Sunday, November 6, 2011

And so the rain continues...

But we're nice and warm and dry inside the toy shop, so all is well!  We've noticed a lot of art kits making their way home with some very appreciative children, especially some of the new Creativity for Kids kits (the Shrinky Dinks are flying out the door).  We've also discovered that Play-Doh is a great idea for the younger folks stuck at home with a cold.  Being two is hard when you can't run around.... Play-Doh seems to be the chicken soup of the toy world!

Some other ideas for those of you who'd like to go home with a fun family activity to keep your mind off of the puddles outside?  Puzzles and board games!  Even we oftentimes forget our puzzle area when recommending items in the shop, so I'll give it a shout out now.  Most of our puzzles are from the brand Ravensburger, which, if you're unfamiliar with them, is one of the best puzzle makers out there.  Their art is gorgeous, and it covers a wide variety of subjects, from Highlights-branded puzzles to scenic landscapes to animals.  They also provide puzzles for all ages, something the whole family can appreciate.  I personally believe that most age recommendations are a bit off when it comes to puzzles, so don't shy away from a 6+ if your child is 4 or 5.  If they are detail-oriented and focused, they'll have a great time putting the picture together and it's a great way to encourage those skills.  We also carry puzzles from Melissa & Doug, including a new chunky puzzle for the 1-2 year old set featuring vehicles.  It's recommended for 2 years and up, but we've learned that most parents opt to start introducing the chunky puzzle around 12 months.  They can't quite put the pieces in the proper place, but they love taking them out of the puzzle and playing with them.  As their development continues, they figure out how to put the pieces back, so it's really a great learning tool that grows with them as they get older.

Board games are absolutely a go-to when it comes to rainy, cold days.  Chutes and Ladders is perfect for younger children, as well as Poppa's Pizza Pile Up (a balancing game), Feeding Froggies (similar to Hungry Hungry Hippos), and Froghoppers (a very simple game... the goal is to get your frogs in the bucket.  Just press on the frog's back it "hops" up.), not to mention Tiddlywinks, which I'm convinced 5 year olds are specially designed to be better than adults at.  One new favorite of ours is Top Trumps.  Like many new toys/games, this one first garnered attention on the East Coast and the U.K., and became a huge seller there.  We were one of the first shops out here to carry this line, and while it got off to a slow start this spring, we had faith that our customers would love it just as much as we do, and boy have they ever!  We received a new shipment in last month, and we can't believe how many of our customers have really gotten on board with this game.  So what is this game?  Remember the classic card game 'War' (if no, it's where you split a deck in half, and you each put down the card at the top of your pile and whoever has the higher value card takes both cards.  You then play until one person has all of the cards and wins)?  This a variation of that game.  Instead of just playing the card on top of your deck and going by the higher value, this game uses a variety of facts with values attached to them to play.  Each set has a theme, such as Harry Potter, Bugs, Go-Go's Crazy Bones, Baby Animals, etc.  Each player gets a certain number of cards, and each card has different facts on them.  For example, in Baby Animals, the facts could be weight at birth, average lifespan, cuteness factor, and whoever leads picks the animal they have with the highest stat in one of these categories.  If you have an elephant, let's say, you can be fairly confident that its weight at birth with 'trump' any of your opponents animal weights.  So you can put that card down, say the category is weight, and if you're correct, you take their losing card(s).  Whoever ends up with all of the cards wins!  Designed for 2-6 players, this is a quick, compact, and educational game.  It's easy to learn, and a lot of fun to discover new facts about your favorite things.  And for only $8.95, it's hard to say no to! 

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