Butterfly Butterfly

June 15, 2012

We found Butterfly Butterfly at our local library last month and Astrid loved it. It’s your classic love story – girl plays with butterfly, loses butterfly, finds a bunch of other bugs, car chase, locates butterfly, happy ending. OK, not the car chase, but the rest of it is true.

There’s no particular moral of the story, except that the backyard is cool, which is fine with me: Astrid is two, so complicated stories aren’t a big draw. Colorful pictures are though, as is some limited pop-up action, both of which Butterfly Butterfly has. The illustrations are truly gorgeous and there are little tiny things for her to find in the pictures and remember for next time. Perfect for 1-2 year olds and butterfly/bug fans.

Butterfly Butterfly, $13 at Amazon

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Fire Trucks

June 10, 2012

Fire trucks are awesome. What’s not to love? I got a ride on one once. The firemen were heading out, I came by on foot wearing something fetching, and voila: a ride to the pub on the Upper West Side on a fire truck. It was fantastic.

We live a few blocks from an old-school firehouse and I needed to find Astrid a fire truck that met her expectations after seeing a real one and ringing its bell. It was surprisingly challenging.

Bruder MAN Fire Engine (with working hose)

There are two basic types: realistic ones with noises and hoses and ladders or “little kid” ones with larger and fewer features (and no break-off-able parts for choking).

In general, I try to steer clear of loud toys, but the siren is what first attracts kids to fire engines, so you can’t not have it. That concession made, I did stop short of getting her a giant one with all the bells and whistles, although I’m sure when she’s a little older than two and can work them herself, the ones with the hoses will make a reappearance on the radar.

The little kid ones were hard for me to get next to. The Green Toys fire truck doesn’t much resemble a fire truck except that it’s red and has tiny ladders, and inexplicably their vehicles’ wheels won’t run on hard floors. What fun is that?? In general, I like Plan Toys a lot, but their wooden fire truck just wasn’t close enough to the real thing for me.

These were my favorites:

Tonka’s Lights and Sounds Fire Engine. Medium-sized (bigger than Matchbox but smaller than giant) and with three brief sounds, Tonka’s Lights and Sounds Fire Engine was my final choice. The ladder moves and the doors open and that’s it. Astrid misses that it doesn’t have a bell, but other than that, it looks and sounds like the fire engines she sees all the time, and it fills the need without filling the room (or breaking the bank). We may upgrade later to one with people and hoses, but for a two year old with a limited attention span, Tonka’s is great. A little steep at $30+, but I couldn’t find any cheaper. About $30-35 at Amazon

For slightly older kids or full-on fanatics:

Bruder makes fantastic trucks, including several different fire trucks. They’re expensive though (nearly $70) and the size is a bit big for a city home (19″x10″), but if you’ve got the budget and the space, they’re sturdy and realistic looking. The final deciding factor for us though, besides price and size, was that none of them look like the basic “rectangular box with ladder and bell” that lives up the hill in our fire house. Still, great trucks and all the moving parts are attractive for an older toddler. $50-$70 at Amazon

Do you know the difference between a “ladder unit” and a “fire engine”? Yeah, me neither. But Playmobil does. The guy at the toy store explained to me all the different kinds of trucks that are in rotation at the city’s fire houses so I would understand how comprehensive and accurate Playmobil’s offerings are. Ultimately, I decided not to invest in another line of toys (in addition to the Legos and blocks we’re already navigating), and, like Bruder, Playmobil’s are big, but if you’ve already got your foot in the Playmobil door and have the space, they are cool. Various trucks, firepeople and station, $28-$80

Eat Your Veggies

March 21, 2012

Let’s face it: if you’re cooking dinner, your child is too. They like you, these kids of yours. So if you’re in the kitchen dicing vegetables, chances are, they’ll want to help. Especially with those colorful paring knives. Yeah, those are big draws in our house. Anyway, sooner or later, you’ll go looking for some play food for little Mario to manage on his own so your pork chops and their trychinosis can be left in peace. Let me recommend the Kidoozie veg and fruit set.

They’re fantastic. And I did some shopping around, trust me. For one, they come in their own little cloth shopping bag, so they can all be stored together. For another, all the fruits and veggies can be pulled apart (or “cut” with the enclosed plastic knife) as God intended: the orange splits into sections and the peel comes off, the cabbage “peels” back, the corn husk comes off, and so on. Little pieces of Velcro hold all the pieces together and has held up remarkably well – no issues so far and it’s been nearly a year since I handed the little bag of produce over to Astrid. I much prefer this set to any of our wooden food, which is much heavier and less life-like – which is probably why it’s also much less popular with the toddler crowd.

Most of the other sets I considered are either whole pieces of plastic or wood that can’t be separated/”cut” to see inside them, or they’re like Plan Toys’ set: they come apart, but at one arbitrary seam only. Small World Living Toys Peel n’ Play set is almost identical to the one we have (although only veg, no fruit) and I assume it’s also great, albeit slightly more expensive.

Get ’em excited about produce early – and give them something to cut up on the counter, other than their fingers!

Kidoozie Garden Fresh Fruits & Veggies, $15.50 on Amazon