Thursday, November 20, 2008

2008 Holiday Gift Guide

It's hard to believe the holiday season is upon us already. As you know, we're always on the qui vive for quality and imaginative toys and gifts. So, I wanted to give you a list of some of our tried and true picks for this holiday season. They are all quite marvelous with the added bonus of being mom-ufactured, family operated, earth friendly, fair trade or just plain fun:

Gonge, a family owned business in Denmark, makes amazing sensory toys of the highest quality.

The balancing board is a clever toy that improves motor skills by rocking, spinning and balancing. It can be played with solo or with a friend, standing or sitting. This giggle inducer is for ages 3+

The Little Travelers videos are beautiful and educational. Children get a glimpse into other cultures and customs through the eyes of two wee girls. These are not glossy commercial productions...their beauty lies in their realism because the girls were not directed, but rather observed by their mom. The series was produced and filmed by kindred mama, Angelina Hart, who at times had to put the camera on her lap in order to be in the frame. She purchased a few books at the bookstore and taught herself how to shoot documentaries. These videos are a lovely way to foster a sense of interconnectedness and global awareness as well as supporting the creative vision of a beautiful mama!

Another beautiful mama to note is Susan Bell whom, for the love of family and earth, launched her own business, Satch & Sol. She sells earth friendly, fair trade, handmade items made by Mongolian artisans.

We are completely obsessed with her line of handmade slippers. These slippers are gorgeous and reasonably priced! The wool is thick, soft, and warm.

Handmade items are so very special and even at 3 yrs old, my son has an appreciation for things that are handmade. He wore his slippers all day and didn't want to take them off at bedtime.

In the spirit of the holiday season, Susan is giving Mother Rising readers a generous 20% off all merchandise from her on-line boutique until the remainder of the year (except gift certificates). Simply use the code, Rising20.

Susan is mama to two delightful boys, Satchel and Solomon.

Twig Pencils are so earthy and visually pleasing that you may be tempted to put them in a vase on your table. They feel wonderful in your hand and the colors are vivid and blend nicely.

You can find them at A Toy Garden, the charming store owned and operated by kindred mama, Sonya Bingaman. Sonya lives in California with her two beautiful children. A social worker by trade, but after the birth of her daughter, she began crafting toys at home and selling them at local fairs. When her business began to grow, she opened A Toy Garden, where she sells unique handcrafted products made from natural materials. Her selection is sourced from all over the world and is sold at very reasonable prices. Gift wrapping is free...bright tissue that is easy for wee hands to open, tied with silky rainbow ribbon.
While you're there, check out the Nature's Kaleidoscope Kit. It's a kaleidoscope that children can create and recreate over and over with bits of stones and other natural objects. Very cool!

The Learning Tower by Little Partners was designed by kindred mama, Carol Gamble, who is a trained Montessori Infant/Toddler Specialist and is President and CEO of Little Partners. The Learning Tower is a fitting name for this unique and versatile product. It can be used in multiple ways. The Learning Tower enables children to participate in activities that otherwise would be beyond their reach. In the kitchen, they can safely help parents prepare meals, or play in the sink. Allowing children to help in the kitchen provides an opportunity for learning, and fosters a sense of independence while further strengthening the family bond. The Learning Tower adjusts in height to enable children to participate safely. Chairs can tip, stools don't have any safety rails and when children are engrossed in play a/o helping, they can easily become distracted and fall.

In addition to the practicality of The Learning Tower, there are a number of accessories that can be purchased to expand it's functionality and playability. It can be used as a playhouse, a puppet stage, or an art easel, for example. Maria Montessori said it best, "To assist children, we must provide them with an environment which will enable them to develop freely", and The Learning Tower is a step (no pun intended) in the right direction. For ages 18 months and up.

Some fun uses for The Learning Tower:
To go with The Learning Tower, you might also want to grab yourself a copy of "Gadgetology: Kitchen Fun with Your Kids, Using 35 Cooking Gadgets for Simple Recipes, Crafts, Games and Experiments". The author, Pam Abrams, is the mother of two children. She categorizes the projects/recipes in this fun book by the type of kitchen gadget used. We're in love with the walnut shell sailboats!

HABA's Block & Tackle set is fun and educational! The craftsmanship is superb, as one would expect from HABA, and it can effortlessly lift up to 350 lbs. It can be attached to the ceiling, a stairwell, loft, bunk bed, or trees. One of Satchel's favorite toys from last Xmas is a simple wooden crane, and HABA's Block & Tackle makes lifting an exciting new experience. Pulleys are simple machines that teach children about physics through play. Children enjoy figuring out how things work and here are some resources to enrich their curiosity with simple machines like pulleys:
Tree Blocks are a marvelous, free form and tactile building set. They can be purchased with bark or without. The Tree Blocks company is one of the first companies in the US to offer toys made from reclaimed, recycled and sustainably harvested wood. The operation is managed by Juergen Eichhorn, the son of the founder of Eichhorn Company, Germany's oldest and most respected wood toy maker. Another favorite is the Crash Car. A toy originally designed for visually impaired children, the magnetic parts make it impossible to reassemble incorrectly. The fact that they would design a toy that can be enjoyed by visually impaired children is a reflection of the their thoughtfulness.

Gears! Gears! Gears! by Learning Resources is a construction set with lights and motion. It takes building to a whole new level.

There is no right or wrong way to connect these gears so the possibilities are endless and therefore has a high playability factor! Gears are another simple machine that teaches children about physics through play. I've written about Learning Resources here and here and here. Learning Resources manufactures innovative, high quality educational toys for the classroom and home.

The very cheeky, Christmas Tree in a Box, is paper art by, paper engineer, Sam Ita and illustrator, Karen Greenberg. It's pre-cut and ready to assemble. It is recommended for ages 9-12, but I know dozens of adults who would get a kick out of it as well.

I wish I had a truck load of these to take to hospitals and nursing homes.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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posted by Wendy at 5:41 AM


Blogger Shelley said...

Thanks, Elf Wendy!

3:19 PM  
Blogger E and T said...

Hi Wendy

I clicked into your blog earlier this afternoon when I only had a short time to read through the post. I soon realised that this was one of those posts that was a real treat, one to be savoured, one that I should come back when I had more time. So here I am, several hours later, my two babies fast asleep. I made a hot cup of tea (well, it's not hot anymore because I have had such a lovely time clicking on all of the links you provided and explored so many wonderful places) and delighted in all of your finds.

I love your criteria for tried and true picks, especially the notion of goods and ideas being mom-factured.

Thank you for taking the time to share such a detailed post of some truly fantastic products. It bought me so much joy to read this post and find some brilliant goodies for my children.

I was so excited to see that you had included a clip of Satch reciting a poem. I could not click on it fast enough and what a delight he is. His smile never left his face and that same beautiful smile lit my face and heart up to. Satch is even more amazing than I ever imagined (how is that possible?) It was wonderful to see that clip of him.

Lots of love and hugs

6:21 AM  
Blogger A.D. said...

You have great taste! I'm glad I found your "glob."

4:33 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

aw, thanks, a.d. welcome. oh, and i LOVE your view.


5:32 PM  

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