Tag Archives: toys

The True Cost of Toys, Part 2

Bruder makes a quality construction vehicle toys that last for years of play.

Bruder makes a quality construction vehicle toys that last for years of play.

This is the first of a three-part series that will examine the TRUE cost of toys in an effort to help you save money on those often expensive, all-important toy purchases. Don’t freak out, it’s easier than you think.

Part 2: Toys That Last

They’re two little words that punctuate the eardrums like a roll of warning thunder in the distance: “I’m bored.” You’ve bought hundreds of dollars worth of toys for your kids, you know they have active imaginations, and there’s always plenty to do outside, so why are they bored? We like to chalk it up to a number of excuses like laziness or even a case of attention deficit disorder. But what if the answer isn’t in their brain chemistry but in their toys?

Last week I talked about calculating the true cost of toys. The formula, as I mentioned, requires estimating the number of collective hours your child will likely play with a given toy before tossing it in the back of the closet for good. While it’s a very worthwhile formula, the nagging question that remains is how exactly you estimate, with any sort of accuracy, how well your kiddo will like that toy. That question can be answered by looking at “long-lasting play value.”

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The True Cost of Toys, Part 1

BrioPlay

This is the first of a three-part series that will examine the TRUE cost of toys in an effort to help you save money on those often expensive, all-important toy purchases. Don’t freak out, it’s easier than you think.

Part 1: Calculating the True Cost of Toys

If there’s one simple truth about kids, it’s that they will play. They don’t prefer to play, they won’t play if you insist, they WILL play no matter what. Since the dawn of mankind, adults have been giving children things to play with, whether it be polished rocks or Tickle Me Elmo. These things, what we in the biz call “toys,” are integral to a child’s development and therefore a matter of great interest to parents. But as toys get more extravagant (gone are the good ol’ hoop-and-stick days), they can cause more anguish for money-conscious parents trying to get the best bang for their buck.

The answer to the issue of finances is usually a hunt for good deals. And while Online Discount Warehouse or Big Box Store might save you $10 on that $50 toy, paying less at the register doesn’t necessarily mean you’re saving any money in the long run. This part’s important, so let me reiterate: Paying less doesn’t always save you money. Let me explain.

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Put the Cool in Back to School

Whether you love it or hate it, the back-to-school season is upon us. If you’re not already up to your eyeballs in pens, pencils, protractors and paper you will be soon. But between your lists and the school’s lists and your kids’ lists, and in the midst of the stress of it all, it can be easy to forget that back to school shopping can be fun. Because fun is kind of our thing, here are a few items that help make it cool to go back to school.

Smencils

Smencils Original

It’s hard to improve on the classic pencil. Sure, you can make it triangular or paint it wild colors, but at the end of the day a pencil’s a pencil. A smencil, however, is completely different. Smencils are made from recycled newspaper, wrapped tightly and hardened around a graphite core. After they’re crafted, smencils get a dose of one of 10 different scents; from cola to waffle cone to papaya. But the scents aren’t all just for fun. For tests, pick up a peppermint-scented Smencil – a smell proven to stimulate brain activity and increase concentration.

You can pick up a classic #2 Smencil, or get creative with a set of colored Smencils. There’s nothing quite like a gummy-bear-scented paper on the industrial revolution.

Learning Wrap-Ups

Learning Wrapups

Between addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, not to mention fractions, percentages, probability and algebra, there are a lot of math rules to remember. Old-fashioned tables are fine, but they can be difficult for kids who learn with their hands. Learning Wrap-ups aim to solve the problem by making math a hands-on activity. The Wrap-ups come as sets of colored plastic keys. On either side of each key are notches with numbers, and in the middle is the number by which to multiply, divide, add or subtract. The budding mathematician winds a long string across the key, from the initial number on the left to the final solution on the right. After the key is all wound up, turn it over to see if you got it right!

It’s a simple game that gives the fidgety-handed a way to learn in a way that makes sense to them. We have Wrap-ups for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and state capitals. I guess you could say you’ll really get wrapped up in learning! Ha! If only they made Wrap-ups for puns!

Rulers of the World

RulersoftheWorld

Let’s be honest: Rulers are boring. They’re foot-long pieces of wood or plastic or metal, lined with tick marks and numbers blah blah blah. Fortunately, some brave souls over at Rich Frog have stepped up to the plate to bring rulers to their full potential. Their series, Rulers of the World, fills the otherwise blank backs of wooden rulers with lists and timelines of historical rulers – people of influence from different walks of life.

There are Rulers of the North, Rulers of the South, Rulers of Judaism, Rulers of Modern Art, African American Rulers, Native American Rulers and Great Women Rulers of Sports. There are rulers of rulers of science, education, art and almost every other facet of history. Rulers finally get their proper place in the back-to-school echelon of fun.

Flash of Brilliance Flash Cards

FlashBrillianceFront

Flash of Brilliance is all about honesty. When creator John Richardson was teaching his 1-year-old son vocabulary, he wasn’t satisfied with store-bought flash cards. “Too many cards didn’t show the actual item being named,” he writes on the FoB website. “They were cartoons, or photographs of stuffed animals. I wanted Stevie to know what an elephant looked like, not what a stuffed elephant looked like.” John decided to take things into his own hands.

The end result is a six-volume series of flash cards: animals, ABCs, outer space, bugs, dinosaurs, and numbers, shapes and colors. On the front of each card is a real photo, in order to keep kids learning in the realm of reality, and on the back are a few foreign translations and fun facts. It’s never too early to learn what the world really looks like.

In between trips to office supply stores, desperately in search of the perfect binder or specific kind of glue, stop by Kazoodles and pick up something fun! Remember, back to school shopping doesn’t always have to be a drag.

Easy, No-Stress Travel Toys for Summer Vacation

Travel without fuss? Yes it's possible! Try our top travel toys to make vacation a little less stressful.

Travel without fuss? Yes it’s possible! Try our top travel toys to make vacation a little less stressful.

Traveling can be stressful. Scratch that, traveling IS stressful. Whether you’re taking an infant on a plane or cramming your whole family into a car, it’s important to think about easy, no-stress travel fun. There’s nothing worse than fidgety toddlers or endless mantras of “I’m bored. Are we there yet?” And while cramming a screen in front of your kids may seem easy, there are better solutions. We’ve sorted through our collection of fun travel toys to bring you the best!

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Made in the Good Old USA

The Fourth of July got us looking around the store to see what’s Made in the USA. There’s a lot!

Lauri crepe puzzles, Tall-Stackers and Lacing Shapes. These are classic toddler toys.

Constructive Eating utensils and plates in construction or garden fairy themes that make eating fun! Made in Michigan.

Doodletown wooden vehicles made in Minnesota are the perfect first car for age 1+.

Do-a-Dots are a great way to start kids in art. They work like bingo daubers, keeping the paint confined in a tube. Made in California.

DoaDot

Wikki Stix are another creative gem. These wax-coated strands of yarn can be used to make 2-D or 3-D art. Made in Arizona.

Brick Stix enhance Lego play with stickers you can add to your bricks to create furniture, buildings, and more. Made in Wisconsin.

Marble Racers are cars that light up with an LED light as you play with them. Glow-in-the-dark tracks add to the fun. Made in California.

marbleracers_HP_2011_1205

• What does an electrician do with all the little colored plastic snips that come off the wires? Invent the Find It game! You can search for a whole list of things hidden in each Find It. Made in Washington.

Pajaggle is made in Corvallis, Oregon. This game challenges your brain as you fit different shapes into their holes. It’s harder than it looks!

Uncle Goose makes traditional embossed baby blocks in a lot of different languages. They’re in Michigan.

Beka Blocks are the best unit blocks on the market. And blocks, of course, are the most basic toy and the basis for learning math. We’ve visited their woodshop in Minnesota and can attest that they’re made with love.

Beka blocks

• We’ve also visited Maple Landmark in Vermont, makers of the Name Trains. This company is super eco-friendly.

• Speaking of eco-friendly, what could be more eco-friendly than making toys out of recycled milk jugs? Green Toys does this in California.

3-D Shrinky Dinks are made in Florida. Who remembers coloring on plastic, then shrinking it in the oven? Fun!

• Back in this corner of the country, WoolPets come from Suquamish, Washington. These felting kits let kids (or grownups) make little animals out of wool.

WoolPetsGP

• Another Washington company is Eye Can Art. Seattle art teachers put together everything you need to make amazing art projects, and the kits span ages from 4 to adult.

• When you need to think, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty will help. Get your hands working the putty, which comes in a range of metallic colors, color-changing hues or glow-in-the-darks, and free your mind to think. Made in Pennsylvania by individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities, working as a team to develop vocational skills and economic self-sufficiency.

Piggy Paint, a natural nail polish that’s safe for kids, is made in Arkansas.

Flarbles are made in Arkansas, too. Put one between your fingers, snap your fingers, and watch it fly!

Tot Talk placemats come from California. Front and back, they’ll teach your kids while they eat.

Tot Talk

Harrisville potholder looms are not only fun, they make a high quality potholder that’s perfect for gift-giving. We just got in a new larger size loom. Made in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

Rain Baby Gear is handmade right across the river in Portland, Oregon. The water-repellant stroller blankets are perfect for our climate, and the aprons will keep your kids clean.

Tweet Toys in Portland makes handcrafted wooden sailboats and rowboats for fun in the tub, pool or lake.

• Even closer to home are Taylor & Chloe hair clips, made in Camas.

• And just in, handmade right here in Vancouver, are Sleep Shepherd baby dolls, weighted dolls filled with millet and calming herbs.

Sleep Shepherd

Puddle Jumpin’ Cards are blank on the inside for your own greeting, but the fronts are stamped with a hand-carved linocut by our own daughter in Hood River, Oregon.

We are most likely missing some things, but this is what comes to mind right now. We are constantly looking for more Made in the USA items. It’s the ultimate way to shop local.

 

 

GoldieBlox Engineers New Potential for Girls

GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine is a brand new toy that focuses on engineering for girls.

Don’t call her a nerd. Don’t call her a tomboy. Don’t try to fit Goldie Blox into a box, because she’ll engineer a way out of any and all constraints that try to tell her who she is. Goldie knows a thing or two about the way things work, and she’s here to teach girls that their potential doesn’t always have to be topped with a tiara.

GoldieBlox is a new toy aimed at teaching the basics of engineering to young girls who might otherwise not get the chance to enter the typically male-dominated field. As the evolving global economy pushes math and science to the forefront of the job market, it’s more important than ever not to leave girls behind. Fresh off the factory floor, GoldieBlox bridges that gender gap with incredible ingenuity and a flair of panache.

It’s not all smoke and mirrors. The toy was created by Debbie Sterling, a real-life Goldie Blox who knows the struggles of being a female engineer all too well. Debbie started out like so many girls do, completely unaware of the world of engineering.

“I only knew engineering even existed because my math teacher from high school said I should explore it,” she says in the company’s press packet. “I’m creating a toy company that teaches little girls what engineering is, making it fun and accessible. I’m making sure that girls don’t have to rely on a serendipitous comment from a teacher to realize their passion for engineering.”

Sterling launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall, and raised more than $285,000 for the project–nearly twice her goal. The end result is GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, the first in an expanding line of GoldieBlox toys.

In her debut toy, Goldie is building a spinning machine to help her dog, Nacho, chase his tail. Her friends, which include a sloth, a dolphin in a tutu, and a bear in a suit and tie, all join in the fun, working together to build a massive belt drive to spin everyone around. The drive is built on a pegboard with a series of axles, blocks, washers and wheels, all connected with a long, pink ribbon and turned with a crank.

The open-ended nature of GoldieBlox allows room for creativity and innovation. Instead of an instruction manual, the box comes with a story book; an effort to focus on verbal skills and engagement. But the stories are almost just a recommendation themselves. The real idea is to get girls to think in creative and unique ways–something more than the standard princess fare.

While it is at its heart an engineering toy, GoldieBlox leaves the purpose of play up to the child. You can engineer all kinds of spinning machines, but you can also set a stage for any number of stories. On their Facebook page, the company connected two pegboards with axles to make a jail for Goldie’s friends, who they said were “stuck in customs.”

The hope, on a much larger scale, is to eventually level out the playing field in the world of engineering, an occupation that is presently 87 percent male. Goldie Blox has a lot on her plate, but she’s ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. And she’s hoping young girls everywhere will trade in their tiaras to help.

We just got a whole shipment of GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine at Kazoodles yesterday, so stop by and pick one up before they’re gone!

What’s the deal with Crafternoon?

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Every Thursday Ms. April, the manager schmanager, wants to hang out with your kids and make cool crafts at Kazoodles’ Crafternoon! We like making crafts because kids are naturally creative and learn a lot of great skills in the process of making something they can be proud of. Cutting with scissors, drawing and gluing all help with fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. Creative problem-solving skills are usually deployed during craft-time. Kids develop an interest and appreciation for visual arts when they start to understand the process behind it, too.

Ms. April is a graduate of Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and believes in exposing young people to new outlets of expression. She uses positive language to encourage exploration of the materials and tries to assist kids in creating their own vision of the end product. In other words, it’s okay to draw outside the lines, and YOUR ideas are interesting. Crafternoon is a drop-in activity every Thursday between 3 p.m.- 5 p.m. We like drop-in because some kids might want to take a long time with their project or create multiples, and showing up later is just fine. We ask for $2 per child for help with supplies. The projects are great for ages 4 and up, and parents are encouraged to help the younger ones if they need extra help. Older kids can try more elaborate ideas.

We try to work in some products we carry so you can see what it’s like out of the box, but we also put an emphasis on recycling materials into beautiful things. Ms. April likes to go to a cool place in Portland called SCRAP to collect recycled supplies, as well as saving all those tin cans and toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. If you have anything to donate, please let us know!

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Here’s what we have planned for the next couple of months:

  • April 11- Tissue Paper/Pencil tip Pointillism. We’ll cut small squares of tissue paper and twist them around a pencil. Add a drop of glue and stick the little pop of tissue color onto cardboard.
  • April 18- Rock Painting- Apply paint to a boring ol’ rock and make it your own fancy schmancy rock! Klutz has a great book with ideas to make your rocks look like animals and bugs and other stuff.
  • April 25- Tiny Toy Battle- Today we transform popsicle sticks into tiny bows with Q-tip arrows. We’ll also make catapults and decorate them. With parent consent, we will then have a tiny yet glorious battle.
  • May 2- Shaving Cream Marble Painting-  Shaving cream is a great medium for art! Put a few colors on the surface of a tray filled with shaving cream and swirl them around. Next put paper down to make a cool marbleized print.
  • May 9- Bubble-wrap Printed Picture Frames-  This is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day, so we’ll keep it (somewhat) of a surprise.
  • May 16- Mask Making and Parade-  We’ll use various techniques to create our own unique masks. Kids who are in the store at 5 p.m. can join in an awesome conga line around the store wearing our masks, just for fun!
  • May 23- Watercolor with Crayon Resist- This Crafternoon will be heavy on the open-ended side of creating art. We’re not as focused on having a finished product as we are on having fun with watercolor paints and experimenting with wax crayon resist techniques.
  • May 30- Wikki Stix Play Day- Wikki Stix are a great USA-made creative toy; they’re basically a colored string covered in non-toxic wax, which make them super bendable. You can make 2-D designs and do tracing with them, or you can take it 3-D and make cool sculptures.
  • June 6- Creature Bots-  We’ll be trying out a kit from Creativity for Kids, one of our suppliers. These are cool robot/monsters that make cool actions.
  • June 13- Small Recycled books- Use all different kinds of paper materials to make little books that can become journals, comic books, adventure logs, address books, you name it! Make a story for your Dad for Father’s Day!
  • June 20- 3-D Rolled Paper Craft/Twirly Q’s- Little strips of paper or corrugated cardboard get all coiled up and turned to one side to make really cool designs! We’ll look to Klutz for inspiration.
  • June 27- Fairy houses-  This has been a very popular activity at Kazoodles in the past. Based on the book series from Lightbeams Publishing, we’ll use all natural materials such as sticks, leaves, moss, pine cones and other seed pods to fashion a home for the fairies. We’d love contributions of materials for this craft. Come in to the store and check out the books for ideas ahead of time!
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