My position on toys is...
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Nativity Sets

Nativity sets are a classic Christmas decoration. These sets are built for children and will keep them away from your more valuable one. Plus, they'll love having their own decoration to arrange and re-arrange by themselves. They could even use it to decorate their room, on top of their dresser or bedside table.
I bought this Wooden Nativity from Haba on clearance last year. I set it up last night and it is so bright, colorful and inviting. The figures are pieced together, not one solid piece, I already had to glue a piece back on. But, overall this is a beautiful set. I found it this year at Blueberry Forest Toys.
Playmobil is a well known brand of high quality plastic play sets. Their Nativity Set is on the same scale as their other figures and offers all the same features. My aunt still displays the set my cousins played with growing up. Playmobil is very durable and built to last. Get the nativity and other sets at Kid Surplus.From Learning Journey, this wooden Nativity Set is available from Amazon. Learning Journey makes educational and learning toys distributed by school suppliers so their toys are sure to hold up to lots of play!Also available through Amazon, this Nativity is from Toy Workshop. This set is also made from wood. also carries three of these nativities from Playmobil, Learning Journey, and Toy Workshop.

When Buying Toys...

A couple tips when buying toys....

Tip #1: When making a list of things you want to buy your kids, divide it into different categories like: Arts & Crafts, Educational/Learning, Sports/Outdoor, Ride-ons/Ride-ins, Dramatic Play, Playsets & Figures, Developmental, etc. List several toy options under each category so you can compare your choices.

Tip #2: Choose toys from each category to make sure your child has a wide variety of playthings to choose from.

Tip #3: When looking for toys ask yourself this: Will this toy duplicate or be similar to a toy we already have or does it add variety or enhance our collection? If it is too similar to another toy, skip it and invest in something new.

Tip #4: Use any means necessary to search for the toy at the lowest price. There are some great deals out there, you just have to look. Amazon usually lists the toy from different merchants at different prices, or my favorite is to Google it. Price Grabber and Shopzilla don't often list enough merchants for me.

Tip #5: Order your toys from the same website to get free shipping and keep packages arriving at the same time. Once you find a website you like that has good deals, start shopping! The great thing about the internet is you can fill as many shopping carts as you like before you buy! So fill two or three from different websites with the same toys, then compare totals and shipping.

That's all for now from me, but I'd love to post your tips and tricks for toy buying. Email me anytime at, I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Toys For 9 Month Old Girl

My friend Alicia is curious about what to get her baby girl for Christmas. Since I know she already has a lot of boy stuff from her 3 year old, I am recommending stuff that is more girly than I normally would. Usually I prefer gender-neutral toys, but I myself want a baby girl and all the cutesy stuff and that has influenced my choices today. I love girl stuff, it is so fun and reminds me of my own girly girlhood! Alicia mentioned that her daughter likes mirrors and music.


Discount School Supply has many different mirrors in a variety of shapes and sizes. Alicia has a great playroom where a mirror would be great. Mirrors make the room appear larger and have more light reflecting into the area (not that her playroom needs either). A mirror with a bar would be great as her daughter learns to pull up, and how cute would she be in a tu-tu at the "barre?" Another idea is a vertical mirror, placed low to the ground now and as she gets older she can use it with dress-ups to see how she looks! Children love to look at themselves in the mirror!


Alicia's daughter also loves music. I wasn't sure if she was looking for music, things that played music, or musical instruments but here is what I found in the music department.

This B My Prince Music Box from Sevi is cute for a girl's room and while she may be too young to twist it herself, she'll enjoy listening to it for now.

Boikido makes this adorable Musical Table complete with xylophone, tambourine, and drum. Play tables are great at this age as babies learn to pull up and stand on their own.

The Neurosmith Jumbo Music Block is a multi-sensory experience. This is a giant block that plays different songs on each side. The different sides also offer several tactile experiences as well as a new shape whenever your child pushes it over. Neurosmith has different music cartridges that plug into the block to expose your child to all sorts of different sounds and musical instruments from around the world.


This Roller Wooden Push Toy by Selecta rewards early walkers with a tapping sound as the beads spin around. A great alternative to those annoying plastic "poppers."

Totally girly in pink and green is Djeco's Lilibee Push Toy. This cute little bird has wings that spin and a little bell around her neck.

The ultimate push toy for an early walker is the Doll Pram Flowers by Haba, which is also a great doll accessory as she gets older.

What a cute little cow, this is a beautiful Pull Along Toy from Sevi in purple.

Also cute, Dream Journey from Haba offers more than just a pull toy. The wheels come off and the little king, queen, and jester are removable, something all kids love to do over and over.


While she may not be in to doll play yet, she will soon. In the meantime, a doll can just be a lovey or soft toy she cuddles with. Here are some of my favorite dolls for young babies as well as some nice soft toys that offer a sensory experience.

Corolle Dolls have long been a popular name in kids' doll brands. This is their Babipouce doll, Grenadine. We have the boy babipouce at our house, he is lightweight and cuddle-worthy soft. These dolls are only 12 inches long and even have a sweet vanilla scent. The head and hands are plastic, the rest is fabric. Like I said, super cuddly and cute!

While North American Bear is known for their outstanding plush animals, they also have this Rosy Cheeks Pink or Blue Striped Doll. She even comes with her own little hospital bracelet and velcro diaper. This doll would make a very cute sibling gift for the hospital when welcoming a new baby!

This sleepy little Sweet Pea from Manhattan Toy is sweetly enveloped in a pea pod while she sleeps. A cute little sister to Baby Stella from the same company.

I love, love, love this new Cuddlekin Bunny Molly by Haba. She looks so soft and has cute little flowers embroidered on her tummy.

It's really too bad that camels aren't a more popular stuffed animal. But this Camel by Kathe Kruse is absolutely irresistible in it's bold striped fabric!

The Grannimals Collection from Latitude Enfant are what little girls' tea parties with stuffed animals are made of! These fun little characters come in two sizes and a variety of animals. This is Mona the Cow, doesn't she seem like a good friend to invite over for tea?

This Butterfly Rattle from Sigikid is really, really cute! What more can I say? It would make an adorable lovey, one that any mom could live with.

Made by Haba, this Cuddling Ball offers little tags and things to hold onto outside, while a rattle hides inside. Can be rolled back and forth as a game. A great sensory toy!

Again, from Haba, this Flipkin can be turned inside and outside of itself, revealing three patterns. This will mesmerize baby for awhile!

This is such a fun Butterfly Ball from Sigikid. Baby will want to explore each of the butterflies' textures and sound as she rolls it around the floor.

While I can't really recommend a stacking toy at this age to be used as such, it never hurts to introduce it early, especially when it is so inviting! This Frog Stacker is from Rich Frog, available through who also carries a duck, cow, elephant, dog, or bunny. While she's learning to stack she can wear the rings as bracelets!

My First Purse from International Playthings is marked age 2 and up, so make sure there are no small parts. I recommend it because kids this and a little older love "filling and spilling" toys and this one will keep her out of your purse. Plus, it will grow with her as she starts roll playing and dress-up.


A great pounding and musical toy, Battino from Selecta is brightly colored. Listen to the musical notes as the balls roll along the xylophone underneath. Or, turn it over and drop the balls to hear them slide down the notes. Pounding toys develop good hand/eye coordination as well as gross motor skills.

This Miracle Pounding from Plan Toys is another example of a pounding ball toy. As one ball gets pounded down below, another rises to the surface, continuing the play.

Ball rolls are a popular toy for toddlers who are able stand on their own. Vilac makes this vibrantly colored House of Balls, available through Urban Kids Play. Ball rolls help develop a toddler's vision while they track the ball with their eyes as it rolls down the slides.

Shape sorters have long been a childhood classic. Brio's new colors dress up this Sorting Box with pink, red, and green shapes.

Knob puzzles are also a classic toddler toy. Holding the knobs helps develop fine motor skills later used for writing while fitting the shape in the right place develops critical thinking and visual discrimination. This Champignon Magique from Djeco is quite girly, while Melissa & Doug's line of Jumbo knob puzzles, like their First Shapes, is more gender neutral.

Baby Shower Gifts

My sister-in-law, Christine, is an amazing shower thrower and gift giver, she always likes to "include a small rattle or something with my gift to tie in with the ribbon or put in a diaper bag," and was looking for some ideas to go along with her gifts. As you know by now, I am a huge fan of Haba toys and they make some excellent baby rattles/teethers. You can feel safe giving these as gifts, too, since their colors are from vegetable and plant dyes rather than paint. Plan Toys and Selecta also have a line of brightly colored teethers and rattles, too.

Some classic teething toys from

Salto from Haba ..........................Triangle from Haba

Triola from Haba.................. Rally Clutching Toy from Haba

Spin Bell from Plan Toys............Tulpino from Selecta

As for baby shower gifts, there is always a wide selection from fun to practical, from clothes to toys. Some nice playthings to give at showers can also be found at Look for things that are beautiful as well as playful, that parents will love for the aesthetics and babies will love for the toy. Here are just a couple of ideas:

Crocheted Ball Rattles
from Yellow Label Toys ............Fruit Rattles from Blabla

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 Sale and Free Shipping!

I got an email from KidSurplus and wanted to pass it on. They are offering FREE SHIPPING on orders over $75 now until November 30th. Enter code "FREESHIP3" at checkout. Happy Shopping!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dress-Ups from Vilac

As I saw these I yelled, "Cute, oh my freakin' CUTE!" One of my new readers suggested I look at, which I had forgotten about, so I did and these were the first things I saw. The Vilac Pirate Shield and Saber and the Knight Shield and Sword. They look beautiful!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Handful of Reasons To Love Oompa Toys

Wow! Almost every post I do has Oompa featured. But here's why I love them so much: First, they are very concerned with their toys' safety. If you go to this link you will find answers to questions such as: Where are your toys made? Safety Testing, Manufacturer Statements, and an Oompa Minute Video. Which brings me to my second reason for loving Oompa. Milanie, the CEO, has started doing short video clips featuring Oompa products. You can view these on the Oompa Blog, (third reason for loving) or buy clicking "video" on select product information pages. The fourth reason is Milanie herself. She is a mother and knows what kids love. She seems like the mom next door, really down to earth and you feel like you can relate to her just from watching the videos. Fifth, Oompa has an awesome rewards program that gives you loyalty points for every dollar you spend. With 45 points you get $1 dollar toward a future purchase. Did I mention they have double points weeks where every dollar you spend gives you 2.5 points. Hurry now because this week is double points week, but it ends on November 18th! But they do it about once a month. Oompa also offers free shipping over $65, sixth reason, but if it's under shipping is only $4.95, not bad! Seventh, I love all the European Brands like Haba, Erzi, Holtziger, Plan, Djeco, Sevi, Vilac, Brio, and more! I could go on, but I'll stop there.

All Aboard!

Train sets are a classic childhood toy and something your child will play with for years as you add new pieces and their designs get more complex. A good suggestion is to break the set apart at the end of the day. Every time your child plays he/she can build a new one thus decreasing their chance of getting bored with the same track and by allowing their brain to create a new design every time they get it out. This will enhance cognitive skills such as logical and creative thinking.

I would say most children over age 2 could play with a train set, however the trains and accessories could have small detachable parts that may not be safe if your child still mouths their toys. In light of the major Thomas and Friends recall for lead paint, I cannot recommend any Thomas sets until the matter is cleared up. Also, another note about train sets - electronic engines take away from the child's own play therefore decreasing the interest level. If a child is moving the train around the track himself he is more active and involved than passively watching while it goes around without his help. Electronic sets are best suited for older children who are more interested in creating elaborate tracks as a hobby.

My personal favorite brand of wooden railway sets is BRIO. They have been around for a long time and are created as an heirloom toy, meaning they will last for generations. This is BRIO's Jungle Safari Figure 8 Set, a good starter set that includes a bridge, animals, conductor, and car that carries animals. BRIO makes expansion packs with more track pieces as well as different bridges, engines, turntables, and roundhouses. BRIO trains are easy to add to which will keep your child interested for years.

Oompa Toys offer train sets from Heros like this Super 8 Set. They have a cute video, too, showing the owner's son playing with his set. Heros doesn't have as many individual accessories available as BRIO does, but if you buy one of the larger sets you may get some of the pieces you're looking for.

Maxim offers several accessory pieces that are compatible with both BRIO and Thomas. I love their bridges and tunnels like this Mountain Tunnel I found at Wooden Railway Adventures. My son is actually getting this one for Christmas to expand his BRIO set.

This Fairy Train Set from Chasing Fireflies is so girly, so if older brother doesn't want to share his beloved set, this one is just too cute to pass up. I'm not sure who makes is but it's adorable!

One more note: when shopping for train sets, google the set you are looking for and browse about 5 different sites. Prices vary from store to store and this is a good way to ensure you get the best price. This goes without saying for any toy you are buying online.

Websites that sell wooden railway sets:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Suggestions For an 18 Month Old

I've had a request from my friend, Ali, as to Christmas gifts for her little girl. She is in the age of imitation where she will mimic anything she sees mom and dad doing. In the next year or so she will start using her imagination in pretend play and will love household props in her size. Ali is also expecting a baby soon and with that in mind I recommend the following to help her daughter through the adjustment.

I am just in love with the Baby Stella doll from Manhattan Toy. She is so stinkin' cute and has lots of accessories available.
Some fun accessories are her feeding set, changing set, bath set, stroller, bouncy seat, cradle, and high chair. She also has adorable outfits that you can buy once your girl is able to take off Stella's clothes and put them back on. A little rocking chair would also be nice for times when you're rocking the baby and she wants to be next to you.

Other dolls with accessories are the Chou Chou Doll by MGA and Bitty Baby from American Girl.

A simple yet beautiful block set is also nice for children this age. Fantasy Land Jigsaw Blocks from Haba are fun and whimsical! Some of the blocks offer a sensory experience like a bell, mirror, or prism while others come in fun shapes. I myself love Haba toys. This set is available through

One and a half year olds are always on the go! A fun item at this age is a ride-on toy. There are so many out there but some classics include:

This Classic Tiny Trike from Radio Flyer. Which seems sturdy and wide enough that it won't tip over. Plus it looks easy to get on and off, an important feature for young toddlers.

Another childhood classic we all know and love is the Cozy Coupe from (cringe) Little Tikes. This is a fun outdoor toy with a working door that requires a lot of foot power. Very fun!

A new and hip ride-on is the Wheely Bug. These are so fresh and fun looking and a little less traditional.
I wish they had them in my size!

Another classic toy is a rocking horse. Plan Toys makes several models including this one, Lusitano Palomino.

A good quiet time activity is a set of lacing cards. These Little Hands My First Lacing Farm Animals from Alex are big and chunky, perfect for little hands. They are made of foam and are flexible, yet sturdy. Threading the lace in and out of holes is great for fine and gross motor development. My son has the Tools set which he also uses as pretend tools and Alex also makes a Fashion set that looks cute, too.

Finally, I recommend art supplies. There is nothing that will inspire a creative genius more than letting them create and explore with different mediums and materials. This process should remain open-ended, meaning let them create whatever they want with minimum input from you. Crayons are great, as are finger paints, most toddlers like being allowed to get their hands messy and smear them on paper, but others won't like the feel. Try this 6 piece Finger Paint set from Alex, along with some Finger Paint Paper.