Category: Toys + Playthings

Plants vs. Zombies, now on your windowsill

There’s a zombie on your la-awn… and on your windowsill, thanks to this fun new Zombie Plant Growing Kit from our pals at TickleMe Plants. Since I kill most of the plants I try to grow, I’m intrigued by the idea of a plant that is actually supposed to die when I touch it. And my kids will get a major kick out of watching it come back to life, which that tomato plant from NASA definitely didn’t do. Please don’t tell Bobak Ferdowsi. The Zombie Plant is actually Mimosa pudica, which was common in the wild where I...

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Earth Day pick: Green Toys to help keep our oceans clean

I often talk to the kids about why it’s so important to keep our neighborhood and parks clean by recycling or picking up trash we find on the sidewalk. And this Earth Day, I love that Cool Mom Picks favorite Green Toys is reminding us how important it is to take care of our oceans and waterways too. Green Toys’ Safe Seas Sets, created in conjunction with the non-profit organization Sustainable Surf, pairs a fun biplane toy or submarine toy with the paperback All the Way to the Ocean which will get kids thinking about how little actions–like tossing a gum wrapper...

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Buildex Speed Machines: Cool building toys for kids who love their wheels

If you’re looking for a neat little birthday gift, or perhaps something unique for the Easter basket, check out the Buildex Speed Machine construction toy. Because not every kid wants just a bunny in her basket. These brightly colored, wooden-construction building toys for kids turn into toy motorcycles, toy trains, and toy race cars that go together easily without glue or tape. And thanks to a GridLock construction system, they won’t fall apart when your child takes them for a spin. My son loves that the rubber rimmed wheels on his Speed Drifter Speed Bike really do spin, and the front...

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Tinyme custom letter blocks have your name written all over them

We have featured piles of cool wooden alphabet blocks for kids over the years, from modern design blocks to steampunk science blocks, to Storyblox‘s “build-your-own” wooden blocks. And now there’s a cool set of custom name blocks on the, er, block, that’s perfect for a baby shower gift or child’s birthday gift. Australia’s Tinyme, whose puzzles, labels, and fun printables have been CMP favorites for a while, has put their creative stamp on custom name blocks. In order to get these beauties into our hands (which they will), they’ve got a Kickstarter campaign in the works to raise production dollars. And...

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The Pop-Clock alarm clock for kids. Waking up almost seems fun.

I have the hardest time getting my night owl daughter up for school in the mornings. She likes to come visit us most nights around 2 AM, so when morning comes around she’s too tired to get up and dressed for kindergarten. The trick that’s working for me—for this week, at least—is Pop-Clock, a super-fun alarm clock for kids. You might be familiar with the Clocky alarm clock for older kids, and now Pop-Clock is  made just for younger ones just learning to get out of bed by themselves. When the alarm goes off, the creature’s head goes flying across the room...

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Wooden learning toys in every color of the rainbow

If you asked my daughter what her favorite color is, her answer would be “rainbow.” I can’t agree more, and its bright and cheery vibe makes the sweet rainbow learning toys for toddlers so perfect for spring. This acorn sorting game is a perfect activity for the toddler set. Found among the wooden learning toys at Etsy’s Almost Crunchy, it is a wonderful application of the simple Waldorf teaching method of learning through play–the best way, if you ask me. The handmade set comes with 18 brightly colored acorns and 6 matching bowls to engage sorting, color matching and counting skills. It...

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Chimeras mix-and-match plush toys: Lend me a hand. And an ear. And a bat wing.

If your kids are always drawing their own magical animals, these wacky and adorable Chimeras plush toys from Walrus Toys can bring their dreams to life in a way that doesn’t involve a trip to the Island of Dr. Moreau. When I was a kid, we had the Wuzzles, and we liked them–remember Ellaroo and Bumblelion? But now, kids get to mix and match all sorts of animal parts to make a Munny, a Batephant, or a Pog. Or a Munbatephanog, if you get the full set. These Chimeras come in sets of two creatures, each of which can be...

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Tegu’s new 130-piece magnetic block building set lets kids build to infinity and beyond.

We have played with Tegu and drank the KoolAid. From their mind-bending explorer sets to mobile toy kits, they simply rock the block. Our favorite eco-friendly block-makers have just rolled out a super tricked out magnetic block building set for the master builders out there, and we want it (for our kids) bad. This 130-piece classroom set is the ultimate for kids who want to get serious about their Tegu construction. We can only imagine what creations could come of out this totally souped-up box. If you are looking to kick up the playroom, add to your home school set-up, or...

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Shadow Puppets from Moulin Roty let kids see storytime in a new light

Though I think I do a pretty good “bunny” with my hands, nothing beats a great set of shadow puppets for turning a rainy afternoon or evening story time into a lively theatrical production played out behind a sheet or against a blank wall. And with a set of Moulin Roty’s Les Petit Merveilles line of Nighttime Shadow Puppets, all the kids can get in on the action. What makes these puppets superior to anything I can make with my two hands is the level of detail in the card stock that looks so cool when hit with light...

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The Simpsons LEGO minifigs are here! The Simpsons LEGO minifigs are here!

Well, here’s your first look. (Second if you count our photo on Pinterest from Toy Fair.) Itchy! Scratchy! Millhouse! Nelson! Krusty! Apu! Burns! Plus? Actual Simpsons family members. Is there anything else more to say? Yeah, probably not. Find the collection of 16 Simpsons LEGO minifigures all over the place starting in May. It will go nicely with that sweet, spendy Simpsons LEGO house....

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Handmade crocheted baby toys that could make you want another baby. (Or at least one to give them to.)

We are talking about getting a dog, which makes it official: No more babies for this household. And I’m pretty much okay with that fact until I see a store like YarnBall Stories. This absolutely adorable Etsy shop has safe and soft crocheted baby toys and decor that stop me in my tracks with the cuteness. And you know how much of a soft spot we have for cool crocheted toys and gifts like crocheted baby booties here at Cool Mom Picks. The YarnBall Stories crocheted baby mobiles come in themes like the solar system, colorful hearts, or just pretty pastels. I...

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6 of the coolest dollhouse kits that promote building, design, and imaginative play. We want to live in them.

Dollhouses have always been a common feature on the floors of Toy Fair, but Liz and I noticed more and more options this year with dollhouse kits that add building and design, and sometimes even circuitry, to the act of play. Future architects and designers of the world, we’ve found the toys for you.   Roominate Dollhouse Building Kits Combining building, engineering, and design, Roominate’s clever dollhouse building kits come together in so many different ways, kids can conceivably construct a totally different house every time they sit down to play. And I love the many ideas on their...

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History wasn’t always fun and games. Except when it is.

I’ve come to understand that for tweens, creating a love of history is often about making it as salacious and entertaining as possible. The British creators of Horrible Histories have nailed that genre, with a successful series of illustrated Horrible Histories books. Think: the story of the English monarch who died after falling off the toilet (George II), all the gory details about the Roman colosseum, and the nastiness of the Greek gods. If your older kids can’t get enough of this kind of stuff, they’re now out with a brand new Horrible Histories puzzle series, each of which feels like...

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Heart for Heart Dolls: Because African Girl Dolls, Mexican Girl Dolls and Laotian Girl Dolls are just as fun as the American ones.

While I have finally come around to accept my daughter’s affinity for American Girl Dolls, suddenly Saige and Marie-Grace have serious competition with Rahel, the Ethiopian doll from the Heart for Heart Girls dolls collection. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Heart for Heart Girls, which are each based on 10 real ten-year-old girls from Afghanistan, Belarus, Laos, India, Ethiopia, and beyond.  I really like that each one one gives your child a chance to learn more about her story and her area of the world, while a dollar from each purchase is donated to a nonprofit that...

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Stylish, fun wooden doctor’s kits for your own little medic

Based on the number of awesome-looking, well-made wooden doctor’s kits we saw at Toy Fair, we expect that a lot of kids will have fun taking care of all their new patients. Here’s a recap of some of the nicest doctor’s kits for kids that we saw, all of which should be available soon. Crafted in beautiful shades of hardwood,the Soopsori Wooden Doctor’s Kit (at top) includes the cutest stethoscope I’ve ever seen. And even if toddlers try to “eat” the wooden pills which, thankfully, are affixed to a larger wooden base, the natural linseed oil finish is non-toxic.  ...

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Everything is awesome with the new Lego Movie sets

Oh you knew I’d go there with the headline, didn’t you? What can I say, just as I said in my Lego Movie review, the song has been stuck in my head for life. Another thing you probably knew: the Lego Movie sets were not long to follow the huge success of the film.  You’re just that smart, aren’t you. We gave you a sneak peek of the Lego Movie Minifigures on Instagram, live from Toy Fair last week, and now you can find them all as part of more than a dozen Lego Movie sets which are so...

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The popular Cloud B night light embraces the octopus and the fox. No narwhals just yet.

I may in fact be the very last parent to come around on the Twilight Turtle from Cloud B, and its myriad night light variations. But after seeing a few children absolutely go from panicked to peaceful at night with this thing by their bedside, I’m converted. Even more so now that I’ve gotten to check out some of Cloud B’s new offerings at Toy Fair 2014, starting with a plush adaptation of the Twinkles to Go Octo (above) called the Cloud B Octo Softeez Nightlight. CMP is an rstyle affiliate   I love this soon-to-be-released night light which is far more compact...

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Sochi comes to life for kids with gold, silver, and bronze Maxi Micro Kickboard scooter

Though it’s clear that the Olympic athletes we’ve been watching at the Sochi Winter Games all want gold, all three of Micro Kickboard’s new medal-hued scooters would be winners with my kids, regardless of what color they choose. All dressed up for the podium in gold, silver, or bronze, the much-loved Maxi Micro Kickboard scooter is one of my kids all-time favorite scooter designs, with such a smooth ride and easy lean-to-turn maneuverability. Made for kids ages 5-11 (or up to 120 pounds for you svelte and daring parents), grab the easier-to-use T-bar or try the straight Pilot Stick...

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Smart toys for girls that defy the pink aisle. In other words, no princesses, ballerinas or “fashionistas,” whatever career that is.

This week at Toy Fair, I must say a progressive mama like me had a much harder time than expected scoping out smart toys for girls that defy the pink aisle. In other words, the girl dolls and figures were wearing something beyond princess garb or sparkly pink lace tulle. To be clear, I have no problem at all with ballerinas or fashion design kits or or traditional little baby dolls swathed in pink gingham–we feature plenty of them here But I have always wanted my daughters (and all the boys out there too!) to have choices. And if...

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The best train table for kids with plenty of storage? Reader Q & A

There are so many train tables out there! Can you help let me know what’s the best choices? Storage is an important factor for me.   Looking more like a low coffee table than a cartoon-colored train table, I love Pottery Barn Kids’ Caroline Activity Table for one really smart design feature: The table actually “grows up” with your kids. With two sets of legs, you can just replace the shorter ones when your toddler gets taller and turn the train table into a crafting table that is high enough to fit kid-sized chairs underneath. For storage, the two wooden bins...

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PlayableART: Just as it sounds

At the NY Toy Fair this week, one of the finds I’m most excited about so far is a toy that I can’t say is entirely for kids. The gorgeously German-designed collection from playableART is designed to help get minds going and help you find your inner artist, whether you’re a four-year-old planted in front of a magnetic easel or refrigerator door, or a 40-something looking for a little moment of zen at your desk.   I am especially taken with the all new Magnet Relief art which allows you to explore design, shape, space and color with magnetic wooden...

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President’s Day Activity: Try building the White House

In honor of  Presidents Day, and this day off from school (let’s be honest), I like the idea of devoting a little time to building a replica of the White House with LEGO bricks. The  White House Lego Set  from their Architecture Series will let your kids create a mini version of the place where Lincoln and so many subsequent US leaders slept, legislated, and did things I probably don’t want to know about. We could finish it in a lot less time than it would take for us to drive down to our nation’s Capitol, plus, once built, it looks...

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Stuffed animals that give back: So wonderful, you won’t mind one more in the house.

I have always had a weakness for stuffed animals and I was thrilled to be able to buy them without judgement again when my daughter was born. When I came across Bunnies By The Bay I was sold instantly on their fabulous little stuffed animals that give back. Not only do they look like the high end ones you might see in FAO Schwartz, but when I found out that they also help orphans around the world? I want to give them all a hug. And a home. The Red Thread collection of stuffed animals donates 10% of their proceeds...

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Wooden love blocks you have to love, any way you look at them.

It’s not hard to find signs of love all around us today, like these gorgeously designed wooden blocks that spell out love in 12 different languages. And when you take a closer look at how artful these blocks are, you’ll understand why I think they’d be equally at home as a piece of room decor as they would be a plaything for the kids. House Industries makes such incredible stuff we included several designs in our roundup of the best modern alphabet blocks for kids. Similarly, their Love Heart Blocks are so intricately designed, they are truly unique from every...

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The first memory game we’ve seen that helps your kids remember happy memories, too.

What kind of cruel punishment is it that parents, with the brain fog that comes from raising children, are expected to compete with their kids’ fresh brains in memory games? We featured scented memory games and modern art memory games, but they usually end up with the same outcome for me: loss. My kids crush me every time. Don’t miss an exclusive offer for Cool Mom Picks readers below. So how much more wonderful will it be to lose if we’re playing Paper Culture‘s beautiful new custom photo memory game? Simply upload 16 of your favorite pictures and pick out a...

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8 extremely cool sets of modern alphabet blocks

I don’t know if there’s a more perfect gift for a baby than a great set of modern alphabet blocks. (Besides maybe a great alphabet poster.) They start as decor in the nursery, become a great toddler toy, and eventually you get to watch as your kid turns them into towers, cities, fortresses of all kinds. My grade-schoolers still play with a set they got as babies — I’d call that a great shower gift. Here, I’ve put together some of the coolest modern alphabet blocks. I especially love how each one is perfectly gender neutral. Modern indeed.  ...

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Happy National Puzzle Day! 8 irresistible puzzles for toddlers that make fabulous little gifts

Just in case you didn’t know, it’s National Puzzle Day. And we like puzzles! So I’ve put together 8 of the most creative jigsaws, blocks, stackers, wooden, handmade, felt and letter puzzles for toddlers that are perfect for kids just starting to get that pattern recognition and small motor skill thing down. And they all have the added benefit of looking great on a shelf. Just don’t lose those pieces!     This sweet and chunky 9-block animal puzzle encourages kids to build 6 different animals — and maybe create a few hybrids of their own. (Hape, $14.99)   Is this...

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Black Wagon’s first ever toy sale starts now. As in right now. Don’t miss it!

Cool. Cheap. And your kids will like, oh, everything. Doesn’t get better than that, right? Then check out this weekend’s huge sale at Black Wagon starting today. It’s one of our favorite go-to sites for apparel and toys for babies and kids. The toys are all 20% off, and the clothing up to 50% off on our favorite brands, plus flat rate shipping which you should get while you can, because it’s changing February 1. Here are a few (very few) CMP-approved goodies I have my eye on. Especially at these prices. Soopsori Wooden Rattle Blocks  What a lovely eco-friendly baby gift, or...

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A packable, portable mini kitchen play set for small spaces. Can you smell the Play-Doh burgers already?

If you’re looking for the “to go” version of a kitchen play set  or one to suit a smaller space, we think you’ll love this adorable toy set that packs into itself for easy transport. Pull it out for all the pretend pancake flipping you can handle, then slide it right back under the bed. Yeah, I wish I could do that with my real stove. The Mini Stove Top Play Set available at the MoMA Store has beautiful, gender-neutral design and just enough details to make it fun without being twee. With a pot, a skillet, two utensils, and...

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Round up your kids’ toy horses into one of these 7 play stables

Want to round up those toy horses and ponies scattered around the playroom and put them into a proper stable? Whether your kids own one of the coveted, gihugic American Girl Doll horses or something a bit smaller, we’ve rustled up a few options for all kinds of ponies. Including one you crafty parents can make yourself. It can be tough finding nice play stables, but we feel great about all 7 of these options.   Breyer Wood Horse Stable I coveted a couple of my BFF’s horses from her huge Breyer collection several decades ago, and little collectors today...

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