Friday, December 30, 2011

Toy Spotlight - Plan Toys Dollhouses and Accessories

A Dollhouse is one of those classic toys that has been loved by children throughout the ages. I remember playing with my dollhouse for hours and would shut myself up in my room after school and enter an imaginary world that I created. In the past, dollhouses have been thought of as a 'girl' toy when it really should not be. Dollhouses are toys for all children as it is an amazing toy that really promotes a child's creativity and imagination. Promoting creativity in children is very important as it gets them using their problem solving skills and think of new things and ways to do things.

Imaginative play is also very important, it gives children the opportunity to make up their own stories, scenarios and games, it's a great way for them to make sense of their world. Dollhouses, as well as kitchen play allows them to take real world items and gives them the power to do with them as they want. If they want to have a bed in the washroom they can do that, or perhaps they want to have a toilet in the bedroom to make it easier to go, who knows, only they do.

Dollhouses have certainly come a long way from the very fancy and delicate ones of Victorian times to the flimsy, plastic ones of recent years. I would recommend that whatever dollhouse you get your child, it should be a strong one, as you don't want to be worried about them breaking them and they should be allowed to play with it in the way that they want to without fear of it being damaged.

I also feel really strongly that dollhouses are not just a girl toy, boys love to play with dollhouses and they should not be deprived of the great play experience, if it is a toy that they would enjoy. For this reason I love the Plan Toys doll houses, I love that they are not gender specific, they are not girly in any way. They are also extremely strong and sturdy and will certainly withstand a good play.

Though we have had the dollhouses for some time now, I saw a Plan Toys Chalet house built a couple of months ago at a friend's house. She has three children, two boys and a girl and they all love the house and given the state of the playroom it was very much played with. When I saw the house on a table, my mouth just dropped, I had not realized just how beautiful it was. I was taken aback by how big it was and how solid all the furniture pieces were. Plan Toys really cares about the quality of the craftsmanship and the attention to detail of all their toys.

At we carry three Plan Toys Dollhouses and many accessories that will complement any house that you may have.

The Chalet Dollhouse from Plan Toy consists of 2 units that can be arranged in a multitude of ways. This furnished version comes with 19 pieces of miniature doll house furniture so all you need to add is a family and the fun begins.

Hours of imaginative play await. This is a modern open concept dollhouse built to last.Link

Features of the Furnished Chalet Dollhouse by Plan Toy include:

- Large Doll House Unit with 3 levels for play

- Small Doll House Unit with 2 levels for play

- Skylight roofing

- 2 movable staircases

- Accessibility from all sides

Green Eco Dollhouse:

This award winning doll house's energy efficient design includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel and electric inverter for generating electricity, a rain barrel for collecting rain, a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading, and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation. Also, recycling bins are included in the set.

Playtime Ideas

The Green Eco Dollhouse is designed to help children learn how to live in harmony with nature. Children will learn how appliances in the Green Doll house assist their daily life without damaging the environment. They will also learn how electricity can be generated from alternative natural sources such as the sun and wind.

The dollhouse is divided into several rooms which children can customize with furniture and accessories.

Accessories for Kitchen and Tableware:

Accessories include a selection of different kitchen utensils to decorate the Plan Dollhouse.

The set contains 28 assorted play pieces, such as a microwave, a coffee maker, pot, pans, glasses, bowls, and more.

Modern Wooden Doll Family:

This Doll Family is constructed with solid wooden heads and soft wire bodies that can bend and flex into any position. With moveable arms and legs, these dolls are sure to provide hours of fun for your little one.

This is just a small selection of what we carry for dollhouses and accessories, we also have a complete furniture set, accessories for the Living room and bedroom which include little tiny lamps, plants, books and more, as well as other doll family sets. To see our complete collection just visit our Dollhouses category.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011's Weekly Toy Box

I am adding a new weekly section for the blog, it will go up every Monday and it will feature the three toys in our Toy Box.

A new set of toys will be added every week at discounts of up to 60% off!

Week of December 26, 2011:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Game's On - Introducing Board Games

I love family game night, I loved it as a kid and now I love that it is something we have incorporated in our family. We introduced board games to my daughter when she was four years old. We went all out and got Monopoly, Sorry, Mouse Trap, and Scrabble Junior.

Though I love board games, I feel strongly that not all games are created equal. When looking for a game to add to your collection there are some important things to keep in mind. This is specially true when the age range of the players is significant, say parents and their preschoolers. You want to make sure you choose a game that you will both enjoy playing after the 100th time, because unless there are other children who will be available to play the game, it will most likely be the parents who will be the other player. I made the mistake of getting Cherry Orchard for my daughter as a first board game and now I am quite over it to put it mildly.

A good board game will be one that will challenge your child, if it is too easy they will be bored of it quickly. It's fine if you have to modify it so that they are able to play it and enjoy it, this will mean that as their skill level increases the game is still interesting and challenging. A game should promote things like critical thinking, problem solving, basic language or math skills, creativity and imagination.

Games are also great tools to introduce the concept of winning and loosing to your child. At first, expect that they will be upset when they loose and though you don't want to get into an intense competition with your preschooler, it is important that they start understanding that in games there are those who win and those who loose.

As well, games teach young children about following rules, cheating, taking turns, cooperation. All very important life skills that they will certainly need as they go into school. As parents, this is a great time to start introducing certain vocabulary to our children around following rules, cheating and taking turns and its important to help them communicate and understand their feelings about each of them.

The most important thing about a game night is that you spend it together as a family and you can use it as an opportunity to be together and have great conversations with your children.

What are yours and your child(ren)'s favourite board games?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gift Guide - Newborns

I thought I would put together a very simple and easy list of great toy ideas to get the new baby in your life. Though you may think that your newborn does not really play at such a young age, they are in fact absorbing their surroundings and getting to know the new world they live in. This is why it is very important that you stimulate all their senses and promote exploration.

Newborns are only able to see up to 12 inches away and what they see is blurry, they are drawn to faces, as well as high contrast images and colours. They do not have control of their motor skills but at around two months they will begin to discover their hands and begin to grasp objects. Newborns have a great sense of smell, sound and touch.

Given what we know about the world of a newborn, there are great toys that will encourage their development and allow them to learn about their surroundings.

A Mobile is a wonderful first toy, as it is just the right distance for baby to see. It promotes the development of baby's eyes, their ears if they have music, and brain, as baby is makes connections between what they see and hear. A great mobile is the Wimmer Ferguson Infant Stim Mobile, because it has high contrast colour images which newborns find attractive and parents can switch images around to keep their little ones entertained and engaged.

A Play Mat is another great toy for newborns, as it can be used for tummy time which strengthens baby's neck and back muscles. You don't need to get fancy with their play mat and I would not recommend ones that have a build in pillow that is supposed to make tummy time more enjoyable. The best you can do is introduce tummy time as early as possible, for short periods of time, more importantly you want to do it when your baby is alert and engaged. A great play mat is the Wimmer Ferguson Crawl and Discover Mat, as it comes in the all important high contrast colours of black, white and red. It has a mirror which is another of the great toys to get babies and you can attach grasping toys to it for baby to play with.

Music, babies have great hearing and they have been listening to your voice and the noises that make part of your world during their stay in the womb. Whether you play lullabies, nursery rhymes, classical or hip hop, having music around and moving with your baby to the music promotes brain development and bonding. It's also a great stress reliever for parents.

Soft Toys, specially ones with faces on them like stuffed animals are very important. These are great for sensory and emotional development. Two great soft toys are the Whoozit and Tizoo from Manhattan Toy. They each have a face with high contrast colours which are easy for babies to see and they also have great soft grasping toys on the side that baby can practice holding onto.
Grasping Toys, whether they are made out of wood, cloth or safe plastics, grasping toys are essential in promoting both fine and gross motor development. At around two months of age babies will begin to reach out to objects that are held a close distance from them. They will begin to discover their hands and it is important for parents to spend time helping them mastering this new found skill. I would recommend soft grasping at the beginning, as babies are not in complete control of their movements and can hurt themselves with wooden ones. Great options are the Haba Wrist Rattles, they can be attached to baby's wrist if need be or not at all and are very soft and the right size for little hands.

All the toy suggestions I have given are tools that parents and caregivers can use to promote their baby's development, but the most important toy is YOU. Playing, dancing, singing, cuddling, kissing, feeding are the most important things your little one needs.

Let me know if their is a toy your newborn loved. Or perhaps one they did not.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gift Giving Made Easy

I came across this article in The Globe and Mail this morning and it got me thinking about gift giving and toy gift giving in particular. Certainly at this time of year what toy or toys to buy your little one is one that comes up quite often and all parents want to make sure they get their child that special toy that will make this Christmas special for them.

But I am a big believer that not all toys are created equal and that there is such a thing as too many toys. I have a friend whose children get so many toys at Christmas that she hides some so they can open some in July because if she does not do this they will not be appreciated or played with. I look at the toys that my 6 year old daughter has gotten and I can tell you that only a few have been truly played with and enjoyed over and over again. And of those few not one of them was the 'It' toy of the year.

I would really encourage parents to first take a moment and look at what your child has, what are the toys that they always gravitate towards, is it their dollhouse, their train set, their Legos, their arts and craft. This will give you a great idea of what really interests them and get them something that supports that interest.

Certainly their interests will change from year to year as they grow and discover new things. With my daughter, this year she is all about arts and crafts, she told me the other day that she is an Artist. So this year, her big gift will be art lessons and we will buy her some art supplies for her to use at her lessons. Last year she loved dinosaurs and would get books and watch shows on dinosaurs, the only thing on her Christmas List was a T-Rex and so we got her a soft plastic T-Rex and Playmobil set of dinosaurs. She loved both things, in fact that T-Rex went everywhere with her, it even slept with her and was the guest of honor during playtime.

If your little ones are under three years, and you are not sure what they like yet, the best toys you can get them are the classic toys. You really can't go wrong with getting a nice set of wooden blocks, dolls, wooden cars, a ball, good quality wooden puzzles, play food and books. They will love these kinds of toys and will find many different ways to play with them and discover new things with them. If you are not sure how to choose a toy for your toddler, Zero to Three has a great article on this which is worth a read.

I hope that this will give you some ideas of what to get your little one(s) this Christmas and any other gift giving occasion.

Share with us your child's or yours most beloved gift over the years?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Toy Spotlight - Melissa & Doug Wooden Play Food

I am a huge fan of play food and Kitchen Play, as it is an amazing toy that allows children to express themselves, feel included in the world around them and promotes imagination, as well as social and language development.

Play food is also a great toy that can be played in groups or alone. I have not met one child who does not love having their own kitchen where they can make their own culinary 'creations'. To do this they need their special food and so that is why I am so excited to spotlight today the awesome wooden play food from Melissa and Doug.

Bake & Decorate Cupcake Set: This special set has three dry-erase markers shaped like icing tubes to decorate the smooth, removable, wipe-off cupcake tops.

With colorful baking cupcake sleeves and decorative wooden candles, these low-cal cupcakes will be the hit of birthday and tea parties!

Sandwich Making Set: This solid and smooth-sanded sandwich set with sliceable wooden bread, rolls, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, meats, and more makes an instant picnic for hours of imaginative entertainment!

Pizza Party: Served up in a brightly coloured wooden pizza pan, the six thick slices can be topped with playfully tasty choices of vegetables and meat, all held in place with an innovative fastening technique.

Includes a cutter, spatula, and over 50 toppings stored neatly in a wooden pizza box with see through lid.

Cutting Food Box: This solid wood set from Melissa and Doug includes more than 25 pieces including 1 child-safe knife and 1 cutting board, along with eight healthy choice selections for kids to prepare their own meals! Knives glide easily through each item, making a realistic “crunching” sound that kids love.

Cutting Fruit Crate: The wooden Cutting Fruit Crate play food set includes 7 smoothly sanded wooden fruits: a banana, kiwi, slice of melon, pear, orange, lemon and strawberry.

The wooden fruit are all sliceable with the wooden knife (included in the set) and they make a great crunching sound when sliced.

Sushi Slicing Play Set: This elegant 24-piece wooden sushi play-food set is packed in a beautiful storage box and includes sliceable sushi rolls, shrimp, tuna, easy-use chopsticks, a cleaver and more. Sushi rolls make realistic chopping sounds when sliced!

To see our entire collection visit our Kitchen Play section under Preschoolers at

You will find not only food but pots and pans, beverages, tableware and the most important thing kitchens!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Using Blocks to Teach

I came across this great article from about how blocks make great tools to teach children about social studies.

I am a huge fan of blocks and we have two sets of different blocks that my 6 year old daughter got when she was about 2 years which she still plays with and is now being used by my 1 year old. I also wrote a post back in October about why I believe that blocks are a must have toy for any child.

The author Angela De Vincenzo a first grade teacher gives tips on how to incorporate blocks into the classroom. These tips can also be used by parents and caregivers.

A great place to start is by visiting places, or buildings that the child or children are studying or are interested in. It could be an important building in your city, like city hall or a sports arena, a fire station, or even a bridge. They can then take pictures or do drawings which they will use to help them when building with the blocks.

As the author writes "These visual images keep the building work focused, realistic and grounded as the children aim to represent what they have seen."

Block building will also encourage social interactions. It will get them to talk about what they are building, to communicate with others what they would like done, as well as to problem solve and to negotiate.

As well, it promotes imaginative play, specially if they have been to the real life building and know more about it. The children will be able to image themselves there and what kinds of things they would do there.

With my 6 year old daughter, she likes to use the blocks to build race tracks, especially after we took her to see the Honda Indy in Toronto last year. She has also used blocks to build houses and buildings that her stuffed animals can live in.

It's also great to provide other materials such as cardboard, plasticine, stickers or fabric that the child can use to add to the block building experience and encourage some creativity on what it could be. They can make furniture out of plasticine or decorate their buildings and make them more to their style. My daughter has added stickers to her blocks because to her stickers make things special.

There is no doubt that the play and teaching possibilities with blocks is quite extensive and so much fun for all. If you are wondering what toy to add to your child's toy collection take a look at all the great blocks available.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Toy Spotlight - Melissa & Doug's Classic Wooden Toys

The Melissa and Doug collection of classic toys are designed to help toddlers and preschoolers learn important skills, from shape, colour, number, and letter recognition to sorting, stacking and fine motor development.

They are all fun, bright and colourful, with an attention to detail that is sure to keep your little one entertained while they learn to master the important skills.

Some of the favourites with the little testers include:

The Rainbow Stacker : With the colourfully painted rings, it's a great toy to teach about order, size, and colours. Great for ages 18 months+

The First Bead Maze: Helps promote fine-motor skill development, as well as colour and shape recognition. Ages 1 year+

The Take-Along Tool Kit: With twenty-four wooden pieces such as screws, bolts, nails, bolts, hammers, and screwdrivers, hours of constructive and creative fun will be had by preschoolers. Ages 3 years+