Author: farrah

A little birdie dropped some HABA press releases my way, and I am so grateful that he did! It’s no secret- I love HABA. Everything that I have ever come into contact with them- has been awesome. Quality, sustainable, brightly colored and engaging without any bells or whistles (we have plenty of those). So it’s nice to have a go-to brand that you can trust- be it a special gift for a birthday party, or just something that is a ‘must have’ in the toy collection.

From the Haba press release:

In the “mini-me” world of downsized objects – dolls, beds, baby carrier and garments – preschoolers get an opportunity to begin to see their own place in the world and to learn the different roles people play. Academic articles are full of the many benefits of playing with dolls. They can increase cognitive thinking and problem-solving abilities. Allowing your child to be the parent of their own doll allows you to teach them what it means to take on the responsibility of physically and emotionally caring for another person. Boys and girls improve their communication skills and work through conflict resolution as well! Moms know that playtime can also be learning time.

In addition to its educational benefits (!) each HABA doll includes that wonderful European design and an eye for detail for which the company is so well known. Their line of doll accessories for 2012 is priced affordably with choices from $11.99. All doll products are designed for play by children 18 months and older. Moms will appreciate that both dolls and their clothing are machine washable!

Luca Haba Doll Baby Carrier

Huge plus, I love that the dolls as well as their clothing (and even some of the accessories)- can be tossed in the wash.  A doll is such a wonderful opportunity to watch your child grow and mimic adult play- and with accessories like a baby carrier and table seat, they can do just that.

Keep your eyes out for these cute little people. Not only are they sweet and simple- but their accessory line is pretty impressive. Surely a ‘must have’ kind of doll to share with friends. Dolls and their accessories are intended for ages 18 months and up- 12″ soft dolls start around $28.00.

 

Did you see it? That viral video of the cute little three-year old Riley cutting to the chase regarding the way toy manufacturers steer girls down one street and boys another?

 

If you didn’t or, just want to catch it again, here it is :

She doesn’t get it. Why does all of the girl stuff have to be pink?

For as long as I can remember girls have had the ‘pink stuff’ and the boys have had the ‘other colored stuff’ to play with. Why? Well..because! It’s always been that way!

This debate is really starting to heat up too- combine this with the recent Lego Friends controversy – and get ready to buckle in. My thoughts are that this gender debate isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Adding to this debate is the question of whether or not gender stripping of toys is even a good idea.

Traditionally, toys were intended to communicate parental values and expectations, to train children for their future adult roles. Today’s boys and girls will eventually be one another’s professional peers, employers, employees, romantic partners, co-parents. How can they develop skills for such collaborations from toys that increasingly emphasize, reinforce, or even create, gender differences? What do girls learn about who they should be from Lego kits with beauty parlors or the flood of “girl friendly” science kits that run the gamut from “beauty spa lab” to “perfume factory”?

Word is that kids are environmentally influenced to play with these toys- and in essence are being exploited to play with the gender role definitions that are given to them.

What are your thoughts? Do you ever think about gender with regard to the toys you buy your children?

Image courtesy of lownote

 

Not sure if anyone has seen this story, but I have to agree that it’s pretty accurate! The Associated Press article recently discussed the influence of the ‘mommy blogger’ (I have to say, I do not like the term ‘mommy blogger’ much) and how they might be a credit to some of the toys that have been selling out this season. Namely, the LeapFrog LeapPad:

These days, mommy bloggers don’t just gab about spilled milk and poopy diapers. In fact, they’ve become so influential in the $22 billion toy market that toy makers go to great lengths to get their seal of approval. Their thumbs-up is particularly important during the holiday shopping season when toy makers hope to create the next hit toy.

It’s a major shift for toy companies, which have always given out samples of new dolls, games and other playthings to drive sales. Five years ago, they handed out 98 percent of those products to TV stations, newspapers and magazines. But today, as much as 70 percent go to bloggers.

Personally I wasn’t shocked to see some of the numbers that were included in the article- nor was I surprised that companies are taking notice of the Mom Blog Biz that basically will do their advertising for them. One thing is for sure- you’d better have one heck of a product though, as most mom bloggers are going to tell it straight to their readers- which could be a big disaster if your product only half hits the mark.

“If they like something, word gets around very quickly; if they don’t like  something, word will also get around quickly,” says Timetoplaymag.com’s Jim Silver, a longtime toy expert who works with mom bloggers to review products on  his website.

So good, bad or otherwise..they will be sure to tell you..right Ed?

image courtesy Bob B. Brown

You might have heard about this trend popping up on your local news- renting toys instead of buying them outright. Some sites are rental only, some are rent/try before you buy. Either way you look at it- I think it’s one fantastic idea.

From New York Times:

Babyplays.com, which has been around since 2007, offers a single toy for $2.99 to $8.99 plus shipping, or you can buy a $19.99 membership that gives you four toys every other month, said Stephanie Weber, owner of the company. Customers can also pay $32.99 and receive four toys a month. The site caters to children from infancy to about 4 years old. “After that, they usually become more attached to their toys, like action figures or Legos,” she said.

One thing I think of is the attachment factor. There are those toys that just seem to linger on and on and on. The plastic octopus in our house, for example. It would be a tragedy in this house if I had to ship him off a few weeks later. Well, some of these sites offer buy out options meaning that you can decide to purchase the item if you so desire.

A second concern is the ‘germ’ factor. Well, pretty much all of the companies I looked at discuss their sanitizing methods to remove that fear- as well as the fear of getting something that’s no longer in good condition. The companies Toygaroo and Toys Trunk (along with Babyplays.com) also have policies on their sanitary procedures and ‘if it breaks’ . You can see a news story  from CBS Dallas/ Fort Worth about Toygaroo here.

Before you jump up and down with joy at all of the clutter and money you’ll save, please do your research. With an idea this good- you know people are going to try and make their own without the sanitizing standards or quality control measures in place. Personally in a family of more than one child (we do lots of hand me down toys) it wouldn’t be ideal for us, but perhaps when they are just a couple of years older it might be the best thing we could ever do.

Prices vary with these rental companies. For example, at Toygaroo for $24.99 they offer 4 toys every other month, or for $39.99 4 toys/month. The plans go up from there. Babyplays offers plans for $19.99/month and pay as you go without commitments.

image courtesy of romana klee

Ed threw this news tidbit my way–how’d he know?! I love it!

The LEGO Group, the world’s leading construction toy brand, today announced LEGO® Friends, a new play theme that tailors the iconic LEGO construction experience especially to girls ages five and up. LEGO Friends delivers on a girl’s desire for realistic role-play, creativity, and a highly-detailed, character-based world with the core values of LEGO building.

“We felt it was time to test assumptions that girls aren’t interested in building and to breathe fresh air into a toy category filled mostly with per-fabricated play experiences for girls,” said Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO, LEGO Group.

“We focused on creating a play experience centered on the joy of creation, while heeding the way girls naturally build and play. We are incredibly proud of the solution we deliver with LEGO Friends, and are resolved to build this platform for years to come.”

What a great addition to the Lego family! Not that there’s anything wrong with girls playing with Legos as they are, but this just makes them even more appealing. My only hope is that they avoid the ‘pink princess theme’ as it has been done again and again. Girls love things that aren’t always pink and princess-y too! How about a CEO in her office building?

“What LEGO Friends does differently is deliver the beauty, details, accessories, real world themes and need for strong interior play that the research revealed would make all the difference for girls ages 5 and up.”

Need to know more about what is coming?  The LEGO Friends collection 2012 consists of 23 products.  The first 14 will be available for sale in select toy, discount merchandise, specialty and online stores beginning December 26, 2011 in the United Kingdom and January 1, 2012 in the United States.  A total of 29 different mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012.

See the Lego Friends website to get started and check back on December 26th to see more!

Quoted material from Lego.com press release.

UPDATE: Apparentely this is not a popular addition with many of the Lego Facebook fans.

My first classroom!

The University of New England posted a brief outline as to the benefit of games and toys in the classroom. Just in case you’re wondering what a teacher might think of this.. (I am one- I used to teach ninth graders) it is SPOT ON. We frequently used many games in the classroom- from Jeopardy! Vocabulary to Scrabble.

 

How toys and games can benefit students

Although certain toy-based tools can be controversial in school, many agree that these devices are a positive influence on most students. If used in moderation, pupils can benefit from playing with toys or games as a form of alternative education and relaxation. Over the years, technology and scientific development have changed the ways students use these sundries in learning, but the overall goal of intellectual stimulation has not faltered.

Pros an cons of educational toys in early childhood development– Many say toys and games can benefit students, but only if there is a healthy balance between work and play. This website looks into the positive and negative effects tech-based toys can have intellectually on children.

How to incorporate toys and play into a classroom– This website can give educators ideas on how to work toys and games into their classroom curricula, especially among younger students. Playtime can be an important part of the school day for pupils in elementary school, as it can teach them valuable life skills for future grades and their academic career.

A history of educational toys– Educational toys and games have been used in school for decades. This website illustrates the history of these types of aids and how they have changed over generations.

A guide to intellectual toys for students– This guide assist teachers in choosing the right toys for their classrooms that will stimulate their students’ minds in a positive way.

Teachers today are doing amazing things in the classroom. If you get a chance, ask them what kinds of things they’re up to these days. I promise you, as a former teacher- it would have THRILLED me if a parent just called me up, sent an email or popped in to see what was going on. Your child spends over 50% of his or her day at school or in school related activities- shouldn’t you know what they are?

 

 

In a last-ditch effort to get those sales in as best they can, Toys R Us recently said this about their newly (super) extended holiday hours :

Toys R Us says its stores nationwide will remain open for 112 uninterrupted hours beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, and continuing through 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. This is the second year Toys R Us has opened 24 hours during the holidays. The company will hold a two-day sale from Tuesday to Wednesday, and it has extended shipping deadlines. Orders submitted online by 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve can still be picked up in store on the same day, so presents can be wrapped and ready for Christmas morning. (Orlando Sentinel)

So with today being Free Shipping Day,  I suppose Santa really has no excuse not to have everything under the tree? Well, if you’re like me and all done with your shopping– here’s a suggestion. Look around for a great deal and buy it either online or in store for a local charity- have it shipped there anonymously, or in your own name. It will make you feel good in the process. It’s a pat on the back for a job well done this year!

And take a moment to read the press release on this one.  No?  Ok.  Here’s the part you care about – SALES!

Kicking off 112 hours of shopping, savvy customers looking for savings in the coming week will find the following deals and discounts, among many others, available in-store and online at Toysrus.com all day Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21, while supplies last***:

  • FREE $35 Toys”R”Us Gift Card with the purchase of any Nintendo® 3DS™ Handheld System (in-store only)
  • FREE Nintendo 3DS Game with the purchase of Nintendo 3DS Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure Starter Pack – Up to $39.99 Value (select games)
  • 60% OFF LEAPFROG® Fix and Learn Speedy –  Was $24.99; Now $9.99
  • 50% OFF All Nintendo® DS Starter Kits priced from $2.49 to $19.99 each (in-store only – prices vary)
  • 50% OFF Barbie® Beach Dolls – Was $6.99; Now $3.49
  • 40% OFF ALL Imaginarium® wooden toys priced $59.99 or less – prices vary
  • SAVE $60 on AVIGO Mini Cooper® – Was $299.99; Now $239.99
  • SAVE OVER $35 on COBY® 7″ 4GB Tablet 7″ LCD – Was $179.99; Now $144.88
  • SAVE $30 on Nikon® CoolPix® 14MP L24 cameraWas $119.99; Now $89.99
  • BUY ONE GET ONE 50% OFF ALL Moxie Girlz™ Magic Hair, Sisterz and Dazzle Dance dolls –  Now $19.99 – $24.99 each

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Toys”R”Us® today announced that its stores nationwide will remain open for 112 uninterrupted hours beginning at 6am on Tuesday, December 20 and continuing through 10pm on Christmas Eve*, offering around-the-clock shoppers incredible values, savings and countless opportunities to find all of the toys topping kids’ lists this holiday season.

In conjunction with continuous shopping during the last few days leading up to Christmas, Toys”R”Us will hold a two-day sale from Tuesday, December 20 to Wednesday, December 21, offering even the biggest procrastinators blockbuster deals and values on some of the season’s “must-have” gifts. With shipments of the hottest toys arriving in stores every day until Christmas, customers will find holiday list-toppers such as Air Swimmers® eXtreme from Animal Planet™, The Trash Pack™ Garbage Truck from Moose Toys®, Radica® Fijit Friends™ from Mattel and Sesame Street® Let’s Rock! Elmo™ from Hasbro®. Plus, with extended shipping deadlines and “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” available through Christmas Eve, last-minute holiday shoppers will have the opportunity to take advantage of the best deals and savings just in time for Christmas morning.

“For the second consecutive year, our stores will remain open continuously during the days leading up to Christmas, allowing shoppers more time and more ways to shop with Toys”R”Us than ever before,” said Greg Ahearn, Chief Marketing Officer, Toys”R”Us, U.S. “Whether gift-givers want to finish their holiday shopping at Toys”R”Us stores or online at Toysrus.com, they’ll be sure to find the broadest assortment of toys anywhere, at any time, all at values that elicit Christmas cheer.”

Now, More Than Ever, It’s Not Too Late to Shop Online
Online shoppers visiting Toysrus.com will find the same exceptional deals and savings, along with convenient services such as “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” to ensure a gift’s timely arrival under the Christmas tree. Customers who prefer to shop against the clock all the way up to December 24 can choose “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” for all of their last-minute gifts. Orders submitted online by 2pm on Christmas Eve can still be picked up in store on the same day it is ordered, so that presents can be wrapped and ready for Christmas morning. For shoppers looking to get their gift to a recipient in another state, “Family and Friends Pick Up” allows a customer to designate an alternate person to pick up their order at the store of their choice, anywhere in the country. Additionally, online shoppers can browse a broad selection of playthings on Toysrus.com and make purchases for guaranteed delivery on December 24 with express shipping**on orders placed by Thursday, December 22 by 3pm EST.

Kicking off 112 hours of shopping, savvy customers looking for savings in the coming week will find the following deals and discounts, among many others, available in-store and online at Toysrus.com all day Tuesday, December 20 and Wednesday, December 21, while supplies last***:

  • FREE $35 Toys”R”Us Gift Card with the purchase of any Nintendo® 3DS™ Handheld System (in-store only)
  • FREE Nintendo 3DS Game with the purchase of Nintendo 3DS Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure Starter Pack – Up to $39.99 Value (select games)
  • 60% OFF LEAPFROG® Fix and Learn Speedy –  Was $24.99; Now $9.99
  • 50% OFF All Nintendo® DS Starter Kits priced from $2.49 to $19.99 each (in-store only – prices vary)
  • 50% OFF Barbie® Beach Dolls – Was $6.99; Now $3.49
  • 40% OFF ALL Imaginarium® wooden toys priced $59.99 or less – prices vary
  • SAVE $60 on AVIGO Mini Cooper® – Was $299.99; Now $239.99
  • SAVE OVER $35 on COBY® 7″ 4GB Tablet 7″ LCD – Was $179.99; Now $144.88
  • SAVE $30 on Nikon® CoolPix® 14MP L24 cameraWas $119.99; Now $89.99
  • BUY ONE GET ONE 50% OFF ALL Moxie Girlz™ Magic Hair, Sisterz and Dazzle Dance dolls –  Now $19.99 – $24.99 each

Toys”R”Us Times Square Offers More Than 200 Hours of Continuous Shopping
Toys”R”Us Times Square, the company’s international flagship store, will remain open from 6am on Friday, December 16 through 10pm on Christmas Eve, providing gift-givers with a record-breaking 208 consecutive hours of shopping. In addition to offering New Yorkers and tourists the same deals and savings that can be found at Toys”R”Us stores nationwide, Toys”R”Us Times Square also offers specialty services, such as Personal Shopping and Corporate Sales, where highly trained staff can provide one-on-one attention and expert assistance in helping shoppers find the right gift quickly and easily. Personal Shoppers are available Monday through Saturday from 8am to 11pm and Sunday from 8am to 9pm.  Gift-wrapping and shipping (to local, national and international locations) are also available at Toys”R”Us Times Square to offer customers a convenient shopping experience.

New and Current Rewards”R”Us® Members Can Still Earn 10% Back Through Christmas Eve
New and current members of the company’s complimentary loyalty program, Rewards”R”Us, can earn 10 percent back on purchases made in-store and online at Toysrus.com. Now through Christmas Eve, Rewards”R”Us members can earn 10 percent back in “R”Us Dollars for every dollar spent on qualifying purchases****, including electronics. Members can participate in this special promotion by presenting their loyalty card at any “R”Us store nationwide or entering their loyalty number online with purchase at Toysrus.com or Babiesrus.com. “R”Us Dollars earned will be delivered to members via e-mail in January and can be used toward savings on future in-store purchases.*****

*Stores in Paramus, NJ, select stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as the Toys”R”Us Express and Outlet stores, will not be open 24 hours per day. Some Toys”R”Us store locations will close at 8 or 9pm on Christmas Eve. All store hours can be found online at Toysrus.com/StoreLocator.

** Shipping fees are applied with express shipping.

*** Quantities limited, no rain checks.

****Maximum reward accumulation during this holiday period is $50 “R”Us Dollars. Qualifying purchases exclude gift cards, shipping and handling charges and reward-eligible greeting cards, formula and diapers.

*****Valid dates may vary on reward certificates.

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TRU image credited Ian Muttoo

 

I know this is not the most earth shattering news ever – since so many retailers are offering free shipping right now, but the OFFICIAL day for almost 2,000 retailers to offer free shipping is FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16th with delivery by Christmas Eve!

So, if you’re a huge procrastinator like I am, go take a peek at some of the near 1700 retailers participating in Free Shipping Day and see if it’s worth waiting for! You can also sign up for a free email reminder in the lower left corner.

Happy Free Shipping!
-Farrah

(PS – I was not compensated for this post. I just think free shipping rules.)

 

The other day my mom’s group was talking about an ant farm for Christmas. Apparently one of the kids is obsessed with the ant farm in her preschool class- so mom was thinking that it might be something different to get her. I know an ant farm would NEVER work in our house- as cool as an idea that it is— I just worry. Worry that one of the three will do SOMETHING and ‘CRRRAAASSHHHHH- ants everywhere!’. Even if that didn’t happen, I bet you I would still have nightmares about it.

I started browsing around and stumbled across educational toys by DuneCraft. Specifically the DuneCraft Outer Space Biodome has caught my eye and it has me wishing my guys were older so that we could make one!

Grow your own Galactic Space Terrarium! This collection of alien invader plants sprout antennas, turn into rocket ships, move when spoken to or touched, and were thought to have come from space by European explorers upon arriving to America. Create your own unique space scape with the included Glow in the Dark Asteroids, color decals and stakes. Add a lunar lagoon with Space Sand and watch water turn into Mercury! Finish the scene with your own alien landing. All the space specimens in this celestial set are quick to sprout and fast to grow.

 

"These clever dome planters, about the size of a bowling ball, won raves from kids who loved "planting with friends" and "could not wait to see it grow." These terrariums have seeds to sprout four or five small exotic plants that create a futuristic or prehistoric-looking landscape. The kids also loved decorating the domes with stickers, gravel and creatures."

 

This review is courtesy of The Washington Post and Washington area third graders. I was looking for something not the norm,  and I am so excited that I ran across it. I ended up checking out the other products that they sell on their site and was really impressed.

First, there is this- I mean, seriously- how cool would an Eric Carle Themed Terrarium be???? Or, for that Curious George fanatic in your life- you could share a Curious George Themed Terrarium with Curious George’s Outrageous Farm! With prices in the neighborhood of $24.99, that is pretty affordable.

The child in your life doesn’t have to be a budding scientist or nature geek either. I personally remember being absolutely fascinated by terrariums in the third grade, and am sadly neither a scientist nor a nature geek. I did- and still do- possess an inherent love for terrariums and ‘growing things’ which so many kids do. A Hydroponic Fly Trap terrarium? AWESOME!!  Looking for something unique? I vote these- DuneCraft scores with the perfect non-toy-toy!

 

They’re almost here! The holidays, of course! As you read this, I am probably all loaded up in the mini van with my crew driving, driving, driving north for Thanksgiving. With my crew of 3 under 3 and my husband. For about 12-14 hours. Happy you’re not me yet?

Seriously though, we only make this pilgrimage once a year so I cannot complain too much. This year, however, I have three non infants to entertain and I need to know what the heck I am supposed to do. We can only watch so many Baby Einstein dvds, so I need some help. I scoured around and found these- but wondering what else is out there?

I loved some of these suggestions from Babycenter. The cookie sheet for use with magnetized letters? Genius!

A cheap 9″ x 12″ baking sheet: Use as a playing surface so crayons, Matchbox cars, Legos, and other small items don’t roll away. (Repeatedly retrieving dropped toys gets old really quickly.)

Magnetized letters, numbers, and shapes: Use these with the baking sheet to make words, spell names, or create pictures.

Sticker books, activity books, and stick-on plastic picture sets: Particularly great for toddlers — they allow your child to express creativity without using pens on the upholstery.

Crayons or markers: Markers are best for kids 3 and up, crayons for kids under 3.

Colored pipe cleaners: Make animals, people, jewelry, or just crazy shapes.

Soap bubbles: Don’t worry about the upholstery; you can wipe it down later (with soap!). Blowing bubbles keeps kids of all ages busy. Blow them out the window and have one person keep watch for the reactions in other cars. (This actually doesn’t seem all that safe to me, I can just imagine them going into the driver’s line of vision?!- but at a rest stop, sure!)

I’m also just going to have a bunch of snacks on hand as well. I love those new fruit & veggie pouches (like Peter Rabbit Organics) that are easy to eat on the go, no choking hazard, and good for them. I don’t think there’s much I dread more than having to get drive through and eat it in the car while on the road.

So..in a few hours we will be off! Be safe and drive careful everyone!

road trip image courtesy of sanbeiji