Friday, October 31, 2008

Plan Toys Animal Memory Game

Animal Memo ($21.99) is Plan Toy's natural version of the classic memory game. The colorful tiles are placed face down. The players take turns turning over one tile, and then trying to turn over another just like it. If they match, the tiles belong to that player. If not, they are turned back over, and the next player tries.

As you can see, Arielle had a great time playing the game with her big sister.

But, wasn't above trying to cheat.
"OK, where is that pesky panda?"

"Is this it?"

Try again. Yay!

The player with the most tiles at the end of the game wins! The game is quick, so a great thing to pull out when Arielle wants attention, but I really need to move on to doing other things. It is simple enough that a three year old can play without a lot of frustration. And it helps develop skills like memory (obviously), following rules, and taking turns.

There are lots of Memory games out there, but I especially like this one because the twelve pairs of wooden tiles are big and durable and toddler safe. We especially enjoyed the bright animal designs. The tiles come with a cloth bag for storage.

All Plan Toys are made in Thailand of Earth-friendly and replenishable rubber wood from trees that no longer produce latex. Plan Toys meet all safety standards and they have made a commitment to a quality products, a safe and fair work environment and eco-friendly materials and practices. the Animal Memo game and other Plan Toys are available at Oompa. Sign up for their mailing list because they often have discount codes before the Holidays.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Changing seasons at A Toy Garden

Hooray for fall!

The leaves have changed and the air is chilly. A Toy Garden has wonderful ideas to help celebrate fall and the coming of winter.

Who would have thought that a handful of acorn caps would be a great treasure? But, when I saw these Acorn Caps ($1.00), I remembered how much I miss oak trees. Our maples are breathtakingly gorgeous, but oak trees are fun. Even if you live somewhere without oak trees, your children shouldn't miss out of acorns.

I put some acorn caps and a magnifying glass on the table and let the girls find them. When the novelty wears off, we will use them in art projects.

"Whoa! What's that? Acorns! Cool. Check out the bumps! Lets be squirrels."
Here is Squirielle gathering her acorns for the winter.

For squirrel play, I suggest Wooden Acorns (5 for $3.50) as the real acorns are smaller and more delicate. Squirielle is using a Bolga Basket for her acorns ($15.95). This basket has been used in so many ways since the Easter Bunny brought it last spring.

You can continue the acorn theme with one of our favorite stories In a Nutshell ($7.95). It is a beautifully illustrated book that tells about the life of an oak tree and how it continues to grow and give life even after it has rotted.

And to go with the acorn theme, A Toy Garden has this most lovely handmade in the U.S.A. felted-wool Acorn Doll ($49.95). She is perfect for a nature table or even as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner.

Although the doll is not really meant for play, Linnea felt she needed a hug.

Another cool, who-would-have-thought idea, Ladybugs in a Pot ($9.95). As soon as this arrived, it became a treasured item. I'm going to buy a few extra because they are so useful and they make great little gifts or stocking stuffers.

Linnea (well-supervised) carefully lines them up and then sorts "mommies" and "babies". Then the mommies and babies kiss. And when one is almost two, it's fun to carry around small things in pots. Look at how absorbed she is.

Arielle plays ladybug family and then does some ladybug math. If three ladybugs are home and two ladybugs come to visit.....

You could also roll some dice and have the ladybugs race along the kitchen tiles or play ladybugs invade the dollhouse.

Ladybugs have invaded our house. Last week, I was making lunch when I heard the happiest squeals coming from the playroom. It was a new friend.

A ladybug! Linnea got down on the floor to kiss it.

They appear every year when the weather gets cold. This year they are especially large,

and have even attacked Linnea. I wonder what the Farmer's Almanac has to say about this!

The Ladybug Hat ($12.95)is made in Poland. It makes a great addition to a dress-up box (Giant Ladybugs from space)or even a last minute Halloween costume.

The warm merino-wool undershirts ($19.95) are also from A Toy Garden. These are soft and warm and machine washable, but still delicate and girly enough for a fairy princess to wear. Even Arielle ,who isn't normally a big fan of wool, loved the shirt. Good thing, we had snow today! Winter will be her soon.

Until then, Happy Fall!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kathe Kruse at Petit Baby

I love "Waldorf Dolls" and "Kathe Kruse" Waldorf Dolls are just gorgeous. Arielle and Linnea recently had the opportunity to review Kathe Kruse's Mini Baby It's Me.

Kathe Kruse Waldorf Doll Mini Baby It's Me Baby Brown ($71.70)

This sweet baby is only 8.5 inches tall. Just the right amount of baby cuteness to be carried in a backpack or played with in a car seat. Since she comes with her own soft little carrier, her little mommy can take her anywhere. There are also blond and red-haired versions. And - they have the bellybuttons! (this is a big deal.)

Linnea was basically interested in undressing the doll. This is her new favorite activity (both for herself and for dolls) and everything was off within minutes, including the cute flower hair band. Then she stuffed the doll down my shirt for "milky", a privilege granted only to the most-favored of toys.

Fortunately, Arielle adopted "Baby Potato" and she's now getting much better care. When asked to comment, Arielle said "this is a really good doll." I think in this case, pictures definitely say more than words.

Check out Petit Baby for a selection of dolls and other toys made in Germany. And, don't forget to use our coupon code "Sara10" to receive 10% off all regularly-priced items.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Raining, it's pouring.....

and Linnea wants to go outside. She's yelling "Tside! Tside!" and pointing out the window.

So, why not?

She just puts on her PuddleGear rain suit from Natural Pod and she is ready to go.

Off to check out the garden in Benny Jacket ($53.95) and Olle Pants ($57.95)

PuddleGear is made in Sweden of Atek fabric and is also also ├ľKO-tex certified. Atek is a PVC-free Polyurethane-coated stretch fabric. It's a very light, soft, tear-resistant material that allows a full range of motion. It is watertight, tolerates normal temperature changes, and is easy to wash. There is no toxic smell like in PVC raincoats. And, Atek isn't crinkly or hard. Rather, it is very flexible and easy to move in, so Linnea has no problem looking for a good stick among the dried sunflower stalks.

Or, checking out the bird feeders with Arielle.

And, when she lies down in the leaves, she stays nice and dry.

Leaves are fun!

Linnea could play all day and poor Arielle is soaked and shivering.

PuddleGear rain suits are available in a variety of colors (pink, red, blue, yellow and black) and styles. There is a one piece available and even beautiful pink suit decorated with butterflies. They are 100% waterproof, machine washable (hang dry) and tear resistant. The collar is lined with fleece, they have reflective trim for safety in the dark, a hanging loop and an internal name tag. They come in European sizes 80-130 which fit children from ages one to eight. Mommy sizes are available by special order. The Olle pants have a double layer on the seats and knees which I found especially cute. They are quite roomy, so order by height. Linnea is normally a 2T and had plenty of room to grow in size 90. She is even wearing a fleece jacket and pants under her rain suit since it was quite chilly that day. And they are pricey, but are made to be handed down. But the best thing is that they keep PVC, one of the most toxic substances on the planet, out of the environment and out of your child.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Zid Zid Kids - toys meet home decor

Ideally, I think family spaces should be friendly to all members of the family. In our living room, that would mean a safe place for a toddler to bounce, a cozy nest for a preschooler and her books, an area where teenagers can hang out and watch TV, a (clean, quiet) room where mom can relax and not worry about picking up, and a comfortable spot where dad or an extra guest can snooze. But, I also want it presentable and a little less chaotic than the rest of the house. And, since we're talking of ideals, I'd want it to be stylish and sophisticated as well.

Well.... I don't quite know about sophistication. But, it looks pretty good and works for us. I keep most toys out, but the Zid Zid animal cushions make perfect throw pillows. They are made in Morocco and have the hand-crafted, exotic look that I love. Arielle is pretty happy cuddling up to a giraffe or crocodile while she watched the Backyardigans on Thursday mornings and they look so nice on the couch.

Owl ($36.99), Crocodile ($36.99), Baby Zebra ($27.99), and Giraffe ($36.99)

The couch, by the way, is a great big microfiber sectional. One day, Linnea found a pen that her big brother left out and did this...

Helping clean up... a bit of water and a bit of steam... (mommy did the steam with Linnea safely in her high chair)

and it was good as new. Yay microfiber!`

Now, back to Zid Zid....

Zid Zid also makes big lounge poofs ($282) and mini poofs ($77.99) that make excellent seats or tumbling toys or treasure islands, and Kangaroo Boo has a new batch of Zid Zid Cozy Animals which are natural brushed cotton on the front and printed Moroccan fabric on the back and just beautiful (and we have a discount code!).

I wouldn't mind a Cozy Elephant ($43.99)

or Cozy Camel ($43.99)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Celebrate Green!

Celebrate Green! ($24.95) by Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell is an easy-to-read guide to making all your celebrations a little more eco-friendly without losing any of the fun. Holidays are wonderful things, but they also produce a lot of garbage. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's, household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Corey Colwell-Lipson and her mom, Lynn Colwell, give suggestions for reducing the impact that the holidays - all sorts of holidays - have on our Earth.

The book is divided into five sections.

  • Spring: Easter, Earth Day, Mothers' Day, St. Patrick's Day, Arbor Day and Cinco de Mayo
  • Summer: Memorial Day, Father's Day, 4th of July and, of course, barbecues
  • Fall: Halloween, Rosh Hashana, Diwali, and, my favorite, Thanksgiving
  • Winter: Christmas,Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, and Valentine's Day
  • Year Round Celebrations: Baby Showers, Graduations, Weddings, Anniversaries, Birthdays, Family reunions and Business celebrations.
Tips include ideas for decorating, favors, gifts, recipes, party activities, new traditions, avoiding excess waste and ways to give back and make holidays about helping the Earth and others. Not only do the authors give tips, but they also provide plenty of links (even to our good friend A Toy Garden) so you aren't left struggling to figure out how to make your new Green ideas a reality. And, since Green is about reducing consumption, Green saves money as well.

Some Green tips for celebrating birthdays and holidays:

1. Send card that are printed with soy-based inks on recycled paper. Stubby Pencil Studio offers a Holiday Cards 6 pack ($7.95/set) and they are lots of fun for kids to color and send to Grandma.

2. Use reusable decorations like this cloth banner ($29.95). We were planning to use it for all our summer celebrations, but this was the summer of non-stop rain. So, we hung up in the dining room on Arielle's birthday. It is a huge 38 feet long, so it goes along three walls and the bright colors look great. We left it up for weeks because it was so cheery, and I just put it up again because we are celebrating Thanksgiving a bit early this year. It definitely says "party!"

3. Consider Earth-friendly party favors and stocking stuffers. Stubby Pencil now has Holiday Smencils (5 for $5.95). These pencils are made from 100% recycled newspapers in special holiday scents: Cinnamon, Sugar Plum, Candy Cane, Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie. Mmmmm....

And, there's lots more in the book. I often find that books on being green recycle the same information, but this book provides an abundance new ideas and resources. It's not about giving up the traditions that we treasure, it's about tweaking them - just a little - so we can celebrate responsibly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Desperately seeking....

I'm looking for a toy doctor's kit, preferably one that is safe for toddlers. Does anyone have any suggestions? The Haba one doesn't look too exciting and has a lot of small pieces.

Bright October Discount Code

The code has been fixed. Thank you, Patricia, for letting us know. -Sara

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Finally!!! A Wooden Tea Set from Plan Toys

Plan Toys recently released the Wooden Tea Set ($24.90). Finally, an affordable and a durable wooden tea set.

This very sweet rubber-wood tea set includes a teapot, a sugar bowl, a milk pitcher, 2 tea cups, 2 saucers, 2 teaspoons, 2 tea bags and 2 little sugar cubes. It is child-size, just right for little hands and visiting Anamalz. Both bigger and sturdier than our old Erzi tea set which was sized for dolls.

Arielle and Linnea are really enjoying the tea set and playing with it on a daily basis. Like all Plan Toys, it is well made, very smooth and sturdy. There is some major cuteness going on with the little tea bags (even cuter than Haba's - the little leaf design on the tags reminds me of my favorite peppermint tea), and the girls feel very grown-up when they spoon in the little sugar cubes.

The tea set and other great, Earth-friendly toys are available at Hazelnut Kids, one of my favorite on-line stores. They offer $5.95 flat rate shipping, loyalty rewards, a gift registry - but best of all a tree is planted for every item purchased, and 1% of the purchase price is donated to land conservancies. Hazelnut Kids is definitely one of the Earth-friendliest sites around.