Do you have a friend like this? The one who always manages to find the coolest toys? Toys that the kiddos can't tear themselves away from, yet toys that manage to teach in the sneakiest (and most fun) ways? Toys you certainly have never seen before. And no wonder. When you ask said friend, she shrugs nonchalantly and says, "Oh that? I found it at <insert cool little boutique toy store>." And it turns out that the product was shipped from France or some other fabulous far-flung destination. Or the darn thing is a relic from your own childhood that she somehow managed to both remember and track down online (remember Run Ragged ? Still one of my husband's favs.)
In any case, if you haven't guessed, I have a friend like this, and longtime readers may remember her as J. J, mom of adorable Sohpia, with the discerning eye for sunglasses, lighting, and all things cozy-chic. But her specialty? (Ummm…besides her law degree and her non-profit Weecycle?) Is toys. This cool mama actually "works" (in quotes because I know she'd do it for free) at a toy store every Christmas season…for fun. And since I gleefully steal just about every toy idea she throws my way, I thought you mamas might want in on the fun.
Here are J's latest finds…
J says: Soph wears these all the time! Unlike other wings, these are plush – almost like a stuffed animal, and very durable for the toddler crowd. I could see Raines in the Bald Eagle Wings!
C Moulin Roty Shadow Puppets (Dinos) – $18 from My Sweet Muffin
J says: We have the fairies – love 'em. So much fun before bedtime. Only complaint, I wish they would have made it out of something a little stronger. Its like a thick paper and they bend a little to easily for 3 year olds.
F Kid-O A to Z Magntab, $18
J says: The magnet pen pulls little silver balls up as they trace. When finished, just run your fingers over the letters and the balls fall back into place. Also comes in lowercase letters and numbers!
G Babalu Felt Tales Board (Heros To The Rescue), $20
J says: A felt playboard, great for making up stories. Soph loves to play with her Veterinarian scene. Again, there are tons of different scenes for both boys and girls! All Bablu Felt Tale Boards here.
H Melissa and Doug 48 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle, $10 each
J says: These are my favorite puzzles for the kids to do on their own! The pieces are thick wood, and the puzzle is very sturdy – it doesn't fall apart even once they are put together. Flimsy pieces are the biggest down-fall of jigsaw puzzles with younger kids (even if the puzzle is easy!). The young ones are a little heavy handed so the pieces often separate, causing massive frustration (at least in my house). We do the regular cardboard ones together, but the thicker Melissa & Doug ones will keep Soph independently entertained for a while! Soph is almost 4 and a pro at puzzles, so we like the 48 piece ones (she doesn't find them TOO difficult), but Melissa & Doug also have 24 piece puzzles and 12 piece puzzles which would be good to start with.
I Gamewright Hisss Card Game, $13
J says: Super fun game! We played at a friend's house and the kids loved it! The cards are very colorful and thick (durable), and the game is simple but can have endless variations. The cards have snake heads or tails in a single color. The middle sections of the snake have two bright colors. You take turns each picking a card from the pile, and try build snakes by matching up the colors. The person who completes the snake (adding the last head or tail) wins it, and slides it to their "snake pit" while making a HISSSSSSS. There are two "rainbow" wild cards.
Thanks, J! SO looking forward to seeing what's on your Christmas list for the kiddos! (hint, hint)
J, aka Jayme Ritchie, was born and raised in New York. She has a law degree from the University of Denver and is one of the founders of Weecycle, a Colorado nonprofit that helps low income families by providing them with new or gently used baby gear free of charge. Lastly, Jayme is, of course, a mom to adorable and lively little Sophia (who obviously inherited her mother's discerning eye.)
"Hockey?" Snort. "Don't these people know it's COLD outside?"