Posts tagged: Toy Recommendations

Totally Cute Lacing Toys

By , February 7, 2008 9:31 pm

Weekly Toy Recommendation:

I once recommended one of our favorite travel toys, this wooden lacing block. But I recently stumbled upon these two adorable little wooden lacing blocks that might also be fun for little ones! You have a choice between the Apple or the Beehive.

Little fingers love to thread laces in and out of holes, or simply explore the holes with fingers alone. The wooden “needle” is firmly attached to the block by the thick lace so it can’t be lost or easily used as a weapon against sister (although I am sure some might try, I know my son has).

Of course lacing toys promote the development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Plus kids just find them fun!

These two little ones are made by the same manufacturer as our very sturdy block that has now made it to child number three after a very hard life in the car/restaurant toy bag. So hopefully this model will prove to be as durable.

One point to consider: Although they seem like high quality toys, until I see evidence to the contrary, my guess is that they are probably made in China. If the paint makes you nervous, then I would urge you to consider our less cute original one that is natural wood (except for the lacing needle which is painted). I’ll put in a link below.

You can also find some slightly more expensive, but very nice lacing toys made in Europe or the US by searching through some of the Unplugged Toystores. For example, here is a cute ladybug made in Poland, or an apple (with attached needle) made with “food-grade” materials.

NOTE: I have to add this extremely cute lacing squirrel I just found!! – Made in Lithuania

Happy lacing!

Elmer (David McKee)

By , January 10, 2008 4:41 pm

We love this book about Elmer the patchwork elephant. In addition to an uplifting message about celebrating our differences, the illustrations are so cute!

Other Elmer books are available, including some baby board books.

This makes a great gift along with the adorable Elmer stuffed toy pictured at right (for more details, see my Elmer the Patchwork Elephant stuffed toy post).

Whoozit Activity Spiral

By , January 9, 2008 7:24 pm

Whoozit Activity Spiral once kept my 9 month-old occupied for the better part of a two hour car trip!

The different shapes, colors, textures and sounds appeal to little ones. You can wrap the spiral around an infant car seat handle, or a crib railing.

Older babies will just keep it on their lap until they get fed up and send it overboard!

Haba Knitting Mushroom

By , December 14, 2007 12:29 pm

I had one of these as a child and just loved it. Even my mother had one as a child! My daughter has had one since the age of six and enjoys hers too.

This easy-to-use knitting contraption lets children simply knit long “snakes” that can be coiled and sewn together to make any number of projects.

There is something so calming and zen-like about knitting and this is a great way to introduce this calming activity to your children. Plus you the parent can also experience peace of mind because, although there are less-expensive plastic versions of this out there, this one is made of wood in Germany by well-respected European toy-maker .

I have also found that it makes a wonderful travel activity since it is very small, light, and easily packable in a carry-on toy/activity bag. It would fit in a Christmas stocking too!

Are the “snakes” piling up with no purpose? Then here is also a link to a great book that has lots of fun and easy craft ideas for using all these little “snakes.”

My First Public Rant (Awww! How Cute!!)

By , December 12, 2007 10:43 pm

Does anyone else find it odd that there has been only one lead paint-related toy recall since Curious George on November 8?

Yesterday I was finally sorting through my children’s toy cars and trying to weed out those that appeared to be unbranded, cheap Dollar Store cars after I heard this on NPR. It occurred to me that after the recent flurry of lead paint recalls, now, during the busiest toy shopping season of the year, the recalls appear to have stopped. A coincidence? I think not. But then I tend to be cynical at times.

I know that the “branded” cars probably have as much chance of containing lead paint as the cheaper anonymous variety, after all, every single one of ours was made in China. It angered me that I felt compelled to sort through the cars. I felt helpless at the thought of all the cars that I chose not to take away, knowing that they quite likely could contain lead paint also.

Should I get rid of all my children’s cars? Should I eliminate all toys and give the children cardboard boxes and organic vegetables as toys instead? Do I need to buy a home lead test kit?

The non-profit Consumers Union tested five home kits and recommends three of them: Abotex Lead Inspector Kit , Homax Lead Check, and the Lead Check Household Lead Test Kit. I can’t imagine testing all our toys for the presence of lead paint! Have any of you done this? If so, what were your findings?

Another point to consider if you do want to give this a try at home: these kits only test the surface paint. You can check what is underneath, but to do that you must first chip away the surface paint. Apparently the lead paint is only harmful if it is ingested, so underlying paint theoretically is OK as long as your child does not bite through or scratch/wear off the surface paint.

Is it all OK then? No!! I, like most of you, of course don’t even want UNDERLYING lead paint in my house. But what a monumental task testing it all!! Every little bit and piece. Every accessory. Just because one item in a play set is OK, doesn’t mean they all are.

Think about it. If it would be hard for you to personally thoroughly test all your household toys, how is it for THE SINGLE INSPECTOR assigned to test the millions of toys that enter the US each year! (See also: Safety Agency Faces Scrutiny Amid Changes, New York Times, September 2, 2007). While you’re at it, check out the photo of the CPSC impact testing “lab” here.

And what does one do with suspicious or positively proven lead-based toys? Donate them so that poor children who’s toys all must come from thrift stores are the ones being poisoned? Throw them away to pollute landfills? Put them in a box in the attic?

I am also angry about phthalates. I learned in this NPR Fresh Air interview that phthalates (chemicals used to make plastic soft and pliable) are banned in Europe. European toys and products contain a non-toxic, yet equally as effective and reasonably costing substitute. Apparently author Mark Schapiro (the interviewee) claims in his book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power (which I have not read), that Chinese factories sometimes produce the EXACT SAME TOY with the phthalates for the US market and use the substitute chemical for the Europeans! According to Mr. Schapiro, toys containing phthalates that are confiscated and refused by European customs officials are returned to China and routinely then shipped to the US.

I don’t usually get too worked up over every little scandal. Of course if you feed a lab rat seventeen times its weight of any substance in a single day it will most likely not fare well. The media love making huge mountains out of “the latest study” and then we never hear about it again. Unfounded and exaggerated internet rumors abound and I do not wish my blog to contribute to their perpetuation. But this toy crisis strikes me as a real cause for concern.

Not that I wish to publicly assign myself a vintage, but I was born in the 1960’s and played with toys through the late ’60’s and ’70’s. Who knows what manner of unknown poisons I was exposed to and I have apparently survived relatively intact (so far anyway). But the difference is that now we have knowledge of these harmful substances and yet we continue to use them in our children’s toys. Babies, children, and young adults, whose brains are continuously developing well into the 20’s, are exposed to known toxins in their toys!

OK, I’d better stop here or this rant will turn really ugly. If you have the stomach for it, here are the links to the stories that set me off:

NPR: Testing Toys for Lead (December 6th)
NPR’s Fresh Air: Mark Shapiro – Exposing a Toxic US Policy (November 26th)


You have got to take a few minutes and watch this parody cartoon from Consumers Union that helps explain the toy problem:

Not in My Cart

(Via this link, if you wish, you can also send an email letter to your local Senators in support of S. 2045, The Consumer Product Safety Reform Act of 2007.)

If you are interested in putting links on your blog to the Consumers Union’s campaigns, including the promotion of toy safety, then you can click here to access their Blog Tool Kit.

And finally, here is a list of 12 Toy Shopping Tips for a Safer Holiday from Consumer Reports.

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