This month we have a wonderful creator and shaker for our ‘Meet the Maker’! Ha I love a good rhyme. But seriously, this month we shine a spotlight on to a gorgeous handmade toy industry that I have long admired and even asked my mum to make one for my eldest when he was born. This month it is all about knitted and crochet toys and a Japanese art form called Amigurumi from US based maker Eliza Ryan from KnitSquid. I am super excited to be showcasing it on the blog as these handmade toys are just super creative and utterly gorgeous.
I first discovered crochet toys when I found the brand Anne-Claire Petit and I bought my eldest an awesome rainbow plane in London, we still have it and it is what started my appreciation for crochet and knitted toys. I know making them certainly isn’t easy, I think you need a whole heap of patience, skill and time! I wanted to find out more and when Eliza approached me about her fab brand, I was all ears.
A little story to tell you my lovely readers about this month’s Build Me wooden toys; my youngest was so enamored with these incredible wooden cars that he sneakily took one to preschool to show his mates! There was only one slight issue in that we hadn’t finished testing them out at home. Eep! Suffice to say it did arrive back in one piece ( phew!) with a few minor scratches.
I would say that actually he did me a favour as they survived a bit of rough and tumble at preschool and still came back in 100% working order and looking fab. That has to be the best way to test out a toy in my mind!
Darryl Thompson is the creator and maker behind Build Me wooden toys which are designed and made in Melbourne, Australia. We first reviewed his brilliant “BuildMe” wooden toy kits back in September 2015 for our Toy of the Month. The boys and their Dad built a “Monster” truck and the “Short” dump truck and they seriously make THE best Father’s day presents! They had a brilliant time together building their car kits and it was such a great bonding experience for them all.
It was with great excitement that I recently heard from Darryl about his new toy collection, ‘PlayMe‘. These cars are already built for you in brilliant colours, gorgeous woods and ready to go straight out of the box. Let me tell you, they are stunning!!
We were super excited to feature the incredible Bokah Blocks as our February ‘Toy of the Month‘ last year. These blocks are sheer genius as the makers at Bokah Blocks have reworked a timeless classic, the wooden block and given it a joint! When you connect 2 Bokah blocks with a bendy ( a neat little unit that can stretch, twist, bend and pull), a joint is constructed and this allows not only movement between the blocks but also flexibility in the design.
We created some pretty amazing designs that I honestly never thought was possible from a wooden block. Bokah Blocks are a young US toy start up and you know how much I love supporting small! It was with excitement that I heard from Bokah Blocks this month as they wanted to let me know about the awesome Kickstarter campaign they have just launched for their Explorer set of blocks. A new set of blocks that are affordable and with 55 pieces still allows for a huge selection of construction designs to be enjoyed by your kids.
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.
I first started my blog over 3 years ago when my eldest was 5 years of age and my youngest just 2. Why did I start? Mainly because I wasn’t what kind of gifts were age suitable for my kids and I wanted to research and find out the best ones.
Not just the best ones though, because what is the”Best”? Best means different things to different people. For me “Best” was all about the longevity of the toy, how long a child would play with it and how long it would last with it being played with constantly? Could the toy stand up to the test of being treated sometimes rough and tumble by a toddler or a child?
Also toys are not cheap, or rather you can buy cheap plastic toys but we all know that they don’t last, they break, or need batteries. I was finding these toys were not cutting it with my boys. Yes we had plastic toys, we had musical bongo drums, we had musical electric guitars, we had Hot Wheels track( we still do!), we had a few plastic ride on cars and bikes. But personally I found anything with batteries, highly annoying, like highly annoying! LOL. I know the kids enjoyed them, however I noticed it was never for long periods, it never engaged them longer than 5 mins and so this is why I started investigating ethical and eco friendly toys.
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!
The boys were extremely lucky at Christmas to be gifted some incredible Candylab toy cars from Keld Industries, the Australian distributor of these awesome US designed cars.
We are long time fans of Candylab Toys having helped to crowd fund their second campaign by buying up the second edition of cars that they designed in 2015. We have added to our collection over their 3 Kickstarter campaigns and we are hoping for a 4th campaign this year, c’mon Vlad and team!
As it is summer school holidays the boys and I thought we should give our cars a new home, so we started to create a garage town out of cardboard boxes and paint. And yes, they may have racing stripes on the garages as well as the car numbers on the side of the garages, just so we know which garage they live in!
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.
I am always on the search for amazing gifts, hey it’s my job right? I found French brand Omy Design & Play a few years ago when I discovered their large scale colouring posters and I mean LARGE scale and fell in love!
They were one of the first, if not THE first company, to produce them back in 2012 and I adored that they created pages of some of our favourite cities like London, New York, Paris and Sydney. My sister gave one of the London box sets to my eldest son for Christmas in 2014 and we have had so much fun colouring it in since then.
I have to admit that prior to being a mum of 2 boys, I was not hugely interested in Dinosaurs. I could honestly name 3 dinosaurs and that was pushing it. Fast forward 7.5 years and well as you can imagine so much of my life has changed and now I know dinosaurs by the dozen! Diplodocus, Cryolophosaurus, Trodon, Utahraptor, Ankylosaurus and the list goes on…
We have Schleich dinosaurs which the kids use as bath toys and to play games with, we have dino books and even a dino game, Bingosaurus! But at times, it can be hard to find really nice Dinosaur themed gifts, a lot of the time the dinosaurs are true to life and quite scary for little kids.
Until we found Dino Raw… this Adelaide based company is injecting the divine into dinosaurs with stunning results. Sarah has created pastel coloured dinosaurs, gelati coloured dinosaurs for dino loving babies, dinosaurs with smiles and dinosaur cushions too!
Puggle Post launched last month and finally there is an online shop bringing you the best in stylish, eco friendly presents that have an Australian theme for loved ones and family who are overseas.
Instead of sending them delightfully tacky cuddly koalas that fall apart in 5 minutes, Carmel, an expat who know calls Australia home, has sourced high quality, gorgeous pieces that will delight and captivate children and show them a little of why we call Australia home.
I am not sure about you but these days I read more and more about kids suffering from anxiety and from quite a young age of 5 or 6. My heart breaks hearing that kids so young can be so crippled by this mental health illness.
So I love to hear about ways to help kids with their anxiety and mental health issues and to make it a subject that is talked about rather than a taboo topic.
Little Wuppy® has been created with just this issue in mind, helping young children get through their battles with anxiety as well as loneliness or dealing with the many changes going on around them.
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.
Hello lovely peeps, HUGE apologies as I have been a bit slack in my beloved “Meet the Maker” series of late with all my Bazaar preparations, but I am super excited for this month’s gorgeous maker Angela from Decor Me.
Decor Me is a divine handmade brand created by Angela from Sydney who has become known for her beautiful wooden doll stackers which are made of Tasmanian oak and using non toxic paint and natural sealants. They make the perfect toy for small hands!
Halycon Nights are a gorgeous Australian kids bedding and now clothing range that has captured my imagination through their brilliant use of colourful prints and artist collaborations. Recently we were lucky to test out some of their bedding range and I have to say we love it!
With a background in fashion retail and product development, this Melbourne based wife and husband team, Kym and Reuben have collaborated with some amazing Australian artists to bring the fun back into bedding! From dinosaurs, rainbow mountains, space ghosts, colorful kaleidoscope playgrounds to Australian outback animals. Every design is filled with creativity and allows kids to imagine just as they drift off to sleep.
Lil Baddits is a gorgeous new babywear range that is launching this month in Australia and seriously this baby wear is just divine!! I will be honest it may make me secretly want a third baby!
Lil Baddits babywear is designed in Australia with hand drawn watercolour prints and made ethically in India using G.O.T.S certified organic cotton and non toxic dyes. It is made of THE softest organic cotton you have touched, seriously AS soft as the baby’s bottoms they are going in!
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.
I was first introduced to Uncle Goose wooden blocks, all designed AND made in the USA, by the lovely Faye from Abacus Kids a few years back. As an American brand of blocks it wasn’t one I was familiar with nor grew up with unlike I am sure many American readers. But this brand of block is a powerhouse and one you need to know about.
Producing blocks for more than 30 years, this family run business has kept their design and manufacturer of wooden toys in the USA since they began in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1983.
Oh yes Candylab Toys are back with another ahhmazing Kickstarter campaign this year! These guys seriously blow me away! Their company has been completely crowd funded through Kickstarter over the last 3 years and the wooden cars that they have produced are pretty darn phenomenal. Yep that is a big word, but it is rightly deserved, because these guys are kicking it and their wooden toys rock!
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.
Not happy to settle with just producing their gorgeous handcrafted wooden peg dolls which are produced under fair trade conditions in Bogotá, Colombia, Anna and Juan Donado, the amazing couple behind the brand, have now turned their passion and energy to a new element of their company, book publishing!
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!
What I love about Adrian is the way she has selected toys in her store which are based around a child’s development. For each toy on her website she then has a list of skills the child will grow and develop from, when the child plays with the toy. Similar to how I write my “Toy of the month” where I look at the skills and development in terms of gross and fine motor skills etc for a toy, Adrian does the same and I love it! As a parent it is so helpful to be armed with this knowledge when choosing a toy or gift for a child, friend or niece/nephew. She has definitely set herself apart from other online toy stores with this fab information and not to mention her toy selection is the bomb! Rock and Pebble, Maileg, Milton Ashby, Omy Design and Play, Lille Huset, Numero 74, ahh need i say more…
As a toy blogger I see a lot of kids toys as you can imagine, but the ones I am always drawn to are ones that will last generations, ones that our children can enjoy, but also their children. In this very consumerist society, it can be easy to give your children toys upon toys upon plastic toys. But the ones that they will remember won’t be the plastic ones that break or run out of battery, but those that provide them with hours of imagination and wonder. The ones that are sturdy, robust and built to last, which is why I tend towards wooden toys. Aesthetically from a parent’s perspective they are beautiful to look at which is important as you will be seeing it daily, but from a consumerist perspective, they are also ones that you know will survive the rough and tumble of children. They won’t be thrown in the bin because they no longer work!
I wrote a blog feature last month all about Australian Wooden toys and I am very exciting to start looking around the world at what other countries makers and creators are designing and producing for our children in terms of sustainable heirloom wooden toys.
This month, we travel to the grand ol USA! And gosh there is so much going on here, it was really hard to make a decision on the curated goodness coming out of the US. I think I will need to do another one very soon.
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.
I have to say in looking for handmade and wooden toys over the past 2 years for my blog, it has honestly been quite a struggle. There are a lot of wooden toys but all made by the big companies; Plan Toys, Hape, Melissa and Doug, Janod and Kidkraft to name a few. We love our Hape & Plan Toys but not all the companies produce solid wood toys, many are made of MDF, which isn’t sturdy and if it is painted, then it chips easily.
However, just in the past year, there has been an absolute resurgence in handmade and wooden toys. And I can proudly say there are so many handmade and heirloom made toys being made right here in Australia, many in lovely mamas and papas homes! Woohoo!
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!
Halloween is over and let’s roll on the festive season!
With it comes all the flurry of thinking about what presents aka kids toys to buy your children, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and grandchildren. So I thought I would help out over the next few weeks and give you some ideas with my gift guides, as we build up to Christmas 2015 ( 7 weeks + and counting, just thought I would add that in for some shock value!).
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.
Wow, I cannot believe we are almost in November, where has the year gone? I am super excited about this “Pay It Forward” as we were extremely lucky to attend an “Under the Sea” themed birthday party way back in February ( it seems many moons ago) and much to our surprise, we received a Shark tail outfit from Schooza as Jasper’s party favour. I nearly fell over myself after seeing the label, realising I was going to be writing a blog feature on this brand later in the year.
Today, I have decided on a new name for my boys, they are no longer Jasper and Hudson but rather the… “Café kids”!! Yes, I have to admit, it may be partly my addiction, ahem, obsession with coffee that has made me make a beeline for a café, when I am out and about with the boys.
Last week, we went to have a look at the Bahai temple, a place we travel past daily which is a house of worship for the Bahai faith. As we came outside, Jasper asks “So where is the café mama?” “ Ahh Jasper, it’s the equivalent of a church here, there is no café!”
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.
As you know from reading this blog, I adore Kickstarter and crowd funding sites that help to provide financial support as well as a strong community to help people realise their dreams.
I am also always intrigued and fascinated by new toys and new concepts, one such company doing just that are “The Offbits”, a super cool open source toy in the form of robots! Based out of Tel Aviv, this is their second Kickstarter campaign aimed at making their little robot creations more accessible to all.