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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Thing I Love Most – A Deal!

 

Nothing makes a new dress cuter than knowing it was purchased on sale.  A new ball is bouncier when it is 20% off.  Jump ropes are jumpier.  Games are more fun.  Swimsuits are splashier.  You get the idea.  I think it is an interesting peek into a mom’s psyche to consider such things.  And a smart retailer would take note.  It is not about the price.  It is about the deal.  It is about getting something a higher perceived value for far less.

For instance let’s say the above noted Dress A has a price of $25.  It’s a fair price for a girl’s dress.  In the same store, however, there is a Dress B that has an original price tag of $35 that has been marked down to $25.  Two dresses, sided by side.  Same price.  Which one do you want to get?  Do you even have to see them to know which one you think you would like better?  Be honest.  I know if I am being honest, it is hard for me to let Dress B go, even if I really like Dress A better.  I’m not judging – I am just observing!

With that being said, the pop-up of the daily deals everywhere is pure heaven for me.  I am the perfect customer because I am buying things solely because they are a deal.  Things that I would not buy today. Things that I wasn’t looking for today.  But things that are a discounted today – and I am loving it!  I have many different sites that I will share over time.  I am starting today with the mini social because in addition to being a deal, they are featuring a couple of my favorite items.

Currently listed for the next couple of days is the Scholastic sale with a couple of my favorite Scholastic items, being the Bob Books set and the I Spy Books.  I used the Bob Books to help both of my kids learn to read.   They are fantastic at building phonics as well as confidence.  The books build upon each other so once a sound is mastered it is incorporated into the next book with the next sound that is being taught.  And kids can move along at their own pace, sometimes moving quickly, other times taking it a little slower.  The I Spy Books I love because they can be enjoyed alone in the car on a long trip, or together in bed with parent and child playing together.  The photographic artwork engages children for a very long time.

The other line that interests me today is the National Geographic Maps.  The mini social is highlighting quite a few beautiful themed maps including the world, the heavens, the United States, dinosaurs, and The Civil War.  Lots of information to pour over while laying in bed at the end of a busy day.

What’s not to love – it’s a deal!

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Carpet Skates! – Why didn’t I think of that?

 

 

Do you remember when you were a kid and you and your friends would find your most slippery socks to “skate” on a nice polished floor?  Twirls, leaps, moves that would have impress Dorothy Hamill, no doubt.  That was back in the day when we had to make our own fun – it didn’t come packaged in a box with directions.  Remember?

I relived all of my triple toeloop highlights the first time I walked past the exhibit of Fun Slides at a toy trade show several years back.  So simple.  So genius.  Made by Simtec, the same company that created EZ Moves Furniture Slides used to move heavy furniture with the push of a finger, these skates are awesome.  The company agreed to sell me two pairs at the end of that particular trade show and I brought them home to see if my kids would love them as much as I did.

The skates were wildly popular… with the entire neighborhood.  For months our furniture was moved to the perimeter of our living room will kids took turns using the skates to perform.  Daredevils took them to the top of our carpeted stairs, sitting on their heels and riding down the “hill”.  My kids enjoyed having the “it” toy – with a msrp of $19.99!

Great gift, but be warned – you may lose your living room to future Olympic figure skaters and hockey players!

North American Bear Company has the Quintessential Baby Doll

I was never a big fan of the baby doll – don’t get me wrong, my kids were.  They had them and all the accessories that went with them (and take up so much room, perpetually making their own rooms look disgraceful). But the hard vinyl faces and bodies are big turn off for me.  Nothing squeezeable, loveable.  They are hard to cuddle with.  And the vinyl picks up dirt making them appear unkempt.  Kids quickly start putting these uncared for looking babies away, not in the baby carriage, but in the bottom of the toy box, because not even they want to look at the dirty faces.

I am however, in love with the North American Bear Company‘s Rosy Cheeks Baby who comes as either a little girl or little boy, has a variety of hair colors and two skin tones.  And each and every one of them has…rosy cheeks, of course.  The soft velour skin is loveable (and washable!). At 15″, the size is right – realistic where many soft babies are eerily small.  The cloth diaper and little jersey wrap are removable.  The features are embroidered, creating an overall sweetness to the doll.  A great gift for an expectant sibling or a young nurturing soul.

Djeco Puzzles – Great Shape!

For those who are not in the toy industry, you may not be familiar with Toy Fair – an annual tradeshow held in New York each February.  The show is held at that time of year because it then that predictions are made about the hot toys for the holiday season.  It is there that manufacturers gage interest in their new products so that they can create production plans that meet their needs in the height of the season.  News cameras are there interviewing the CEO’s of Mattel and Lego.  There is always a woman who is sewing doll hats in the Madame Alexander booth.  Costumed characters walk the aisles.  Sometimes you can see Marie Osmond (who has a line of dolls about which I will never be writing) or Richard Simmons (who apparently wears Dolphin shorts at all times – even in New York in February!).  There is usually a record-breaking snow fall towards the end of the show, preventing tired sales reps from around the country to make it home as scheduled.  And, of course, there are lots and lots of toys!

Traditionally, the biggest companies have booths upstairs in the Javits Building (if they are really big, sometimes, they will have one downstairs too) while lesser known companies have space downstairs.  It was the aisles downstairs that have always been my favorite.  While the companies upstairs were unveiling new items, downstairs held new lines.

It was in these aisles downstairs that I first discovered the Djeco line from France.  While the line was not new, it was new to Toy Fair and it was new to me.  I won’t go into all of the things that they manufacture or distribute as I am sure that I will be coming back to this line again.  I want to start with their puzzles which are packaged in boxes that are shapes of the puzzles subject.  For instance, if the puzzle if of a Princess, the box is shaped like a Princess.  If the puzzle is a castle, the box is shaped like a …. Castle!  You follow, I am sure.  At the time I was a buyer for a children’s bookstore and my goal was to find products that could be paired with children’s books. For those who don’t know, Pirates and Princesses are two very popular themes in picture books – these puzzles were perfect!  But my infatuation went past my immediate needs. What I love about these puzzles:

• Great design – the packaging makes the product exciting, it looks great on a shelf, it engages the child immediately (and yes, I know this because it engaged me immediately!)

• The puzzles have more than 24 pieces meaning the product matches the user it is targeting.  It is challenging enough to be interesting to children 4+.  (Usually 36 – 54 pieces)

• The price is a right where it should be – high enough to qualify as a gift on its own, low enough that it could be part of a dual gift such as paired with a book.

• The artwork is fantastical without seeming too manufactured – it has a very quaint European look.

• The puzzles are not everywhere.  Which is the good and the not so good if you are looking to purchase one.

I have noticed that a few of the puzzles are no carried in some Barnes & Nobles.  They are also carried online at specialty retailers such as:

www.julabug.com

www.moolka.com

www.oompa.com

www.fatbraintoys.com

The Care and Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls

The Care and Keeping of You - The Body Book for GirlsAmerican Girl is celebrating 25 years in business this year.  And in my mind, that is 25 years of excellence.  One of these days, I will review their dolls for which they are best known. But as a former bookseller, it is their books (all of them – historical fiction to games to information pertinent to girls) that rock my world.  And hands down, the creme of the creme, is “The Care and Keeping of You – The Body Book for Girls”.

We are not prudes in my house.  We are pretty open about our bodies.  About sex.  About being comfortable in your own skin.  I’m just saying this so that you know that I talked with both of my girls about their bodies before I just handed them this book.  Truthfully though, I didn’t have to.  Everything was in there.  Of course, I think open dialogue is important but if you truly can’t handle the subjects of puberty and sex with your kids, this book has you covered.  I can only imagine how great a single dad of daughters would find it!

This is how it went down in our house.  When my oldest was in fourth grade, we had the very basic talk – about her period, body changes, and a little bit about sex.  Then I gave her the book and she didn’t put it down until she had read every one of the 104 pages.  Then I said “Do you have any questions?” and she replied, “Yes, can I get a bra?  What did they call them?  A sports bra?”  I was a little taken aback by her directness but I went with it, lamely answering “Do you think you need one?” (A little bit of the role reversal going on because I could not imagine my first baby needed a bra – thankfully she replied …) “Yeah, I don’t think I need one of those underwire bras, but yeah, I could use a sports bra.”  Okay…. So then I said, “Fine, we will go this week.  Any other questions?” And she said “Yes, do you use pads or tampons?”  And it has been like that ever since.

By the time her sister read the book (four year age difference) I think she knew most everything.  She had been around for the purchase of many bras, but also pads and tampons.  The two shared a room, also sharing a load of information, I am sure.  But I still loved the fact that it is a great resource.  A book that girls can come back to as they start going through the changes.  And the message is very much “This is what happens to EVERY girl, it is normal, you are normal, and there is no reason to be embarrassed.”  It is written so a fourth grader can understand and an eighth grader won’t feel patronized.

Sidenote incase you are wondering when is too early.  I learned about sex from our older girl neighbor when I was in 1st grade (yep, you read that right – 1st grade!).  It was obviously the biggest news she had ever had and it was certainly the biggest I had heard.  I remember where I was, what I was wearing, and that I thought she was the grossest person I had ever met.  With that as my own experience, I was determined to be the one to break it to both of my children, having a private talk at the end of second grade with each.  While many of their peers parents thought I was nuts, I must tell you – both of my kids had already had the playground schooling on this subject.  It hadn’t come up in our “How was your day?” conversations but when asked directly, both kids at age 8 already knew the answer to the oh so telling question, “Where do babies come from?”

eeboo illustrates coloring right

eeboo Walk to the Sea Sketchpadeeboo Walk to the Sea Watercolor Pencils

As a toy rep for eight years, my kids have seen many products.  While I, myself, was over the idea of stuff, having piles of it through my garage and office, my kids were not.  They loved when the UPS truck would pull up to deliver another box of goodies.  They loved when stuff was discontinued, meaning it came out of the rep bag and made its way to the garage sale pile. (Yep, I would make my kids spend their own money to buy samples from the garage sale.  Don’t think too poorly of me – I gave them first pick!)  But their favorite time was when I would come back from a tradeshow with my guilt offerings – always carefully chosen.  My favorite items of the season.

When eeboo had products that were appropriate for where my children fell agewise, more likely than not, I brought home one of their items.  What makes the line so special?  It was one of the first to combine beautiful artwork with basic toys, accessories, and educational materials, creating gift items that are timeless.  The art is created by one of several children’s book illustrators that the company uses to make each product a masterpiece.

While I do LOVE the entire line (that IS the name of the blog, so I thought I would make that note) there are some key items that have stood out for me – products that made great birthday gifts throughout the years.  Items that I still see every week, five years after I left repping.

The eeboo gift that I have loved giving the most is a set of colored pencils in a beautiful tin with a matching sketchpad.  In my mind, that item becomes an instant favorite of the recipient.  This season they have several new sets including a couple that have metallic pencils.  However, the Melissa Sweet products have always been dear to me and this season’s Walk to the Sea Watercolor Pencils paired with the matching pad are lovely!

Features I love –

• the tins make the pencils easy to store – forever!  Each of my kids still has a tin of colored pencils that come out frequently.  In addition to school projects, birthday card creations, they also come out for travel activities.

• the pencil colors are named by the artist who is featured on the product.  They bare labels such as “Giant Mushroom” (brown), “Five in the Morning” (bright yellow), and “Peacock” (bright blue).  I am a sucker for details like that!

• this particular set (the watercolor pencils) can be both pencils and paints.  Once the child is done coloring, he or she can run a paintbrush of water over the masterpiece to create a muted watercolor appearance.  Colored pencils can be layered for a more complex pieces.

• The sketchpads are oversized with quality are paper, ensuring that each masterpiece is a frameable treasure.

• The set will run you between $20 – $25 depending on your favorite retailer.

Skippyjon Jones – one of my favorite all time read-a-louds

Skippyjon Jones

You know it is good when you can’t finish reading the page out loud because you are giggling so much, and your child doesn’t care because he or she is laughing so hard along side you.  Truth is, they are probably laughing as much (if not more) at you as the book.

If you are not familiar with the Skippyjon Jones series by Judy Schachner, and you have  child under the age of 7, you need to get yourself to the nearest library or bookstore (don’t forget to shop your independents!) and meet the lovable Siamese kitten…who spends his timeout in his room as the Spanish sword fighting Chihuahua, Skippito, charging through his adventures with many amusing Spanish words and phrases.  This energetic and somewhat sassy hero forces you to read his comic lines with a strong Spanish accent – for readers whom are not fluent in the language, the story quickly becomes an opportunity to share your silly side with your kids.

There are multiple offerings in the Skippyjon Jones category – board books for the very little guys, plush, caps, even adult tees.  A new hardcover edition, Skippyjon Jones Class Action, will be available on July 12th.  However, my best rec is the first book (with the CD so that kids can listen to it being read aloud when you are not available to read) paired with the Skippy “ears” headband.  Classic fun.