Monday, April 28, 2008

Store Review- Kobold Toys

Kobold Toys is an online shop based in the US. Ana Eiras is the founder of the online store, and her partner Carmina Valdizan owns the brick and mortar shop in Panama. The two mamas are dedicated to bringing you toys that help spark a child's imagination. In addition, they offer gift cards and gift wrap that they import from Germany as part of their Very Busy Very Thoughtful program.

I found their website easy to navigate and full of beautiful toys and gifts. They have a robust collection of Plan Toys, one of my favorite brands. Some of my top picks are:

This Breakfast Menu ($17.50). It is the perfect compliment to your play kitchen collection. Who wouldn't love a little breakfast in bed?
I adore these Assorted Fruits and Vegetables ($19.99). I really like that they split open when cut with the beautiful wooden butter knife. Perfect!
Of course every child would like to push their groceries, books, or kitty around. This Shopping Cart ($55.00) is perfect for your tiny shopper.What I like about Ana and Kobold Toys is that they offer an array of toys, yet each toy is selected for its ability to spark a child's imagination. Ana believes that, "Imagination is perhaps one of the single most important skills humans can have because it is the one skill that will help one sort out new obstacles, solve new issues, and come up with responses to the many challenges life will have for them--as children and later on in life." I couldn't agree more!

Ana lists where each toy is designed and the customer can search for toys designed in a specific country. What I could not find was where each toy was made. Ana has a blog on her stance on MIC toys.

Though Kobold Toys is a new store, Ana was kind enough to send us the Daisy Girls Wooden Magnetic Dress-Up set. Jackson, age 5, played with it for one evening. Then we sent it on to his Pre-K class. The reviews were not mixed. The kids LOVED the dolls. Their teacher said that every child in the room played with it, both boys and girls, and that it was now the favorite center during free time. I was concerned that the magnets would slip but we found that the magnets stayed on very well. I can tell you that they are much easier to use than the cut out type I had as a young girl. This toy is MIC.

Ana has been kind enough to extend to our readers the following promotion code: C2NNF8 This code is good for a 10% discount on your next purchase from Kobold Toys.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

KangarooBoo Discount Code

KangarooBoo has extended our discount code until May 31st. Yay!

Princess Play with Sarah's Silks

Arielle, who is a real princess, loves princess stories, most especially The Princess and the Pea. She recently had an opportunity to review the new silk Princess Dress ($59.99) and Princess Hat ($19.95) from Sarah's Silks.

Sarah's Silks is a family-owned, American company that makes play silks, silk canopies and high quality dress-up clothing for girls and boys. Since I buy many of our dress-up clothing from work at home moms, our previous experience with Sarah's Silks was with the Rainbow Silk Fairy Skirt ($22.50) which we love and which has been everywhere with us (and machine washes on cold quite nicely). It has held up well to little girl play and potty training, and (with a quick press of a cool iron) still looks good as new (and works well for ballet class, too.)

The skirt is one-size-fits-all. The princess dresses come in two sizes. Small fits ages 3-6 and large fits ages 6-8. Arielle normally wears size 3-4T, and the dress has plenty of room to grow. Here's her review.

Real princesses are dignified and polite.

They are always nice to (tolerate hugs from) their little sisters.

Arielle's favorite game -- The Princess and the Pea. The princess tries to sleep on a pile of mattresses.

"Oh my, I'm black and blue. I just tossed and turned all night."

Later that day, we went to get Arielle's bangs cut. Never before had such a lovely princess graced the salon with her presence. So, our wonderful hair stylist (who is also Arielle's friend Zan's mommy) thought this called for a real princess hair-do.

And a few more pictures...

Thank you, Sarah. We love the dress - especially the fluttery sleeves - and Arielle highly recommends it to any other "real" princesses who are looking to add to their royal wardrobe (perhaps as a special birthday gift?).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Safer Sand Toys

I am so happy that it's spring! FINALLY, the snow is gone and it's warm enough to play outside. Just today our leaves came out, and every day there is something new to see. The ground is still too cold to garden here, but last week we filled our sandbox.

Arielle and Linnea have been having lots of fun with sand (and water) toys.

Here are our top picks for SAFE (no phthalates and no PVC and not Made in China) sand toys. Sand toys tend to sell out fast. So if you are looking for sand toys, buy early.

Gowi makes sand toys in Austria. They come in bright bold colors and are decorated with fun animals. The largest selection is at Amazon (although they come from different sources) and they sell both individual pieces and sets. We have individual buckets, sieves and sand molds. This will be our second summer of playing with them.

Gowi Beach Bucket($7.99)

Sand Sieve($3.99)

and our favorite Watering Can($11.95)

Gowi Waterpump Set with Waterwheel ($22.95)

Happy George Play Set ($25.00)

Spielstabil Toys are made in Germany. There is a great selection at Maukilo. Maukilo also sells Haba sand toys, but we have no experience with these and Haba makes them in China.

Bucket Mill ($9.50)

Extra Sand Scoop ($1.95)

Sand Bucket ($4.30)

Sand And Water Mill ($15.50) This sold out very early last year, so we didn't get one.
It is on the list for this year.

Arielle played with the Water Pump ($10.50) in the wading pool last summer and in the bath tub all winter. It took a while for her to get the concept, but once she figured it out, she had a great time filling up buckets and then pouring them out.

And Linnea's absolute favorite is still the Spielstabil Baby Bucket($5.99). She loves to pretend it is a spoon and thinks it is a wonderful way to eat sand.

A new favorite are the sand toys from Green Toys. Green toys are a wonderful new company that makes toys (in the USA) out of recycled milk bottles. The plastic is sturdy and both phthalate and BPA free. What an Earth-friendly way to play!

Green Toys are available at KangarooBoo.

Recycled Palstic Sand Toy Set ($19.90)

Our large outdoor toys are from Little Tikes and Step 2. Both companies make most of their products in the USA,both companies are phthalate-free. Now if only they used recycled plastic like Green Toys...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stubby Pencil Studio

Laura, a member of my Mom's group, introduced me to Stubby Pencil Studio. And I love it. We are all very creative at my house and we use tons of art supplies, so it is wonderful to have Earth-friendly and affordable options. Thank you, Laura. And thank you to Kate, the founder and owner of Stubby Pencil Studio.

Kate started Stubby Pencil Studio in 2006 after being inspired by a positive response to thank you cards she made for her own twin daughters. Stubby Pencil Studio now offers 100% recycled cards and stationery, eco-friendly art supplies, do-it-yourself kits, Mary's soft dough, Plan toys and gifts from forest-friendly materials.

We all really wanted to try Smencils. Smencils (5 for $5.00) are scented pencils made from 100% recycled newspapers. The recycled newspaper is wrapped around #2 graphite and soaked in environmentally-friendly fragrance liquids, in kid-friendly fragrances like cotton candy, bubble gum, watermelon, root beer and cherry. Each Smencil comes packaged in its own freshness tube - I don't know if the plastic for these tubes is recycled, but they are recyclable. Arielle enjoyed using one to do her homework. My 12 year old neighbor was thrilled when I gave her one, apparently these are very cool for middle school students. Just a warning for those with sensitive noses, the fragrances are fairly strong.

Colored Smencils are also available (10 for $14.00) and would be a great gift for an older child with a set of cards or a pad of recycled paper.

Prang Soy-based crayons (8 for $1.00, 24 for $3.00) Traditional crayons like Crayola are petroleum-based. These earth-friendly crayons are made from all natural pigments and soybean oil and AP certified non-toxic. The colors are bright and smooth and the crayons hold up well to being abused by toddlers. They do have a strong distinctive odor, but it is not unpleasant - just different. Arielle and Linnea have been enjoying these all week.

Linnea actually sat down quietly and thoughtfully colored a masterpiece while I was working this morning. It was very funny to see a 16 month-old carefully considering what color to scribble with. She has a strong preference for pink and purple. No photo yet.

Forest Choice Colored Pencils ($5.00 for a box of 12) are manufactured from California Incense-cedar wood that originated from environmentally well-managed forests. They are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. To save even more trees, they are packaged in a recycled paper box. Merlin (my 18 year old son) creates his own trading-card games using colored pencils for the artwork, so I had him try them out. Merlin says the quality is surprisingly good although he still prefers artist's pencils. Arielle loves them.

They also make regular graphite pencils with erasers (12 for $3.50).

(Those are whiskers on Arielle's face. She likes to be a mouse.)

Color n' Kids Cards (.80 gift tags, $1.50 single card, $7.95 set of 6) are simple cards printed on 100% recycled card stock. The images are simple so they are easily colored and the wording is dashed, so it can be traced by those still learning to write. Each card comes with a matching colored envelope. Arielle had a lot of fun coloring a card for her cousin Alivea, and we are going to stock-up so she can send lots to her daddy while he is overseas. I'm also going to keep some thank-you cards on hand to use after birthday parties. They also offer Wink n' Curtsy custom cards that can be colored to look like your child and printed with your child's name.

This month receive a free set of 3 Plan Monkey Pencils made from renewable rubber wood as an Earth Day bonus, and Sara's Toy Box readers can enter bonus code "SARA2008" at checkout by clicking Questions, comments or BONUS CODES to receive a free 6 pack of Color 'n Kids Birthday Wishes with any purchase ($7.95 value). If you can't find where to put the code, send an email to Kate. Happy drawing!

Update: Kate says "Just want to let you know - yes, the smencil tubes are made from recycled plastic and are recyclable. We can put ours in the curbside collections for plastic. The scents will 'mellow' out and seem just right after a day or so out of the 'freshness tubes'."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Biofino at PetitBaby

Flower, Arielle's rocking horse has a terrible sweet tooth. Lucky Flower and Arielle got to try out some of Haba's beautiful new Biofino foods from PetitBaby.

You can just imagine the excitement when I opened the package from PetitBaby. "Oooh! Ice Cream!" they all screamed (Flower, too. Flower is quite vocal for an inanimate object).

The ice cream cones ($11.99) are so very pretty and Flower loves ice cream. The 100% polyester Biofino ice cream scoops are reversible - for a total of four flavors (strawberry sundae, vanilla with chocolate sprinkles, banana cream and chocolate) all served in sturdy waffle cones.

And pretty enough to make any little girl (and rocking horse) happy.

We also tried Haba sweet pastries ($11.99 for a donut, croissant and cinnamon roll). These treats come in very pretty packaging - a sturdy, and quite girly, pink and blue bakery box. It is adorable.

When asked to comment, Arielle said "I love dem". They certainly look very tasty and perfect for a tea party. They are recommended for ages three and up because there are small bead sprinkles on the donut. But, the croissant and cinnamon roll don't appear to pose any choking hazards, so Linnea has also enjoyed playing with them.

These pastries are so lovely and well-made, that I am now curious now to try out the other Biofino foods.

Sandwich ($14.99)

Pizza ($19.99)

Petit Fours ($13.99)

Arielle has been talking non-stop about princess parties and what princess wouldn't love little cakes like this. They are currently on back order everywhere, so keep checking.

But not the wiener schnitzel ($14.99). Flower is not a fan of wiener schnitzel :-)

The Biofino foods (there are a lot more and the collection is growing) are made in China under Haba's direct supervision. For information about Haba toys made in China, click here.

PetitBaby offers a large selection of both Biofino and Haba wooden foods (and other wonderful treasures). Remember coupon code "sara" is good for 15% off till May 1, 2008.

Edited to add: These also clean up wonderfully. I just wiped chocolate handprints of an ice cream cone. No problems!