This month we are testing out some seriously awesome handmade colouring in mats from Australian maker Noble Cubs and I have to say my kids are absolutely loving them!
All designed and handmade in Queensland by mother and creator Martina Noble, these eco-friendly toys are completely machine washable, and brilliant for entertaining kids whilst out and about. I would much prefer my kids play with these fab washable mats than the dreaded tech ( oh tantrum city when you tell them no more playing!)
Martina kindly gifted us two colouring in and doodling mats to test out and review. My 5 year old was so excited to see the construction mat when he opened it up and he was super intrigued as to how it was going to work. I have to admit I was too. I wasn’t sure how the washable markers were going to colour onto the fabric and I was equally intrigued as to whether they would wash out in full to enable further uses of the mat.
Hello lovely peeps, can we really already be in June, half through 2017?! I know I always say it but gosh time certainly flies with kids and even more so once they go to school. I wrongly assumed school would provide heaps more time for me to blog and work (and maybe do those household things called chores) but I miss the cruisey preschool days where we could just play, play and play!
We are having cooler days here in Sydney, still sunny most days but it is definitely feeling like Winter here. As the boys were both born in England and lived a large amount of their time in the Northern Hemisphere, we are quite used to the colder days and secretly quite like to hibernate at home as this is when we play with our toys the most.
The winters here are more like a English summer’s day in terms of warmer temperatures but the mornings and evenings are cold. And don’t get me started on the seriously freezing cold houses. I do miss central heating as reverse cycle air conditioning doesn’t quite cut it.
This month’s toy is a super flexible kids toy that works brilliantly both indoors and outdoors, truly perfect then for Australia. We have featured it a lot on our Instagram account and I thought I should introduce it to the blog too! So what is it you ask?
We have been testing out the most beautiful toy storage trolley from Lulo Kids this month and I am secretly wishing that we had little ones again to push it around and look oh so adorable!
We used to own a little wooden trolley when our boys were toddlers that they used for toy storage and to push around but I can honestly tell you it was not as exquisite as this one (think red and white and yellow – eek!)
Lulo Kids is a Melbourne based small business designing and hand making beautiful wooden kids products. Known for their teepees, they have recently added these wooden trolleys to go with their gorgeous bespoke wooden blocks.
Again, I am over the moon that such Australian based toy companies now exist and thrive when a few years ago all you could find were overseas based companies whose production was based in fast paced China.
This month it is all about trains!! I have found over the years as a mother that wooden trains are one of the best open ended toys and not just for boys either. They are a great gender neutral toy that can be played with from 1 year right up to adults 😉
My eldest received his first very small train set for his 1st birthday and we have grown the set each year with family and friends adding trains, tunnels, stations and more to make it into a little city. What I have found though is that wooden trains and track are not cheap, not at all which is why my boys have received most of their train track and accessories as birthday presents over the years ( with a few flea market purchases in Germany!)
My boys play with their train set on a weekly basis building, creating and exploring new track set ups and cities. They can honestly play for hours on end, just by using their imagination to create wonderful worlds of train exploration, such is the joy of this open ended toy.
Brianna, the brains behind The Creative Toy Shop has created an wonderful selection of toys for her shop and uses her daily job as a special needs home educator and teacher to help her test out and decide on what toys she will offer. Originally a blogger, she has taken her blog to the next level and established one of the most gorgeous online toy shops in Australia. I am honestly in love with her toy shop and so excited and honoured to be working with her this year.
This month is an exciting one my friends. This month is a celebration of how far toy making has come in Australia.
When I started Kids Gifts and Toys over 3 years ago and started researching toy brands worldwide, there was very little coming out of Australia that was designed and made in Australia. In just a short space of time I have watched an incredible transformation and now I can happily say there is actually a handmade toy industry in Australia! I am super excited to be featuring “Monday the Plane” from Have a Nice Day toys for March’s “Toy of the month”; this is one Australian toy company that is making waves for all the right reasons.
“Monday the Plane” is just one of 7 wooden toys created by former industrial designer Jake Diaz alongside his wife Dom Diaz who fronts up all the business and social media side of things. This husband and wife team based on the Gold Coast, are reinventing wooden toys and bringing back the simplicity and purity for a new generation of children.
This month is a little follow on from last month’s awesome Marbotic Smart Numbers range. This month we look at the Smart Letters range from this fabulous French company.
The Smart Letters range is all about alphabet recognition, learning the sounds of the letters, getting familiar with lower, upper case and even cursive letters. It has varying degrees of difficulty but overall is best suited to 3- 10 years old.
I will say that although I have outlined a very extensive review of the Smart Letters range below, my children worked out how to complete each app and its variations intuitively without any of my guidance. However, for us adults, I found it most helpful to look up the parents corner in each app to read about what the app entailed. I thought it would be useful to provide an overview for you to understand exactly what you get for your money.
The Smart letters range are distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries who kindly sent me the range to test out and review.
I hope you have started your 2017 with joy, love and happiness and that this year you have set many mindful intentions to perhaps be less busy, be more present and to enjoy each and every day.
I have had the boys the past 6 weeks over the summer school holidays and normally I am a little apprehensive as to how I will keep them entertained but this holidays seemed, well a little easier. As they get older there is more interaction, sustained play and for a longer period of time. There have been tantrums don’t get me wrong, they have been loud and long but perhaps parenting is getting that teeny tiny bit easier…well until next week when things will no doubt change again.
This month sees us review the brilliant French Marbotics range. This is a range that I took notice of last year as I was intrigued by the idea of mixing wooden toys and technology. The Smart numbers and Smart letters range are distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries who kindly sent me the range to test out and review.
After realising this review will become much too long for you my lovely readers, I have decided to split out the review and for January review Smart Numbers and for February, Smart Letters. Each product deserves its own review as there are 18 different applications across the 3 free apps provided. This product is one where you definitely get your money’s worth!
Wow I can’t believe it is my last toy review for the year *, where has 2016 gone?! It has been such a whirlwind year and I am sure you are all feeling the same way!
With Christmas coming one of our fave toys in the house are board games. We have about 20 of them already from memory to Monopoly to Shopping List to Hungry Hippos and our collection grows each year at Christmas.
This month I wanted to review a true board game classic, Twister! They celebrated 50 years this year in September and we were sent the game to test and out and review.
This month we are reviewing a firm favourite in our household, the legendary, one and only, puzzle!!
We adore puzzles and have done since the boys were babes. We have wooden ones and cardboard ones, puzzles with alphabets, numbers, animals and so much more! What we haven’t seen though are the seriously stunning Australian designed Millions of Monkey puzzles from brand new Australian shop Puggle Post.
August in Sydney can be quite a dreary month, it can be wet, super cold with windy days and only sometimes a glimpse of Spring in the air! But what I like about the last winter month is that you can still hibernate and enjoy all those indoor activities.
We go through our board games, we set up our wooden train set, do painting and I even taught the kids how to play marbles this month. We had the added joy of reviewing a beautiful wooden play theatre from the brilliant new toy store Happy Go Ducky. Such a perfect toy for those cold, rainy days indoors or just days when you want to stay inside and chill.
Oh my gosh, how have we already reached the middle of the year?!!! I can’t quite fathom how quickly this year has already gone, is anyone else feeling it? Time certainly flies and this year is certainly turning out to be a momentous one.
Luckily though I can distract you from the world changing news stories of late to share with you an utterly brilliant kids product Little Abstract art kit which was sent to me to review.
Created by South African born, Atlanta based artist Jeremy Brown, this art kit provides you with one of the coolest pieces of kids art around. Part art, part writing, part memento, part expression, together all four parts combine to give you a stunning piece of art to hang on your kids bedroom wall.
This month, the boys and I have been super excited to review and test out a fab new block on the street, SumBlox! These blocks are seriously clever, beautifully made of heirloom beechwood and are not only fun but they help teach numbers and mathematical concepts too. Winning for the parents!
Oh my I am so excited for this month’s toy review as it means so many things to me. As you may know from my Instagram account I am rather keen doll enthusiast. They make me go all swoony and weak at the knees (sorry hubby) !
I honestly love handmade dolls and I am not quite sure where my obsession started. As a child more than likely as my Mum, Nana, Grandma and Aunts were and are all makers, knitters, doll makers, quilters, weavers, sewers, artists and spinners, and being around such creativity from a young age, I think it is in my blood. I love to support such handmade beauty and the people who create them.
This month’s toy review is about a reinvented and remastered take on an old classic, the block. Yes the wooden block has been given a completely new, updated and very much needed revamp. It has moved the block beyond just stacking and building and into a whole new world of engineered construction.
This “Toy of the month” is the utterly brilliant Bokah Blocks and these wooden blocks are so ingenious that we were blown away by them in our Kids Gifts and Toys household.
Happy 2016 and happy new “toy of the month”! I know happy New Year gets tired after about the 10th day of January, but as it’s my first toy review for the year, I wanted to wish you much love and joy for the year ahead.
So this month’s toy review is rather an interesting one. It intrigued me when I was first told about it and I wanted to learn more and see how it would work. The concept is something a bit different, a bit special, a little unique and something all parents need at one point int their children’s lives….
Our little household is so very excited about this month’s toy review as it has meant a whole refurb of our Rock and Pebble Apple House – yes our Mini Furniture has arrived! We even got out the confetti to celebrate!
In today’s techy world where all kids want to do is watch TV, the iPad, play Minecraft ( on said iPad) or play on their parent’s phone, it can be hard to get kids out of the house and back in nature. As a child I remember climbing trees, making tea for my dolls in our tree house, riding bikes with our local neighbourhood gang and exploring the local streams, mangroves, beaches and parks. We were constantly outdoors; back in the day, as they say!
But times have changed and on top of that parents are too scared to let their kids run and play outside like we used to do. I remember I would go off for hours, bike riding and exploring and these were the days of no mobile phones, so my mum couldn’t call me. If she was worried, she would get in the car and drive the streets to find me but I think that only happened once. I don’t know why we have lost that carefree attitude to life but it has meant that parents feel safer having their kids indoors than outdoors.
September is always a wonderfully special month here in Australia, as we celebrate Father’s Day. This Father’s Day, we gave our Papa ( a throw back still from Germany) a lie in, breakfast in bed and cooked him a yummy late brunch. Plus he was spoilt with lots of tools, handmade cards and chocolates!
We also presented him with 2 awesome toys that he could share with the boys, “Buildme wooden toys“. He was blown away by the “Build Me” boxes he received and a week or two later we had a chance on a rainy Spring afternoon, to construct them.
Buildme Wooden toys toys are an awesome brand established in Melbourne and started by a dad, Darryl Thompson, whose past experience as a shipwright in the Royal Australian Navy and later as a graphic designer, has enabled him to develop the wooden toys from concept and design through to production. I adore that he is trying to bring back some time honoured traditions and to teach children life long skills especially in this techy age.
This month has been an exciting month here in the KGT household and we have had a real focus on the environment this month in terms of organic clothing and now eco toys for my “Toy of the month”. The boys and I have had so much fun building and creating toys out of cardboard!
Yes, you heard it correctly, brilliant environmentally friendly cardboard toys from Krooom Toys. It was with a HUGE amount of excitement when a large box turned up on our door step by our friendly postman and the boys discovered all the fab goodies inside. They were so curious that the toys were made of cardboard as they had never seen anything like them before.
We received 3 “Fold my cars” to test out from The Stork Nest in the form of an Ice cream van, Tow truck and the Hippie van with a surfboard! As well as the super awesome “Willson Bros Garage” playset which also comes with a car garage, play mat, tow truck, car, scooter, petrol tank, air tank and 2 little figures to play with not to mention the car wash!
This month’s “Toy of the month” is about tape. Tape, I hear you say? That is not a toy?! Yes, tape, but not just any old tape, this is tape in the shape of a train track which you can stick to your floors – carpet, laminate or wooden floors to create a train track!!
HUGE apologies firstly in the tardiness of this post, it was of course meant to be up in time for May which has of course been and gone, but with all the illness in the household and moving house, I just didn’t get a chance to blog about it.
Being a parent as we all know isn’t always easy (see above!). We want to be the best we can be for our children, so that they have good guidance to follow in life and someone to respect. Not only that, someone they can talk to about everything and anything and not feel judged whilst doing so.
It has been a hectic month here in the KGT household with townhouse renovations, Master J’s 6th birthday and his Superhero party which went off with a Kapow, Bang and Zoom (photos to follow)!!
But in the midst of it all, I received a fabulous package of Darwin and Penn Kompakt cameras which I ordered in their sale last month. I had completely forgotten I had ordered them ( does this happen to anyone else?) and squealed when I opened up the package.
This month’s “Toy of the month” are a fantastic set of sand toys called “Beach Stamps” which the boys and I have been super excited to try out. The fantastic Australian based online store Finlee and Me are the exclusive Australian supplier and they kindly sent them to us to review.
We have spent a few beach days testing them out over the last few weeks and I have to say they are an easy, fun and great alternative to your everyday sand toys of buckets, spades, diggers and balls.
Beach Stamps are designed and made in the USA by the Red Rooster Toy Company and they come in all different types and various variety packs, we tested out the “15 Variety Shapes” pack.
They are super easy to use and come supplied with rubber bands which you attach to the plastic stamp moulds with their easy to follow instructions. There are even spare rubber bands in case of breakage, although the rubber bands seemed very robust to me and not very easily broken.
At the beach:
As you can see from the photos we loved testing these beach toys out and what I liked most as a mother at least, is they are a great size for small hands. Also if you want an easy beach toy to pack for your beach adventures and let’s face it as a mum, you generally have about 3-4 bags filled with towels, lunch, umbrella etc; then these are a perfect solution as they don’t take up much room, but they provide hours of creative play!
H did try and put them on his feet as suggested on the back of the packaging but it wasn’t so successful, however, I think my eldest who is nearly 6 would have found it easy to do and a lot of fun!
Beach Stamps are aimed at 4+ according to it’s packaging but my nearly 3 year old loved them and had no trouble playing with them. As a 4 year old + you could go further with the type of play to be enjoyed, such as making up stories with the stamps or asking them to pick a certain colour to help with learning colours. But ultimately they are just a lot of fun and it is great to watch your children enjoy some creative play with them.
They are not too messy either for the child nor when cleaning up and there is not a huge amount of sand left in them which you cannot get out. They were nearly 100% clean after playing with them and popping them back in a ziplock bag. 10/10 on the mama radar!
We also had a play with them in our sandpit and I think they would work great with kinetic sand too which my eldest is dying to get for his 6th Birthday next month.
The shapes in our 15 variety pack where varied, ranging from a love heart, to a girl, a dinosaur, a smiley face, to a sailing boat, a penguin,a boy, a sun, a sheriff’s star as well as skull, cross and circle. For older children, I thought you could have fun playing games of naughts and crosses on the beach with the circle and cross stamps.
Using them in our sandpit:
Mostly what I loved about these set of sand toys, are the open ended play and the endless possibilities that can be enjoyed with these beach stamps. They would make a fab gift for a birthday and with the reasonable price, they could work quite well for a school birthday party gift as they hover around the $20.00 mark. They are perfect also for Easter or in the kids stocking at Christmas time. Or add them to a box of kinetic sand for the perfect gift for any boy or girl!
Ages: 4+ .
NB:- The packaging says 4+ but after testing them out, I think they are perfect for 3+.
Life with 2 boys, well, let’s be honest, make that 3 boys including hubby dearest, means a life filled with cars! Especially as said hubby is a mechanical engineer so we tend to live and breathe cars in this household… whether it is wooden cars, Hot Wheels cars, Siku, Scaletrix, Automoblox, Kukkia + and not to mention ride on cars and bikes, my boys love ALL of them.
As such I don’t get too excited when the boys receive new toy cars as birthday presents as normally they are all rather the same. That was until I set my eyes on Candylab Toys, these cars seriously rocked my world! Not only did they have some of the coolest car designs I had seen, but, they were wooden! I had to review these cars, pronto.
Vlad Dragusin, the founder, is an architect based in Brooklyn with two daughters and he shares an equal love of cars and “mid century modern” design.
Growing up in his native Romania in the 80’s with “crappy tv choices” he learned to sketch and draw, create and build cars that he saw and loved from the tiny glimpse of Hollywood he saw on TV.
Cut to today and the story goes that one day, one of his daughters asked Vlad to put wheels on an empty noodle box she had just retrieved from the recycling. Together they then painted and drew on the box to create an awesome car to play with. This cardboard design made Vlad imagine a world of the coolest of cool cars, the cars he remembered drawing from his childhood. He decided not to design something throwaway but cars that would become heirloom pieces and passed down through the generations, cars that were both modern and retro at the same time. Together with his business partner and neighbour, Florin who knew all the technical aspects of car design, they started Candylab Toys.
Candylab Toys was established in 2013 through a Kickstarter campaign, where 1,129 people raised 4 x times the amount of funds required to get the designs and manufacturing started. Having expected it would take a year to place their first factory order with the Kickstarter campaign they got there in 35 days! A phenomenal effort and amazingly quick result which allowed Candylab Toys to start life. I love Kickstarter campaigns, it is one of the best ways I know to raise money for “Start ups” and breath life into awesome ideas.
Although wishing to produce their gorgeous wooden cars in the USA, they struggled to find any US manufacturers interested in mass wood production of small items back in 2012. After 97 failed attempts to find a US manufacturer keen to take on the job, and 1 keen to produce the cars at USD$100.00 a car, they decided to look abroad. They went to the 2013 International Toy fair and found a Chinese wood supplier keen to work with them on their drawings. It has been a match made in heaven so far with a proven partnership and successful production of 8 cars thus far with more coming very soon!
Each car takes from 15 to 18 cuts in a solid beech wood profile, plus painting, priming, applying the stripes and decals and wheels. It is a manual process all the way. Paints are all water based with each car taking hours to produce.
This gorgeous wooden car arrives in a fab matching box and is much larger than any other wooden car around that we have tested ( even larger than Automoblox). What strikes you first is the stylishly simple design, it is super elegant and you would be happy to display it in your kids bedroom. However, there is little chance of that once your kids see it!
As you can see from the photos here, my eldest son had an absolute ball racing the GT-10 around the washi tape track I made for him on my pinboard. My youngest adores the car so much he has scratched it up a little with his endless hours of play. They both love this car and the “oohs and ahhs” that came out of both their mouths when we opened up the box was priceless.
It is quite large in size and is recommended for ages 3+. I therefore thought it might be too large for Hudson who is 3 in May, but he races it around and it fits his hand well. I would say that it is probably better for ages 3+ as my youngest has scratched it up a little with his play whereas Jasper is much more careful with it but equally loves playing with it and building garages for it and roads.
They come in 8 designs, although 1 is no longer available as it was the first Kickstarter car and thus was handed out to all those who pledged money. The police and fire car look fantastic and next month, they have added a tow truck to the collection! With bright yellows and purples for the Stinger and Plum 50, there is a car to suit all ages and sexes.
If your children, boys and girls alike, are car obsessed this makes a brilliant birthday present with the promised “ohhs and ahhs” coming from your child as they open the box. The cars look as good in the flesh as they do in the photos. They are true design led heirloom pieces that you would happily display in your children’s room.
The cars are fairly large in size in comparison to most cars that kids play with and they are great for racing, drifting and generally having a lot fun! My boys have added Sonny Angels as passengers and come up with some awesome imaginative play with the car. We will definitely be adding to our collection of Candylab Toys for their birthday, the only question is, which one!
Size: 18.3cm L x 7.3cm W x 5cm H
Designed in Brooklyn, made in China.
Safety tested according to US CPSIA and European, Australian and New Zealand regulations.
RRP: US $30.00 +
Disclosure: in order to review the Candylab GT-10 we were sent one to test drive.
This month’s “Toy of the month” is a fabulous little idea that really caught my eye as ALL kids love stickers and ALL kids love receiving letters and packages in the post. What a brilliant concept to combine the two things that all kids adore!
We were sent the introductory first pack to review for this post and my kids squealed in delight at receiving stickers in the post! It was like a birthday treat for them to receive a little package in the mail.
Pipsticks, is a monthly sticker subscription started by Maureen Vazquez. Based out of New York, Maureen remembers her fondest memory as child, was being able to go to her local shop each week and being allowed to purchase a square of stickers to add to her sticker album. She wanted to recreate this idea alongside keeping her 3 children entertained with a creative focus and came up with the idea of a monthly sticker delivery subscription.
All subscribers receive this first introductory pack. The kids had a ball one afternoon sticking stickers all over the place and creating a special postcard for one of their best friends in Germany, who they miss dearly. The best thing was, that there were so many stickers there were heaps left over to use for another day or two!
The sticker pack we received had 16 different types of stickers from animals, to dots, to racing cars and love hearts. We also received 3 pieces of colourful paper to use for our sticker creations. Maureen has picked out a great selection of stickers that would appeal to both boys and girls alike.
The stickers are a carefully selection of colourful, fun, and brilliant designs that can be used for making cards, crafts or even for school projects. Maureen sources them for all over the world. I particularly loved the squishy bunnies!
Our little postcard that we created ready to send to our friend in Germany.
All kids LOVE receiving mail in the post and they adore stickers, so this is a brilliant idea if you are looking for a unique and fun gift idea for your child, niece, nephew or grandchild.
Plus as part of the subscription, you receive a monthly newsletter, Sticklit, which provides information on the different craft ideas that Maureen has come up with on the blog section of her site. You can create greeting cards, place cards, sticker puppets and accessories. There is also a free printables section on her site that gives different backdrops for even more fun sticker creations.
Sticker subscriptions start at USD $15.00 a month and for a 12 month subscription it is USD $155.00 for the year. You can also get family pack subscriptions where you get over 45 sticker sets each month or try a taster pack to see if it is what your child would enjoy.
There are lots of different choices but I can tell you that your child will love you even more for this sticker subscription and I am sure it will create the same fond memories with stickers, that prompted Maureen to create Pipsticks in the first place.
This month, (sorry I know I am a little late for October!), I am super excited to review a stunningly illustrated personalised book by lostmy.name. I was introduced to this company by an awesome friend of mine, who had seen them on Dragon’s Den in the UK. I was kindly given a book by them to review for the blog.
In looking at the personalised kids book on their website, what I adored most were the illustrations. They were so beautifully creative and I knew my youngest son would adore reading a book all about his name. Plus what child doesn’t love a story that includes dragons, unicorns, and even a Narbalek?!
I clicked on the “Create your book” section on the website and added in Hudson’s name and that he was a boy and you can also add in a personal dedication for the first page of the book.
This month I am reviewing the ever amazing “Make a doll” by Naked Lunge. As you may know from my IG account, I am a HUGE fan of the fabulous Roxy from Naked Lunge. Firstly she is one lovely lady and secondly an amazing artist!!
“Make a doll” are personalised, hand painted dolls that are created by the gorgeous Roxy. She uses photos and details that you send to her via email about your child. She paints your beautiful son or daughter using black non-toxic paint onto cotton, then she hand washes the cotton fabric, dries it, irons them and sews them up with stuffing. You get to choose your own backing from a selection of gorgeous liberty prints, chevron, triangle, plain black and more.
I had one of the “Make a Doll’s” made by Roxy for my youngest son’s 2nd Birthday. Firstly, I love that they are handmade in England with so much love and devotion. You have in your hand a gorgeous mini-me doll of your beloved child. It is like a little piece of art wrapped in cotton. These dolls are timeless.
I love that our doll is a little snapshot of my son when he was a toddler, holding his favourite toys and in his favourite clothes at the time. He loved recognising his favourite fire engine toy and “Dig Dig Digging” book on the doll and enjoys sleeping with it at nap and bedtime. I loved that I have a mini me of him in doll form to treasure always ( I am a bit sentimental like that !)
Naked Lunge is an English company that began in 2013, producing the most divine prints, postcards, dolls, pillows, homewares and clothing. Roxy is always surprising me with her seemingly endless creative talent. Whatever she touches turns to gold! Roxy collaborates with retailers and clothing companies to produce unique designs and bespoke pieces that are exclusive to these shops.
The dolls are machine washable at 30 degrees on a short spin cycle.
Age: 0+ months
Each doll stands approximately 25 cm tall and approximately 8cm wide.
One of the toys that I was excited to discover at this year’s Spielwarenmesse in Nuremberg was by young Belgian design company Quut. These young designers and parents had re-designed the way that sand toys should look and work -finally!
My kids absolutely adore playing in the sand, both at playgrounds and at the beach. They can be there for hours on end, which is an impressive feat given children’s short attention spans.
However, all the sand toys that I have bought so far to make sand castles has usually resulted in a sandy mess! What impressed me most about the Quut Beach toys were the ingenious designs that they had come up with which were relatively compact in size, brightly coloured and made of durable hard plastic which meant they were not just another throw away sand toy designated for the rubbish bin after a summer holiday.
As we were living in Nuremberg at the time I originally wrote this review, there were no beaches close by, however, we had a summer holiday planned to Turkey in late May and I wanted to buy some of these toys to test out on our trip. I chose the Alto and Cuppi as I thought they were best suited to our needs of wanting to build sand castles and my kids love a good marble run which you can create with the Cuppi. They also both fit in our suitcases!
We had a lot of fun playing around with these toys to make the perfect sand castles on our trip away. I have to admit though my husband was a much better sand castle builder than me, but shhh don’t tell him!
In playing and creating sand castles with both the Alto and the Cuppi ( it is good to use as a scoop if you don’t have a shovel), I would say a few things… you need good clean sand, it can’t have pebbles in it as they can create air bubbles which don’t allow the sand castle to stand up. Also it can’t be too wet as then the castle just collapses. I think these toys would be perfect in sand pits as well as at the beach. There is definitely some trial and error in building a castle with these toys but you have a lot of fun in the process!
We have even used the Cuppi in the bath which the boys loved as they could tip and pour water to their hearts content. Not as much fun for Mama who had to clean up the floor afterwards.
We have also used the Quut beach toys a fair few times at our local playground. I have to say all the kids in the playground where quickly attracted to the brightly coloured designs and they wanted to have a go at building a sand castle straight away. We have had crowds of kids each time we have brought the Quut toys with us and they have all had an absolute ball with them!
I am looking forward the fun we can have with our Quut over the Summer now we are living back in Australia!
Designed in Belgium and made in China
Ages: 12 months
RRP: Alto £14.99 and Cuppi £7.99.
Great for: construction, fine motor skills and fun in the sun!
I am so upset to have lost this particular toy review for Snappets! My original piece on Snappets was all about “ Realising your dreams” and that if you believe in your dreams that they can come true; with a bit of passion, dedication, motivation and desire.
I was so thrilled to be sent a Snappet prototype back in July and to be given the opportunity to review this fabulous new toy that was not yet even on the market!
Snappets are paper hand puppets that you guessed it make a “Snap!” when you open and close the dinosaur’s mouth. They are made from a single piece of cardboard. They now come in over 8 different dinosaurs and are available in 2 different types – full colour or black and white, so your child can colour and create their own dinosaur.
Zachary Opaskar designed his paper hand puppets back at University 15 years ago but it was not until recently he revisited this original design and with the support of his fiancé he decided to turn his design in to reality.
With his own money, he was able to make the first design and die to create his first prototype. He was starting to turn “Snappets” into reality. However, he didn’t have the financial backing he needed to complete his dream of 7 more dies to create the 8 Dinosaur puppets he had originally designed. With the help of crowd funding program, Kickstarter, he was able to raise the USD $10,000 and more that he needed for the dies to make his paper puppets a reality as a fab new toy.
Kickstarter is a brilliant website that allows designers, singers, creatives and more to start up a campaign to raise money toward the design they want to become reality or an album they want to produce.
Through building up social media interest and local support in his hometown, I can happily say that Zachary received all the funding for his Kickstarter campaign that he required to start his Dinosaur pupper business.
Snappets are now in production and all paper puppets have been sent out as of the 18th October to the supporters who funded his Kickstarter campaign. HUGE Congrats Zachary!
And to the toy review you ask?
Snappets are pretty easy to build following the online vimeo tutorial as well as the instructions provided with each puppet. I had to help both my children to build their puppet but I think from ages 7+ they could do it themselves. My eldest was able to part of the construction himself and need my help for the smaller, trickier bit.
On each Snappet page there are some facts about each Dinosaur that you are building.
My kids had a ball running around imagining they were dinosaurs, chasing each other, giving the dinosaur food and generally causing dino chaos!!
One thing I would say about the prototype which may have been fixed with the new Snappets, is that the paper inserts where you put the puppet together can come out during rigorous “dino play”. To rectify this, I used some sellotape/sticky tape over these inserts to ensure they did not come out anymore.
I think Zachary has done an utterly awesome job with these fabulous dinosaur paper puppets! He has realised his dream; raising the funding for his designs through a crowd funding program and ultimately created a completely unique and creative toy for kids.
It just goes to show that if you believe in your dreams, one day they can and they will come true!
Designed and made in the USA.
RRP: USD $3.99 each or a pack of 4 for $14.99
Great for: construction, creative/role play, and they would make great party favours!
Disclosure: in order to complete this review, we were given our Snappets as a gift.
I always loved playing with an “Etch a Sketch” as a child, creating drawing after drawing and happily or unhappily erasing them when I was finished. I had been on the lookout for one for the boys after they were playing with one on a ski holiday earlier in the year. However, once I started researching those available they didn’t get great reviews, with many saying they broke within a few months. I thought I would prefer to spend a little more money and find one that was well made, sturdy and not prone to breaking and it would not doubt save me money in the long run!
I then saw an IG post from Abacus Kids regarding a wooden magnetic drawing board and I knew this was what I had been searching for! Plus Faye was having a little sale on at that time, so I couldn’t resist buying this toy for my son’s birthday!
The gg* Oekaki Drawing board house comes in a cute little carry bag for travel on road trips, to the grandparents or even out to restaurants. It also helps for easy storage AND the drawing board is as cute as it looks in the photos!
My son adored playing with this present on his 2nd birthday. The first thing on the toy he was drawn to was the abacus on top of the house. He played with that for a few minutes before he then moved on to playing with the actual drawing board.
When he first started to play with the drawing board, he loved playing with the stamps and stamping them on the board. 6 months down the track he can now use the pen more and make swirls and scribbles which is great for his fine motor skill development. His eldest brother J, loves drawing with it as well and creating little masterpieces. I adore that the drawing board is in colour too! I always remembered mine as a child was black and white.
This toy is not cheap in comparison with the plastic variety, but it is well made, seriously cute and a lot of fun for your kids! This is definitely a case of quality over quantity and I am glad I chose this wooden drawing board over the plastic variety.
One point to note, is that the little running dog that erases each creation was a little stiff to start but it has loosened up with use. The only other thing I would mention is the screen sometimes cuts out with the drawing but if you shake it or pull the dog across, it fixes that problem.
We have other toys from Kukkia like their little wooden car and I have to say they are great quality, gorgeously designed and beautifully presented.
Designed in Japan and made in Vietnam by Kukkia.
Great for: fine motor skills, creative play, hand and eye coordination, shape and colour recognition and learning to draw/write.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know how much I love and adore Rock and Pebble! They are a truly unique, inspiring and wonderfully creative label brought to you by the awesome Mr Printables (check out this site for AMAZING free yep you guessed it, printables).
It was love at first sight when I saw their Apple and Pear houses in February this year via Abacus Kids‘ IG account and I knew that they would make the perfect 2nd Birthday present for my youngest H.
As he loves apples, it was the Apple House for us. I adored playing with my dolls house as a child. It was one that my father had made for me and it had the coolest silver roof!! I felt that just because I had 2 boys and not girls, that didn’t mean I should deprive them of the same joy, imaginative play and fun that a doll’s house provides.
The Apple house is a perfect unisex doll’s house that has been so brilliantly designed that it comes all flat packed in a cute grey bag. It allows you then to pack it up when it is not in use. I have to warn you though, it will be in constant use!
As we bought our Apple House as part of their original launch, we received 4 cute pebbles (wooden peg people) included. You can now buy these separately as Modern, Color and Alphabet and they come with reusable clothing! So adorable and yes we had to buy these too as our Apple House likes having guests come to visit.
Doll’s houses by their nature are generally big and bulky and require a lot of room in a child’s bedroom or playroom. I wanted something we could travel with and easily assemble and dissemble when required.
Rock and Pebble are a US based company that manufactures the houses in the UK using European Birch wood. They felt it was more environmentally sustainable to have the houses made close to where the wood is cut rather than shipping it all the way to the US to manufacture. I love their catchphrase, “Natural, non toxic, sustainable is our goal.”
Their inspirations for both their doll houses and pebbles have come from their parent company, Mr Printables. Both of the designs were amazing printables that were so hugely popular they decided to create something more permanent using sustainably sourced wood.
If you want to inspire your child with wooden toys that are brilliantly designed and manufactured and that provoke your child’s imagination and sense of wonder and help to contribute to a greener world, then look no further than Rock and Pebble. Plus these doll houses look seriously stunning in your children’s room!
Ages: 3+ ( although with parental supervision due to the little pebbles, it is fine from 2+)
Great for: fine motor skills, imaginative/creative play and role play.
This April, my “Toy of the Month” is a rather special one! It is a personalised children’s book called the “Rocket Train Adventure” by Starring Us. I was asked to review this book and I was given our copy as a gift in order to complete the review.
As we live over 15,000 km away from our family who all live in Australia, this review has special significance as my children have only seen their families in real life a handful of times. This book helps to remind them of their beautiful family members back home, who all miss them dearly.
Two Little Ducklings – Australian animal flash card set
I am always so excited to find unique toys and gifts that are handmade and created by wonderful and truly divine people, case in point Two Little Ducklings. I discovered Jacinta’s IG feed back in January this year and I straight away fell in love with her designs and creations. She was one of the first accounts that truly took my breath away with her beautiful images and products. Jacinta very kindly gifted me a set of flash cards to review for this month’s Toy of the Month.
Jacinta Weir is a Melbourne based designer who designs and makes cards, invitations, prints, gift wrap, name charts, as well as educational gifts for children. All designs are digitally printed on environmentally friendly paper.
The products that first drew my attention were her beautiful flash cards. I am always on the look out for new ways to educate my children and flash cards are a fun way to introduce them to the basics. Jacinta now produces 6 different designs for her flash cards being: alphabet, shapes, counting, colour, animals and my personal favourite, her Australian animal flash cards.
As my son’s were both born in England but they have Australian heritage as well, they have not grown up knowing all their native Australian animals. They know the Kangaroo, Koala, Kookaburra and Crocodile but not too many others. This flash card pack was the perfect way to introduce some new and old Australian animals to them and have fun along the way.
Arriving in a minimal packaging is a pack of 16 gorgeous cards. Each card is approximately 10cm x 15cm with rounded corners and a divine animal on the front with large text underneath telling you the name of the animal.
We had a great play session one afternoon going through each card, sounding out the words, looking at each picture and making the noise of each animal. We even sang a few songs and played a memory game with them as well. There was a lot of fun, noise, laughter and learning going on that rainy afternoon. Suffice to say after our little flash card session, my boys now know a little more about Australian animals!
Ages: 12 months +
Great for: hand and eye coordination, memory aid tool and observation skills
Disclosure: we were gifted this pack of cards in order to review them.
Orchard Toys – Giant Road Jigsaw Puzzle and Playmat
I have to say we are HUGE fans of Orchard Toys in this household. We cannot get enough of their brilliant puzzles and games which are well designed and stand up to test of toddlers and kids playing with them day in and day out. We do take care of our puzzles but I have to say these are fantastically made as they don’t easily bend and are sturdy and strong.
I also love that Orchard Toys are designed and made in the UK. It is so rare these days to find large toy companies that still produce in their country of origin and I love that Orchard still do! It certainly shows in their products.
The Giant Road Playmat Puzzle is a fantastic multi-functional toy that is not only a giant floor puzzle but it can also be used as a play mat and racing car track. This is quite an unusual puzzle, in that in using the 20 large puzzle pieces provided, there is notjust one way to construct the puzzle. Instead it has been so cleverly designed that there are multiple ways to build the puzzle, which means you can have a different track or street scene every time. You can even build 2 small puzzles if you need to appease 2 children! The design on each puzzle piece are of a busy town and its streets reminiscent of a London street or busy high street in England.
We use this puzzle over and over again and it can be set up for a number of days to allow full play capacity. We all help to build the puzzle together in the design we decide works for that day and then the fun really begins! My boys just love racing their cars around the puzzle track. They get out their Hot Wheels cars, Playmobil, wooden peg dolls and cars and we make a whole town scene which we then make up little stories for the cars to add another element to play time.
There are fantastic every day activities included on the puzzle, like people crossing the road, elderly people feeding pigeons, physically disabled people in wheel chairs, people carrying groceries, school children crossing the street, an icecream vendor, people walking their dog, and construction workers working on the roads. There is so much to look at and so many different scenes that can be used to create a multitude of stories and help to educate children about everyday life as well as to create imaginary situations.
This year Orchard Toys brought out an addition to this puzzle, the “On the Farm” Giant Jigsaw Playmat puzzle which I viewed at the Spielwarenmesse in February. This is a 14 piece puzzle that comes with stand up characters that you can use to add to this Giant Road Puzzle. They also have the Giant Town Puzzle Playmat which also can be used with the Road and Farm giant puzzles. All 3 puzzles are an amazingly creative concept in giant floor puzzles which you and your children will enjoy spending hours of fun constructing, creating and playing.
Ages 3 +
Included: 20 pieces in a sturdy carry case
This is a great toy for: problem solving, construction skills, creative thinking, gross motor skills, and imaginative play.
Oh how I have admired and adored this little rainbow stacker from Grimm’s Spiel & Holz Design. I love colour and I love rainbows and this is the perfect match in my eyes!
If you have ever had the pleasure to touch a Grimm’s product you will know that they use matte paints to ensure that the child still feels the organic nature of the wood/grain. They want to ensure that the child understands the connection between nature and environment, unlike plastic where it is hard for a child to visualise where the product originates.
The Rainbow stacker is iconic, so much so that it has become the symbol or logo behind the Grimm’s company. It has been copied more than I can think of but it can never be truly replicated, as their manufacturing and painting process is unique and means that no one stacker is exactly the same.
Both my son’s absolutely adore this toy. Although it was brought for my youngest son’s 2nd Birthday, my eldest son has had a lot of fun with it as well. He loves making it into tunnels and race tracks for his cars. My youngest son likes to stack them up or make little houses for his pebble people or Sonny Angel’s.
It comes in 3 different sizes with minimal packaging and small instruction sheet. We have the medium size. I wish we also had the large as there are so many possibilities of play with the larger model but it came down to cost. The larger one was about €50.00 and this one was about €24.00. Unfortunately my husband was with us at the toy store when we bought it and he freaked out at the cost of the large rainbow stacker! Such a shame as it would have been a fab addition to our playtime. I can tell you as a result, I now do a lot more online shopping!
Grimm’s is a family owned business based in the Swabian hills of southern Germany. The company has been producing toys since 1978 and they are made from sustainably sourced FSE wood from various European mills. All their products are designed at their factory in Hochdorf, and they manufacture their toys in Germany and Bosnia. However, all products go through the German factory for final quality control to ensure the highest specification for each product is adhered to.
I have had the absolute pleasure to meet some of the Grimm’s family at the Spielwarenmesse (world’s biggest toy trade fair) in January this year and the love and passion they have for their work is clear. Each toy that you are buying from Grimm’s is one made with love, passion and dedication. This is how all toys should be created, not for profit but for the love of the design and the happiness it brings every child.
Ages: 12 months +
Great for: construction skills, gross motor skills, imaginary play, and hand and eye co-ordination.