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

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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

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

Haba Toys

April 12, 2012

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of tons of colors and noises for infants. The way I see it, if you’re new to everything, everything is interesting. Also, babies are sensitive and easily overwhelmed. So, let’s save the, “Go big or go home!” for later, along with the annoying electronic music and noises attached to so many garish baby toys. I’m betting The Real Housewives of New Jersey all had big, loud baby toys, don’t you think?

It figures then that I fell in love with Haba’s wooden toys. They’re well-made, whimsical, and none of them have scary faces or irritating noises. Also, for you gift givers, they’re not sold in chain stores, so you have an excellent chance of being that person who got little Bertram something truly special.

Haba isn’t the cheapest collection out there – they’re about $5-15 more than their Fisher Price-type counterparts – but I think they’re worth the extra cost in style and durability. If you live in San Francisco, Ark Toys and Ambassador Toys both carry a selection, as will other small European-centric nationwide. Definitely support your local businesses if you can, but a broader selection (and slightly lower prices usually) are available online. Moolka carries tons, as does Padilly, and, of course, Amazon, although their collection is a little harder to sift and sort.

Haba Baby Toys at Moolka, $4 – $200 (!) Also available: older kids toys: just use their filters in the left nav.

Padilly is more difficult to navigate and has fewer sorting options but they carry some Haba that I haven’t found elsewhere.

My Toy Box offers a 10% discount on Haba and has a decent collection, but their site design is unpleasant, so maybe shop elsewhere and then compare prices here.