Did you see we have a new coupon code from A Toy Garden? It's one of my very favorite 0n-line toy stores and I just love browsing through seeing what is new and looking for treasures. Here are some products that we enjoy.
I've been admiring these forever, but then we saw these very artsy and fun pictures of our friend Tess, and I finally decided to make good use of our discount code. Tess is 2 1/2 - just like Linnea.
The arches are made in Germany. The bright colors are plant dyed and are absolutely safe for children who still mouth their toys.
What an incredibly open ended toy. They can be played with as a stacker or as blocks or in combination with other toys. There is a lot of play value in this.
There are 12 arches and the largest is 14 1/2 inches wide. We already had the smaller medium stacker ($34.95). It was one of my first reviews and still a very popular toy in our household. The extra-large stacker is more than just the smaller one super-sized; there is something super fun about playing with the large pieces. Big is good?
Ari decided that she was going to build a playground for Kangaroo and Penguin. Here they are on the see-saw.
Check out this masterpiece!
Arches also make good cages for very wild dinosaurs.
"Wax-O-Glass" window crayons are soft crayons made in Germany by Lyra. They do require a little supervision when used by younger children. Linnea always manages to get them all over herself. But, they are very safe and they clean right up with a damp cloth.
I use them to decorate the living room window with birthday messages or with pictures on special days. They also are a great distraction when I'm doing something and I don't want "help". Yesterday, I used them to distract the girls while I hooked up the wires after moving the TV.
Older children could use these to draw on car windows during long trips. Any residue easily cleans up with a rag and vinegar or natural window cleaner.
Make Your Own Family is a collection of 20 peg people that can be decorated to represent a child's own family and friends. There are 8 large people, 2 3/8" tall by 7/8" at the base; 6 medium people, 2" tall by 7/8" at the base; and 6 small people, 1 5/8" tall by 5/8" at the base. A Toy Garden will also be introducing very large peg people that are 3 1/2 inches tall and 1" at the base.
Sonya suggests dying them in coffee or tea for skin tone variation. We used colored pencils, markers, bits of ribbon, felt and wool roving, and sticky jewels.
The colored pencils didn't work so well.
When the girls were finished, they were quite proud of the results.
And, they had a great time playing with their creations.
Linnea's "family". They are all named "Daddy".
The plain, unfinished wood figures can also be used as is. We saved the rest for block play and to use with the...
The Foldable Gnome House is made of three inter-locking pieces of wood and can be used as a tree-trunk, house, barn, super secret hideout, coral reef or whatever background is required for gnome or small doll play. It's size suits a diversity of dolls and creatures that are smaller than the typical dollhouse size. And, you can add a playsilk for even more versatility.
Its free form shape adapts to become pretty much anything. It folds into a Z shape or lays flat but does not fold all the way together. It is 19 inches by 8 1/2 inches and can easily fit into a suitcase or carry-on bag for travel - just add a few dolls or gnomes.
The Foldable Gnome House is constructed of unfinished, solid wood. It is made in the USA exclusively for A Toy Garden.
One thing that surprises other parents, is that my children use real dishes. Even as a baby, Linnea used real china and real glasses (although smaller). I believe that eating from the same dishes as the rest of the family sets an expectation for appropriate table behavior. Linnea, of course, is still working on this.
These sweet mugs are made in Germany of white porcelain and are decorated with one of six flower fairy images (your choice). Each mug is 2 3/4" tall and holds about 6 ounces.
Linnea has the Chickory Flower Fairy and Arielle chose the Canterbury Bell Flower Fairy. They use their mugs to drink their morning orange juice.
Finally, I usually add a set of 24 mini wood clothes pins to my order. These are made in China, but I use the red, blue, green and yellow clothes pins to hang up artwork and decorations rather than for play. I just hang up embroidery floss to match my wall color, and then it is easy to display the latest, greatest of the mountain of artwork my girls produce.
When a new masterpiece is created, I take down the old one and put it in a large laundry basket reserved just for art. When the basket is full, I go through it. A little bit of time makes it so much easier to decide what gets saved, reused as gift wrap or recycled.
While they could be used by an older child to do a doll's laundry, the clothespins are tiny (about an inch and require better fine motor skills than standard size clothes pins. Sonya tells me that the clothespins have been tested by her supplier and are safe.
Don't forget to use our coupon code. Our readers receive 10% off orders over $30, with the code "stbsummer09", expires 6/15/2009.
We love our Green Toys Tea Set, but this year Green Toys really outdid themselves with their brand new Green Recycling Truck and Dump Truck. The trucks are made fom 100% recycled plastic milk jugs, are phthalate- and BPA-free, and are made in the USA. A recycled recycling truck? Can you get greener?
The girls were quite excited when the recycling truck arrived from Green Toys. It was just after Arielle had spent a week doing "Love the Earth" activities at preschool, and she was very happy to tell us about the importance of recycling, but I don't think she quite understood how old things could be made into new until she saw a truck made of old milk bottles. I think she was pretty impressed with seeing a real (and playable) product of recycling.
The trucks are solid plastic with backs that tip up to dump. Arielle discovered that a little Juicy Bug was just the right size to work as a driver. Everything in the cab is nicely sealed, so the Juicy Bug didn't fall in. And, the recycling truck opens in back, so all the recycling can be retrieved.
In Linnea's world, trucks kiss hello.
Dumping all the garbage out.
And, coming back for more.
Having a dump truck is very useful. A friend can take a ride.
Or, it can be used to haul important things -- like a load of dandelions. The great thing about Green Toys is that they go inside and outside and are so easy to clean.
These trucks are awesome. Each of my children has loved having a big truck to push around. And, it is nice to have a lightweight, eco-friendly and affordable option. It is tough enough to deal with everything a truck-loving toddler sends its way. I hope Green Toys introduces a few more next year.
Get 5% off Green Toys and other purchases at KangarooBoo with our coupon code "STB509" valid until June 30, 2009.
Arielle is going to be home-schooled next year. After visiting the local school and hearing from friends who are teachers, I decided that I'd prefer that she spend her early years learning to love learning.
My husband has a degree in elementary education, so I went through my checklist of the things we plan to learn with him. He said that learning to tell time was a big challenge for many of the children he's taught. Many have never seen a clock that is not digital. I thought about it, and almost all the clocks in our home are digital as well.
This rubber wood toy clock comes with a set of nine activity cards (going to school, sleeping, playing, reading, etc.) that fit on top of the clock so children can match the time with their activities.
Arielle was very curious about the clock, and she was eager to learn to tell time. It took a few days, but she soon understood that the long hand at the twelve means o'clock. She's been having a great time setting the clock to 9:00 at bedtime and to 8:00 when she wakes up. After a few days of getting the idea that our activities correspond to the time of day, we were ready to move on.
This is a fairly simple workbook that easily guides children into telling time. As Arielle fills out the information in the workbook, she also has the hands-on-experience of setting the play clock to the appropriate time. As she moves the hands clockwise, she gets the idea of how time passes (the hour hand does not move independently, so minutes must pass to make hours). We also talk about the kinds of activities we do at that particular time. Ten o'clock is usually snack time and that is when Sesame Street is on. Four o'clock is when Daddy comes home from work.
Arielle quickly mastered hours and is moving on to half hours. Telling-time works nicely with introducing fractions as well. Talking about half-past lead to a discussion about "what is half?" and a fun afternoon of chopping up snacks and learning about half-way there.
Summer is a great time to review old skills and pick up new ones in preparation for next year. And the Activity Clock is a fun way to introduce an important concept. It is safe, simple and perfect for a four-year-old. Oompa also carries slightly more complex learning clocks from the Polish company, Bajo. They carry both a manual learning clock ($59.99) and a battery-powered option ($69.99) for telling the actual time. These clocks have rotating number balls that can be used for standard time telling, 24 hours (military-style) time telling, learning Roman numerals and for learning fractions. These are nice for children who already understand the basics of telling time, and the battery-powered option could be used as learning-decor for a play room or class room.
Have you read Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane ($15.95)? The beautifully illustrated book is about a girl named Kristen who vacations in Maine. Her parents show her a village of little houses that people have made for the fairies. Kristen makes her own house and every day she checks it for fairies. At the last minute, magic happens.
The end of the book has a section about making your own fairy houses using only natural materials. Today was a gorgeous day and Ari went outside to build her own fairy house.
She gathered up sticks and bark and other natural treasure,
and with Linnea's help, she carefully arroanged them under the tree.
A broken eggshell makes a perfect vase on a dandelion carpet.
And a tulip that the rain knocked over decorates the roof. Only dandelions were picked.
Flowers and leaves make nice, soft beds.
And here is the final product. Will a fairy move in?
There is also a video ($19.95). Are there fairies in your backyard?
Our friends at A Toy Garden have given us a new coupon code. The code "stbsummer09" is good for 10% off any order over $30.00 from today through June 15, 2009. Even better, if you use the code, you are entered into a giveaway. One lucky reader will win a Fabulous Sun Hat. These one-size-fits-all hats adjust to fit everyone. The hats have a big brim to protect face and neck, are SPF 45, and have a secret pocket. They come in four colors, and the winner gets to choose from
A Toy Garden is a great source for all sorts of toys and treasures. Right now, I need to go get my big kid who is coming home from college. But, I wanted to get this post up as soon as possible for those who are looking for a coupon code. I'll write more about the great playthings at A Toy Garden soon.
Jumble Balls are soft fabric balls made by Jennifer of Wood Pond Designs. She started making the balls about five years ago after being inspired by a ball that her mother had made. At first, she made them for her own children and for friends having babies. Soon more and more people wanted Jumble Balls, and Jennifer started an Etsy shop.
The balls are lightweight, squashy and easy to grasp. Each square is individually stuffed leaving a hollow center that makes the ball squishable and easy for little hands to hang on to. The balls are made of 100% cotton fabric that is safe and machine washable on the gentle cycle. So, these balls can be chewed on and drooled on and dragged on the floor.
Jennifer describes herself as a "fabric junky". She has lots and lots of colors and fabrics and never makes more than a few balls that are the same. The ribbons and rickrack are a new addition to the balls, and customers can choose to have either a rattle or jingle bells sewn securely inside. Jennifer now offers Bamboo fiberfill, and she will soon have organic cotton fabric available. If you have a specific color scheme in mind, she welcomes custom orders and would be very happy to create a ball using specific colors/fabrics/patterns.
The balls are great for tummy time for tiny ones, and for rolling and tossing as the baby grows older. Jennifer's children are now 4 and 6 and she says "they still love throwing the jumble balls around and they are light enough that I don't worry about things breaking".
I'm sure that Arielle and Linnea would have had fun with the ball, but I wanted to get a real baby reaction. So, we hired a consultant. Our eight-month-old friend Lucy (and her two-year-old big sister Tess) volunteered to help us out. They loved it.
Here's what mom Sarah had to say, "That is the ball! It is so great! Totally squishable so Lucy can tumble on top of it and it smooshes flat, then pops back up. The colors are great, the ribbons are perfect and it jingles just enough to keep the kid interested, not enough to annoy the mama. We seriously love this ball! Tess and Lucy both have so much fun playing with it and it's just as great for playing catch with Tess as it is for tumble time with Lucy."
Art was my favorite thing to do when I was a child, but I never thought I liked watercolors because they were always so wet and anemic. They were frustrating. The colors blurred and looked muddy and the paper always crinkled up from the water. When I finally got to try the real stuff in college, I was surprised by how much fun watercolors are and how easy to use.
I bet these would have provided a better experience. The Faber-Castell water colors are strong and bright and also easy to use.
The watercolors are certified safe for children and are made in Turkey. We used regular drawing paper this time, but Stubby Pencil also offers nice, thick, recycled watercolor paper ($9.95 and $12.95/20 sheets) that is perfect for making special gifts or Father's Day cards and doesn't pucker at all.
These are so much fun, but messy. So we covered the table and put on our messy-shirts (recycled from Dad). Our ink pads are from Djeco ($12.99).
The stamps are nice and big and easy for a toddler to handle. They are also super cute and made in Thailand from rubber wood.
They do get messy. If you use washable ink, they clean up with soap and water. Otherwise, try a bit of rubbing alcohol to keep them clean and cute.
Lots of messy fun, but it all cleans up. And, the kids are so proud of their creations. We just stamp like crazy, but older children could make cards or decorate book covers and notebooks for themselves or for gifts.