Kicky Pants Bamboo

June 20, 2012

Bamboo used to mean “pandas,” but it’s migrated away from the Asian bear market and is everywhere. With good reason: it’s a sustainable crop + it can be turned into unbelievably soft fabric. Like, crazy soft. It’s almost offensive how soft it is. It’s soft like baby bunnies’ fur – except in prints and dots and with little bicycles on it. At least at Kicky Pants anyway. Not on actual bunnies. That would be weird.

Any expectant mom will be delighted when she picks up one of the Kicky Pants pieces out of your gift box at her shower. It’s like a heavier, machine-washable version of silk. (Did I mention how soft it is?) The company has graduated out of the boutique phase, so they have tons of options in different styles: pajama sets, tops, bottoms, dresses, onesies/bodysuits, plus stuff for older kids. I love that everything has a kind of swingy look to it but they haven’t gone over into, “Primary colors for everyone!” with their patterns.

Oh – one more thing: they have pants. That might seem obvious since it’s, um, in their name, so they better have pants, right? I know I keep going on and on about how it’s impossible to find pants for newborns. Well, Kicky Pants is one of the places you can bless a new baby with a top and bottom set that isn’t a pajama, thank you very much.

Pajamas and layette sets, about $34. Pants from $20very adorable hoodies from $40 all at KickyPants.com (Also available on Amazon or Diapers.com)

Calico Elephant

June 13, 2012

I love this little elephant and bought it for my new niece as part of her “Welcome to the world!” gift basket. I won’t pretend that an infant will play with it (they’re not into stuffed animals), and I can’t promise it will become a favorite later, but it’s a lovely classic shape and a bright, friendly addition to any nursery. If you’re looking for a little something something to include with a shower gift (diaper disposals are practical and very much a must-have for parents, but let’s face the fact that they’re not exactly adorable!), you can’t go wrong with our little pachyderm friend here. Great for a boy or girl and small enough that he won’t clash with any decor.

North American Bear Calico Elephant, $14 at Amazon

Best Baby Blanket

June 10, 2012

Tea Collection’s Lotus Print Blanket

This is the best blanket, period. I know it doesn’t look like it’s that different from the thousands of others on offer for babies and little kids, but it is.

  1. It’s single-ply jersey, not flannel or fleece like many baby blankets. This means it’s very soft and stays soft and is just warm enough for summer nights and snuggling. It’s size, stretch and weight also make it excellent for swaddling.
  2. It’s big. At 40″x40″, it’s considerably bigger than many baby blankets which means Baby can use it in bed when she’s a toddler, as our daughter does. This won’t seem like a big deal right away to Mom, but it will be when little Violet turns one and can’t use any of the 1000 blankets she received at her shower.

That’s it. That’s all I’m looking for in a blanket and Tea Collection delivers. Perfect for a second baby shower or a gift to bring to the hospital.

On sale now at Tea Collection ($25) or Diapers.com ($20)

Papa is often overlooked in this whole “Yay! We’re pregnant!/Hooray! What a cute baby!” continuum. You don’t see a lot of massage gift certificates coming his way and his life is changing too, so he could use a little love. Enter Armin Brott.


Brott has written a series of books for expectant and new fathers that are practical and pithy, good-humored but still to the point. They are not, like many entries into this corner of the market, “hilarious,” i.e. full of pretty low-grade humor that’s often kind of insulting to the dad’s intelligence, to the mom’s experience, and to a couple that’s actually functional and communicative. Also, importantly for you, the gift giver, Brott is agnostic as to parenting philosophy, so you won’t be offending anyone (unless they’re going with the “raise ’em by wolves!” thing, in which case a different kind of gift might be in order. Like a nice gift certificate for institutionalization, say.)

One thing I loved: he says right up front that he alternates gender pronouns by chapter, so boys and girls are equally covered and no gender equality bristling is required. Very practical approach to a sometimes touchy issue, as are most of his answers in the book.

Minimalist angle: Brott’s observations and recommendations are also not particularly long-winded, so a dad with very little time can breeze through the sections in the few spare minutes he has before falling asleep on the floor.

Individual titles, all about $10 at Amazon:

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be

The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year 

Fathering Your Toddler

OR

A set of all three, New Father Series, for $10 (!!!) at Amazon

If you missed the pregnancy phase, just get the First Year and Toddler Years in a boxed set, also $10 at Amazon

Also available, The Single Father and Fathering Your School-Age Child (age 3-9)

The Modern Dollhouse

May 21, 2012

Twice recently I’ve come across the Plan Toys Green Dollhouse. Probably not surprising given that I live in San Francisc0, where most residents would live in a place like this if they could: wind turbine attached to a fuse box (wooden, not functional – don’t worry – although that would be a different kind of awesome…), built-in recycling and compost containers, solar panels, a rain barrel for collecting run-off water and a “biofacade” (basically, giant roman blinds for controlling the house’s temperature. You know: for the dolls.)

Aside from its obvious eco-educational components, the “why I’d buy this” thing about this dollhouse, among the many available, is that it’s not your average bear. I’ve been uninspired shopping for standard dollhouses: same old furniture (often cutesy) with the same old open-back set-up. The Green Dollhouse has tons of moveable parts, access from the roll-open roof and sides and front, and all those environmentally supportive components are just damn cool to play with. Plus, it’s made by Plan Toys, known for sturdy wood toys, so it’s not going to collapse next Thursday.

At nearly $200, it’s not cheap, but most dollhouses aren’t. If you’re a grandparent looking to make an impression for Christmas or a birthday, are on the hunt for the right dollhouse for your toddler or just love this one enough, snap one up and get that wind turbine spinning.

Plan Toys Green Dollhouse, $178 at Amazon

Who doesn’t love Sandra Boynton? (If you raised your hand, it’s all right: I’m sure you have many other wonderful features we will grow to love. With time. After we forget that you don’t enjoy hilarious pictures of dancing hippos.)

Most new parents will get some Boynton books at their baby shower and Astrid has intermittently liked the ones she received. The ones she loves though are from Boynton’s Little Pookie series. Don’t ask me why she’s latched onto the little piggie over all the rest in her collection, but there it is. Maybe it’s because Pookie and his family are a steady cast in all of them and the story lines are recognizable. Dunno. Whatever it is, they’re a big hit and will probably be a winner with parents and little ones on your gift list too.

There are five board books in the series so far and a boxed set of four of them (which is missing our favorite, Happy Birthday Little Pookie) so you can pick up a single for a drive-by gifting or as a fun add-on, or get the set + the birthday book for a first or second birthday party present.

Little Pookie. An introduction to the wonderful Pookie.

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? Silly conclusion to a piggy’s bad day.

Happy Birthday, Little Pookie. A pretty funny run through the big day.

Night-Night, Little Pookie. Bedtime prompts and hide and seek.

Let’s Dance, Little Pookie. Dance party with Mom!

Little Pookie Books, by Sandra Boynton, $5.99 each for the board books or $16 for four-book set at Amazon

Aden + Anais blankets

May 15, 2012

Aden + Anais is all the baby rage: their lightweight muslin blankets have been everywhere for a couple of years and make ideal baby shower gifts. The patterns are chic, and the size, 47″x47″, is refreshing after all the under-sized, can-only-use-it-for-six-months offerings elsewhere.

The blankets are designed for swaddling, but I found them a little unwieldy for that. There were, however, perfect for lots of other things like draping over Astrid’s car seat to block light and weather, wrapping her up when it was a little chilly and providing a clean and ample play space on foreign floors.

Aden + Anais make pretty patterned sleep sacks too – in single-ply for summer or quadruple-ply for winter – which are great for a visit gift or holiday present for a baby up to a year old. Astrid loved her lightweight and roomy single-ply in the San Francisco summer last year.

(Also in their line-up are crib linens and bibs, but I’ve tended to steer clear of those as gifts. The former because who knows what crib the parents chose, and the latter because we didn’t really use bibs much and, even if we had, cotton ones = lots of laundry for tiny, messy eaters.)

To keep you on your math toes, the blankets come in 2- or 4-packs (regular cotton), 3-packs (bamboo) or singles (organic cotton).

Unless your giftee’s parents are organic-only, I like the 4-pack designs the best (although bamboo is crazy soft). Both animal sets (jungle with elephants, birds, giraffes and monkeys or “mod” with bees, caterpillars, crabs, and little froggies) are cute and gender-neutral, so you’re covered for parents who aren’t finding out if it’s a boy or girl. Second choice: the 4-pack of “star light” light pink patterns or “prince charming” light blue patterns.

Handy as well: they come in a very wrap-able box.

Muslin swaddle blankets, $49.95 for four or $32 for two at Aden+Anais or $35-$49.95 at Amazon or Diapers.com

Organic muslin swaddle blankets, $26 for one at Aden+Anais or Diapers.com

Bamboo swaddle blankets, $40 for three at Aden+Anais or $36-$40 at Amazon

Muslin sleeping bags (aka sleep sacks), $32 for single-ply or $45 for 4-ply at Aden+Anais, or $20-$45 at Amazon or $25-$45 at Diapers.com

New parents are worried, so they will focus endlessly on which car seat to buy and which crib to get, and how to make sure that both of those baby receptacles are 100% the most safe ever. That’s good. You are not the new parent, so you can worry about little handy things, like how that super-safe baby is going to be kept entertained in that car seat.

This will occur to Mom in a few weeks when little Kenneth is wailing in the back of the car because he’s super bored on another drive to an enriching activity. You are way ahead of her: Kenneth needs a Haba stroller/car seat chain.

No, it’s not a chain like that. It’s an adorable collection of colorful wooden toys with friendly faces that spin around a string that’s attachable to a car seat carrying bar or a stroller hood. Kenneth will love it. Mom will love it, and you for bestowing it on Kenneth.

Note: there are much bigger and more electronic offerings on the market, but, as usual, I couldn’t get next to all the noises and lights for an infant + since babies will be carried around in that car seat for a while, the bigger toy bars will get in the way. The Haba chain will not AND you can swap it between car seat and stroller easily. Let Mom or Dad invest in a giant arc of irritating noise when and if they feel Kenneth absolutely needs it and they can stand it.

Haba Blossoms Pram Decoration, $25 at Amazon (flowers and what not for girls)

Haba Pixies Stroller Toy, $27 at Amazon

Heimess also makes stroller chains with wooden decorations. I haven’t seen these in person, but they look similar to Haba’s, $20-42 at Amazon

Angel Dear Jacket

April 20, 2012


Soft is the name of the baby game. They’re soft. Their toys are soft. And their clothes should definitely be soft. Enter the Angel Dear chenille hoodie jacket. I love this thing. If you can’t think of someone in your life whose baby needs one, look harder: you have to pass along this fluffiness to someone small and deserving!

A friend of ours got one as a gift and, after touching it’s ultra-softness, I ordered one for Astrid. When she outgrew that one, we got the next size up.

It’s not a rocket science jacket: it’s not waterproof or even windproof. It’s just pure, fluffy fleece that keeps most of that fluff even after repeated washings. We’re not talking flat, functional REI fleece (which we also have and like) but a little cloud to wrap up baby in the car seat, on errand runs or a chilly afternoon at the playground. I take ours with us on pretty much every outing here in San Francisco.

The hoodies come in a range of soft colors as well as stripes and sizes from 0-6 months up to 4T: an appropriate gift for pretty much any child and any occasion. And at $25, you won’t break the bank but people will think you did.

Note: the zippers aren’t the best out there and can be a tiny bit tricky to thread, but they work just fine with an extra jiggle.

Angel Dear Chenille Hoodies, $38 at Angel Dear or from $25 at Diapers.com

Baby Journal

April 6, 2012


Here’s the thing: I wish my parents had done a baby journal for me. Here’s the other thing: as the mother of one toddler, finding the time to create one so my daughter doesn’t feel the same way is, to put it mildly, a challenge. Of course, if you were into scrapbooking or doing journal type stuff before you became a mom, it might be natural and a pleasure to do. I wasn’t and it isn’t. But I’m doing a journal for Astrid come hell or high water #$(*$!!

Most expectant moms would like to think they’ll do one too. So why not make it easy for them to meet that goal by giving them one that hits all the highlights and milestones but doesn’t require them to write a novel every month of the baby’s first year of life?

The Wonder of You is the one I chose and is as good as it gets. It has a fold-out growth chart in the front, space for a few lines about a bunch of different things (how we thought of Astrid’s name, special gifts she received, read: what her grandparents gave her, and so on), slots for basic, nice-to-have-recorded info (like great-grandparents’ names), and pages for pictures new parents are already taking anyway (baby shower, first room, birth announcement). No novels required. And the illustrations are lovely.

Bonus: all the text is adoption/foster child friendly.

This paired with author Tillman’s beautiful story book, On the Night You Were Born make a great addition to a shower gift. Or an appropriate, not-too-expensive gift for that cousin or friend-of-a-friend whose tastes you don’t know well.

The Wonder of You, about $14 at Amazon