yard, so I’m especially pleased that LEGO has chosen to release LEGO Birds, a brand new set of feathered friends that is so realistic, I may just gaze at them instead. The set features detailed models of a hummingbird, blue jay, and robin, each standing between 5 and 7 inches tall and perched on its own stand with its Latin name in front. There’s even a pamphlet more more info on the species inside. It all adds up to a certain sophistication which means I...

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6 fun new family games to freshen up your stash. Or your stache.

When the holidays–and the cold weather–hit, it’s the time I make sure our games are in good shape. As in, half the cards from UNO aren’t missing and there is actually Monopoly money in the Monopoly game. As opposed to the play kitchen. (I know you feel me, mamas.) With more than a few kids and relatives visiting over the holidays, here are a few new family games made by smaller companies we’ve added to our repertoire this year. Plus, this is a great time to stock up, with all the last minute shopping deals, whether or not they make it in...

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Connect Four, only in wood. And gorgeous.

My husband comes from a family of players. Game players, that is. The next time we host a family dinner, I’d love to pull out this gorgeous four in a row wood game to engage in a bit of healthy competition. (Spoiler alert: I’ve always been awesome at Connect 4.) This wood game from Monkey Pod Games still requires strategy, just like the plastic version we all grew up playing. It’s still fast paced, and it still, I imagine, makes a satisfying “clink” when you stack one wooden disc atop another. Didn’t you just love that sound when you were a kid? The fact that this four...

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Four of the best multiple-solution puzzles for kids. Because there’s no one right way to play.

If you’re still puzzled (yes, I went there) over what to get some of the kids on your list, keep reading. Whether it is a small wooden puzzle for little hands to manipulate, or something larger and more complex that gets the entire family involved, a well-made puzzle is a great plaything that will never require batteries or a wi-fi connection. And if your kids prefer their play to be more open-ended, we’ve found four options with multiple solutions so that their finished product doesn’t have to look the same way twice.   Nene Imagination’s Puzzles Without Borders: Penguins and Friends (shown at top)...

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Gorgeous wooden toy cars that run on imagination

Some of the best toys don’t need a lot of bells and whistles, or even horns, to make them a plaything that kids will love for years. Our newest find is Candylab’s stunning, yet durable, wooden toy cars. After Candylab wooden toy cars received some acceleration from a super-successful Kickstarter campaign, six styles are ready to roll up to your house in time for the holidays for any vehicle-loving child and their mid-century-modern-loving parents. Designed in Brooklyn, made of solid beech wood, colored in water-based paints, and rolling on food-grade rubber tires, Candylab’s entire garage of toy cars are the kinds...

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Venice Beach-worthy skateboards for your little shredder

On a recent trip to Venice Beach, I wandered through skate shops and hung out at the skatepark. What can I say — I’m still a skatebetty at heart, even at my age. But unlike the old days when bumper stickers proclaimed Skateboarding is not a crime!, skateboarding has gone mainstream, which makes a skateboard a pretty rad holiday gift for just about any kid. Here are two cool models I got a chance to check out, and why I think each one could be a cool gift this year. First there’s Sunset Skateboards, which was started by two California skaters who’d been...

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Well Lottie da, the newest Lottie doll is a boy

We’re big fans of the Lottie doll line here at Cool Mom Picks. She looks like a real kid, has cool adventures, and encourages girls to be themselves, whether they dream of being pirates, soccer pros, or lighthouse keepers. So you can imagine our excitement when we learned about her new pal Finn, the first boy doll in the line. Lottie boy doll Finn is all set to join Branksea Festival Lottie dressed in a Kite Festival outfit, or dress him up in a Gone Fishing outfit for next year’s Shark Week. What’s refreshing to me as a mom is that Finn comes with no guns,...

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6 reasons why Micro Kickboard could be the best first scooter for your kids

Like many of you parents, I wanted to purchase the best first scooter for my little kids when they were old enough, but was overwhelmed by all the choices in the stores. But after reading a review of the Micro Kickboard Mini Micro scooter by our associate editor Christina ages ago, I purchased them for my own kids back in 2010. They even still have the pink and orange scooters I bought after they had outgrown the trikes and toddler bikes that kept them limited to our driveway. The second they hopped on these scooters, I was amazed at how quickly they could ride....

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Super nerdy blocks for super scientists

There aren’t many wooden toys for toddlers that I can imagine an older kid would love too, but these super nerdy ABC blocks from Uncommon Goods are a major exception. They’re made from locally sourced wood and printed with non-toxic inks, featuring letters, illustrations, and scientific vocabulary words. They’re safe for toddlers to gnaw on, sturdy enough for preschool architects, and offer such cool reading material that middle schoolers might use them as a study reference for science class. Or hey, maybe your kindergartner will wow her teacher with talk of buckyballs and the water cycle. It’s never too...

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Bunzi: A first balance bike for toddlers that doesn’t break your budget

If it’s not yet clear from the pages of Cool Mom Picks, the holiday season is upon us. And for a lot of us, that means time to come up with a standout holiday gift for the little guys and gals on our shopping list will be a hit without breaking the bank. You may know we’re big fans of balance bikes here, from the Y-Bike that grows with your child, to Christina’s top pick, the Micro-Mini 3-in-1 scooter which transforms from balance bike into a mini-scooters to grow with your child. Now there’s one tailor-made for the youngest biking enthusiasts, and get this: this awesome first balance...

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An adorable doll carrier for future babywearers

I’m a veteran babywearer, so it’s no surprise that the first thing my daughter thinks about when she wants to take her dolls for a walk is putting them into a carrier. We’ve always had cute little doll pouches for her babies, but with whyknotmom’s Reversible Doll Carrier, she finally has one that looks like the Ergo her little brother used to pretty much live in, and she couldn’t be more excited. These adorable customizable doll carriers come in a variety of colorful fabrics with black on the reverse to better simulate mom’s or dad’s carrier. With adjustable waist and shoulder straps, they’ll...

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TBT: Throwback teethers

Perhaps thanks to Sophie the Giraffe, teething toys have gotten way more fun than the rainbow plastic rings we used to rely on. That drooly baby stage now has its own array of accessories from chic teething jewelry for moms to handmade organic wooden teethers. And now there’s another fun option in the vintage character teethers by Oli & Carol which would be a great add-on to a big baby registry gift, or a thoughtful baby shower gift all on its own.   These adorable, pastel-shaded vintage animals–my favorite is the dusty blue seahorse–were created by two young Barcelona-based sisters from 100% natural Hevea latex. Plus they’re...

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Train the next adorable generation of baristas to spell your name right

Okay, so maybe my eight-year-old daughter already knows how to use a coffee maker. And maybe she has her own hand-painted Goblet of Fire mug, in which she begs for a sip of the steaming hot ambrosia of morning. But still, what if I’d gotten her started even earlier with cappuccino? That’s why this adorable wooden Babyccino Machine from Djeco at Little Citizens Boutique is so brilliant. Forget the wooden birthday cakes and felt donuts and give my future barista a cappuccino maker toy as pretty as it is fun that comes with real working parts, just like a Nescafe machine....

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How fun are these number blocks? Let us count the ways…

With so many amazing modern building blocks out there, it’s not hard to find a set that I’d love to give to my kids. But I’ve just discovered SumBlox, the most incredibly original set of durable beech wood blocks that mixes math learning and block play together in such an interesting way, I think they’d be just as valuable in our kids’ classrooms as in their playrooms. Related: 6 cool sets of wooden blocks for older kids that are anything but square What makes the cool-looking SumBlox number blocks so unique is that each block has its value represented by its height so that kids can...

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DIY Board Games for kids gives family game night a creative twist

Playing a board game with the kids can be fun, but it’s bound to feel a lot more special when your kids get to put their own finishing touches on the games themselves, like they can with DIY Board Games. And, don’t worry: The “DIY” doesn’t mean they get to make up their own rules as they go along. DIY Board Games are a set of semi-finished games that let kids flex their creative muscles by customizing their boards and game pieces with tons of stickers and markers. Kids who are handy with the safety scissors can even assemble the pieces...

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Talk Like a Pirate Day: Avast, me hearties, it’s time for the cutest pirate treasures for kids!

Ahoy mateys, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, one of our favorite should-be-a-real-holiday days of the year. And though my “pirate speak” is a little rusty, my ability to find some of the cutest and coolest pirate-related treasures is right on the mark. So keep reading for six of the best pirate-related gifts for the little landlubbers and scallywags in your crew. Hopewell Creek Designs’ 9-piece felt pirate set (at top) has everything to get your buccaneers started: a handy treasure map, a compass, gold doubloons, a bottle of Pirate Rum, and the Jolly Roger flag to fly proudly on the mast...

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Gorgeous handmade toys you’ll be tempted to play with yourself

Okay, so I’m going to go ahead and say it: The holidays are creeping up. I know that means half of you hate me, and the other half are like “whatever, my list is already done.” In which case, I bow to you. But if you’re starting to think about  special gifts for kids for any reason at all (I won’t use the “H” word if it makes it easier for you), we’ve got a slew of ideas in the Cool Mom Picks Indie Shop. And one of our favorite new finds has been the exquisite handmade toys from Abby...

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The best gifts for a 4 year old? Tons of fantastic ideas.

Buying a special gift for a four-year-old is so much fun since this is the age that kids really start to show their preferences and interests. Plus, they aren’t sticking every little piece into their mouths (phew) and can play independently for a lot more time than their younger selves. So if you’re looking for the best gifts for a four year old in your life, skip the stuffed animals. This BTDT mom has a lot of cool ideas for you that are extra special. Related: The coolest birthday gifts for 4-year-olds: The ultimate birthday party gift guide   OUTDOOR TOY...

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The coolest scooter ever, coming to a sidewalk near you

Those iconic handmade wooden crate and roller-skate-bottom scooters from the Great Depression have been retooled and re-imagined to form the fierce-looking Skate Crate, hopefully coming soon to a sidewalk near you. At least if you ask our kids. Currently about halfway through its Kickstarter campaign, the Skate Crate combines the scrappy ingenuity of a previous era with 2014 technology and craftsmanship to make a sturdy ride-on toy for both little and big kids. Created by Blockhead Skateboards’ founder Dave Bergthold, it shows off some serious style with cool artwork, gorgeous wood construction, and smooth-rolling wheels that will get kids flying down the pavement.   I...

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Game closet refresher: Doodle Quest challenges grown ups, too

It’s not always easy for us to find a game for kids that is doable, yet challenging, and that the entire family can play. What can we say, we have high standards. However cool-game maker Blue Orange’s new Doodle Quest is giving my family a run for our money, just in time for us to refresh the game closet as the weather starts to cool. And parents: Don’t get too cocky. You may find that this is one game you don’t have to pretend to lose. Doodle Quest is easy to start playing, something this impatient mama appreciates since nothing grinds my game-playing mojo to...

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I am Groot. Well, these cool, sprouting pencils are.

Thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy, a sentient tree who can only say three–fine, four–words is this summer’s coolest superhero. And when I think of how cool these plantable, sprouting pencils will look once they bloom in a pot of soil, all I can think about is baby Groot, dancing. Which means your kids can do their homework with Groot. Sprout pencils are made of sustainably-grown cedar with a special, water-activated seed capsule where the eraser should go. Once your pencil is too short to write with, just follow the included directions to plant it. Soon you’ll have a pot...

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Scooter Safety for Kids: 7 smart tips for a safe scoot to school and back again

Summer may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean kids will be hanging up their scooters anytime soon. In some neighborhoods, we’re even scooting to school and hopefully safely. Our partner Micro Kickboard (we love them so much!) is a brand we all have trusted and loved and owned for years, which is why we are thrilled to work with them again. (And apologies to our kids, but no, this doesn’t mean “we can get another one.”) Micro Kickboard also knows a thing or two about scooter safety for kids, because they really care about them. Hey, a lot of them are parents...

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Lovely literary pencils for your favorite young writer

Why settle for #2 pencils when these literary pencils are bound to be #1 on any bookish kid’s school supply list? Whether you’ve got a tween into Harry Potter and Ramona Quimby or a teen with a soft spot for Alice or a hankering to be Divergent, those plain yellow wood pencils on the school supply list are  yesterday’s news. Bouncing Ball Creation on Etsy hand-rolls #2 pencils with book pages to create pencils that will please the most persnickety teacher and amuse the writer. Each set includes five standard pencils, pre-sharped and ready for the first day of school,...

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What are the best gifts for a two year old? We’ve got tons!

Choosing the best gift for a two year old from among ride-on vehicles, construction toys, dolls and more can seem overwhelming, so we’ve narrowed it down to some favorites that our own boys and girls have loved. Because that first birthday party may get more hoopla, but we know the second is where you get to buy the really fun gifts for a toddler who is just getting ready to, well, toddle everywhere. And, possibly, remember your gift in the first place.   RIDE-ON TOYS FOR TWO YEAR OLDS   You probably don’t have to worry about a two-year-old getting enough exercise, but the challenge is to...

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A natural wooden dollhouse so adorable, an elephant couldn’t forget it. Especially in this case.

We’ve seen just about everything in the  dollhouse world, but we’ve never seen an elephant you could live in. The natural wooden dollhouse called the Ele Villa (“elephant house”), from natural, sustainable toy company Rock and Pebble definitely brings something new to the world of imaginative play, and I love the underbelly parking as much as I love the well-dressed people who live there. Don’t miss limited time free shipping below! The Ele Villa dollhouse is made of birch and is totally sustainable, natural, and non-toxic. With two floors standing 16″ tall and eight rooms that can be painted or decorated to your heart’s content, it’s as...

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