Category: Toys + Other Playthings

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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Our favorite gift subscriptions for kids, from toddlers to teens

There’s still time to give a special child a special gift that keeps giving each month with one of these awesome subscription boxes. We’ve recently rounded up our picks for the 10 best subscription gifts for adults, but kiddos get their own choices too! With hours of activities packed into each box, they are perfect for rainy — or snowy — days. And coming in 3-month, 6-month, or even annual subscriptions, gift subscriptions for kids extend the excitement of Christmas longer than the lights will stay up on my house, which is saying something. Who says Christmas comes but once a...

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The building blocks of our nation. Way more fun than that sounds.

I remember one of the first times I was interviewed by a media outlet, and they surprised me with an off-topic question: What’s the best safe toy for a child? I paused, then stammered, “Uh…blocks.” Not my finest moment. But the truth is, I do love giving blocks to kids. They’re perfect for toddlers, they grow with their imaginations as they hit kindergarten, and now even my young grade-schoolers can spend hours creating fantasy lands, stories, and made-up games with them. I’ve been a long-time fan of Uncle Goose Blocks, which not only have some incredibly creative and educational...

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The Doctor Who TARDIS play tent: because every kid needs a time machine in the living room.

If you’re still looking for that one gift under the tree that will make kids scream “OH EM GEE!” (or is that just our kids these days?) this Doctor Who TARDIS Play Tent might do the trick. While it’s not a classic kids’ tent shaped like a teepee, we’re pretty sure it will still inspire tons of imaginative play. Even cooler? Open it up to reveal the 11th Doctor’s control room. Your kids may never leave. Find the Doctor Who TARDIS Play Tent online at Think...

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Best gifts for 8-year-old boys: ideas that will get a big “wow.” Reader Q & A

What are the best gifts for an 8-year-old boy? I’m looking for a big gift, in the $50-$100 range. —CMP reader, via Twitter   Oh, you mean the kind of gift that makes a child pause while unwrapping, shout out with glee, and rush over to give you a big hug? Well, small gifts can do that too, but on the splurgier side, here are some of our favorites according to our own sons — and by the way, according to our daughters, all these cool kids’ gifts would be great for girls, too. Just note we stayed away...

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Meet (and possibly chew on) Reba the Wooden Reindeer

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. But do you know Reba? You should. She’s a great gift for the little person in your life who likes handmade wooden toys on wheels. Reba the Wooden Reindeer comes to you from Imagination Kids, a mom-and-pop Etsy shop that pays careful attention to child-safe materials, and sustainably harvested wood. She’s about 5.5 by 8 inches and painted in non-toxic paint, just in case she ends up on the business end of a gnawing baby. The only caveat? You need to order by December 9 (that’s tomorrow!) to ensure delivery by...

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Build your own monster, no lightning storm necessary

It’s alive! And it’s adorable. And you don’t need any pesky lightning to bring it to life. In fact, all you need are a few eye stalks, some munchy teeth, and possibly some adorable chevrons and stripes, because of course monsters come in chevrons and stripes. It’s 2013, after all. If you love eco-conscious, kid-safe blocks as much as we do, you won’t want to miss this collection of adorable monster body parts that can be stuck together in creative ways. We’ve covered Mad Scientist Blocks before, but these Stack N Scare wooden blocks from My Sweet Muffin really take...

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The Lottie doll has a lot in common with your little girl. Like being an actual little girl. At last.

I don’t mean to be a traitor to my generation, but Barbie has always made me a little uncomfortable, with her unrealistic proportions and the way her vet uniform is shorter than my negligees. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to a new doll that little girls can actually relate to, because she looks like them and shares their interests. Bonus: she can bend her legs to ride her pony and isn’t always on her tiptoes. This is Lottie, and she’s a lot like your kid. She likes butterflies, robots, gymnastics, karate, horseback riding, and fashion, although...

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Out with the Old Maid. In with the Bold Maid!

We love shattering negative stereotypes, and that means the beloved card game Old Maid is in vital need of a reboot. Enter Bold Maid, a beautifully designed, mod-style card game in which whoever ends up with the Bold Maid … wins! Artist and illustrator Jane Burns has politically corrected the traditional card game Old Maid with hip artwork and a fantastic twist. Instead of ending the game when the loser holds only the lonely Old Maid, the game ends when the winner is left with the Bold Maid card. A strong woman who isn’t afraid of standing alone? Genius!...

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Why YBIKE’s ride-on toys make a great holiday gift for kids of all ages. We can even help you choose.

Whether your toddler is ready for their first balance bike or you have a mini speedster on your holiday list, a ride-on toy makes an awesome “big gift” for either Hanukkah or Christmas.  As the inadvertent ride-on-toy expert at Cool Mom Picks (what with three growing kids and a garage full of things that go zoom), I’m really liking the wide variety of ride-ons from YBIKE whose fleet includes a new “grow-with-me” toy, a super-fun scooter, and a zippy go-cart for kids who are ready to zoom. Hopefully I can help you navigate the selection, because they’re all pretty...

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7 of our favorite family board games for family game night

-Featured Partner- At Cool Mom Picks, we all love family game night, even since before it was a thing called Family Game Night. (It’s a thing now! It’s true!) And with the holiday season officially upon us, we’re seeing lots of family time in our futures. And lots of people big and small looking for something to do that bring them together. Sometimes we get so caught up in the newest/latest/greatest toys hat we forget that the classic games are essentials for your family room or game closet. We love getting them as holiday gifts and introducing our kids...

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Good mojo from yarn zombies? We’re in, especially if it includes sock monkeys.

There’s an uncomfortable stage in between childhood and adulthood when you might need a good luck charm or security blanket, but you know the other kids are going to make fun of it. We’re betting that if your good juju comes in the form of a zipper-chested twin zombie sock monkey, they’re going to back right off. These little Yarn Zombies are an adorable but edgy way to give someone a boost of confidence, love, or quirky goodwill right when they need it most while maintaining their valuable street cred. Each knitted, 5-inch tall talisman is geared toward a specific...

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Game of (very small) Thrones

Winter is coming, but it’s going to be much shorter than usual. Or at least the characters will, and not just the Imp. We’re seriously freaking out over these amazing custom Lego Minifigs inspired by Game of Thrones. MiniBIGS on Etsy draws and custom pad-prints minifigures the same way LEGO does, which means that the details won’t fade or rub off, even during sword fights. This “Throne of Bricks” five-pack includes The Imp, Underfoot, Warden of the North, The Bastard, and Mother of Dragons. Which translates to Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, Ned Stark, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen. And...

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Babies’ and kids’ toys and gifts on major sale just in time for holiday

Don’t miss a big discount and a special offer just for our readers We’re always sad when one of our favorite indie shops close, but it’s nice to wish the owners well as they are off on other pursuits. It’s also nice when we get to pass on big savings to all of you, as they clear out their baby and kids’ gifts. Cattiwampus has been a top pick of ours for years now, and now you have a great chance to scoop up some cool deals–as in, 30% off, plus an extra $10 off if you spend more than...

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You won’t need a second mortgage for this dollhouse

Once you enter the land of American Girl, it’s not easy to come by real estate that can accommodate dolls of her stature. But we’ve found a doll house on the market that is just the right size for her and a couple of friends. And you won’t even need to take out a second mortgage to afford the closing costs. This isn’t your regular little ol’ doll house with itty-bitty rooms. Our Generation’s Wooden Dollhouse is three-and-a-half feet tall and over three feet wide. Think of it as the McMansion of doll houses, minus the four-car garage. I know more...

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Neighborhood Toy Store Day: Shop local on Saturday and get more than great toys

Featured Partner We all hope you’ll get out tomorrow (yes, tomorrow! Saturday Nov 9.) to support Neighborhood Toy Store Day, and find something on your holiday list right from your local businesses. Especially considering how much money that helps put right back into your own community. Plus we always love the personal help from shopkeepers who get to know our kids as they grow. If there was ever a shopping day of the year that grabbed our hearts it’s this one. On behalf of our wonderful sponsor ASTRA, the association for all the American specialty toy retailers, as in past...

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Classic wood toys that don’t cost a billion dollars

I admit it: I am obsessed with wood toys, despite the fact that, cost-wise, I can get a gazillion plastic toys for one fab wooden toy. Wood is a little more mainstream now in the world of baby toys, but I find the prices haven’t decreased much. But CMP fave Skip Hop has been introducing affordable wood toys to the market…and I couldn’t be more enamored.   The latest Skip Hop wood toys, the Giraffe Safari line, have totally captured my heart. For starters, I am crazy in love with the origami-esque Fold & Play Book and want it for myself. And the little Flip...

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Turning kids’ artwork into stuffed animals. As cuddly or scary as you (or they) want.

I’m always looking for cool ways to preserve my kids’ artwork. Sure, we’ve got plenty of it taped up in the kitchen, plus boxes of the really great stuff stored in the hall closet. But now my kids are going to be able to sleep with their favorite drawings at night as they transform into stuffed animals. I’m not sure who’s more excited, me or them. We’ve found services like this before, with companies like Art2Believe and My Pretty Monsters and now there’s one more (because there can’t be too many): Budsies. Budsies is pretty sensational. The company started because one big...

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Tired of sheets draped across your dining room table? 3 beautiful indoor play tents that will save the day.

My kids have always loved having a cozy, private nook to call their own. While a sheet draped over the dining room table can do the trick, I would prefer something that doesn’t interfere with every meal. Instead, check out some cool-looking play tents that are the perfect size for quiet reading, giggling with a friend, or just hiding out and daydreaming. The Sunshine Club’s A-Frame tent (above) is the perfect size for moving all over the place since it is so easy to set up. I love how it looks as an outdoor reading nook, but now that the...

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Lundby Dollhouses: the perfect combination of imagination, technology and DIY

Got a dollhouse on someone’s holiday or birthday list? There’s an option you might not be aware of. Or maybe I am the only one in the world not aware of these cool houses, since they’ve been around for 65 years and keep coming up with really novel ideas. The Lundby Smaland Doll House is the newest addition from this Swedish company whose houses and furniture, not surprisingly, look like they could have come right out of IKEA or some mid-century vintage store. I received one to check out and I will say that the lightweight plastic panels mean it’s not...

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