Thursday, April 30, 2009

One more coupon code

From KangarooBoo, 5% off valid from now until June 30, 2009. The code is STB509.

Hartia Toys, only at Moolka

When I was in elementary school, there was one particular winter where we had a month of snow days. My very smart mother stocked up on paper toys - toys that required us to cut them out and assemble then before we could play. Just setting everything up could take all day.

I'd never seen anything like the things she found. I think she may have bought them in England. But, Hartia Toys Coupicoles ($15.99) are similar.

These award-winning paper toys keep children entertained and busy while they develop imagination, attention, concentration, the ability to follow directions, three-dimensional thinking skills, and fine motor skills.

Couplicoles (from the French verbs "couper" cut, "plie" fold, and "coller" paste) are made in Canada and, in the USA, are sold exclusively at Moolka.

There are eight designs available: Polar Animals, Insects, Tropical Animals, Martial Arts, The Farm, The Ocean, Vegetables and Exotic Birds. Arielle and I tried out Exotic Birds - of course!

Arielle was very excited to see that the kit contained a cockatoo. A blue cockatoo! What a strange coincidence. She was telling me a few days earlier that she is a grown-up bird scientist, she is going to marry a blue cockatoo and have four chicks. Blue cockatoos are just as imaginary as rainbow ones.

Each box contains twelve sheets of figures to cut and assemble. The kit is rated for ages six and up because cutting the figures out does require at least intermediate scissor skills.

They are classified according to the degree of difficulty (on a scale of one to four). Younger children will need the help of an adult and will gain the skills to work independently as they work through the package.

Couplicoles require a ruler, scissors and glue. I found that tape, an exact-o knife, and paper clips were also helpful. I used the paper clips to hold parts in place while the glue dried.

I wasn't sure if Coupicoles would be too hard for Arielle, and, indeed, they were too complex for her pre-school scissor skills. Instead, we decided that I would cut and she would help with the gluing and, of course, the playing.

These do take time - about fifteen minutes each. The birds, because they are made of paper, are delicate; definitely not for toddler sisters. But, Arielle really enjoys them. I think that after she plays a while, they could also be strung up to make a nice mobile for her room. Of course, eventually, they can be recycled.

I'm saving blue cockatoo for last.

What an excellent and educational way to keep older children busy during school closings or summer vacations. Thanks Moolka!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eco-friendly sand fun - Sprig Hollow from Sprig Toys

I first heard of Sprig Toys around Christmas when my crunchy friends were raving about the cool trucks they were buying for their little boys. At first I was confused by their excitement; these were cute, but looked like plastic. But, Sprig Toys are actually made of a unique material called Sprigwood - a biocomposite of recycled wood and recycled plastic. They are tough and waterproof like plastic, but have a fresh-cut wood smell. Mmmm.... And are completely child-safe as well as being eco-friendly. And cute! And affordable!

So that's what they were so excited about.

Sprig makes tough yellow construction trucks and kid-powered Adventure Rigs, and now they make sand toys that are fun for boys, but pretty enough for girly girls. We got to try Sprig's newest line, Sprig Hollow.

The line consists of three playsets.

Sprig Hollow DuneBug's Sand Truck ($16.99)

Sprig Hollow Bee and Butterfly's Farm Playset($26.95)

Sprig Hollow Dragonfly's Heliscoopter Playset($15.99)

Each playset contains parts which are snapped together to form trucks, a heliscooper, even a barn. And, each has parts that come off to be cool sand toys like a funnel, rake and scoop. But the best part -- the cute little bugs.

Coincidentally, the toys arrived on Earth Day. Linnea and I had just come home from taking Arielle to preschool, and we found a big box outside our door. I assembled everything quickly and lucky Linnea had everything to herself for a few hours. I love how serious she looks while she tucks the "Little Baby Bugs" into the truck.

When Arielle came home, she tried them out as well and pronounced them "Fun!" and "Pretty!" The little bug figures were very popular. That night, we tried them in the bath where the bugs were shampooed in bubbles and the funnel and leaf shaped scoop from the farm set were especially well-liked.

The big test came last weekend. It was a glorious, sunny weekend and we spent much of it enjoying being outdoors. They played with the toys quite a bit in the sandbox (while I built a composter), but then discovered that trucks and dry leaves are a fun combination.

Here are the pictures.

All Sprig Toys are battery-free, come in eco-friendly packaging, and are compatible with each other. They are available at a variety of toy stores, nationwide.

Monday, April 27, 2009

News and Discount Codes

I've posted a few new discount codes today.

"SARA4ME" is good for 10% off at Maukilo. Maukilo carries all the Haba available in the United States and other wonderful brands such as Kettler, Holztiger,Chelona, Heros, and many more. They currently have a sale on trucks and dinosaurs. We'll be posting some toy reviews in the near future.

"GIRLY20L" is good for 20% off anything on the Piggy Paint website, including sale items. Piggy Paint offers a non-toxic, child-safe nail polish. Arielle has been incredibly jealous of her preschool friends with painted nails, but her mean mommy cringes at the thought of all those chemicals. But, since warm weather and new sandals makes me want to paint mine, I thought we'd try this out. The review is coming soon. Spend $25 and shipping is free.

We're currently reviewing eco-friendly Sprig Toys, Green Toys and really cool paper birds. Those reviews will be posted soon.

Happy playing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I think it was November. Arielle stopped being a girl and turned into a bird - a Rainbow Cockatoo, to be exact. Rainbow Cockatoo's are an imaginary species. They are very rare and are the only cockatoos in the Northern Hemisphere. Most live in Australia.

Arielle has always had an imagination. But, six months later, she is still a bird. I've been trained to refer to her hair as her "feathers" and to tooth-brushing as "beak-brushing". When I ask what she'd like for dinner, she asks for "worms and grubs", so I'm creative with food names. Spaghetti is now "juicy worms".

So, we've been growing our imaginations. But, we've also been learning. In January, we took a trip to Ottawa, where we visited the Canadian Museum of Nature. The museum was being remodeled, but they have a wonderful bird exhibit complete with a tiny lab where children can pretend to be ornithologists (scientists who study birds). Arielle was thrilled. Now she is determined that when she grows up she will be a bird scientist.

Pictures from the museum

When we left the museum, we bought a bird book. This sparked an interest in bird identification. We put up bird feeders in our trees and bought some identification guides. Grandma gave Arielle a pair of binoculars.

When the weather turned warmer, we saw new birds every day. We bought a CD to teach us about bird songs and listened to it in the car. We built a bird house.

And we didn't stop there. Cockatoos are common in Australia, so Arielle wanted to learn about Australia. We found Australia on the globe. We cut out pictures of Australian animals - there are lots at - and we decorated our geography area. Arielle practiced writing the names of Australian birds and animals in her notebook. We learned about Aboriginal art and decorated homemade rain sticks. We got stories from the library and from Amazon and learned about Aboriginal myth and about animals.

I have learned a lot, too. Even two-year-old Linnea can identify robins and starlings. Arielle's interest shows no signs of waning and it is both fun and a challenge to find new ways to direct her curiosity and eagerness to learn. Here she is painting an outline of a bird that I drew for her - a homemade coloring book of sorts. The bright water colors and heavy duty paper are from Stubby Pencil, of course.

And here she is playing pet store... finding good homes for those birds and also a chance to learn about money.

Taking advantage of your child's interests seems like such a natural and fun way to learn, doesn't it? There is such a fine line between learning and play, and there are so many more things we can and will learn as long as she is interested.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy Earth Day - Earth-friendly Penguins from Maggie's Organics

What is that silly Arielle doing?

She's pretending to be Daddy Penguin. "When baby penguins are small, they stand on their Daddy's feet to stay safe and warm." So, this is Arielle trying to keep her Maggie's Organics Penguin ($20) safe from "Polar bears and seals."

Last month, I reviewed Maggie's Organics Sock Monkey, and Linnea adores her Poo-Poo Monkey. Her monkey goes everywhere that she does. Like the monkeys, the penguins are made in the USA by Opportunity Threads, a 100% worker-owned cooperative in Morganton, North Carolina. The penguins and monkeys are environmentally friendly - they are made from excess fabric and irregular socks and are stuffed with reclaimed polyester mill scrap. The eyes are embroidered and the tie-dye snow hat is securely sewn on. The penguin can be machine washed and is safe for children (and Daddy Penguins) of all ages. Arielle named her penguin, Plum.

Here is Arielle with Plum on their way to preschool. The letter of the week was "B" and "Penguins are birds, you know."

So Plum is both educated and cute. Plum also enjoys relaxing with a friend, wildly dancing to Princess music, and long walks on the beach. OK.. I made the beach part up. But, as you can see, Plum is a penguin that loves to have fun.

Thank you, Maggie's Organics for letting us review the latest member of Maggie's Menagerie.