The kids and I spent lots of time playing together over the weekend. After all, it is almost time to get back to the business of school. So, we kicked off the weekend by playing two new games. Monopoly and Battleship are okay I guess but my two smallest kiddos like to play something unique and usually something that involves animals. I like games that involve strategy and aren’t too commercial in nature. Both of these games were a perfect fit for us.
The first we played was Tier auf Tier. These games and the company that makes them are German, just another reason we like them! The standards for toy and game safety in Europe kicks US booty so I know I am relatively safe with their offerings. Haba has long been known as a great source for safe, more sustainable, natural toys.
The game box is actually what you use to play the game instead of a board. It is divided into 4 sections and you have a menagerie of wooden animals to place around each section on the box. The animals reminded us of our Haba Eene, Meene, Zoo blocks. They have the same adorable look and feel. A bridge crosses from one side of the box to the other and the object is to stack animals on top of the bridge trying to make the animal combinations on your playing cards. Since two to four players can be stacking at the same time it can be tricky to do. The first player who manages to complete all their animal stacking combos and discard the associated playing cards wins the game. It was fun for my younger kiddos and I think it will be a nice game for them to play with the neighbor kids before school starts next week.
The other game we played was an even bigger hit, with my two oldest and with me. It was so fun I wanted to keep playing again and again and it will likely be the game we break out to play with Dad over the holiday weekend. It is called Inspektor Hase, which means Inspector Rabbit in English.
The board game is a garden with a winding path and all throughout the bunny garden there are bandits! You roll the dice and move around the board to uncover the pairs of bandits… hens stealing jewels or moles walking off with gold coins. Each player has two matching bunnies and so when you uncover one of the bandits you can keep one bunny on that space while your other bunny moves around the board to capture the matching bandit. It is mostly a clever spin on memory but it also has a lot of strategy. There are two dice, one that rolls between 1-3 and one that rolls between 1-6. You can roll one or both at the same time so half the trick is figuring out which die is mostly likely to get you where you need to be, the fastest. You can also boot other players off their space and beat them to the punch.
It is a really simple concept but it was a lot of fun… as are most Haba games we typically find. We enjoyed both of them quite a bit but in the spirit of Simplicity Parenting we will keep Inspektor Hase and donate the other to a needier family. Much thanks to Haba for sending these games our way!
One of the latest trends in greener, more planet friendly toys is the surge of sustainable dollhouses on the market. One reason for this, I think, is because wood dollhouses already have a HUGE advantage over cheapy plastic ones… they are more attractive and more like a real home. It is rare that I see a plastic dollhouse that actually catches my eye these days and I can’t say that for all plastic toys in general. But when it comes to doll houses and play kitchens… wood is far more attractive and far more eco friendly as a bonus. The modern day versions of eco friendly dollhouses are so darn cute it makes me want to play with them. Either that or hand one over to an architect and tell them to duplicate in a life size version.
Here are some my favorites that I have highlighted. One or two of these might still be in the future of my little girl (almost 7 now) but if not I doubt I will quit bookmarking them because they are so darn cute!
My FAVE has got to be the Bamboo Sunshine Dollhouse from HaPe International which makes those bamboo race cars I love so much. It is made of sustainable bamboo obviously, which is a grass that grows in 3 years, much faster than trees. It has a polished look that I love and this cute house is just adorable. It is rather pricey and all the furnishings come separately but this is more of an investment piece, something you will take care of. It can last for several generations if taken care of and it will be just as timeless tomorrow as it is today. I love the sleek design and lines, the WORKING solar panel, the real LED lights, the partitions, the winding staircase, and all the rooms. You can pack a lot of fun in this little house. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous sets that can be bought for this including this greenhouse that can be used to grow REAL plants and herbs. Love, love, love this dollhouse. I wish it weren’t so spendy but this really is the Cadillac of eco dollhouses.
Another cute one is the Wonderworld Eco-Friendly Eco House. This one would be especially attractive to boys with the blue and green color scheme. What I like about it is that it is green – aka environmentally friendly rubber wood, non-toxic paints, dyes and lacquers and formaldehyde free glue – but also “pretend green” with solar panels, recycle bin, rain water collection system, and a wind turbine. The packaging is also made from 70% recycled materials.
It is a two story wooden playhouse that includes kitchen set, bedroom set, three wooden dolls and bathroom set as long as all the adorable features I mentioned above. The Eco range is part of Wonderworld’s new collection of products to educate children to the importance of recycling, saving energy and being friendly to our environment. The Eco House Wooden doll house comes complete with room settings and family. Themes include recycling, planting trees, solar panels, scooter and collecting rain water. I give it an A+.
After two rather pricey dollhouses this Krooom carboard dollhouse might be a breath of fresh air.
Fully foldable and completely flat in its package, no tools assembly. – Waterproof coating. Meets standards of moisture-resistance. – All graphics are applied with the highest quality printing. – Made of reinforced cardboard recycleable material. – Very strong and sturdy. – Environmental friendly. Free from hazardous substances. Corrugated board withstands top and side pressure, is crush resistant and has a high burst strength. It is impact, drop and vibration-resistant, yet light in weight. This would be an excellent dollhouse for a younger kiddo who might not take care of one of the nicer ones and it is an attractive budget option too.
Plan Toys is another fave brand of mine for kidlet toys and I like their Green Dollhouse with Furniture. Wonderful for older kids… say 6 and up. Like the other above it is green on two counts. It is made from nontoxic natural materials such as organic rubberwood AND it has an energy efficient design that includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, and an electric inverter for generating electricity, a rain barrel for collecting rain. There is also a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading, and a blind that can adjust to the amount of sunlight and air circulation. Recycling bins are also included with the house. This dollhouse also comes with furniture for five rooms: Living room, kitchen, bathroom, children’s bedroom and master bedroom. This beautiful dollhouse and furniture are crafted from recycled, natural rubber wood, dyed with vegetable and soy dyes, and assembled in an earth-friendly process. The Plan Toys green dollhouse for younger kiddos (2-5) is here.
A rather atypical dollhouse would be this exclusive from Magic Cabin. It is a mushroom house for dolls or gnomes. The mushroom-shaped abode is perchance the most charming home for gnomes ever seen. The sturdy wooden two-story dollhouse comes with lots of perfectly sized accessories: table, two chairs, two beds, red-checked bedding and pillows, two evergreen trees and eleven animals. The posable dolls are handmade in Brazil with soft wool hair and stuffing and cotton clothes. I just love all the little forest animals!
Okay I was done but then I remembered another unique dollhouse I featured a few weeks back.. the Enchantmints Fairy Forest Lodge. It is a treehouse for dolls and is quite adorable if I do say so myself. I tried to score one of these for Christmas when Magic Cabin had these for half off! But alas they went in minutes and I wasn’t so lucky. My daughter loves fairies though so this may still be in the cards for us.
Do your little ones have an new eco friendly dollhouse or do you prefer second hand ones?
One of the hot gifts for the upcoming year among the natural/green toys enthusiasts is the Pile of People Puzzle. I have been seeing variations of this basic theme everywhere.
They are wooden puzzle pieces in the shape of little men and these particlar fellas hail from Down to Earth Toys which specializes in natural toys. I have seen natural finishes (like above) and dark wood ones with varnish. These particular ones are made from reclaimed wood and are rubbed with mineral oil. They also have numbers on them to give them an educational bent as well. There are 18 of these little men with numbers carved on their chests. They are high quality too and will not break easily. Gotta love solid wood ya know?
My little guy needs to work on his motor skills and his numbers too so this is a fun toy for him. Plus what boy doesn’t LOVE to build? Perhaps it is due to his delays but he is only just now starting to play pretend with toys so these guys talk to each other while they practice their piling skills, and that is always fun to watch. In addition to stacking them you can also use them like you would dominoes or turn them number side down and play memory with them. A burlap sack comes with them so that they can be stored when not in play.
These are an excellent and simple toy for children and they are really opened ended too. If you love wood toys and minimalist toys then these are a winner.
Much thanks to Down to Earth Toys for sending them our way for review!
Just had to share this awesome sale. Our fave board game Wildcraft is on sale for 50% off right now. Read my complete review to learn more about why we love this game!
Christmas is around the corner. Many of you are probably already making your lists and doing your shopping. Some may want to do a handmade holiday or a second hand holiday, others will use their dollars to “vote” for products/companies they like… we do a combination of all that usually. One thing I am VERY big on though is educational toys for special occasions like holidays and birthdays. I love toys that engage my kids and make them use their noggins. The best toys IMO either exercise their bodies or exercise their brains. Here are my top picks for educational toys when gifting children. Many of these are perfect or homeschool too!
Inchimals – These adorable wooden blocks double as rulers that help children understand measurements. What can you learn from a rabbit that is exactly four inches tall? These lovely tools are thoughtfully designed. You get 12 Inchimals in the set which measure 1′ in height (the tiny ladybug) to 12′ high (the towering giraffe). With precise inch segments, correct numbers, and dot equivalent on ends of blocks, and cute animals – this learning toy will engage as it teaches Ideal for children of various age ranges.
Animalogic – It’s a toy, a game, and a puzzle. It also won toy of the year honors in 2009. This puzzle/game that will have your children working their brains overtime to solve these wonderfully smart safari stumpers! Lions, hippos, giraffes and camels are all waiting to get to the other side of the river. The animals know they may only cross the river bridge one at a time and they must travel in the proper order to safely arrive at the other side. With sixty puzzles and five levels of difficulty (beginner to advanced), these logic puzzles have players solving the correct sequence to remove the sixteen wooden animals from the game board.
The Soda Bug Can – It’s a science project and a REALLY cool build it yourself toy. It also teaches about recycling in a practical and understandable way. What boy wouldn’t be thrilled with this?? This unique robotics project uses a recycled soda can that you provide and transforms it into a robotic bug toy. A vibration sensation, Robug emits sound and moves across the floor as soon as you switch it on. The kit includes a motor casing, toy motor, body plate, body rims, battery casing, four large screws with bolts, small screws, plastic terminal caps, wire legs and wings, detailed instructions with fun facts. I think I know one thing my ten year will be getting for Christmas this year! Also check out the Hexbug.
The SpellMaster – We have had this toy for a couple years now. Basically it is a platform for developing sequential memory skills, increasing memory span, improving letter recognition, and spelling simple to complex words. Kids also find it fun… trust me. Read my full review here.
The Money Set by Melissa and Doug – Okay I swore we have enough Melissa and Doug sets but I saw this and had to add it to my own list.. even if the coins probably are plastic. It seems downright perfect for helping kids to learn to count money and it can double as a toy when you aren’t using it for educational purposes. They can use it to play store, farmer’s market, lemonade stand, bank robbery, whatever… It is a great way to introduce your child to the concept of money and basic math skills. Parents can get involved and make up fun learning games to teach addition, subtraction, interest rates, counting back change and much more.
Coliseum Blocks by Haba – I LOVE these! We love history, architecture, and travel so this is a three for one deal! In classic Haba style, you can recreate the splendor of the Roman Coliseum! This block set allows you freedom in feats of architecture and engineering with unique pieces of the highest quality beech wood. These blocks sets by Haba would be an awesome way to teach geography in a fun way that kids will remember. Other sets include an Egyptian Pyramid, a Mayan Temple, and Ancient Greece.
Passport to Culture – This makes a great “family” gift and it is a GREAT way to teach about geography, history, and different cultures. And what kids don’t love to play board games? We love RISK as much as the next family but when we want more education and less violence then this is a good game to have. Passport to Culture is the unique, exciting multi-cultural board game where players circle the globe, uncovering mysteries of our amazing world. Test your knowledge of world cultures from Andorra to Zimbabwe. Challenge your CQ (Cultural Intelligence) with fascinating, fun-filled questions about people and places, food and drink, world treasures, greeting and gestures, pivotal historical events, customs and traditions. What you don’t know, you learn…
WWII Spotter Cards – A deck of cards makes a great gift, especially when you are a family that likes to play games. These cards are pretty cool because they are educational as well. Each card has the usual suit of course but also 3 different views with the name of friendly and enemy aircraft used in WWII. My oldest is a WWII history and military buff and would be over the moon for these. Another cool set my kids would like? These famous pirate cards. I think I want some of those myself.
Number Bean Bags – Great for smaller kiddos but also for older ones who are learning to spell the numbers and not just identify them… a great toy for many ages ranges. Each bean bag is embroidered with a number (1 to 20) on one side and its number word on the other. Even numbers are in blue and odd numbers are in red for easy identification. The bean bags come in a handy cloth storage bag with a “tip sheet” of beginning math activities for large and small groups, from number identification and counting to simple addition and subtraction. They also have shapes bean bags and alphabet bean bags.
Isn’t learning always better when you make it a game? And isn’t the gift of learning the best gift you can get or give?