Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Those bees... and other new toys at KangarooBoo

The bee hive that we reviewed and lots of other cute new toys from Plan are now available at KangarooBoo. Yay!

Bee Hive by Plan Toys ($27.99)

The Eco Recycling Game($27.99)
might be nice for Earth Day.

But, what I really want to see are the Planimals. Arielle would love them.

Planimals Australia Series ($32.99)

Sorry, no new reviews this week. Linnea and Arielle have been very sick and it seems that it's my turn. I hope you are all out enjoying the spring weather. I'm hoping to find some nice outdoor toys and eco-friendly toys to review this month.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our new kitchen

The time had come. The play kitchen was falling apart and playing "Mommy in the kitchen" is one of Arielle and Linnea's very favorite games. We needed to replace it.

So, the old kitchen went on Craig's List and Mommy priced new kitchens. It was a pretty easy choice. I was in love with the Camden Rose Simple Hearth ($349.99) from Palumba.

Why is this kitchen so great? Let me count the ways.

1. It arrived quickly. Two days after I ordered the kitchen the FedEx man brought three big boxes to the door. The girls were very excited, but I sent them next door for their regularly scheduled play date, anyway. I'm mean.

2. It was easy for a small mommy working alone to set up. Tools needed were a Phillips head screw driver and a box cutter. Seriously, the hardest part was getting it out of the box. Then you attach the handles and the faucet, add the hutch (slides on and the tighten the screws), slide in the shelves and you are done.

I bet you're thinking "Sara, show me pictures already!"

3. It is beautiful. The kitchen is made of solid wood - sustainably harvested cherry, ash and walnut.

4. Look at all this storage space.

I like the cute shelves and that they finally have a separate cabinet for pots and pans. But what I really love is...

5. ...the wire rack in the oven. Don't ask why. It just appeals to me.

6. It has an oven! Our old kitchen did not.

7. The matching refrigerator ($299.99). It is so big. There is room for ALL the play food. Actually, when Linnea first looked inside she said "It's not full. I need to put more stuffs in there."

8. More wire racks...

9. And cool on-the-door shelves for jars and eggs.

How did the girls like it?

First, they danced on the bubble wrap.

Then Linnea went to find more stuff to put in the refrigerator. "How about the toaster?"

Then Linnea discovered cool thing #10.

10. The pull-out shelf that adds space so two kids can cook at once.

11. It came with milk and eggs.

12. It's fun. It's been a few weeks, and the girls play with the kitchen constantly.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Toy Garden: Play silks and more Easter fun

You may have noticed that many of my recent posts include brilliantly colored play silks in the background. You may also have noticed that I keep mentioning that play silks are a safe, eco-friendly alternative to Easter grass. This is because Santa Claus was very nice this year and he replaced our tattered homemade playsilks with brand new, beautiful play silks from A Toy Garden.

Since Santa had several stockings to fill, he selected the set of 12 silks for $60, but the silks come in all sorts of combinations. I love the colors in the spring set, so I'll say it again - perfect for Easter :0)

These are nice, thick, smooth and silky play silks that are woven in China, but dyed in the USA using low impact silk dyes. Play silks make great backgrounds for block cities, table cloths for doll picnics, decorations and nature tables, capes for Super Linnea, hiding places, and Arielle says, "sometimes you can bug your sister with them." Thank you, Arielle.

Here are a few pictures:

Arielle playing "nest" in a laudry basket.

Hiding from Dad. I bet you can't find Linnea.

Arielle builds a zoo.

Cassie drinks tea.

We are very happy with our new play silks. If you are buying play silks, then check out A Toy Garden for other Easter treasures. Some suggestions:

Bunny Push Toy ($18.95)

Wood Duck Family ($9.95)

Wooden Eggs ($3.95-$13.95)

The eggs come in various sizes. Arielle loves to wrap them in a play silk and pretend it is a nest. They are also great for do-it-myself decorating.

What's Hiding In There? ($15.95)

Easter is coming soon, so order soon to leave time for shipping.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Our friend Emma: Scientific Super Sleuth

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Dr. Thompson. He's a scientist who has come up with a line of science kits for children ages 9 to 12. The science kits let children learn about what real-life scientists do by asking them to solve mysteries. The young scientists are given links to a secret web site, so they can check their results along the way and learn if they've solved the mystery correctly. It sounded like a great idea. I love to encourage science, but Arielle and Linnea are just too young. I asked our friend Emma and her mom to help us out. They wrote the following review:

The other day Secret Science Team member, Emma, got a kit from Ectropy. It seems they needed a super sleuth like Emma to do a little case work for them.

Emma carefully opened the box. It contained all the evidence and the supplies needed to solve the mystery -- find out who was behind a devious plot to steal, duplicate and sell pirated video games!


Emma and her two assistants took this case rather seriously -- they followed the directions and recorded their findings in the chart that was provided -- they even carefully returned the samples to their little baggies hoping to "be scientists" again.


When she began the project, Emma thought that she'd do one or two of the experiments/observations....



but then couldn't resist doing another,


and then another,


and then another,


until she had completed the whole kit and found her results --


we went to the website provided and confirmed that she was correct! Oh the joy!


Scientist Emma wants to share this with some science loving friends of hers -- it was a lot of fun.

Emma is 10 years old and in the 5th grade, her assistants are 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. They would likely have been able to do most of this experiment on their own, but they lack a certain *carefulness* that is required. I reminded them often about not contaminating their samples.

The Secret Science Team Missions cost $34.99. All of the products Ectropy offers are designed and selected to meet National Science Education Standards. This makes them great for home school families. The Secret Science Team line is specially developed for grades 4 -7 to encourage scientific exploration, analytical reasoning, and literature. Ectropy also offers science consulting, experiment design, and science kit building services to help home school families meet NSE standards.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A shaky egg.... and other inexpensive Easter treasures

Are you looking for inexpensive natural toys and toys made in the USA to fill your Easter baskets? Check out Down to Earth Toys. They have a great selection of toys under $20.

We love:

Egg Shaker ($7.25)

When Linnea saw the shaker she said "OH!" in that sort of breathless way some of us might save for the perfect pair of eco-friendly shoes. I think the egg spoke to her.

When they were younger, the girls went to music lessons where the favorite activity for toddlers was shaking an egg to a song. We played a game where we sat and sang and passed eggs around the circle. Very relaxing. Or maybe she's thinking of the Laurie Berkner song, I know a chicken. Click the link to see the YouTube video :0)

The egg is made by Jam Town. They support the makers of fair trade musical instruments around the world. The egg helps employ someone in Bali. Check out Down to Earth's extensive selection of musical instruments.

Magic Fairy Wand ($2.95)

Ari preferred the magic wand. She says, "You can do anything with a magic wand because it's magic." All you need is imagination. What a deal! But, don't turn your sister into a toad.

Felt Chocolate Easter Bunny ($8.99)

I haven't seen this in person (in bunny?). But, I love Lilly Bean play food and I'm sure it is the same great quality. How cute it would look in an Easter basket!

Sara's Toy Box readers get free shipping on orders over $10 until 4/30/2010. Just use the code "SARA" at checkout. Happy Spring to all of you!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buzz Buzz: Plan Toys Bee Hive

This is very exciting. We love Plan Toys. They make reasonably priced, natural baby toys and preschool toys out of old rubber wood trees. Eco-friendly and fun! So when Plan Toys contacted us about reviewing one of the new wooden toys that will be in stores this spring, we practically shouted "Yes, please!".

We reviewed the Plan Toys Bee Hive. This developmental toy consists of a set of six bees with matching bee hive cups and a pair of big wooden tweezers. This simple combination makes a great educational toy (and imaginative toy) for toddlers to kindergartners.

First of all, the bees can be used to learn about colors, sorting, matching and for developing hand-eye coordination. My lovely assistant Arielle will demonstrate:

Pick a bee up with the tweezers...

and drop it in the appropriately colored hive.

You can change the arrangement to make the game a little more complicated.

Can Arielle sort the bees without moving the cups? Yes, she can.

It was more of a challenge for Linnea. She's three, so she's still working out the tweezers. It's nice to see her challenged.

Despite the tweezer challenge, she had a lot of fun lining the bees up and making them "talk" to their friends.

When they were done, they flew off to their hives, and she tucked each in the appropriately colored bed.

Then Arielle has an idea!

She drew flowers. Now Linnea had to make each bee fly out of the hive and to the correct flower.

She did it! Yay!

The toy is absolutely cute, but what I love that this is a learning toy that inspired creativity. The girls looked at it, figured out what it is for, and went beyond that. That is what you expect from an open-ended learning toy.

Next they took out blocks to build their own beehives..... the bees were so happy, but my camera battery died. Maybe next time.

The Plan Toys Bee Hive will be available at Plan toy retailers later this month and on the Plan Toys website.

Thank you, Plan Toys!!!