Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming soon.....

Another review/giveaway from Toys and Games Online. Toys and Games online is part of the larger family of CSN stores which sells everything from kids backpacks to cribs.

We use this owl backpack ($20.00) for ballet.

This month, Angelika will be reviewing toys for toddlers.

Ooooh... 15% Off at Rosie Hippo

Ready for holiday shopping? Rosie Hippo has given us a code for 15% off purchases until the end of the year. Just type in "TOYBOX10" and it is good until 12/31/2010.

I plan to use the code to buy Holztiger animals for stocking stuffers.  Santa brings a few every year, and it has added up to a nice collection. Girly-girl Linnea will love the little pets like this <>kitten ($9.00).

Arielle is interested in exploring Australia.  So, I'm choosing Australian animals for her, like <>Mama Kangaroo with a joey in her pouch ($15.00).

And this big, 10 1/4 inch long <>crocodile ($18.00).

Rosie Hippo carries a large selection of natural, organic and Earth friendly toys.  If you are looking for a toddler dream gift, check out the <>rocking dory ($195 on sale) that Rosie Hippo donated for our <>Holiday Giving Auction.

Thank you, Rosie Hippo!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sara's Toy Box: Holiday Giving!

I think I may have mentioned that we are sponsoring an auction to help a friend.

In late August, a toy store owner (and a friend) who frequently contributes to our blog had an emergency appendectomy. She's self-employed, of course, and a cancer survivor. Because cancer is considered a "pre-existing condition" she was unable to get health insurance at any reasonable cost. She ended up with a $27,000 hospital bill -- and she missed she children's first day of school.

Things like cancer and appendicitis can happen to anyone. When I heard my friend's story, I wanted to do something to help. So, I came up with the idea of having Sara's Toy Box sponsor an auction. The response from the toy community has been amazing and we have a lot of great donations.  Want to see some pictures?

The baby gift basket contains more than $380 worth of toys and baby care items, including a sweet velveteen rabbit from Auntie Jill and a gorgeous heirloom wooden rattle from Bagnall Woodworks . We have nine more of these silky smooth handmade rattles to auction separately.

The boys gift basket has over $300 worth of toys:

There is a Yubo lunchbox (with a pirate faceplate),

    a marble runaround from Magic Cabin
 a sword from The Backyard Armory,

and lots more.

This adorable rag doll is just one of the many great toys in the girl gift basket.

There are Holztiger animals...

Here's the whole over flowing basket:

In addition to a Yubo lunch box, the boy and girl gift baskets also contain a deck of BoomBoom cards and a gift card to KiddoTags.

And a tub of Mary's Softdough with tools.

 And,  each gift basket has 2 Charlie Hope CD's  - - and Charlie donated a concert!

We also have a balance board from Challenge and Fun.

An art bag from Stubby Pencil Studio,

And a most gorgeous Baby bath set from Willow Baus commissioned just for this auction by Down to Earth Toys.

All proceeds will go directly to my friend's hospital bills, and we do have a button to accept donations.

Not everything is on the website, yet. I'm still waiting on pictures from some items and I'll be updating until the last minute. The auction runs December 1-7, and the website is here.

So, stop by and do some Christmas shopping - and thanks so much for your support.  We couldn't do this without you.

P.S. I've been a bit tied up with the auction and lagging on holiday reviews, but they are on their way!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Basically, We love these toys...

Toys, toys toys! I have to admit I get just as excited about new toys as my kids (sometimes more so… shhhh….) Bells and whistles can entice me sometimes, but what I really love are bright colors, remarkable workmanship and new things to imagine and play. I can look at play sets and dollhouses, fire trucks and baby toys for way too long online. Having a daughter and two sons just opens up the toy horizon even more. We pretty much drool over toys around here (and not just the baby!)

But, when it comes down to it, when you really analyze what my kids play with? The fancy toys don’t really add up to much playtime. And what they play with, oddly mirrors what I remember playing with when I was a kid.
I’m going back to the basics with this review – Blocks and play "silks."

When I was a little girl I had a box of colorful wooden blocks. I used to love flipping over the box, and building a little apartment with my blocks. I would make a dining room table and chairs, a couch, a bed. I have my old blocks to this day, and my kids do love to play with them. However, when we get out the blocks, they gravitate towards the cubes and sticks they got from Palumba. (Well, from Santa a couple years ago, but I have it on good authority that Santa got in touch with the folks at Palumba.)
My kids absolutely adore their Cubes and Cherry Building Sticks. They build towers, and bury treasure, and create little houses for their little gnomes.

Both the cubes and sticks work well for loading up a truck:
As a teacher, I have to admit, that one thing I love is toys that teach through imaginative play. The last time we played with the cubes and sticks, we played around with balance, and counting.
My 4 year old is currently very interested in letters, and cubes and sticks really do make great letters!
Speaking of imaginative play, Those sticks make excellent microphones:
Also, if you need to look at something "Way far away," they are just the telescope you've been looking for!
I would love to show you more pictures of the awesome things my kids do with these blocks, but the baby kept knocking them over… then picking one up that is to his liking, and chewing on it for a bit. Sometimes he does change it up a bit by banging them together to make a beautiful song.

They are really the perfect little blocks, in my mind. They aren’t too heavy, but they aren’t too light. They are made from real wood, and are actually quite beautiful! We have the set of 40 sticks (they also come in sets of 20 or 80) and the set of 25 cubes (they also come in a set of 50). Each set comes in a little drawstring cotton bag, which I always intend to use… but somehow clean up time doesn’t work like that around here!

Looking at the pictures, you may notice some play "silks." in the background. I have wanted play silks for my kids for awhile, but I didn't want to get real silk, since we try to stay on the vegan side of things around here. I have some cotton rainbow cloths, but was looking for something silkier, when I stumbled upon etsy seller, DreamSpunKids. Their chiffon play silks are light, flowing, and come in a great variety of colors. For the first set we bought (they come in sets of 6, 8 or 12), I picked a handful of bright spring colors, and most recently, I chose colors that reminded me of the fall:
Good thing. Otherwise, how would my children pretend they are autumn trees? Or volcanoes?
These play silks can really be anything. The kids dress up in them, tie them to chairs to make forts: whatever the kids can imagine. My favorite thing to do with them is to help the kids create play-scapes. Here is our lake under construction (See the spot of yellow and orange? That's the "burning hot sun!"):

Playsilks also make a fabulous back drop for plays, puppet shows, or concerts:
I may or may not have even convinced my husband to wear one as a cape at our son's Super Hero birthday party!
(I wore a blue one!)

We love having a bin of play silks in our playroom, and I highly recommend them as a must-have toy!

They aren't just toys though, my new absolute favorite use for them is as present wrapping:If you want to add some pretty special "basic" toys to your child's play room, I say give
Palumba's cubes and sticks and the play silk from etsy seller: DreamSpunKids a try.
The imagination and creativity of your child will shine through.

Happy Playing!

And the Winner of the Fractiles Review Giveaway is...

Michelle T! Congratulations to Michelle who entered by posting a comment on the review. She won a $25 gift card to Toys and Games Online.

>Toys and Games Online is part of the CSN family of stores. The CSN stores sell everything from modern furniture to school supplies. They'll be sponsoring another review next month.

Congratulations, Michelle!

We Love Stubby Pencil Studio and a Holiday Coupon Code!!!

Not only has Stubby Pencil Studio donated an awesome arts and crafts gift bag for our auction on December 1-7, but they have a most amazing selection of eco-friendly school supplies and art supplies that are guaranteed to make even any little student feel a little better about going back to school after the holidays.

I don't know about your children's school, but Arielle's school had a very specific supply list and I was a little disappointed that I couldn't make everything as eco-friendly as I would have liked. But, I did what I could.

Arielle took KUM Correc-Brick Erasers ($2.50) and Wildlife Colored Pencils ($7.95) to school. I put a small recycled paper notebook in her backpack, so I could write her little notes to look at while she's at school.

Birds Aqua Notebook ($4.50)

Linnea doesn't need school supplies, but she loves the little mushroom erasers.

Mushroom Pot Erasers ($3.95)

She calls them "Mushroom Babies" and can spend hours taking care of them or carrying them around in a little purse ($6.00).

This year, Linnea is spending two mornings a week at a neighborhood preschool. The other three mornings, I give her "work" to do while I try to get my own work done. Sometimes her "work" is drawing and sometimes it is about learning. She learns a letter a week at school, so I always write out the letter and let her decorate it with something apropriate - apple chunks for "A", buttons for "B", next week we'll make a "C" out of tiny cookies. She also decorates a letter with stickers.

She also loves to string beads. The wooden beads at Stubby Pencil Studio are safely colored using child-safe, water-based paints or natural oils. And painting is always a favorite - the triangular paint brushes ($7.95) make it so easy for Linnea to get paint exactly where she wants it.

I thought it was funny, but the staff at preschool is really impressed with Linnea's ability to color, draw and use scissors.  We've always had art supplies available to her (I have tables set up for art in both the kitchen and in my office), and I think that makes a difference.  Art isn't just an activity, but a part of our lives.

Crayon Rocks ($6.95)

I'm totally bragging, but here is her picture of five monkeys jumping on her bed. I love it!

If you are ready to get creating in an eco-friendly way, check out the all-natural art supplies at Stubby Pencil Studio  There are plenty of great stocking stuffers and party favors.

Sara's Toy Box readers may discount code STBSAVE10 to save 10% on purchases through 12/31/10. Happy holiday shopping!!!