My position on toys is...
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Balancing Act

Balance and coordination are an important part of a child's development. Children who are more active and are better in these areas often participate in more physical activities like sports or dance. Excelling and participating in these activities leads to high self-esteem in children. When children have a healthy outlet for energy they are able to concentrate and do better in school. Spinning, hopping, and jumping are how children learn balance and coordination. Below I have listed equipment that helps children attain balance and coordination skills while promoting an active lifestyle.
This is the Bilibo from Growing Tree Toys. It is so open-ended, it can be used as just about anything a child can dream up. Perfectly sized for a child to sit in, he or she can spin and spin!

I remember when my uncle made my cousin a balance board for Christmas one year, I was so jealous! Here is the Alex Monkey Balance Board from My Story House Toys.

Remember your teeter-totter or see-saw? "Teeter-totter bread and water, wash your hands in dirty water..." you would chant as you see-sawed back and forth. My brother and I loved ours when we were young. Here is a great alternative to plastic ones. The Small Paul Log Rocker from Modern Seed.

If the see-saw above is too bulky or expensive, have no fear, IKEA is here! Their Vippig Seesaw is more affordable and has a super cool design!

Are your kids bouncing off the walls? Now they don't have to. This First Jumper from Back to Basics is what they need to get the wiggles out! The handle bar is a nice safety feature.

These Alex Monster Clompers will be a fun challenge as children learn to walk with help from their hands pulling the rope.

This is such a cool concept! This is the Skuut bike, engineered in Sweeden. It teaches children to ride a bike without training wheels by allowing them to learn balancing techniques later needed on a real bike.

Another innovative toy from IKEA, the Snurrig Spin Around. A child sits on it and spins them self around. This model is nice because it is easier to store without the bulky, odd-shaped handle.

This is the classic Spin Around, from Back to Basics. Kids will have lots of fun dizzying themselves up on this!

A Pogo Stick is a great way for kids to learn balance. Think of all the work it takes to just stay on it, yet alone bounce around on it. This is also a classic toy from Back to Basics.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vehicle Building Sets

Motor Works from Discovery Toys has been my son's favorite Christmas present so far. My mom let him open this early and he has played with it for hours every day since he got it. At first I thought he would be frustrated and need a lot of help getting the pieces together, but he doesn't. He is able to do it all on his own, and rather quickly, too. What I like about this set is that it has it's own carrying case, making clean-up and transporting it easy. Also there are enough pieces that he can have all 3 vehicles constructed at the same time. Plus, this set has a drill that really works to take the screws in and out! He loves it!

Another similar set, this one is made by International Playthings in their TOMY devision. It is called Constructables and I found it on Amazon. The nice thing about this set is there are no screws, the pieces snap together. Another bonus with this set, it is more open-ended, meaning the child can create any vehicle using any of the pieces, there is no wrong or right way to put them together. It also comes with a motorized battery pack to make the vehicles go on their own. The downside to this set is that there are only enough pieces to have one vehicle built at a time. I love International Playthings, though, their toys are really durable!

Djeco, a French company, is the manufacturer of this Super Builder Set I found on Moolka's website. This set comes with instruction cards that look easy enough for a child to follow. I like this set because you get enough cars for a race! I love wooden toys and Djeco is a great brand.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Toy Kitchen Sets

In response to Stacie, who asked which kitchen I ended up getting from my post "When a Toy Does Less, a Child Does More."
I ended up getting this Sink/Stove combo made by Small World Toys. It's held up really well, my son and his cousins climb on it all the time and it shows no signs of wear & tear. I ended up with that one because my locally owned toy shop carried it, and I had a 15% coupon and I didn't have to pay for shipping. Also, I could add the matching refrigerator later. I had seen this set carried in a school supply catalog, so I knew if they were selling it to schools, it had to be durable and I wanted it to last. Also, it was simple in design and gender neutral, like all kitchens listed below.

I love the Plan Toys kitchen sets, they had not come out when I was looking, otherwise I probably would have gone with a couple of those. The refrigerator has an ice tray that actually works to dispense ice cubes!

That being said, I did almost buy the Vilac/WH Swiss Toys/Educo kitchen (I've seen it listed under all three names). The nice thing about this one, is it comes with some play food/accessories. On the left, Grand Cuisine Play Kitchen from Oliebollen and on the right, My European Counter Kitchen from Willow Tree Toys, a little smaller in size. But, if you're looking for play food, Oompa and Moolka have the best selection of Haba food items.

Good luck deciding, Stacie. I think any kitchen you go with, you'll be pleased. All three are great, well known brands. What it comes down to is preference in style, really. Let us know what you get and give us your review on it. I'll post it for everyone to see!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alternatives to Disney Princesses

Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with the Disney Princesses. I grew up loving Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine and Aurora myself! But, when I read Chapter 6 "The Princess Lifestyle" in the book "Buy, Buy Baby" I got a little miffed at Disney for creating such an empire around the princesses. So, I decided to see what was out there as an alternative to Disney. I found plenty! So, instead of putting money into "fad" princess items, invest in some royalty-worthy princess paraphernalia your daughter can pass on to her daughter!

Below are several options in the categories: dress-ups, play set palaces, dolls and figures, furniture, arts & crafts, books, accessories, puzzles, and games.


Royal Princess Dress from Chasing Fireflies

Princess Collection Dress Up Trunk Wardrobe through Amazon
These dress-ups resemble the Disney Princess costumes
but don't carry the Disney brand name.

Pink/Gold Princess dress available on Amazon

Enchanting Princess Costume also through Amazon

Belle Deluxe Dress Up Costume, again does not carry Disney name

Ultimate Tea Party Set with Accessories
If you want to go for the ultimate in princess dress-up,
here is an all inclusive set without the Disney name.

Since every princess needs a castle, the Princess Pop Up Castle
from Amazon is a perfect hide-out for her majesty

Cranium Giggle Gear Fancy Fairy Dress-Up Toy
from Growing Tree Toys

Rub a Dub Princess in the Tub wand and mirror
by Alex Toys from Kidsurplus

Gold Heart Wand from Chasing Fireflies

Gold Sparkle Shoes from Chasing Fireflies

Sparkling Tiara also from Chasing Fireflies

Elbow Length Gloves through Amazon

Velvet Dress-Up Crown from Kidsurplus

Sarah's Silks Reversible Crown from Blueberry Forest Toys

Damsel Hat from Kidsurplus

Little Princess Large Tea Set by Mudpie through Amazon

Princess Tea Set by Royal Fantasy available on Amazon

Play Set Palaces

This Enchanted Palace Play Set by I-Play
is marked 18 months up for the younger set.
Available at Growing Tree Toys

Folding Princess Castle by Melissa & Doug
is also from Growing Tree Toys

This is Papo's 3 Wishes Fairy Castle,
again from Growing Tree Toys

Princess Palace by Top Shelf Holdings is available through Amazon

The Magic Castle by Playmobil is offered at Kidsurplus

Dolls and Figures

Princess Elise Magnetic Dress-Up Toy by Melissa & Doug
from Growing Tree Toys

Imaginetics Pretty Princesses magnetic play set,
perfect for travel or quiet play
is available through Kidsurplus

This is Prinzessima from Sigikid available at Maukilo

Princess Seraphina by Groovy Girls is from Growing Tree Toys

A Day in Fantasyland and A Day at the Castle
are Puppettos from Manhattan Toy are also available at
Growing Tree Toys

A good alternative to Barbies, this is Princess Karina Grace
by Only Hearts Club from Growing Tree Toys

Topsy Turvy Dolls

Beauty and the Beast

These Topsy-Turvy Dolls are from North American Bear Company.
Turn the skirt over and the doll becomes someone else!
I found the best selection at


I am so in love with this vanity!
Beauty Salon with Stool from Educo
is available from Oompa
Here's another vanity, this Princess Table from KidKraft
is at Growing Tree Toys

Another piece in KidKraft's Princess line, the Princess Bed

Guidecraft Princess Carriage Toy Box also at Growing Tree Toys

Another storage solution is the Fairy Tale Castle Storage from Haba

For added decor, try this Up in the Castle Growth Chart
by eeBoo, available on Amazon

Arts & Crafts

Alex Sticky Foam Princess offered at Kidsurplus

Also at Kidsurplus, Decorate Your Own Princess Mirror
by Melissa & Doug

Picture Me a Princess to go with Do A Dot Markers
both from Growing Tree Toys

Little Princess from Hama available at Moolka


A Touch & Feel Board Book for Younger Princesses
That's not my Princess by Fiona Watt


Both available from Rabbit and Duck are the
Moolka carries Sigikid's Little Princess Line

From Melissa & Doug, Princess Dress-up Mix and Match at Kidsurplus

The Princess and Her Frog by Djeco, at MoolkaOompa has this Romantic Castle Puzzle from Djeco

By Djeco, Rose the Princess Puzzle , found at OompaQueen of Hearts Jigsaw Puzzle from Djeco also from Oompa

Princess Magnetic Puzzle by Haba, available at Moolka


Princess Mix & Match Game by Ravensburger, through Amazon

Princess Rummy by Haba is available at Moolka

Rabbit and Duck has Haba's Princess Jewel Game

I found Princess Charming Board Game at Growing Tree Toys

From Moolka, Princess Sleeping Beauty from Haba

Haba Sleeping Princess and the Pea Game offered at Blueberry Forest Toys

Once Upon a Time matching game by eeBoo
from Silly Dilly Tot Spot