Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bit of Holiday Celebrating

Enjoying appetizers before dinner

This month I am concentrating on product reviews and at the end of this post I give you links for reviews but I just had to share these "Zach Pictures of the Season."  We were fortunate to have 13 of us for Thanskgiving dinner and Zach enjoyed the whole day.  He isn't used to seeing food in the living room, but he thought the crackers were a fine way to start the day.

He was seated in the center of the table in between his grandfather and his father.  My husband, Hugh, also known as Pop, wanted this seating arrangement.  And as you can see they both enjoyed dinner.
Zach and Pop agree dinner is finger lickin good

Today we started but didn't finish the quest for the perfect Christmas picture.  I know we have to have one of him with a big smile on his face for the Christmas cards.  But I love this one with a thoughtful face in front of the fireplace.

I am really looking forward to Christmas this year.  Having children around just makes such a big difference.

Lookinf for ideas for holiday gifts...Check out these posts

Thomas Train Set Wows Zach

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Playmobil Sets Make Holiday Gifts to Remember

11/22/17 Update - Thank you for visiting this 2010 post.  To see the latest Playmobil playset -The Camping Lodge - visit my 2017 Gifts That Grandparents Will Love to Give holiday guide.  Click here.

Between now and Christmas I plan to write a bunch of product reviews – all from a grandmother’s perspective. This year I attended three major Toy exhibition events – the huge New York Toy Fair and two A Time to Play showcases. I saw so many toys my head was spinning and now I have a backlog of things to write about. I’ll be featuring toys from large and small companies – classics and new favorites, so check back often to see the latest. Most reviews will be focused on younger children but not all. Here’s my first “holiday review.”

I can remember the Playmobil sets that my children had – high quality, colorful plastic pieces that featured themes with people figures and background set that encouraged “sustained” imaginative play. They are the same wonderful products today and even better. The sets are more elaborate but they have the same trademark appearance and “mobile” pieces and the pieces have been upgraded. The only problem I had in writing this article was choosing which ones to feature. Here are two of my favorites.

This set is about taking care of safari animals in a wildlife care station. There are two figures, leopard and cubs, baby rhinoceros, giraffe, and zebra, the wildlife station and lots of accessories. There are other individual small sets you can buy to supplement this set including lions, hyenas, monkey, ranger vehicle and more..

This set was named one of the top 20 toys of the year by Good Housekeeping magazine.

This is one of Playmobil’s most extensive sets and includes a whole school building with functioning bell, furnished classroom, science room, art and music room, nine people figures, and many other accessories. You can even write on the chalkboard. There are also small complementary sets with this theme that you can add on including a cafeteria, gym, workshop and crossing guard. 

Even if a child has been in pre-school this is a great toy to play with and prepare for the large school experience.

These high quality toys can seem pricey but they are a good value when you consider the quality, durability, educational and play value. The parts of various sets are also interchangeable and children can use their imagination to combine the sets in creative play. There are actually over 650 Playmobil figures! This is the kind of toy that goes to the attic to be passed onto future generations rather than into the garbage. Hmmm…maybe you should look up there…you may have some vintage pieces. And if you are concerned about toys made in China or parts of the world with questionable quality control – here is an important fact for you. They are produced in Germany in a huge state of the art manufacturing facility.

Playmobil products are the recipients of many awards and Top 10 features including from Toy R Us and The Today Show. One of the awards that impresses me the most is The National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval. The National Parenting Center is one of the industry’s most trusted sources of expert parenting advice and product evaluation. Both of these sets have received their prestigious Seal of Approval.

You can order both of these sets and the complementary ones from Amazon by clicking the links below:

Check back soon for reviews all week long.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How "A Pile of Leaves" Had a Happy Halloween and Reminds Me of a "Fairy Godmother"

This was Zach’s second Halloween but last year he was just an infant and now he is a toddler. My daughter Fran is enamored with the Fall season and so last year he was a scarecrow and this year he was a “pile of leaves.” This suited Zach well as he loves being outside and he loves nature. He likes to carry something in each hand and they are usually matching objects. So when he goes outside he goes right away to get two leaves, acorns, sticks or stones and then he is on his way.

When Fran decided that Zach would be a pile of leaves she enlisted her Dad to help. She bought a brown sweat suit and some artificial leaves and “Pop” sewed the leaves on the sweat suit. What a creative idea! We didn’t know how Zach would feel about wearing the costume but he always responds to when people smile and clap and as soon as he tried it on, we were all ohs and ahs. He gave us a big grin and we knew we had a deal.

On Halloween he Trick or Treated at neighbors in his condo complex and then at both of his grandparent neighbors. The real fun of the evening came when greeting Trick or Treaters at our house. Our neighborhood is a prime Trick or Treating one and people drive to come Trick or Treating here. The houses are not that far apart, the streets are quiet, and we have sidewalks . This year we had nice weather and we used 12 bags of candy and 40 small containers of play doh. The play doh is a hit, by the way, with kids even as old as 8 and the parents of little ones are very grateful for something other than candy. I also had Halloween pencils and they disappeared with boys and girls in the 8-11 age bracket.

Anyway, back to Zach. Zach would run to the door when Trick or Treaters came and was fascinated by this whole process of holding out baskets for kids to choose from. And all the kids big and small said thank you. Before we knew it Zack was running around saying “Thank You” as clear as a bell. I think he thinks it has something to do with saying Trick or Treat and choosing among candy, play doh and pencils but he would come back inside after children had left and walk around saying thank you. I love it! Not what we expected from Halloween - but certainly a welcome part of it.

Zach was the most adorable pile of leaves I ever saw. He, as always, rolled with the punches and enjoyed the day. It was the best Halloween that I can remember since Fran was the fairy godmother in the costume with the puffy sleeves that Maria Gyuere made for her when she was 4. Now that was a special Halloween too….not a princess but a fairy godmother. I should have known then that my daughter would grow up to be creative and come up with a perfect idea like a pile of leaves for her 17 month old son’s Halloween costume. But then none of us are good at predicting the future – right?

Please share your Halloween experience in the comments for all of my readers to enjoy.