Monday, April 30, 2007

Dinos, Bugs, and Kittens Oh My!

Welcome to the first product review at the Baby Thoughts Blog. For this first review, I will be discussing the beautiful puzzles from Melissa & Doug available at

Those who know Melissa and Doug know about their stunning hand painted, hand-crafted wooden puzzles. All puzzles are made from quality woods and extraordinary attention to detail.

For younger babies, starting at one year, Melissa & Doug offers colorful puzzles with large shapes and "Jumbo Knobs". These knobs are rounded wooden pieces attached to each puzzle piece that make it easier for babies to grasp. Another great feature is that there is a picture of familiar animals or shapes both on the surface and under each piece to help young children match the right puzzle pieces.

My favourite Jumbo Knob puzzles to introduce to young children are the smaller Jumbo Knob puzzles like Fish Bowl, House Pets, or Jungle Friends. These are simple, colourful, 3-piece puzzles. For those who are a bit more adventurous I recommend the Large Farm or Large Shapes puzzles, each with 8 pieces.

For older children we offer 2 different lines of puzzles: Chunky, and Peg Mix 'n Match. Chunky puzzles share some characteristics of the Jumbo Knob, in that they have colourful animals painted on the puzzle piece and the board underneath. A great feature of the chunky puzzles is that the thick shapes can be used to play with without the puzzle board. Check out the Dinosaurs, and Insects puzzles. The Mix 'n Match puzzles, such as Farm Friends and Zoo Animals are fantastic to play silly games making up your own animals. The puzzle shapes are interchangeable so that you can put the cow piece on the pig, the turtle on the fish, etcetera.

All the Melissa and Doug puzzles are works of art, they are puzzles that can passed down from generation to generation. Stop by and take a look for yourself.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Choosing a toy for your baby

For new parents, choosing a toy for your baby can be a bit confusing at first. There is a lot of choice out there and not a lot of data points on which to make your decision. I have a 19 month old daughter, and I think I have learned a couple of interesting things about choosing toys, from the time she was a newborn, until now.

First - and I think this is the most important message to other parents on this subject - the most interesting, entertaining, and positively awe inspiring toy for your baby is you! Yes, that's right, you. Think of it like this: A baby is born with limited vision and only a handful of instincts to help her get started in life. Everything else is up to you. Baby will probably start breastfeeding almost immediately after birth and will have frequent visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation from mom and dad. Baby will learn mom and dad's faces and sounds and will draw a familiar comfort from it. From then on you will find that as baby develops she will appreciate you at different levels. I remember with my little one, coming home after work when she was about 2-3 months old, and just upon seeing me and hearing me calling out she would break out in hysterical laughter, every time. Now that she's older, it's about more sophisticated games, such as dancing, reading, or playing "where's daddy's nose?" (you get the idea). But the fun she derives from me and my wife is still beyond any toy we have purchased.

But then, there are some awesome toys too.

Let me start from the 0-6 months stage. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, multi-sensory toys are staples for babies under 6 months. Toys and mobiles with high contrast shapes (such as Wimmer-Ferguson toys from Manhattan Toy) and textures, such as the Whoozit will give baby interesting stimulation. I also found that toys that can be wound up to play a soothing song for 30 seconds or so can also bring comfort and stimulation to your baby. Toys that come to mind here are Whoozit Starz Lights and Sounds from Manhattan Toy and Fisher Price's Ocean Wonders Aquarium. There are always plush toys (such as teddy bears), but I find that baby will not really really appreciate those until later on. Also, don't forget grasping toys in many different shapes and sizes that your baby will use as a toy and teether at the same time. Brands like Haba and Manhattan Toy have some great grasping toys.

As they get a bit older and they can sit and play, I have found that blocks, Legos, balls, and other toys that can be stacked, squished and thrown and have interesting colours and themes are also big winners. As they start to stand up or get more aware of their surroundings you might find that activity tables with buttons, clickers, spinners, and music are also popular.

Last but not least, for babies over 12 months, there has been a strong resurgence of wooden toys and puzzles. Toys ranging from shape sorters to alphabet blocks, and puzzles are great learning toys and visually very appealing. Brands like Melissa & Doug, Plan Toys, and Hape Toys come to mind here.

Some of these products, of course, can be seen at

Happy toy hunting!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Should dads get up too?

I'm going to switch gears a bit today and talk about an infamous struggle for new parents; sleepless nights. (If you are about to be a new parent, get ready and read on)

My daughter, who is now 19 months, spent the first 5-6 months of her life sleeping no more than 4 hours at any given time. Don't get me wrong, we were very lucky in that she was an absolutely healthy, happy baby. It's just that she had a constant cycle of sleep, eat, poop, and sleep again. This, of course, meant that my wife spent those first 6 months like a zombie, never being able to get a decent, restful night. I would occasionally chip in on the weekends and help where I could, but since my daughter was breast fed, there were some areas were I was, well, unqualified.

This leads me to a common topic of discussion, which I have had with a couple of other dads-to-be, on the type of involvement that a dad should expect to have during those sleepless nights.

The most obvious conclusion, which is what my wife and I thought before our daughter was born is that there are two main obstacles that will limit how much a dad can help. One is work. The other is breasts.

From a work perspective, we thought that there was no point in me being a zombie too, since I would not be able to perform my "9-to-5" duties. Therefore, I seldom, if ever got up in the middle of a week night to help out. From an anatomical perspective, my daughter was 100% breast fed until she was 6 months old, so there was not much I could do on that front. There was breast milk in a bottle of course, but there is only so much milk a mom can pump.

My perspective on this has changed dramatically after 19 months. If and when baby number 2 comes along I think I would like to do a couple of things differently. First, my job doesn't call for operating heavy machinery or doing dangerous tasks, so next time around I will get up with my wife at least once a night (yes, even during weekdays). Even if you do not feed the baby, as a dad there is a lot you can do, including burping, walking, rocking, and changing diapers (yes your wife is doing all of that too, while you are asleep). Secondly, I would introduce some portion of formula feeding after a couple of months. I would encourage parents to seriously discuss the breast milk versus formula topic before their child is born. For all of the advantages of breast milk (there are many) formula fed babies typically sleep longer and formula feeding gives dad a chance to give mom a break.

If nothing else, getting up will show much needed moral support during this zombie phase (yes, it is a phase and it does end). After you get the hang of it and your baby reaches 4-5 months, I would encourage parents to read a book called "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". My wife an I are raving fans, since the sleep training discussed in the book helped us get our child to sleep continuously for about 10-12 hours every night!

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So, what is a Whoozit anyway?

I encountered a Whoozit - a soft, multi-sensory toy from Manhattan Toy - for the first time almost 2 years ago through a friend who had a young toddler. Her son had one and it was quite the curiosity the first time I saw it. At the beginning of 2006, the young boy's Whoozit would eventually be passed on to my own daughter, who was born on September 2005. This particular Whoozit has to be over 2 years old, it has lint, has been washed many many times, has absorbed copious quantities of drool, and received many hugs. I have to say though, after all that mileage, she still loves her Whoozit.

But what is it? Well, it's a Whoozit, there isn't much else to compare it too, kind of like Mr. Potato Head. It's just Mr. Potato Head! However, it can be described. At first glance, it's like a soft round cloth cushion, about 10 inches across. One side has a black and white swirl, which I assume is a nice visual for newborns. The other side has a round fleece nose, like a clown nose, and a cushioned cloth handle that doubles as a smile. A couple of eyes are sewn on to complete the awkward, happy face.

But so far, we are talking about a glorified pin cushion. The magic of the Whoozit is about what's hidden inside. Once baby inspects the sides of the Whoozit she will find 7 hidden legs that can be pulled out and tucked back into the toy, each with a textured shape such as a star, square, triangle, and circle. The legs themselves are black and white in different checkered or striped patterns, which adds to the Whoozit's silly visual appeal. The shapes at the end can be squeezed to feel a new texture or hear a sound.

All of this adds up to one thing, a tried, tested, and true multi-sensory toy that is still a fixture in my daughter's crib.

You can see the Whoozit at (of course I have to plug the site :) ).

Bye for now,


Monday, April 16, 2007

A Little PR Never Hurt

Little Canadian Internet Startup Opens Its Doors opens its doors to offer developmental infant toys to Canadian parents.

Toronto, ON (PRWEB) April 18, 2007

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007 opened its doors to the web. is an online community for new mothers and a new Canadian e-retailer of developmental infant toys. Products offered include wooden toys and puzzles, multi-sensory toys, pull and push toys, grasping toys, and mobiles. It offers cool and trusted brands like HABA, Manhattan Toy, Melissa & Doug and Plan Toys.

“We are really excited about our offering to the Canadian marketplace. We believe the products, services, and information offered on the site can have a positive impact on new parents” says Co-Founder Karla Zamora.

Beyond its offering of baby toys, allows mothers to create Mom Groups, where they can meet and socialize with other moms with similar interests and needs. There is also a useful list of local resources and links ranging from government healthcare to free and for-profit baby programs, activities, and learning. is a Canadian business catering to Canadian parents.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Taking The Plunge

At around 11pm on Monday April 9th, 2007, my partner and I "turned on the switch" on an initiative that is likely to define our lives over the next few years. We started a new e-commerce business and hopefully a place on the web that will positively impact the lives of new Canadian parents. TheLink site is called

About the site: is a place where new moms can browse for useful resources, get connected to other moms in their community through online mom groups, and shop for cool developmental and wooden toys for their infants and tots.

Baby Thoughts is a new, family owned, Canadian business that will serve a Canadian market from coast to coast. We have started with a small product set, service, and content offering but our vision for the next 2 years includes much, much more.

Please visit and let me know what you think. Your feedback is welcome.

Bye for now,