Friday, December 11, 2009

It's award time!

Drum roll.... Introducing, our Second Annual Awards post. For last years winners, click here.

All the toys we reviewed were the nominees - and this year, we reviewed an awful lot of toys! The winners are the toys that got the most play and were best loved.

Again, we have no shiny statues or great big checks. Just a virtual hug and a big, fat "Thank you very much!!!"


1. Best eco-friendly toy: Green Toys Recycled Plastic Recycling Truck ($24.99)

Green Toys are made from 100% recycled plastics. They are phthalate free and BPA free. A recycled a recyclable recycling truck - can you get more eco-friendly that that?

My girls love to fill the back of the truck with small toys and bits of paper. You can read the original review here.

2. Best American-made toy: Foldable Gnome House ($19.95)

Not only is this toy made in the USA, but it is one of the most open-ended toys we reviewed this year (Keva Planks would also qualify). The Gnome House is used all the time. It can be a castle, house, barn - the possibilities are as unlimited as a child's imagination. And, it folds flat for travel.

Mothering Magazine agrees with us, they selected the Foldable Gnome House as one of the Best Natural Toys of 2009!

3. Best Toy Under $10: Mary's Softdough

We like Mary's Softdough so much, that after we reviewed it, we reviewed it again!

This is my very best, dependable "I need to keep my children busy, so I can get something done" trick. It will usually keep them occupied for at least an hour. And, there's no TV guilt. Mary's Softdough is made of flour, water, salt, cream of tartar, soybean oil, food coloring and sodium benzoate (a food preservative that keeps it from getting moldy so it can be used for up to a year). It comes in every one's favorite colors and scents and even with sparkles (Linnea's favorite color is sparkly).

4. Best Outdoor Toy: The Sand Play Castle ($22.98)

It has to be the best sand toy ever! Moms, dads, older sibling all wanted to play with this neat construction/sand toy made in the Czech Republic. The sieves, funnels, wheels, strainers and levers can be placed in endless configurations and they actually move sand (or water) from top to bottom. I suppose that it could be used in the bath as well. We'll have to try that.

5. Best Learning Toy:

Ugh! How can I choose? The scale from Rosie Hippo, the Bajo Abacus, the learning clock from Plan Toys, the Mudpuppy map puzzle and the I can spell! alphabet puzzle were all very helpful while home schooling this year. But, can I really say academic learning is more valuable than the kind of learning that comes from imaginative play?

Oh, I know... the Nature Bag! We had a great time learning about the outdoors this summer. The magnifying glass is a big favorite for indoor play and for examining the treasures that the girls bring inside for the science and nature table.

Nature Bag ($34.95)

6. Best Travel Toy: Calafant ($6.99 and up)

Tree house ($24.99)

When my husband has to travel for work, we like to go with him. Bu,t sometimes that means that the kids and I are stuck in the hotel waiting for him for many hours. one mom can take only so much elevator riding. The last hotel didn't even have kid-friendly TV.

Calafant toys travel flat. You put them together and make a toy. You give the kids the emergency crayons from your purse, and the kids decorate the toy. This takes a nice while and it doesn't make a mess in your hotel room. There are no little pieces to leave behind. The kids play with it, and if there's no room to bring it home, it gets recycled. Or, if you are visiting relatives, you can leave it at Grandma's house for next time.

If you really want to get creative, draw little people on the hotel's note pad. Otherwise, grab the bag of finger puppets/gnomes/tiny dolls from the car.

Calafant is made in China and designed in Germany. It won the Toy Innovation Award in 2006 for creativity. And now it wins the prestigious Sara's Toy Box award ;0)

7. Best Toy to Grow With: Extra-Large Rainbow Arches ($79.95)

I love this picture of our friend Tess creating a work of art.

The arches are such a versatile toy. The rainbow arches go from being a simple to stacking toy to to being the scenery for complicated games of make-believe. They are ever so useful as tunnels and seesaws, and when turned on their side, they make excellent wooden animal cages.

I bet this is the toy that Arielle's children will be asking to play with.

8. Best Building/Stacking Toy: Keva Planks Set of 200 ($63.95).

Keva planks are sets of American-made, maple blocks where each block is exactly the same size (1 in. x 4.5 in. x .25 in.). They are perfectly sized for building just about anything a child or adult can imagine. They are open-ended, all-natural, made in the USA, and suitable for all ages, so the whole family can play.

I am betting they see a lot of action in the next month when the big brothers are home from college.

Twig Blocks were a close second.

9. Best toy with wheels: Playforever Bruno Roadster ($59.99)

I think the picture says it all.

Linnea is in love, and this tough race car is built to handle that love and everything else that a three year old can dish out. The car is made in England and is meant to be played with forever.

10. Best art supply / craft project

Can I just put all of Stubby Pencil Studio in this category?



Well, we reviewed these kits so many times, and chances are good that I will mention them again.

"Made by Me" kits ($4.00)

The kits win because of the very proud look that I see on my children's faces when they complete one of these cars "all by myself".


Linnea's Toy of the Year: Poo-Poo the Organic Sock Monkey ($19.95) is made from Maggie's Organic socks that would otherwise be destined for landfills. Poo-Poo has been Linnea's well-loved friend since the moment that we opened the box in March. Linnea sleeps with Poo-Poo, eats with Poo-Poo, drags Poo-Poo everywhere and plays with Poo-Poo. There was a moment when the nice greeter at the supermarket asked Linnea, "What's your little monkey's name?" She yelled "Poo-Poo!"

Anyway, it's a good thing that Poo-Poo is machine washable.

This is one of my favorite Linnea pictures.

Arielle's Toy of the Year: This was a tough one because I wanted Arielle to choose. "Which toy do you love best Arielle?" But, she kept saying I have lots of toys that I love. So, I rephrased the question. When I asked Arielle, "If you were going to tell all the mommies which toy their kids would really love, what would it be?" With no hesitation, she said the Rocket Ship.

Rocket Ship ($77.95)

This is a great toy for imaginative play (and would look really nice in a space-themed room). It also doubles as a tower for Rapunzel.

Kiwi Magazine agrees with Arielle; they listed the rocket ship as one of the top eco-friendly toys of 2009.

Eleanor's Toy of the Year: Chalet Dollhouse by Plan Toys ($179.99)

Eleanor bought the house for Alli's third birthday gift. The dollhouse is made up of two units which can be joined or separated in different ways for different play possibilities. And, I hope that Eleanor will write a review because it looks awesome!

Toy store of the year: A Toy Garden

This is always the hardest decision. I get to know many of the people behind the toys and stores that I write about, and for me this is like choosing among friends - there are several stores that I could have chosen and each one is special. So, I ask other moms. And, I look at reader responses. Sonya and A Toy Garden have been friends to the blog since we started. This year, I had so many people ask if and when we were going to get a coupon code; it was obvious that A Toy Garden is a favorite. So, extra congratulations to Sonya and A Toy Garden.

Click here for our original A Toy Garden store review.

Congratulations to all our winners.


Anne said...

Thanks for your reviews, I always find them so helpful! Are there any current coupon codes for TOY GARDEN? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am so thankful for your website. It's often a challenge to find "different" toys that suit the needs of our family, especially when I can't go into a brick and mortar shop around here to get them. I appreciate all the different things you highlight, it's helped me on many occasions! Thank you!