So for my second ever post, I thought we should take a moment to look back at the toys from when we first opened our doors fifteen years ago. As I was reminiscing, I realized a lot of those original favorites are still available today. Of course all the everyday toys continue to be present like marbles…
…balls…frisbees…jump ropes…paint…and everything you can think of that you grew up with, along with the new and trendy–but today it’s about what we started with in 1996!
Some of my favorites from then are listed below, and on the Featured Products page of the website. What’s interesting is the same items that appealed to me fifteen years ago still appeal to me today. I realize it is because they are all classic, aged for many, easy to master and FUN. We have always described our store as fun, not “educational.” I personally feel that virtually all toys have educational value (but more on that in an upcoming post). The toys that have most appeal to me are open-ended, most are made of wood, and all have a tremendous amount of playfulness.
It should be of no surprise that not only am I playing with some of the same toys fifteen years later, but I am still reading some of the same stories that were published that first year we opened our doors. I have always had shelves and shelves of “children’s” titles in my library of books–this continues to be both a passion and a problem as our house is only so big…
Some of my favorite authors from 1996 have continued on a path of greatness. Jon Scieszka published Math Curse in 1996 and is now doing a blog called Guys Read. This is an incredible resource for parents with boys and for boys themselves. Check out my other favorite titles from then and now, below and on the Featured Products page.
Skwish by Manhattan:
With a name like Skwish, you know it’s going to be fun. And as soon as you play with the Skwish you know where the name came from. This lovely smooth wooden rattle/teether/busytoy mesmerizes babies with bright colors and soft clinking sounds from the wooden beads. Constructed of elastic strings, wooden rods, and wooden beads, the Skwish is a fascinating toy. I gave this toy to my niece even before I owned the toy store.
A bucket of Skwishes^
Twin Rattle by Ambi:
One of the best infant toys ever! Nothing is more captivating than the simple sun design, the perpetual motion, the bright contrasting colors, and the gentle rattle. Although the Twin Rattle was not available in the American market for a while, they are back. Just the same pure, simple, classic, fun for babies–not to mention their caregivers. Go ahead and try to put it down!
Blocks by Beka:
As we wrote in our catologue years ago: The great thing about wooden blocks is that they never go out of style…The great thing about wooden blocks is that they can create things imagined only in your mind…The great things about wooden blocks is that you can build them up, then knock them down…The great thing about wooden blocks is that they never wear out, no matter how much you play with them…The great thing about wooden blocks is everything about them! Not to mention ours are made by hands of our friends in Minnesota using hard USA maple wood. These are truly designed and engineered to last until your children pass them on to their grandchildren.
Lawn Mower push toy:
Never has there been a better push toy. It is just loud enough to keep your toddler happy and not make you crazy. It has the perfect size handle for little people to grasp, the natural wood is built to last for generations, not to mention it’s beautiful. I love this as a first birthday gift or for that little one who has just mastered the skill of walking.
Blast Pad by Marky Sparky:
I will start by saying if someone told me I could have only one toy from the store, one toy that I know I would never be able to make, one that I know will be a crowd pleaser for every age,* including the adults, one that is just plain fun, it would have to be the Blast Pad. It has changed just a little in the last fifteen years but it is mostly the same. And it continues to make children happy. We have personally owned many over the years and it still accompanies us to barbecues and all outdoor events.
*Blast Pad is recommended for 8 and up although kids as young as 3 have a great deal of fun with this toy under adult supervision (my 4 year old included!).
I recommend this every day that I work–it is the perfect toy for families with multiple children, one child, no children, grandparents who want the BEST toys at their house, aunts and uncles who need brownie points and on and on. Everyone loves to play this game. Think pinball made of wood with only marbles as the pieces–no parts, no batteries, no mess, quick to play, easy to learn, and did I mention Fun! A must-have for every household.
Tim Flying Bird:
This item is older than fifteen years, but we opened our doors with this as a featured product. At the time Aaron and Nicholas (my stepchildren) spent a lot of time flying this off our deck. We spent lots of time throwing and retrieving this amazing flying contraption. It continues to be one of my favorite flying toys.
The Seven Silly Eaters:
This has been in my library since it was first published. It is a fun take on the challenges of getting children to eat their food! The story is fabulous and the pictures are remarkable. You can’t help but love the patience and grace of this mama as she lovingly prepares apple sauce, pink lemonade, warm milk, oatmeal, bread and eggs for all of her seven silly eaters! From the first page of rollicking rhyme to the brilliant surprise ending, this is by far one of the best books for those little readers.
True story: My nephew who loved math (and I think still does?) used to fall asleep with this book in bed with him every night! It’s that good. I hated math as a child, as does the young girl in this sweet story. She likes math so little that she has convinced herself she is the victim of a “math curse.” Everything has turned into a math challenge or problem in this case. Both children who love math and those who don’t will delight in this funny math tale.
Mr. Putter and Tabby:
Cynthia Rylant is hands down one of my favorite authors. I am not sure I have read anything she has written that I did not enjoy immensely…including this incredible series of early readers. Not sure who I like more: Mr Putter or Tabby. I truly just wish they were both a part of my family! Mr. Putter is one of the most lovable children’s book characters, and that adorable old Tabby cat is just precious. Both are timeless and continue to appeal to children who are just learning to read today. Not to mention, you won’t mind reading and re-reading these beginner books.
The Golden Compass:
The first book in the His Dark Materials Trilogy, an incredibly vast and intricate work of fantasy that spans not only worlds but universes! These books are generally classified as Young Adult, but my stepson–who read and loved them at age 25–can attest to their appeal to older readers as well. The books follow a young girl named Lyra on perilous and mind-bending adventures through parallel universes. Beyond Philip Pullman’s knack for writing with stunning visual detail and seemingly endless imagination, he is also a brilliant storyteller; these books are so perfectly paced, multilayered, and even emotionally subtle that they are impossible to put down.