Wednesday, March 24

What's in Your Easter Eggs?

It's almost time for that little bunny to hop into our homes and leave goodies in baskets. And if your kids are anything like mine, they love searching for the plastic eggs filled with treasures that said bunny will hide. I don't mind this delightful game, but it is a challenge. I don't like it when the Eater Bunny fills the eggs with just candy But the challenge to find fun, inexpensive, small items that will fit into those eggs requires some help. Here are some of the ideas that I've come up with. I'd love to hear from others out there: What's in your Easter eggs?

1. marbles
2. polished stones (I separate a bag into several eggs)
3. sticky stones
4. Japanese puzzle erasers
5. robot erasers
6. caps for cap bomb dropper
7. refill rocket balloons (roll a couple up per egg)
8. coins
9. stickers
10. hair clips/bows
11. fun socks (it's a tight fit, but if you roll a kid's pair tightly enough, you can get them to fit)
12. fun underwear (a three pack will fill 3 eggs! We have TTE undies in stock!)
13. play tattoos
14. ice cream lip gloss (so cute, comes in the shape of an ice cream cone!)
15. Chinese jump rope
16. glitter popper (one of those rubber toys you turn inside out and wait for it to pop!)
17. mini kaleidoscope
18. shark teeth
19. arrowhead
20. mood ring

Friday, March 12

Understanding Toy Age Ratings

At Lake Wobegon, "all the children are above average." I love this line from A Prairie Home Companion because it states what we all believe about the children we love. As we should, I might add! But we need to guard against letting this opinion influence our choice of toys too much. We might think that Johnny is ready for the 3+ toys because he's so bright, but we might want to reconsider.

We all know that all toys come with an age recommendation. Still I get many questions about why one toy gets a rating for under age 3, while another is for 3 and above. Indeed, it is this age group that I see people struggle with the most. The under 3 toys can seem "too easy" or "to baby-ish." And the above 3 toys seem more appealing because the child can "grow" with it. While the temptation to buy up an age is understandable, it's not always the safest choice.

First I would like to clarify that all toys for kids under age 12 go through vigorous testing. All toys must be made with non-toxic paints, inks, and fillers. There are significant, differences, however, between toys approved for the younger age groups. The CPSC lists in more detail the criteria for the different age ratings, but to simplify, there are two main differences between toys for the under 3 rating and those for the 3 and above. To be approved for children UNDER the age of 3, the toy must:

(1) be unbreakable to a great degree, even with some abuse. (Think about Johnny dropping it repeatedly or banging it on the table.)
(2) contain NO small parts or pieces that could become lodged in the throat. No exceptions. If one piece is small enough, then the rating must be raised to a higher age.

In contrast, toys for 3 and above just have to label that they contain choking hazards. Toys can get this rating for containing just one piece, either externally or internally, that could get lodged in the throat. Likewise, if a toy can shatter into small pieces when broken, it can require this higher age rating. The ratings at these ages have little to do with the abilities of the child, in other words.

So should people never buy a 3+ toy for a child under the age of three? Only the parents can decide their comfort level for sure. But each individual toy and child should be taken into consideration. One strategy would be to remove the tiny pieces from the set until the child is older. This tactic is common with sets like Calico Critters and play foods which appeal to all ages but contain small pieces. Another approach would be to keep toys in question out of the child's reach. Then they child has to ask for assistance to play with it. Puzzles and building toys work well with younger children when they are supervised while exploring them.

We hope this information helps keep all our above average children safely and happily playing.

Thursday, March 4

Birthday Gift Ideas for $15 and Under

This time of year always starts to feel like "Birthday Party Season" to me. Now that Christmas is far enough behind us and the snow is starting to melt (even if just a little), people are throwing birthday bashes again. Indeed, I wrap many gifts on Saturdays and Sundays for families in route to the party.

A customer said to me last weekend, though, that she was embarrassed to ask for my help because she could only spend $15 on a birthday gift. She also commented that she was sure we wouldn't have much in that price range. I was happy to show her how many options we have for gifts $15 and under! And for the record, I think that's a generous gift amount for classmates. Just think, if your child gets invited to 5 parties in the year, that's $75! We understand how quickly gifts for friends add up!

So I thought I'd share a few examples of fun gifts for $15 and under.

1. Stomp Rockets ($14.99): Great active fun for boys or girls! The soft foam rockets fly into the sky when a kid stomps on the launch pad. Fun alone or with a friend. For ages 3 and up.

2. Potato Spud Gun ($3.99): This gift can be fun to give an older boy. Get two guns (it will be more fun to play with a friend), a few potatoes, and wrap them up in a box together. They will never guess what's inside! Best for ages 5 and up.

3. Water Flutes ($14.99): My kids love these! Kids can make music in the tub! A great gift for the 3-7 crowd.

4. Pass the Pigs ($14.99): What a fun spin on a dice game for kids 8 and up! Instead of rolling dice, roll little pigs to get your score!

5. Various Stamp Sets ($11.99): Choose from dinosaurs, horses, and others. This gift works for a large age range since it is open-ended and creative. Younger kids will enjoy making pictures to hang on the fridge, while older kids can use them to make cards, book marks, etc.

6. Porcelain Tea Set ($14.99): A nice, classic toy, beautifully painted with pink butterflies.

7. Silly Bandz ($4.99): These are the new craze. One pack has 24 uniquely shaped rubber band bracelets. Shopping for a dinosaur lover? Get the dinosaur pack with a small Schleich dinosaur ($6.99). Shopping for a girl? Get the spring mix and a few Japanese puzzle erasers ($1.25) to go with them.

8. Butterfly Mobile Craft Kit ($13.99): This beautiful craft project will add sparkle to a kid's room for years to come! For the 7 and up crowd.

9. Metal Locking Toy Cash Box ($14.99): It really locks with a combination and key. What a great place to store one's diary, eraser collection, or anything else special. Ages 5 and up.

10. Rocket Balloons and Pump ($12.99): I'm not really sure why these are so fun, but they really are! Use the balloon pump to fill up the rocket balloons, pinch the bottom, count off, and let them go! The balloons whistle and whirl around on release. Great fun, active play indoors or out as kids chase and retrieve the balloons. Refill packs of balloons are only $5.99. Ages 5 and up.

We also have games and large sticker books and infant toys in this price range. So don't be embarrassed to ask us! And we'll happily wrap it for free so you can get to the party on time.