After carefully looking at my new found websites, I have selected the following companies to buy Lawyer's birthday presents from. Not one toy that I bought last night online has a battery or "only one way to play" use. Almost all of them have open-ended uses so that these products will stay relevant in his life for years to come. While I bought less and spent a little more than I would have at Target or Walmart, I do believe that the quality and longevity of these products are going to last a lifetime, and that, my friends, is worth the extra money. So without further ado, please meet my new favorite toy/play sites for children.
I think I bought at least half of what this store had to offer. I got everything from Crayon Rocks (a soy-based crayon that is supposed to "rock" your coloring world) to Rubbing Plates (remember these? I think my favorite were the Barbie Fashion Rubbing Plates where you could be your own designer - with huge shoulder-padded jackets, ultra mini skirts, tapered pleated-front polyester pants...name that era!). I'm very excited for all the creative products this company provides and can't wait to get my box of goodies! Oh and check out owner Amy's blog...she has small children and her blog is devoted to showing fun projects for kids!
Nova Natural Toys & Crafts
If ever there was a fun site that had a lot of traditional toys/play things, this would be it. I want to call it my "hippie toy store" since everything is about being organic and non-conforming. I bought the coolest blocks (called the Four-Elements Blocks, go figure) and they are "organic" shapes of earth, wind, fire, water, etc. Oh and I bought a toy sailboat (think Victorian times of boys in their knickers having sailing races on the pond while their bustled mothers wave their parasols) that was so fun-looking. Pool season isn't over after all!
For Small Hands - A Resource for Families
This is a Montessori-based resource for children that focuses on child-size, real-life items like child-size mops and brooms or a small cutting board with a wood cutting knife to prepare snacks. Montessori builds independence, character, self-esteem, responsibility, respect, imagination, discovery (I could go on and on since Lawyer has been going to a Montessori school for almost a year now) so it makes sense to have some items at home that have a Montessori-feel about them. I know Lawyer will jump right into these products/works like he would at Montessori. I got him this super cool Hammering Activity that I have to show a picture of...he's going to LOVE this! The wooden shapes have small pre-drilled holes and then you get a hammer with real 1/2" nails. The child works on his fine motor skills (putting the nail in the hole on the wooden shape and then hammering onto the provided cork board) and it comes with pattern cards (sequencing is important!) so Lawyer can find the appropriate shapes and put them together or he can make his own patterns. I also got him this cool wooden bead activity that can be used as a lacing project (something he loves at school right now, threading beads onto string, again this builds fine motor skills that are essential for writing) or as a pattern project.
Back-to-Basics Toys: Games and Hobbies
I love this company's slogan of "They do make them like they used to!". This is a great toy store since it provides a lot of traditional and classic toys. Remember Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Color Forms? They got them! Remember the Fisher Price TV (you turned the knob and it played, what I remember, "Row Row Row Your Boat" while the screen "moved" to look like there was action going on), the Chatter Telephone (with his eyes that moved when you pulled him along by his string) or the Corn Popper Push Along? They got them! Lawyer's been asking for a trumpet since "he doesn't have one of those (his words)" so I found one on this site. They also have Shrinky Dinks that I think would be cool but Lawyer isn't that patient with "waiting without action" since they have to bake in the oven.
I hope this has been a good useful tool for everyone that reads this. If you don't have small children, these are great resources if you are looking to buy a special present for a grandchild, a friend's child, niece or nephew, etc. I can definitely say that Lawyer will be getting presents from his parents that are unlike anything else that other children his age would be getting. But it's not about that, it's the fact that when I spend my dollar for a toy, I want to know that it's going to be played with for year's to come without falling apart (you can't believe how many toys Lawyer gets ahold of and it falls apart the first time he plays with it...money down the drain!), that it's going to hold interest and be able to morph into other activities the older Lawyer gets and I want to know that I'm giving my money to small business (quality and customer service) rather than to "big box" retailers (low prices and quantity over quality; oh and customer service is either non-existent or it plain sucks).
Come on, you knew I had to throw a little politics in at the end at least! Lower taxes for small businesses means you get to shop at these fine establishments (otherwise, they are forced to close since it doesn't pay to have a business when you continue to give most of your money to the government!). Vote McCain/Palin if you support small businesses!!