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Pretend Pita Pocket

You may not know this about me, but I am always on the lookout for unusual or interesting play food. The princess has spent many, many hours playing with our pretend food collection, starting when she was about 18 months old and still going strong at 4 and a half.

Well, I just stumbled upon this healthy gourmet pita pocket lunch set from Educo. It comes with two soft cloth pita pockets and a variety of sliced vegetables for your child’s sandwich making needs.

It occurs to me that play sandwich sets almost always include pretend meat. This might be a great alternative if you need a gift for kids whose families are vegetarian.

Stuffed Animal Storage

StuffedAnimalStorageWe have a bit of a stuffed animal storage problem at Chez Toy Report.  The fluffy overpopulation is reaching problem status.  There is a huge wooden chest filled with stuffed animals upstairs, boxes in the attic, an empty duvet cover filled with them downstairs, and all the current favorites on the beds, of course. Now, I would be happy to thin the herd but the boys switch favorite animals all the time and we periodically go on hunts for stuffed teddy bears or bunnies or brown puppies or whatever is needed. They would certainly notice and be distraught if they disappeared forever. I have done extensive research on storing stuffed animals and I have determined that there is only one truly good solution, the Boon Stuffed Animal Bag.

Stuffed Animal Storage AND A Bean Bag

That’s right, you jam all your stuffed animals into this plush and fluffy bag, zip it up and suddenly you have a fun chair and storage spot all in one.

Click here for the detail and size specification on the stuffed animal bean bags.

I am dreaming of them as the answers to all my problems. I think the single green one is cute, I may have to acquire one to see just how much of the plush menagerie fits inside.

The genius of these bags is that you end up with functional bean bag type seating in addition to stuffed animal storage. The bags zip open and animals get stuffed inside, but there are see through panels in the bags making it easier to spot a a favorite if needed.  Of course, having imaginative kids, there are always some unreal concerns here.  There are certain plush animals that really do not belong together.  You cannot put the plush manatee and plush seal in the same bag as the stuffed shark, and woe be to the parent who packs the tiger plush together with the plush bears.  You may wake up one morning to find a bag full of shredded fluff and stuffing.

Stuffed Animal Storage In All Sizes

big stuffed animal storageHeck, there is even an awesome three section version as well.  That looks to be the perfect sized Boon bag for lounging around, but it might take up too much space in most living areas.

My only real concern is that we have three children and I’m not sure I can invest in three separate bags so everyone can have their own. I am tempted by the triple bag, but I’m not sure how if three actual children could sit on it together.    It would solve the issue with large stuffed animals fitting in the smaller bag though.

This is absolutely the best stuffed animal storage I have ever seen, and boy are there some terrible options out there. I’ll tell you about the unpleasant alternatives later.

UPDATE: We finally got our orange Boon Trio bag (the one pictured on the right) and it is awesome!  It holds more stuffed animals that I ever imagined.  Click here for the details on the Trio.

Paper Toys You Can Make

I have a birthday present formula that has really working for me lately. With younger kids it is usually easy to pick out a cool toy, but that gets harder by about second or third grade, when the toys they actually want are more money than I am likely to spend on a present. My formula is this: I like to give a book and something to make. Sometimes craft kits or art supplies, but lately I have been giving paper toys and they have been quite popular.

My favorite is Papertoy Monsters. They aren’t scary or mean, but teach one comes with its own story and description. You cut them out and fold them according to the instructions and then either tape or glue them together. Easy peasy. The nine year olds I have been giving this book to have not had any trouble putting them together.

Now, just in case you have a kid who isn’t such a fan of monsters, I also really like  Paper Wonderland. Full of adorable animals, people and things (my favorite is the little toaster – with toast!).

For older kids, you might want to get this book of  Paper Automata. This book makes paper models that actually move. When you turn the paper lever the little sheep pictured on the cover actually hop up and down.

Kids love to make things. And here the design work is done, the kids just have to build them. And all kids love to play with paper and tape and glue – it is a universal truth. So if you are looking for an unusual present or something for someone you know is crafty, consider these books of paper toys.

LEGO Minifig Alarm Clocks

I know! Coolest thing you have seen all week, right? LEGO has come out with alarm clocks in the shape of some beloved minifigs. My personal favorite is the Darth Vader mini-figure alarm clock, pictured above. But following at a close second is Buzz Lightyear mini-figure alarm clock.

The clocks are quite a bit bigger than a standard minifig, measuring 8 inches tall. The Buzz Lightyear one may be extra cool, because you set the time and alarm by pressing the buttons on his space suit.

Nevermind, I may love the Yoda mini-figure alarm clock most of all. Who doesn’t love Yoda? To snooze the alarm or light up the clock display, you press down on his head.

The minifig alarm clocks all have moving arms and legs, just like a real minifig, so they can sit or stand or hold things.  They also have Woody, Anakin, and Storm Trooper alarm clocks.

Trust me, whether for a birthday present or just a Back-to-school-please-get-up-on-time-in-the-morning present, you can’t go wrong with these LEGO mini-figure alarm clocks.

Favorite Pirate Books

There are quite a few pirate books out there, they are perfect for young pirate fans (and in celebration of International Talk Like a Pirate Day!)

My absolute, hands down favorite is How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.

It follows the adventures of young Jeremy Jacobs who goes off with pirates to help them bury their treasure. He enjoys some of their pirate ways more than others (No Tucking!) but in the end decides to make it back home in time for soccer practice. Just as wonderful is the sequel, Pirates Don’t Change Diapers.

For picture books, my other favorite is Don’t mention Pirates by Sarah McConnell.

Follow the adventures of young Scarlet Silver and her family as they discover their true calling in their ship-shaped house.

For older kids you can’t go wrong with Pirateology.

A huge compendium of facts, stories and legends about pirates this is sure to be enough information to satify any swashbuckler interested in learning more about pirates. It includes information about knot tying, flags, sailing and boats and, of course, marauding.

My favorite pirate themed book is Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Scott Pearson.

It is a retelling of Peter Pan, but with more action and mystery and it is certainly as swashbuckling as it is possible to be. There is a whole series, and I recommend getting the first three to start, because they are addicting!

 

 

Pirate Dress-up

Continuing our celebration of International Talk like a Pirate Day, we shall explore our pirate dress up options.  I love this Alex Pirate tent. While it isn’t technically dress-up, it does provide a home base for the pretend play that goes along with dress-up. And have you seen it? Adorable!

As for dress-up clothes – I like this pirate costume from Melissa and Doug.

Perfect for a little buccaneer. If you will be dressing more than one pirate, you might want to invest in this Pirate dress-up treasure chest.

It has a variety of costume pieces, so there is something to make everyone feel like plundering something.

And, lastly, what may be my favorite pirate toy of all time:

This dress up pirate doll from Manhattan Toy.

I just love him! You can button and zip and tie and buckle him and then undo it all and start all over. He is certainly the most adorable buccaneer I have ever seen!

 

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Happy International Talk like a Pirate Day! (It is so a real thing. The internets are never wrong!) In honor of this most festive of holidays, I am declaring this to be Pirate Week  here at The Toy Reporter.

We will open the festivities with the best pirate ship toys.

My favorite (and the one we actually own and has been played with by just about every child who has ever been in our house) is the Plan Toys wooden pirate ship.

It is simple, beautiful, well made and sturdy wooden pirate ship. It has a few pirates, a little boat, an alligator, treasure chest. Everything you need to play pirates. This one is suitable for preschoolers, not just the big kids.

If you want to go all out, I suggesting this KidKraft Pirate Ship.

Like everything KidKraft makes is it well made and amazingly detailed. I love how the sides open, making this almost a ship-shaped doll house than just a pirate ship toy.

I also really like this Playmobil pirate dinghy.

playmobil pirate ship

It is perfect if you want something smaller, or to add to an existing pirate set.

Don’t forget to talk like a Pirate today! Hoist the main sail! Swab the decks ye landlubbers! Or you can just say “Arrrrgggghhhh!” a lot.

 

Waste-free Lunch Kits

I have found that my older kids are suddenly refusing anything that they think is for little kids, and sadly this includes lunch boxes with adorable animals on them.

For older kids, I thinks these waste-free lunch kits from Kids Konserve are perfect. They come with a recycled cotton lunch bag (in a tasteful print, nothing little kiddish about it), a stainless steel water bottle, two stainless steel snack containers, a sandwich wrap and a cloth napkin.

Perfect for your recycling minded kid or anyone who feels they have outgrown their adorable robot lunch box (sigh).

Another Cute Lunch Box

I just can’t stop with the animal themed lunch bags! I love these insulated bags by Dabbawalla. They are made of an insulating neoprene material that has met the stringent Oeko-Tex standard for fabric safety and they are sewn in a factory using fair labor practices – you can feel good about buying these lunch bags.

Dabbawalla makes adorable animals, like the monkey seen above or this ladybug.

They also have other cute designs, my favorite of the non0animal designs is the apple bag.

They are big enough for a whole lunch and a water bottle – a great way to carry your lunch!

Lunch Boxes For Kids

I have been searching for the best kids lunch boxes (although, they are almost always more like lunch bags than boxes nowadays). One of my favorites is the adorable Skip Hop Zoo Lunchie insulated lunch bags.  They come in adorable animal shapes and are roomy enough for a well packed lunch.

Some of my favorites are the Monkey, pictured above.

The pink mouse

The owl

and the zebra

They are all insulates to keep things cold and are PVC, Phthalate and latex free. And Skip Hop makes matching backpacks. So if your little one heading back to school is obsessed with Monkeys or just wants and fun way to carry their lunch, Skip Hop has your bags!