Big Fun for Little People
One of the really fun things about having kids – or just spending a lot of time with them – is sharing the toys, books, and activities that were so much fun for you when you were young, and getting to re-experience them yourself. Come gift-buying time, the options are limitless – and can be, frankly, overwhelming. So when I start to short circuit on my searches for the latest, greatest, and most innovative designs for my little one, I am always happy to look back and call on some true classics to round out my cart.
Gardening seems to be the rare activity that almost any kid will slow down to take part in, perhaps because the waiting – with all of the mysterious goings-on underground – can be every bit as gratifying as watching the first shoot pop up. The Rainy Day Garden offers kids their own micro-garden to plant where they please. These sweet ceramic boots come with peat plugs and a seed packet – add peat, add water (rain or tap), add seeds, and let your wee-ones get their green thumbs on. They come in four vibrant colors that match their accompanying seeds (RED=wild strawberry, YELLOW=chamomile, GREEN=mint, and BLUE=basil), and are compact enough to fit securely on most windowsills.
Colorforms is one of the best examples of how the simplest of things can be the most enchanting for kids. The original colorful vinyl shapes have remained popular since their invention more than 50 years ago. They were one of my obsessions when I was young, and I still love playing with them with my daughter. While they come with both black and white background boards, Colorforms also adhere well to appliance surfaces (refrigerators, dishwashers, etc.) and car windows without leaving a mark, which also happens to make them an incredibly versatile “toy”, both at home and on the go.
We were given a PlasmaCar as a baby shower gift before my daughter was born. It was our first moment of toy-envy…until we realized that it could support the weight of an adult! Everyone who walks into our house is immediately drawn to the PlasmaCar. It has a graceful, fluid design, is a great shade of red, and can reach high-speeds (relatively speaking) and still turn on a dime without toppling your toddler (or Grandpa…). It’s also incredibly durable, and easy to keep clean. It’s one of the few toys that we don’t mind just sitting out because we all enjoy looking at it in both its still and speeding states.
For the action-oriented reader – and we are voracious readers – there are few things better than a good pop-up book. Boisrobert & Rigaud’s Popville is both enchanting and clever, with a subtle touch of the bittersweet. And it is every bit as engaging for parents as it is for kids. Featuring color-blocked cut-outs that would make Mondrian proud, the book tracks the evolution of cities, from a rural farmhouse to factories and apartments. A fascinating conversation piece, Popville will likely rally as much attention from the coffee table as it will from the bedside table.
We live in an urban, mixed-use neighborhood, and what we don’t have in the way of a yard we more than make up for with our super-huge deck. While a walk to the park is almost always nice, sometimes we all just feel like being home. To fill our daughter’s outdoor fix, we love the nicely-shaded sandbox from Tierra Derco. It’s free standing and big enough to fit a couple of toddlers and their sand toys, but not so big that it takes over the rest of the outdoor space. The simple cloth canopy ratchets up and down two support poles so when our peach is done with her play, it acts as a cover to protect the sand until the next round.
Should our daughter decide to decorate her Bo Buro desk, she’ll be fully equipped with a Clementine Art Gift Set. The soy/beeswax crayons, plant-dye markers, 6-color craft paint, scented modeling dough, and multi-purpose glue are made from naturally-derived, certified non-toxic ingredients, and come packaged in simple-yet-beautiful post-consumer recycled packaging. In the interest of full transparency, they post complete ingredient listings on their website, as well as copies of their CSIA non-toxic certifications. And should my daughter decide to decorate herself as well with the vibrant but opaque colors, the non-permanent, non-staining ingredients promise to wash off with ease.
When we were kids, one of the best playthings you could ask for was a giant cardboard box: it was a fort, a spaceship, or just a blank canvas for painting and drawing. The clever folks at Dutch design group Kidsonroof have elevated the form of the humble box, but maintained all of the creative possibilities with the Bo Buro desk + stools. Made out of cardboard, it gives the wee-ones a workspace of their own, but should they tire of its practical uses, it can be easily overturned or reconfigured for more fanciful functions. When the versatile Bo Buro’s met the end of its usefulness inside, it can be thrown into the compost pile or recycling bin outside, which truly makes it the gift that keeps on giving.
F-U-N, FUN. That’s what Greg Pizzoli’s artwork is. And since our little one has been starving for wall art since we moved into our current residence, we’re going to treat her to a little eye candy from his fantastic collection of prints. Each silkscreened piece is pulled by hand in vibrant colors, and with whimsical but modern illustrations, they’re pictures on which we’ll all be happy to feast our eyes on a daily basis.
Let's just get the ultimate fantasy gift out of the way. The amazing Rhapsody Playbeds and Indoor playsets are the stuff that kids & -and adults - dream of. To frames constructed in Maine out of beautiful solid Ash and Baltic Birch plywood, with bright colorful accents (or not), you can add as many elements as your imagination can handle: panels of cut-out wood or plexiglass, or solid chalkboard laminate, fire poles, slides, bed platforms, climbing walls, with plenty of cubby and hidey-holes…Your only restriction is the size of the room and your wallet, of course. But with the clean lines, modular design, and whimsical but not-too-cutesy accents, you’ll be stretching your dollars - and your kids' imaginations - over many years to come.