Posts Tagged “toys”

Holiday Shopping Tips & Our Holiday Gift Guide

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Holiday Gift Guide
While this post isn’t sponsored, many of the toys, games and tech included in the attached Holiday Gift Guide were provided to us for review or promotional purposes. As always, the opinions expressed herein are our honest thoughts and strictly our own. Affiliate links are included, as this is one way to support this blog and content.

It’s that exciting time of year when all the lights twinkle and there is joy in the air. Okay, sure there are holiday stresses too but let’s not go there. Back to the twinkle, shimmer and sparkle, please.

 

Holiday Gift Guide

perplexus miniWhat shimmers, twinkles and sparkles for me, isn’t quite what twinkles and shimmers for kids, but what does twinkle is their eyes when they open the “big” gift. It fascinated me what the “must-have” gifts are year after year. Furby, Transformers, Nintendo. Do you remember the Tickle Me Elmo of ’96? But did you know it started with the Rubik Cube? I think Cabbage Patch Kid gets the credit with their iconic store fights but really it was the Rubik Cube in 1980 that started this trend. The Rubik Cube was actually invented in 1974… as a math tool to demonstrate 3D geometry. At the time is was called the Magic Cube but in 1980 was renamed after the inventor Erno Rubik… the rest, as they say, was history. And while it took Professor Rubik over a month to solve his own cube invention… today we have wiz kids solving it in under 10 seconds. Wait… what?!?  And, I actually know one of these wiz cube masters, although I don’t know his speed. In today’s market you can find all sorts of variation of Rubik Cube, include the World’s Smallest version, as pictured. Good luck, Thomas, keeping your record on this mini size cube!

The Rubik Cube isn’t quite the hype today that it was decades ago, it’s a classic. Today’s sold-out-everywhere toy is the Hachimal. An adorable, electronic… oh wait, duh, everyone already knows this because almost every kid wants one. Okay, so what else is hot this season? Where are the bargains? And what’s going to give us parents the longest run for our investments?  Wait… investment? Yup, toys, games and tech are actually investments. Some have longer shelf lives than others but playtime should be considered as an investment. You can learn more about the invaluable necessity of playtime in my article found in our Holiday Gift Guide.

laura-square-imageSo looking beyond what our kids are “dying” for this holiday season and really giving weight to what we are investing in, I’ve got a few suggestions. First, consider the things that has more meaning behind it. For example, I couldn’t be more excited to gift my daughter the Laura Ingall’s doll from Little House on the Prairie. This was a show I grew up on and one that my daughter is now enthralled with… so naturally the “18 doll isn’t just another doll in her collection but a doll that ties her back to MY childhood. I remember many years ago, gifting my son a couple Transformers for the holiday. At the same time, my husband had pulled his old (original) Transformers out from storage. It’s about making a meaningful connection.

Here’s another thought, what are the toys, gadgets, books, etc that YOU are most likely to engage with. Listen, we all know that some of these toys are cool for about a week and then they find their way stuffed under the bed. BUT, if you were interested in building it, reading it, sharing the playtime moment together… then that toy or book or science kit would be less likely to meet the dust bunnies.

Our gift guide provides insight into some very cool stuff, although maybe not THE hottest gift (yeah, we couldn’t snag one either) but definitely some cool things to keep in mind as you round out your shopping lists. Take a look, bookmark it and comment below with what grabbed your attention.

 

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Some of these items are so super awesome, we’ll be doing specific reviews for more in depth discussion and detail. Look for our Youtube videos and follow up articles, starting with our STEM TEN line-up. Woo Hoo… Science has never been so cool.

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Tips for Managing Too Many Toys

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With the holidays approaching, here are a couple tips for managing the existing piles of toys that never seem to make it in toy box, while new ones are on their way. This article was republished to offer a refresher on these toy tips.

Thank you, Pley for supporting our blog and mission. This is a sponsored post by Pley although all the suggestions, opinions and text expressed herein are strictly mine.

Marissa with too many toys Profile Pic

Are you faced with toy box overflow while your munchkins circled everything thing in the Toys R Us catalog for this year’s holiday wish lists?  We’ve got solutions that go beyond donating old toys.

Marissa with toys Profile Pic

Now, don’t get me wrong… we love donating our outgrown toys to a variety of places like our local Ronald McDonald House Charity or our neighborhood thrift shop. I’ve passed down tons of cute things to smaller children in our family… but sometimes you’re just not ready to part with things.

Play time with parentSuggestion 1: The quarterly or semi-annual system. With different playsets, bath toys, puzzles and what-not, one winning solution for our house has been to select several items for use later. We’ve done this with Barbies, Playdoh, Strawberry Shortcake, crafts… pretty much anything that has a “long shelf life”. What do I mean by long shelf life for toys? I won’t put away a toy or play set with the intent to use it in the summer if after only a couple months my child could outgrow it. We know she’ll love barbies 6 months from now, and 15 months from now, so to collect them and put them in temporary storage (closet, bin, basement) for several months isn’t a wasted investment. Certain bath toys had a much shorter expiration date and weren’t put away while some of the mermaid barbies were perfect for this. The idea is that in a few months the older toys are brought out of storage and given new life. It felt like Christmas again when my husband pulled out the GI Joe’s from the yellow bag pictured above and the same for the blue bin with cards, games and such, pictured below.

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Suggestion 2: Play with your child and their toys. When a parent literally gets on the floor to play Star Wars or Transformers with their kiddo –  the toys suddenly become new again. Along these lines… think up creative ways to play with old toys. Maybe Barbie and Polly Pocket are spectators for a Rock’em Sock’em Robots match. Or perhaps giving toys a makeover with Playdoh.  Dad and Via are playing Barbie theater in the picture below.

Barbie

Suggestion 3: Car caddy. Take some of the less popular toys (preferably non-noisy) and arrange into a toy tote for the car. Perfect for car inspection lines, bank drive-through, far away day trips, etc. Also handy for grabbing something to occupy for post office lines, waiting for a hair cut or the forever-long start of a parade… because goodness knows you need to arrive an hour early to secure a spot. *Sigh* Best part – at the end of the trip, with arms full of groceries, mail, packages, empty cups, loose shoes… the toys STAY in the car.

boy girl pleySuggestion 4: The rental system. Yes, rent toys instead of buying them. Amazing new concept with Pley.com that offers a whole new way to managing toy overflow. Pley is a subscription based company where for as low as $19.99/ month parents can rent toys. pley star warsThey offer fast turn-around and FREE shipping.  Create an account, select your toy list and once a toy arrives and is played with, just return it for another on your list. Pley offers a growing selection of toys to include over 400 Lego sets. Wonderful concept that saves money, cuts down clutter and is helpful for the environment. (Photo credit: Pley.com)

Suggestion 5: Re-purpose. Old or outgrown toys (or too much of a good thing) can be reused as decorative pieces. With a little hot glue, lots of magic can happen. For instance, take a favorite small toy or doll and create a shadow box to hang in your playroom. Outgrown character toys or mobile figurines are perfect for a decorative peg board for coats/bags.  The same can be done to jazz up a plain lamp or perhaps curtain tie-backs. You might want to resist the urge to go overboard and hot glue all the stuffies to the ceiling… true story – I was twelve.

Bottom line – toys are important and as much as we hate to stub our toe on them or threaten to throw them all away… we can’t. And shouldn’t. Instead we need to find variety in managing them. We need to teach our children to respect their toys (playing with them, cleaning them and putting them away). With just a few simple systems, our children can enjoy all the benefits – yes educational benefits – of free play and quality time with parents/siblings while we manage the toy surplus.

Pley

Barbie

With the holidays approaching, it’s the perfect time to consider your current toy box situation and the various solutions to managing clutter, new toys and sentimental belongings. Let us know what your toy trick is?

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Geometric Puzzle Fun With ShapeOmetry Game

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This #sponsored post is brought to us by Think Fun. The opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

ShapeOmetry Profile Pic

Math isn’t the easiest thing… and certainly not trendy either. So no wonder it can be difficult sometime to get our children engaged in activities that are math-focused. ShapeOmetry is a family game, building on logic skills along with abstract and spacial reasoning, and mathematical strategies.

The game is placed solo or with a partner and the object is to solve the puzzle challenge cards as they increase in difficulty level. Each card shows you the exact blue and green game pieces to use to build identical shapes in blue and green. Trust us… it’s trickier than it sounds. Don’t be fooled with the simplicity of design or the preschool colors… this game packs some challenge.

ShapeOmetry 2

Speaking of packing… the mesh bag is quite convenient for storage and travel. And as Greg mentions in the below video, it makes for easy beach clean up should you choose to pack it in your late summer beach travels (it’s not too late). Either at home or on the go… ShapeOmetry offers a puzzling good time.

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Rollers: Dice Game Similar to Yahtzee With Challenge

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We greatly look forward to family game night, especially when partnered with brands such as Thames & Kosmos. We were offered a sample copy of this game for review purposes. The opinions expressed herein are strictly mine as an honest review of the game. #Sponsored  This post may contain affiliate links.

Rollers Feature Pic

Being a big Yahtzee fan, you can imagine my excitement to try this new dice game, Rollers. It has elements of Yahtzee whereby you are rolling (up to three times) to collect the most of any number on the die. There are no points for a large straight or full house.  Instead, one of the six die has a side that cancels your entire throw… clever little twist. The other 5 dice have a wild card side… helpful.

We found it best played with three or four players but you can play with two. Also, it says ages 8 and up but Victoria (6 years old) was able to play solo just fine after the first round or so. Game play is less than 30 mins, which makes it a great game before bedtime. Check out our video reviews for details on how the game is played and the object. You can play up to 5 players which is nice when so many games are max 4 players. Rollers is definitely at the top of Family Game Night list… and quite honestly our holiday gift giving list too. Have a peek…

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4 Solutions for Busting Boredom

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Boredom Buster with Pley

Boredom Buster with Pley

We’ve all been there… wanting to do something but not knowing what. Or having only a few minutes to ourselves… or the opposite: having all day and not knowing what to do with it. Our children face boredom all the time too. Sometimes it is due to over-stimulation, having too much in front of them and too many options. That’s why my first suggestion for busting boredom is a huge hit.

1. One of the most effective things I’ve found to work is simply laying out an activity, make an executive decision and go all out. This technique is better received with younger children… but it is effective at all ages. Sometimes just getting starting with something is too daunting… we’ve all been there. Pre-select an activity like an art project, construction play, or a board game.  The key is to have all the materials set out in advance, so for Playdoh have those ridiculously tight lids removed and accessories displayed, for game play have the board assembled and game set for the first player’s turn (review the instructions beforehand), and for art projects have all the art supplies handy (and perhaps a couple samples for inspiration).

2. Here’s a suggestion that can be difficult to accommodate at times: play WITH your child. Work with her/him to create a super cool HexBug design or build out a 3D mega Lego scene. Playing dolls or racing cars with them really helps to stimulate creativity and engagement. I’ve found that just 20 mins of playtime with my daughter can often lead to hours of her continuing to play on her own. Something about starting that storyline and setting the stage that really takes off… even when I have to take off for other responsibilities.

Pley Solution for Boredom

3. Now, here’s one my husband is extremely good at… getting into character. Wow – does this take play time into another dimension. He’s creative with voices and sound effects, while I would be more in line with “dressing the part”. Either way, it totally enhances the experience.

Boredom busters with Pley

4. This last suggestion is the best “break through the boredom” solution. Pley.com is a subscription based service that affords your child the opportunity to try new toys over and over. We’ve done a couple campaigns with Pley, highlighting benefits like keeping clutter to a minimum and reducing a family’s carbon footprint by recycling and sharing toys… but seriously the best and main reason for subscribing to Pley is the concept of renting toys, turning over fresh play ideas and never getting bored… and of course saving yourself from the hassle of missing pieces forgotten at the bottom of the toy box.

While this is a sponsored post, we truly believe a relationship with Pley is an ingenious idea and solution to many aspects of parenting (including investing in toys that our children too quickly outgrow).  Pley offers a monthly or annual subscription service, super easy inventory management system, free return shipping and even an option to buy if your child absolutely falls in love with the toy. Keep the rented toy for as long as your child is interested in playing and return it to receive another item from your list. See… perfect for managing boredom and sparking an interest in STEM and construction building (they offer over 300 Lego variations, plus much much more).

breaking boredom with Pley

The infamous “I’m bored” is a huge pet-peeve of mine… so I’m always curious about successful ways to keep children engaged. Share with me your boredom busters below in the comments.

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Celebrating 90 years with Madame Alexander Dolls

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Oh the places you can take your doll and your doll can take you!! Recently, Victoria and I had the great pleasure of visiting, touring and celebrating with Alexander Doll Company in New York City.

HAPPY 90TH!!

Photo courtesy of Alexander Doll Company Inc.

This was a very special day (despite someone’s embarrassing meltdown moment). But first, let me mention how terribly excited Victoria was for her first train ride ever. She could hardly contain her excitement. Here’s a quick clip of our adventure from Princeton Junction to NYC.

She was too cute in that tutu… all smiles the whole way. When we got to Penn Station, she kept repeating “We’re in the city, we’re finally in the city!”

NYC Madame Alexander Dolls

The Big Apple

A short walk had us at the door of Madame Alexander’s new building. Once inside, we were greeted with warmth, smiles and goodies – yum. We had the opportunity to hear a quick demonstration of the Dollie & Me line and in fact they had a skirt outfit similar to Victoria’s fluffy pink tutu – her “city outfit”. The doll studio held several rooms for exploration before we went one flight down to the office area. More goodies and lots of collectibles for us to admire. But here’s where the meltdown began… prior to coming we received a catalog and as such we looked thru the pages sharing time looking forward to our trip. Victoria immediately spotted the Rapunzel doll in the catalog and knew to look for her when we arrived. She had the hardest time parting with one of her all time favorite characters. I remain a very very grateful mom for all the patience the staff demonstrated while I dealt with the little situation.  Madame Alexander’s collection offers a wonderful variety including classic literature characters like Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz and Annie, and new fun loving ones like Pinkalicious,

Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy.

Toys R Us in NYC, Madame Alexander Dolls

Shopping At Toys R Us, NYC

Soon enough, we were on our way to a small shopping spree… this was New York after-all. Victoria like a big girl, selected her purchase with much care, paid by herself and managed her own bag all the way back to Penn Station. Click on the video for a glimpse into Madame Alexander’s world and our shopping spree.

And like any girl who’s had the time of her life… she just had to phone a friend and tell her all about it.

Train to NYC, Madame Alexander Dolls

"I had the most wonderful day..."

Many many thanks to Alexander Doll Company for hosting this media event and inviting us. In full disclosure, the Alexander Doll Company offered us the below pictured blue dress doll for our giveaway. The opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine. This was a special event, shared between mother and daughter in our nation’s Big Apple.

Here’s some additional information (provided via a press release from Alexander Doll Company) you may not have known about this well-known doll company…

    • Madame Alexander was the first manufacturer to issue a doll based on a licensed character. The 1930 Alice in Wonderland doll led to the creation of dolls based on characters from literature and popular motion pictures.

    • Madame Alexander invented “sleep eyes” (the innovation that allows a doll to close its eyes when its head is tilted back) in the late 1930s.

    • In 1942, Madame Alexander created Jeannie Walker, one of the toy industry’s first “walking dolls.”

    • Madame Alexander brought all the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation to life in a collection of 36 dolls dressed in historically accurate costumes. Attention to detail was so strict; the cloth used for the dolls’ robes was obtained from the same mill that had produced the actual coronation mantles. The final result was so convincing that CBS television used the dolls to enact the ceremony for their viewers on air!

    • Madame Alexander believed in honoring the people who helped build the country she loved. Therefore, in 1976, the Alexander Doll Company introduced the First Ladies series. The first 14-inch set included Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolly Madison. Ultimately, there were six different sets, each with six first ladies in their inaugural gowns. These dolls had a brush with fame when featured in the 1990s on the CBS show “Murphy Brown” as decoration in Corky Sherwood’s office.

    • In 2000, a line of eight storybook character dolls from Madame Alexander was featured in the McDonald’s Happy Meal. These celebrated storybook couples included Cinderella and Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Alice in Wonderland and The Mad Hatter, and Hansel and Gretel. Each of the eight miniature Alexander Happy Meal dolls has “sleep eyes.” This was a “first” for a Happy Meal toy.

    • The Smithsonian Institute houses several Madame Alexander dolls in its permanent collection.

For more pictures of our day out together, be sure to visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HomeroomAtHome and look for the Madame Alexander album.

Now for the Giveaway details:

Madame Alexander Dolls, NYC trip

Giveaway ends June 21st

No blog comments required – but of course we’d love to hear which Madame Alexander doll you might have had growing up or gifted to your child.

To enter the giveaway you must simple “like” our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HomeroomAtHome).

Then for an additional entry – share the Facebook contest/link on your Facebook home page.

And for a third and final entry – leave us a comment on our Facebook Madame Alexander post.

Giveaway will be drawn at random on June 22nd with entries closed at midnight on the 21st.  That’s it.  We hope this will simplify our entry requirements and encourage your participation, as we’d love to hear about your favorite dolls and experiences. Facebook is not affiliated with this giveaway or liable in any way or connected to this giveaway. Best of luck.

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Toys For Learning Fun

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I had the great pleasure of attending the The Big Toy Book Baby Palooza this month and meeting some amazing brands that support our children’s development and learning needs. It was a play date without the little ones and yes, this event was mostly geared toward parents of babies and tots but no worries, I got some good take-a-ways for you with school-age children. The brands presented were VTech, Delta Children, Mega Bloks, Cloud B, The First Years, and Madame Alexander.

Here’s a brief video of the event and then… there’s so much more to consider.

Firstly, I have to admit that I had no idea that Delta Children was so much more than cribs and changing tables. Yup – I walked in to the most colorful display of children’s furniture, completely unaware that this was the same company that made my daughter’s crib (now converted toddler bed). Awesome. From comfy chairs (and a mini sofa w/ storage) to toddler beds and mini tables and chairs… all decked out in characters ranging from Mickey to Cars to Sesame Street and the beloved Disney Princesses. The child size desks and organizers were my favorite. It’s important to have a space easily accessible for kids so they aren’t straining to reach the top of the table to write and so that they can easily sit upright for homework and activities. Soon I’ll have a entire piece (or two… or three) devoted to organization, tips and key elements to organizing your routine functions and spaces.  Every household struggles with this to some extent and I’ll be consulting with a friend and expert on the matter to offer some excellent suggestions.  But for now… know that Delta has a great assortment of solutions. Bins are terrific for little toys and supplies like crayons, scrap paper and craft items (of course if you don’t run the risk of very young hands getting a hold of them). Click here for a examples of their storage solutions, particularly the Toy and Book Organizer, made available by Amazon and other suppliers.  We already own and love the Spiderman folding table and chair set. Be sure to check out the variety of desks available including this awesome easel/desk combo that comes with a storage ottoman. We’ve loved Delta since before Victoria was born and now love it all the more.

I didn’t get much time with the team from The First Years… let’s face it – Homeroom At Home isn’t really focused on the first couple of years – but I will say this… they have an amazing technological and digital carseat/app system that sends text alerts if baby is accidentally forgotten in the car, among other features. Amazing! Talk about innovative and safety conscientious. (Expecting or planning on more kiddos or know someone – definitely worth checking out: www.thefirstyears.com)

So here’s an interesting and unexpected product I came across – the Cloud B Twilight Constellation Sea Turtle night light. Not only does it introduce your youngster to the constellations and offer soothing sounds to drift off to, but also features 5 endangered animals. It comes with a storybook to teach children about endangered species and also offers a star guide. Not cool enough??? – A portion of the proceeds from Twilight Sea Turtle will be donated to a conservation organization.

VTech demonstrated a couple of cool toys. The one that I particularly appreciated with the InnoTab 2 Baby"". This version of the Inno Tab is specifically designed for infants 12 months and up… and by “up” I mean age 9. You heard… read it right – this device is designed to grow with the child, as it comes preloaded with apps, games and programs for the youngest family memeber but with cartridges and online downloads you can easily update this tool to grow with your child and his/her learning development. We will be demonstrating this product in more detail in a later post…

Madame Alexander is a very well-known and respected doll company but little did I know that they offered such a variety of dolls and plush toys. Boys and girls both enjoy roll playing and Madame Alexander has several lines to facilitate the basics in emotional intelligence and with products such as Fancy Nancy and Eloise children are encouraged to read and play together. Growing up – one of my favorite means of play was “school” whereby I taught my teddy bears and dolls the lessons from my actual homework. Doll play builds communication skills, nurturing abilities and social intelligence. There newest line: Newborn Nursery is my favorite with life like features including a realistic weight, hospital wrist band and adoption certificate – who couldn’t fall in love with these thumb-sucking beauties?

Lastly there was Mega Bloks. Is it fair to say that I love these products so much that I’ve been actively participating in a fellow bloggers giveaway with the hopes of winning a Barbie Mega Bloks set? (Fingers-crossed, but you can enter here at Classy Mommy.) The items on display at the #BTBBabyPalooza were again geared for a much younger crowd but Mega Bloks has a huge variety of building toys perfect for rainy days or themed weeks of play. For instance, let’s take Shark Week… the perfect activity to couple with craft ideas, video or on-screen activities would be Mega Bloks Power Rangers Megaforce – Shark Mechazord or Pyrates -Shark Escape. This is just one of dozens of Mega Bloks ideas.

Our hosts for this event were amazing in bringing some very valuable information to us. A special thank you to Laurie Schacht from The Toy Insider, Reyne Rice of Toy Trend and Charlene DeLaoch of Charlene Chronicles. My good friend Joey Fortman of Real Mom Media extended this opportunity to me and I’m ever so grateful. Look for more product reviews and suggestions from us for these brands, as this is just skimming the surface in terms of folding learning development into play time and quality family time.

Disclosure: The Big ToyBook Baby Palooza organized and invited us to participate in a media event introducing us to six brands. We were provided products to review and the opportunity to demo products onsite. The views, opinions and thoughts expressed here are completely mine. We already own and love products from all of these brands well before being invited to this media event.

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