Friday, October 30, 2009

And 10% off at UrthChild!

It's our lucky coupon day. UrthChild is offering our readers 10% off with the code "STB09". Happy holiday shopping!

UrthChild has a great selection of natural toys. Our favorites are the Holztiger animals. I bought a few for each birthday and Christmas since Arielle was two, and now we have quite a collection.

Holztiger zebra ($14.99)

The girls play with them alone, in combination with dolls or blocks, or invite them to tea parties.

These little sapling blocks ($18.99) would make a nice gift. How simple and how beautiful!

Little Sapling Toys are handcrafted in Idaho out of natural wood - maple, cherry, and walnut - and are finished with bee's wax and organic jojoba oil.

And, UrthChild sells the Mimi the Sardine Splashmat ($29.95), which you've seen in the background in many of our messy art posts.

The mat is a big 36"x46". I originally bought them to put under Arielle's highchair. I used them for Linnea as well, and now we use them for messy art. They go through the laundry over and over and over.... I highly recommend this; you'll really get your money's worth.

Here's Arielle painting salt-dough ghosts and pumpkins.

Check out all the great toys, natural clothing, art supplies, and baby care needs at UrthChild - all PVC, phthalate and BPA free. One percent of your purchase goes to support the Nature Conservancy and The Rocky Mountain Institute. And, gift wrapping is available - in a reusable cotton bag!

10% off at Carl & Me

Carl & Me: Exceptional Toys for Boys offers high quality toys made in the United States and Europe. The cars, trucks, blocks, active toys and building toys are fun for both girls and boys.

Featured brands include Matador, Janoschik, Scalino, Varis and NIC.

Matador - Matador are building toys. The wooden pieces are held together with rods. Tools are included.

Matador Klassic 2A ($74)

Janoschik - These adorable riding toys are made in Germany.

Mina, the giraffe scooter($142)

Skippy, the kangaroo scooter with removable baby ($198)

Scalino - Scalino marble runs are made in Switzerland. There are all kinds of additions such as waterfalls and xylophones to make these marble runs extra fun. Sets can be combined over time to make a toy that grows with your child.

Scalino Sound Staircase Set ($92.00)

Varis - Varis are just like Lincoln Logs. They are made in Latvia.

Varis 111 Parts Set ($60)

NIC - NIC Toys are my dream toy. The Creamobil series includes trucks, building parts and little figures that can be combined for construction play, truck play and general imaginative play.

Creamobil Little Men Maxi($32.00)

They can play in the Creamobil Vario House Base ($92.00)

or,in cool trucks like the Creamobil Sweeping Machine ($68).

NIC also makes Cubio, which is similar to a marble run, but uses balls so it can be used by children as young as 18 months.

Cubio Ball Track ($132)

Carl & Me is offering our readers 10% off on these brands through November 30. The code is "SPIEL".

We've got a coupon for The Wooden Wagon

The Wooden Wagon has offered our readers a coupon code for the month of November. "STB1109" is good for 10% off your next online order through 11/30. With so many wonderful wooden toys and ornaments on their website, this is a great way to get started on holiday shopping. Here are a few suggestions, all made in Germany.

Pumpkin Rattle Doll ($25.00)

This is the very first toy that I bought for Arielle, before she was even born. Pumpkin Baby is a soft rattle that always sat in the corner of Arielle's bed. She was handed-down when Linnea was born, and now she lives in Linnea's bed. Pumpkin baby is made of soft, cotton terry that seems to be delicious to chew on and still looks good after many many washings.

Little Amsterdam building blocks from Haba ($72.00)

This is an awesome set of blocks. It's definitely not for babies because some of the figures are quite small, but it is a great set when your child is ready for something more complicated. And, it works well combined with the Haba baby blocks. The figures make it more than just a block set. This is Arielle's favorite. Mine too. I like building very modern buildings which Linnea knocks down. There's a total of 166 pieces, so you get quite a lot of blocks for the price.

Varialand Puzzle Tiles from Selecta ($28.50)

This is another favorite at our house. Varialand is a free form puzzle. Eighty tiles are printed with flowers, animals, building parts, etc. that can be combined in any way the child desires to form pictures. I like to have Arielle make up a story about hers, a great pre-reading (or any reading level) skill.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make it yourself - needle felted dolls

I learned how to needle felt last winter. These are my own design and so easy.

You'll need undyed wool batting/stuffing, colored wool, a needle felting needle and a piece of foam to protect your table. Everything is available at A Child's Dream come True. You can get basic supplies and kits at A Toy Garden.

Set of five felting needles ($4.95)

Wool Roving ($15.95-$23.95)

You start out with a big handful of the undyed wool.

Loosley shape it into a ball and start stabbing it with the felting needle. In and out,over and over... it will start firming up and getting a shape.

Keep going until you have a flattened oval just the right size for a child's hand. It should feel somewhat firm. Then, the fun part!

Choose a skin color. Make a circle for the face and place it on your doll body. You attach it the same way... poke, poke, poke.

Then choose the main color. I chose orange to make a pumpkin baby. Drape the wool on the body and poke-poke it in place until the doll is covered. The doll should continue to get tighter and firmer.

When the wool is really packed in, it is time to embellish. Eyes, hair, decorations... just shape and poke into place.

I made the leaf and stem separately and then poked them in. Easy!

My girls like to carry these in their purses and pockets. They also make a great car seat toy. If the wool gets loose from handling, just poke it back into place.

And, if you try this, send me your pictures. I'd love to see.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Connectagons at Magic Cabin

Connectagons Treetops ($24.98)

Our playroom window looks out on a huge maple tree. Every day we look out and talk about the changes we see. "What color are the leaves?" "What kind of bird is that?" "Uh oh, where did the leaves go?"

I chose the Connectagons Treetops building toy for Arielle because its a fun way for her play to reflect the things she is learning about AND because the 242 pieces include 3 types of birds - cardinals, blue jays and goldfinches. This is still not enough birds for Arielle who says "the good thing about trees is that birds can live in them." And, of course, the set also includes tree bases, branches (Arielle thinks the half-rounds look like nests), and leaves in five different colors.

According to Arielle this tree is good for "playing birds, and that is it!" I think it is a little more versatile than that. She had a lot of fun building and changing her tree. And, while it is fun to play with, the tree also makes a fun and interactive addition to a nature or season's table.

The pieces are made of wood and painted with non-toxic paints. Yes, like many Magic Cabin exclusives, they are made in China. All products sold by Magic Cabin must undergo safety testing by their Product Safety and Quality Compliance team. You can read more about safety here.

Connectagons are recommended for ages four and up. Linnea (almost 3) found them frustrating and difficult to manipulate, but Arielle (5) could build her trees quite easily. The Connectagons Collection is exclusive to Magic Cabin and HearthSong and includes several styles of Connectagons that can be used separately or combined.

Magic Cabin and HearthSong are participating in the Campaign to Reforest America. For every tree used for catalogs, two seedlings are planted, and when you make a purchase, they will send a seedling to your choice of three state reforestation program. So, playing trees helps trees.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five under $5 - All made in the USA or Canada

1. Stainless Steel Strainer ($4.99)

This perfectly-sized strainer is a versatile toy indoors and out. It's fun with water and sand, or it can be used to help in the real kitchen. It has a nice solid feel to it. Ours often seems to be filled with acorns. Eggs $7.99.

2. Eco-friendly Mini-Notebook ($4.50)

I have one for lists. Arielle and Linnea got them in their stockings last year. Linnea takes little scribbly "notes" and pretends hers is a checkbook. Arielle's is filled with bird drawings. Fifty pages means lots of space and I can see how their style has changed over the year.

Notebook are 3x4" and are madewith 100% FSC certified post-consumer waste recycled, acid free and processed chlorine free paper and fully biodegradable glue and vegetable based inks. Combine it with a cue, spring-topped pencil ($2.00).

3. Wooden Dice and Game Booklet ($4.95)

It's a boy thing. Boys just love carrying around little bits of useful things - and especially, dice. I don't know how many dice I've pulled out of Merlin's pockets, and I'm betting that he still carries them around. This set of three wooden dice is made in the USA and comes with a booklet with rules for seven easy-to-play games.

4. Fairy Wand ($2.95)

Who doesn't need a magic wand? These 12" wands are made in the USA and are finished with non-toxic colors. Just wave one, and "poof!" those little monsters jumping on your couch will turn into perfectly well-behaved children. LOL - only if you get the magic words right. Otherwise, the children can use them to turn each other into frogs. Linnea's favorite "Wubba wubba poof! You are in a tower with no doors!" Yes, I'm so proud, my daughter has a great future as Rapunzel's wicked witch.

5. Made by Me! kits ($3.99)

I've reviewed these before, and we still love them. I think the girls love using tools and feeling like grow-ups and of course, the result is a toy that they can play with.

Kate of Stubby Pencil Studio said that her kids make them every year resulting in a collection that grows and changes as they do. It seems we are doing the same thing. Can't you imagine saving them for your grandchildren?

Since many of us are on a budget this year, I'm going to try to do more posts about inexpensive gifts without resorting to the Big Box stores. That's just a few fabulous gift ideas under $5. Browse around the sites, there's a lot more. Next week, I'll try for 10 under $10 :o)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Painting Pumpkins

Some inexpensive Halloween fun.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fun with Story Time Felts

Story Time Felts are felt board stories, accessories, dress-up dolls, masks, puppets and other felt games ans materials meant to encourage learning and imaginative play. They are all made in the Utah out of pre-shrunk felt printed with non-toxic, colorfast inks.

Arielle and Linnea tried out the Jenny and Rosa girl dolls with precut clothes ($27.98, $22.98 uncut clothes, extra doll $5.99). One set of clothes was more than enough for two dolls.

Arielle shows off Jenny. She is all dressed up for a fancy party.

There's an excellent variety of clothes. Everything from Halloween costumes to sports clothes to ballet outfits and everyday wear.

Here's a close-up. All the clothes have such bright colors. That has to do with the heat printing process. And, they are washable. Sets of career clothes, international clothes and vintage clothes are also available.

My girls adore paper dolls. I don't like that paper dolls always seem to lose their bits. "Mommy her hand fell off!" Or, they have complicated slots for attaching the clothes. "Help me! I can't get this on."

I like the simplicity and sturdiness of these dolls.

Rosa is getting ready for softball practice.

Jenny has a more dressy style.

Additional outfits ($12.99-$21.98 per set). We definitely need the international set for Christmas ;o)

Story Time Felts offers a huge variety of felt products. I stole this picture of the Three Little Pigs story set from the website ($77.99 for large felt board, CD and 5 stories). This would be a unique and fun way of telling interactive bedtime stories, and would also be great in a home school classroom. There are several sections of educational boards as well.

Check out the dinosaur set! ($50.99 with precut pieces)

The board is a big 23"x31". What a great gift for a dinosaur-obsessed four year old (or 40 year old).

There are so many more wonderful toys and learning activities on the site. Lots and lots! Check them out!