Monday, November 30, 2009

Porcelain Tea Sets

Timin525 asked about porcelain tea sets, and this is a tough question.

I was looking for a tea set in the spring. We were working on table manners, and I had the idea of having princess tea parties where we would practice our best princess manners. I looked everywhere and couldn't find a tea set that would work. Everything was either super pricey or made in China.

So, I went with made in China. I bought the Fiesta Ware Style Ceramic Tea Set by Schylling ($20.00) from Peapods Natural Toys. And, the reason I was ok with it is because I know that Millie and Dan, the owners of Peapods, did extensive testing of their inventory to make sure it was all CPSIA compliant.

Fiesta Ware Style Ceramic Tea Set($20.00)

The girls love the set and use it all the time, and if they weren't busy squishing dinosaurs into soft dough, I'd get pictures.

Another option is a handmade tea set. Donna, who won the Advent calendar, is the artist behind Lady Madonna Pottery on Etsy. We have a teeny-tiny, doll-size set that she made, but there are different sizes, and they are affordable (the one shown is $25) - and, they are all safe.

There are also some hand-painted sets on Etsy, but there is no information about safety. If you are curious, search on child's tea set and ask.

If it wasn't so expensive (and it wasn't out of stock), I'd want this one from Mahar Drygoods.

Mushroom Tea Set ($140)

Congratulations to our winners!

Thank you, Blueberry Forest Toys, for sponsoring such great giveaways.

Donna won an advent calendar. Donna is all about Christmas and chose the Bavarian Nativity Advent Calendar ($4.95) because it reflects the true meaning of Christmas. She has four girls who will enjoy counting down the days till the holiday.

Katie won the Mini Bambina Crumpet Doll. Katie was so excited because this was the first time she has won something, and she has a daughter who will love getting the doll for Christmas.

So many of you entered, and I appreciate the support. We currently have two more giveaways going on, so enter those. You might win next time.

If you didn't win, the Advent calendars are on sale (enter VTC25 at checkout) and we have a coupon code for 15% off Kathe Kruse, "STB2" is good until 12/15/2009.

Happy Holidays.

Win a wooden tea set from Wonderworld and Toys and Games Online

One lucky reader will receive a Wonderworld Tea Time Play Set from Toys and Games Online.

Wonderworld Tea Time Play Set ($26.00)

Toys and Games Online is a CSN store. There are over 200 CSN stores specializing in everything from nursery decor to Christmas decorations.

To enter, go to Toys and Games Online and browse through the Eco-friendly toys, then send me an email, comment or Facebook message letting me know which eco-friendly toy you like best.

Arielle and Linnea had a good time reviewing the tea set this morning.

Arielle invited Linnea and her doll, Lotta, to her cafe. They ordered cake and tea and were very impressed with the cute tea pot and place settings.

Everything in Arielle's Cafe is delicious. Lotta wanted more tea.

In the picture, the handles look very delicate as if they might break. Actually, they are made of cord and are very sturdy. The tea set is made to handle being played with by real kids.

This is a very nice tea set and I recommend it if you are looking to stock your play kitchen with a nice wooden tea set. The quality is similar to that of the Plan Tea Set, but it is slightly larger. I find the shapes more pleasing. It comes with a tea pot and lid, sugar bowl, creamer, 2 saucers, 2 cups and 2 spoons.

The winner will be announced on December 9, so the tea set can reach them for Christmas. Good luck!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blasting off..... in a rocket ship.

All my kids love space. I have great memories of when my big kids (now 18 and 20) were the same age as Arielle and Linnea. I took them on a geology field trip with me, and they spent the six hour drive playing spaceship and singing "we are aliums!"

Arielle went through a year when she always wanted stories about rocket ships and her friends Moonielle and Starielle who live in space. I had to make them up, and now she calls her Mommy-made-up bedtime story a "Moon Story".

Here's a true Moon Story.

One very exciting day, a rocket landed in the playroom. The FedEx man brought it.

It required a little assembly - cardboard tabs had to be pushed into cardboard holes. I needed help, just an extra hand to hold things, but it wasn't too hard.

Then... out popped a little alien.

"Hello," it said. "Do you have cookies on this planet?"

Once the alien confirmed that, yes, this is a planet with abundant cookies, she decided to visit awhile. Then I had no more cookies.

The rocket ship ($77.95) is made in the USA of recycled paper and is 100% recyclable. It is from Down to Earth Toys, which is just a great place for Toys Made in the USA. I recently saw the rocket ship listed as one of Kiwi Magazine's top eco-friendly toys of the year. Arielle and Linnea certainly thought it was a top toy!

It's just the right size (67"H x 27.5"W x 27.5"D) for two little aliens and a few treasures. With a little effort, I even fit myself in there. I don't suggest this unless you really like tight spaces.

For Arielle and Linnea packing up the spaceship for the journey was almost as much fun as actually visiting strange planets. They put in a whole collection of play food. Traveling is hungry work.

Happy face.

I just asked for comments from the aliens. Arielle said she wishes the rocket was really big because then it would be even better (where would be put it?). And, Linnea told be a very enthusiastic story about zoom zoom zooming to outer space and having a picnic of astronaut food and alien food on the moon.

And off they go again....

The spaceship would be fun to decorate... glow-in-the-dark paint and space stickers would be cool. Or glow-in-the-dark stars? Maybe a sticker from every planet visited? Because we are moving soon, I decided to hold off on decorating, so the paint doesn't get banged up.

This is a neat toy for encouraging imaginative play both indoors and outdoors. Boys and girls will love it and get great practice at counting down from 10 to 1 (a kindergarten skill). I can't imagine a child not loving it. And, when they outgrow it, it can be passed on or recycled.

And check out the Playhouse.

Thank you, Down to Earth Toys for this out-of-this-world play experience.

Little Seedlings Coupon

Little Seedlings sells beautiful handmade Waldorf doll clothing like this gorgeous green outfit shown on a Kathe Kruse doll ($32).

And other handmade toys like these gorgeous 9" seedling dolls ($42).

Lucky Sara's Toy Box readers get 15% off their total order (including shipping) from now until December 20th, 2009, using coupon code "STB09". Happy Holidays!

Don't forget giveaways!

Two giveaways are ending today! The Advent calendar and the Kathe Kruse Mini Bambina Crumpet doll. I'll be drawing the names first thing tomorrow morning.

Also, don't forget to enter to win a $75 gift card to Craftsbury Kids - I'll be choosing that winner on Wednesday.

And the Wonderworld tea set giveaway starts tomorrow. I just opened the set we're reviewing, and I think some lucky child will really enjoy it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A bird tree!

Not a partridge in a pear tree, a sparrow in an apple tree! And, a blue jay and a robin and a titmouse and a flying yellow songbird.

Birdies in an Apple Tree ($79)

I've told you before about how much we love our Holztiger animals. These wooden animals from Germany are a favorite with my girls. Each year, I buy a few more at Christmas or on birthdays or for Easter, and the girls are getting a pretty nice collection. They are played with all the time. And, when they aren't being played with, they look very cute on a shelf or dresser.

Lately, Arielle's favorites have been birds. When ever she saves up enough money, she buys a bird... one at a time. When Arielle saw the bird tree, her eyes lit right up. And Rosie Hippo was so kind to let her review it.

The tree has a stand to help it stay up on carpet, but it can be used without the stand.

There are plenty of flat spots for the birds to perch. Hmmm... where will this bird go?

Some other animals heard about the juicy apples.


Like all Holztiger figures, the tree is beautifully made and finished with non-toxic colors. It's a great addition to a play story. And, it is available separately for $24.

There really is nothing like Holztiger for open-ended, imaginative play. And, there is nowhere like Rosie Hippo for Holztiger. They have the best selection.

Check out all the wonderful European and American toys at Rosie Hippo.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beautiful gifts from Rosie Hippo

Rosie Hippo specializes in beautiful designed toys that inspire creativity and spark imagination! Just the type of toys that we like best.

Many of these are toys that I haven't seen anywhere else.

There is a nice section of toys made in the USA like this classic heavy-duty wagon.

Rosie Red Wagon ($145)

There are also sections for special interests like fairies, castles or pirates, and for gifts under $15, under $25 and under $50 - just what you need when you're staying on a budget.

Gifts under $15.

Lavender Girl ($15.00), she's lavender and full of lavender for a soothing,calming scent. Made in Brazil.

Gifts under $25

Squiggles ($20)

I am going to recommend this for anyone between five and 105! I love my Squiggles book and I use it for stress relief. I get pretty silly with the pictures, and the kids love to peek and see what I've drawn.

You start with an outline and simple directions like "what kind of store?" and you go from there. No talent required.

Last year I gave one to all our big kids, including my step-son who is a wonderful artist.

Here are a few pages from my book.

Gifts under $50

I chose to review the scale.

Scale ($39)

When my mother was a child, she played with a little scale a lot. So, that is what I thought about when I saw this little wooden scale. It's made in Romania by Estia, and it comes with five weights of different sizes. It's a great learning toy as kids figure out the mathematical concepts of weight and balance, but it is also fun.

Linnea said "It's a wee-saw!" and she put two stuffed animals on it. I wish I had pictures.

Arielle took one look at it and said "that's not a toy, it's homework."

I said, "OK. Then don't play with it."

Just minutes later....

She has been really enjoying the scale. She likes to take different objects and see which is heavier. It is great for weighing little wooden animals; is the rabbit heavier than the sheep?

Linnea finally figured out what a scale really is for, and it's been a nice addition to their store play. "Would you like two pounds of chocolate?"

I considered a few scales, but I really like that this one is all wood and, at $35, it had the best price.

Rosie Hippo has wonderful toys and it's definitely worth a look. Thank you, Rosie Hippo!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fairy Puzzles at Palumba

So pretty!

Fairy Puzzles ($9.99 or 3 for $24.99)

These puzzles are perfect for fairy-loving little girls. The illustrations are from the work of watercolor artist Betty Sturley. She's a gardener as well an artist, and you can tell that because of the loving attention to detail that is in her paintings.

Linnea was so jealous, but these puzzles are not for beginners. So, Arielle got to try "Ofrey and Archie". The fairies are helping the little hummingbird.

Arielle really enjoyed the challenge and the beautiful artwork. And, puzzles are great for learning perseverance, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, geometric relationships and logical thinking.

These would make a nice take-to-school gift.

The puzzle is printed in the USA on recycled chipboard using soy ink. The completed puzzle is 8"x10".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh my! A museum in a box!

I am working on a review for a toy from Rosie Hippo - love Rosie Hippo - and I saw this! The absolutest coolest (but very pricey) toy ever. I just wanted to share.

Discovery Box Large ($199)

This 18-drawer box comes with a natural history collection that includes 50 different fossils, minerals, marine organisms and insects and a fact sheet.

It's like a mini-museum, but you can touch all you want.

Musical gifts from Palumba.

Some of my friends have musical toddlers and have been wondering where to find inexpensive, but good quality musical instruments. I'm going to suggest Palumba.

Rhythm instruments are great for early musical development. They don't require a lot of coordination. Kids don't need lessons because rhythm is instinctual. And, rhythm provides a foundation for future mathematical learning, too.

Toddler music classes often combine rhythm and movement with learning songs.

Djembe Drums ($19.99 and $39.99)

Linnea got to try out the Maple Tone Block ($8.99).

The tone block can be played either by striking it with the mallet (fun!) or by rubbing the mallet along the side like a guiro. It has a very pleasant tone, not too loud. Put on some music, grab some wooden spoons or rhythm sticks ($5.99) and have a musical parade.

Some pictures (Linnea grabbed a mallet from another toy, the Palumba mallet is smoother and has more pleasing proportions. Linnea didn't seem to care.

You can also tap out a rhythm while you talk.

dum da da dum dum dum dum... Linnea went to the store... Linnea asked for a cat... Linnea said, "that's my cat"... the cat grew real big... the cat wanted to fly... dum da da dum dum dum dum... Linnea went for a ride... She went to the moon...

My kids love that game. They make do this while I'm driving. I get silly, and they listen to every word, and I can drive without distractions.

For more ideas about music with children, check out Music Together.

Keva Planks

Sometimes, we get all wrapped up in how cute a toy is that we forget toys aren't supposed to do the playing, children are. Fortunately, there are some wonderful toys that are so simple, the brain can't help doing the "work."

Keva Planks are like that. 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.) - the perfect size for building just about anything a child or adult can imagine.

I have to admit that I had some doubts when Kate of Blueberry Forest suggested this toy. It is suggested for ages 5 to 95, and Arielle is just five. I had visions of Arielle building complex palaces, and Linnea knocking them down, and everyone bursting into tears. But, Kate has five children between the ages of three and nine, and she said that her kids love this toy.

She also said that she sometimes builds a little house at the breakfast table for fairies and gnomes, and her children's faces just light up. That's so much like something that I would do. I love it!

I'll just say that Kate knows what she is talking about.

We reviewed the Keva Planks Set of 200 ($63.95).

Keva planks are available in different-sized sets ranging from 100 to 800 blocks. You can start out with a small set and keep adding as your child grows and his building becomes more and more complicated. Or, buy a huge set as a gift for the whole family. We all sat on the playroom floor and tried these out.

Arielle started out simply. She built a tower for Rapunzel the Rabbit. "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your ears..."

Then Linnea built this. Just kidding! That was me (totally fun for moms). But, Linnea was watching intently.

And, when I walked away, Linnea tried it for herself. Not bad.

Arielle took the geometric lessons that she learned from her first project, and tried them on a bigger scale - an octagon.

Linnea got frustrated.

She gave up on stairs and made a cat bed.

Arielle ran out of blocks, so she imprisoned Linnea's friend PooPoo. PooPoo didn't mind; she's smiling because she loves her little house.

So, the cat needed a house, too.

Hmmm..... what can I do with this house?

There's nothing better than a look of intense concentration on an almost-three-year-old's face. It's so much better than the tantrum face, right?

The blocks arrived on Friday. Today is Monday. Both girls have H1N1 and nobody really feels like playing, but these blocks have been out and been played with almost constantly (between naps).

So, thank you, Kate. What an excellent toy!

And, check out Blueberry Forest for many wonderful toys.