Friday, January 29, 2010

Today is National Puzzle Day!

National Puzzle Day Fun Fact: The 1st jigsaw puzzle was created in the 1760's when European map makers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. Voila, the wooden jigsaw puzzle was born!
Today is the day to celebrate the fun and goodness of all kinds of puzzles! Puzzle night is a great alternative or addition to family night. Try it this week!
10 Kinds of Wooden Children's Puzzles that are available 250 years later!
  1. Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles - Jigsaw puzzles come in many sizes and piece counts. You can find wooden jigsaw puzzles for children as young as 3 years old! Wooden jigsaw puzzles last longer than cardboard jigsaws and can be passed on from generation to generation.
  2. Chunky Puzzles - These fun puzzles have added play value! Not only are they easy for toddlers to hold and manipulate (because they're chunky), but the pieces can also be played with separately. A chunky puzzle is a puzzle but also a set of chunky play figures :)
  3. Dress Up Puzzles - A fun twist on puzzles, dress up puzzles add the element of creativity! Children enjoy changing the "outfits" on the figures and get the explore color and pattern combinations.
  4. Jumbo Wooden Knob Puzzles - Wonderful first puzzles, wooden knob puzzles are easy for young children to grab and manipulate and can be used by children as young as 1 years old.
  5. Wooden Peg Puzzles - Wooden peg puzzles are a step up from knob puzzles. The concept is the same but finer motor skills must be used to be able to pick up and manipulate the puzzle pieces.
  6. Layered & Sequential Puzzles - Layered puzzles introduce higher level thinking. The puzzles must be done in a particular order for it to work, layer by layer. Sequential puzzles introduce the concept of ordering or sequence. These puzzles show an event from beginning to end.
  7. Sound Puzzles - Wooden sound puzzles are great fun for children because the puzzle gives them sound feedback. It is self-correcting...the sound is only played when the piece is properly placed. For example, in the Pets Sound Puzzle the puppy barks.
  8. Classroom Puzzles - Classroom puzzles are wood puzzles that are like peg puzzles, but without the pegs. The puzzle is turned over to get the pieces out and then the unusually shaped puzzle pieces must be put back together to create on or many objects.
  9. Textured Puzzles - Textured puzzle pieces have material or other interesting textures on them which add to their sensory interest.
  10. Travel Puzzles - These wooden travel puzzles come in sets of 4 that store in a wooden box. Each puzzle has a special symbol on its back to correspond with the puzzle it belongs to. The top of the storage box acts as a puzzle board to build the puzzle.

Tonight we hope you'll celebrate National Puzzle Day by enjoying some puzzles with your family. It's a great excuse to turn off the television and turn on some family time :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wooden Building Blocks: Priceless

Building Blocks are a staple of every child's toy chest or play room. I don't think I've ever seen a child's room that didn't have at least one set of blocks. BLOCKS. They seem so simple. Just wooden shapes. But, actually, those simple blocks are just priceless when you consider how valuable block play is to developing so many skills! 1. Physically: Your child will use large motor and small motor skills when playing with wood blocks. Large unit blocks have some weight to them and your child can even build strength by lifting them, carrying them, and stacking with them. Small motor skills are used when placing and balancing blocks atop each other. 2. Math: Unit blocks are a standard size and each piece in a set is made to scale to the other pieces of the set. Therefore, a half unit block is half the size of the unit block. You need two half unit blocks to equal the size of one unit block. Your child is learning about basic math concepts! Don't forget that block play is about shapes too! Which is the rectangle? square? triangle? How many sides do they have? Your child is learning about different shapes. Also, counting is a natural activity with blocks. How many blocks high is this? Can we make a tower with 10 blocks? Let's count them out and see. 3. Science: Why do blocks down? Gravity, of course. Young children especially love to just knock over towers of blocks. They can barely wait to just knock them down. Gravity is fascinating to them and the loud sound of wooden blocks falling is fun too! 4. Vocabulary: Block play is a great opportunity to introduce new words. Are you building a castle? fortress? tower? house? You might also encourage your child to tell you what they're building and what's happening in the block world they're creating. Add some wooden play figures to a block set for additional play value. People and animal figures are especially good for encouraging storytelling. Try saying "Tell me about what you made." Wooden blocks are maybe the best toy to demonstrate prepositions (in, out, on, over, through, under etc), which are often difficult for children to understand. What is "on" the blue block? What is "under" that? What are you putting "through" that tunnel you made? 5. Creativity & Imagination: Your child is learning to think in concepts. This is a huge step forward in his thinking process. The wooden block is not just a shape anymore. Now it's a brick in a castle or part of a spaceship! Your child's creativity is on display every time he plays with blocks. He is only limited by his own imagination. 6. Problem Solving: It's marvelous how much problem solving is involved in block play. Which tower can we stack taller...the one with the smallest block on the bottom? Or the one with the largest block on the bottom? How can this piece be balanced on that one? Why won't that block stay? Why is the tower leaning over? Can that be fixed? It's truly endless and you'll be able to see your child's problem solving skills develop as they play with building blocks over time. 7. Social & Emotional: When multiple children are playing with blocks there are many things to be negotiated. Who is going to get the red blocks? Who gets the big blocks? Who gets the people? When playing with other children your child has to learn how to work with others. Try having the children work toward one goal. They can try to build 1 tower using all the blocks by working together. Your child learns about his social world by acting out life with people figures. He might imitate what he's seen adults do, heard about in a book, or on television. This kind of pretend play is a safe way for your child to explore emotions like anger and fear by acting it out in a make believe world. 8. Sorting & Matching: Your child is learning how to "group" similar things together based on traits. Using building blocks to do this is easy. You can sort by shape, size, or color! Your child will use this skill all his life. Larger unit block sets can lend themselves to matching as well. Which other block is the same as this small triangle? The concept of one thing going with, or belonging with another is one that he'll always use. Did I miss any? Tell me! I stand by a previous blog post: ...Why Building Blocks are the Greatest Toy of All Time!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Favorite Wooden Toddler Toys

If you're looking for wooden toddler toys, look no further than Your little one isn't a baby anymore, but he's not old enough for many toys. It seems that when your child is a toddler, many toys are just too sophisticated for him or contain small parts! We're here to let you know that there are many wooden toddler toys that are age appropriate and SAFE for your toddler, like this Bamboo Racer (left). Recently we added a special section to our wooden toys category just for toddler toys so that parents can easily find these. The following is a sampling of our very favorite wooden toddler toys. Have it already or want it? Please leave a comment? We love to hear from you :) Chomp and Clack Alligator Push Toy Sturdy wooden push toy features a cute chorus of three clacking gators that keep chomping with every step! Children who are just walking will enjoy practicing their new skill and showing off by mastering this toy! Pyramid of Play Educo's Pyramid of Play is a multi-functional educational toy. Five wood nesting blocks with fun graphics and colors. Each block helps with recognition of letters, pictures, colors, numbers and sizes. Shapes fit in their corresponding block with a color outline to ease matching. Colored with non-toxic paints and assembled with non-formaldehyde glue. Sure to keep your toddler busy and intrigued! Will help your toddler develop fine motor skills, matching skills, sorting skills, reasoning skills and problem solving skills. Magnetic Kitchen Bottle Collection This smoothly-shaped; solid-wood kitchen bottle set has removable; color-coordinated magnetic caps. Your toddler is just learning his colors and this color matching game is sure to excite him! Additionally, the caps are large enough that his little fingers can get the caps on the color-coordinating bottles. Beginner Pattern Blocks You asked for a set of pattern blocks for younger children and Melissa & Doug delivered! This set features 10 brightly-painted wooden patterns and 30 colorful shape pieces to replicate the fun pictures. Great for early development of colors; shapes and matching skills. A tremendous value and a great learning set! Contains one each: fish; dog; butterfly; flowers; bird; and fire engine. Your toddler will enjoy holding the large pattern block pieces and matching them to large, familiar images. Alphabet Magnetic Puzzle Book This newly redesigned; magnetic book with 52 removable pieces is bound to amuse and amaze! Familiar, bright images make this an engaging and fun toy for toddlers. They will love that each piece is like a 1-piece puzzle that stays put because it's magnetic! Great fun for practicing the alphabet, letter recognition, fine motor skills, and learning new words! Frolicking Frog Wooden Pull Toy You never knew frogs could be walked? This happy; hopping; friendly frog has hinged hind legs that spring this vibrant wooden pull toy to life! This carefully crafted toddler toy is built to last and is sure to please. New walkers will go crazy over this fun frog as they make several successful steps in a row! In fact, this toy can be used for pre-walkers as well! With the Toy Upright Piano from Melissa & Doug; kids will be playing more than Chopsticks; that's for sure! This colorful; wooden toy piano from Melissa & Doug is a mini-replica of the real thing; featuring two full octaves of ivory and black keys. So whether kids enjoy practicing their scales or creating their own creative masterpieces; they will love the freedom of playing on the Toy Upright Piano from Melissa & Doug! Piano stands 13 tall and includes an illustrated songbook and color-coded key chart. Playing helps develop small motor skills, basic music skills, and creativity. A fabulous toddler toy! Fit Together Toddler Blocks Haba's version of Lego like construction blocks. Is your baby just starting to stack and getting frustrated with the carefully built tower falling over all the time? Remove the frustration out of playtime with these baby safe; colorful hardwood blocks by Haba. Round pegs allow the blocks to fit into each other. The blocks are perfectly sized for baby and toddler hands. 27 pieces Check out our wooden blocks and wooden puzzles too! There are many age appropriate blocks and puzzles for toddlers too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Top 5 Wooden Play Food Toys of 2009

We LOVE play food at! We just absolutely adore food toy sets for their play value, skill building, and longevity. And, let's not forget how just plain cute some of these sets are. Every year we marvel at the new "delicacies" offered by our manufacturers! But, before we move on to what's coming in 2010, let's take a look back at our Top 5 Best Selling (by units sold) Wooden Play Food Toys of 2009: #1: Slice and Bake Cookies Wooden Play Food Set Help inspire your child to be the next Betty Crocker! This wooden set includes 12 cookies and 18 colorful toppings; knife; spatula; kitchen mitt and cookie sheet. #2: Sandwich Shop Wooden Play Food Set This fun-filled feast is a cut-above the rest! Solid; smooth-sanded sandwich set with sliceable wooden bread; rolls; tomatoes; cheese; lettuce; meats; an apple and more---an instant picnic for hours of imaginative entertainment! A delicious value and quality packed in a colorful storage box. #3: Ice Cream Shop Play Food Set Set includes four colorful ice cream scoops; two cones and two scoopers in a playful freezer case! Features Magnetic Scoops! #4: Food Groups Wooden Play Set Mix and match to make a meal! Well-balanced wooden food set with all 4 food groups individually boxed in wooden crates for storage; sorting and stacking. Great accessory for a pretend play kitchen or for playing store. #5: Pantry Products Wooden Play Food Set This 9 piece set is great for playing grocery or kitchen play. Includes pretzels; cereal; mustard; spaghetti; crackers; tunafish; soup; ketchup and sugar play foods.
SPECIAL PLAY FOOD OFFER: Buy any 3 Melissa & Doug Play Food Sets and Get the 4th FREE! No coupon necessary

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cupcakes Play Food Set

Last year Melissa & Doug introduced a great new play food set - the Bake and Decorate Cupcake Set. It was available in very limited quantities because the demand far outweighed their capacity to produce them. We were lucky enough to have ordered enough of this play food set to have it in stock right through the holidays. In case you haven't seen this fun play food toy, we wanted to feature it here today and give you a chance to see just how fun it is!

The release of the play food cupcake set couldn't have been timed any better! It seems like cupcakes are in the news every day. They are very chic right now and this play food version is no exception!

Kids love play food that's realistic just like this cupcake set. The Melissa & Doug cupcake play food set comes with a cupcake baking pan, 4 cupcakes ( 2 chocolate and 2 vanilla), 4 icing tops that velcro onto the cupcakes, 3 icing pens (more on that in a second!), 4 birthday candles, and an oven mitt. ALL that is included for an MSRP of only $24.95 but ONLY $19.96 at!

The greatest thing about this cupcake play food set is the extensive play value! First, put the cardboard baking cups into the pan. Then put your cupcake "batter" into the baking pan. Next, put on the oven mitt and put the cupcakes in the oven. Remember to wear the oven mitt when you remove the freshly baked cupcakes! Mmm they smell delicious. Once they're cooled off (if you can wait!) put the icing caps on. Now it gets really fun...use the icing tubes (markers) to decorate your cupcakes! If you make a mistake or want to change your design, no problem - the icing wipes right off. The markers are dry erase - just genius! Last, put on the candles and let the party begin!
Multiple children can play with this set at one time. Perfect for a pretend play tea party, birthday party, or after school treat!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Play Food: 5 Fun Pretend Play Roles

There are so many fun pretend play "roles" that can be taken when playing with toy food. Here are 5 ideas that will breathe new life into your child's play food fun! Play along parents! 1. Your Child as the Chef: Put all of your play food in baskets and bins and have your chef pick and choose the perfect ingredients for your superb meal! Make sure you have bowls, utensils, and a set of play food pots and pans. Have him/her tell you what they're cooking and how it tastes. You can even pretend your child is on a tv show teaching a cooking class. Some children find it easier to role play by wearing costumes. Our Chef Role Play Costume is perfect for this. Educational Value: This role play exposes children to the idea of occupations and professions. Talk about different occupations involving food: grocer, farmer, waiter etc.This is also a great opportunity to talk about different cooking processes: boiling, steaming, baking, frying etc. You can also introduce your child to different kinds of kitchen utensils to expand their vocabulary and understanding of the tools used by cooks and chefs. 2. Have Your Child Pretend to be the Parent: Kids love to pretend they are the Mom or Dad so play along and you can be the child! This can be so much fun because your child will likely imitate you and some funny things you say and do in the kitchen! A play kitchen lends itself perfectly to this because it has the stove, oven, sink and storage all in one place. Let your child get busy fussing over you and he/she will be just delighted doing so! Educational Value: Parents will see first hand their child's view of what being a parent looks like! Your child, of course, is demonstrating his skills in the kitchen - showing you his understanding of how to cook and prepare food for the family. Your child will feel so much pride in doing this for you. Make sure to praise their great effort and kindness :) They're also showing you that they understand how the oven, microwave, stove, pots, pans, and utensils work. 3. Play Waiter/Waitress: Sit down and let your child take your order - even if it's scribbled in crayon! He/she will have so much fun bringing your order to the table. Let him/her use paper dishes or a toy dish set for serving. Don't forget to pay and leave a big HUG tip for your special server :) Educational Value: Your child will have the opportunity to see what it's like to have a job and provide service to others. What does a waiter/waitress do? Help them think about that. There's also an important sequence of events that need to be followed: hand out menus, take order, serve food, clear table, leave bill. If it's not done in order it makes no sense! Have fun preparing for this role play by making up your own menu. You can cut out pictures from magazines or draw your own! You can also show your child how to set a table. You can draw a place setting on construction paper and have them set it to match. Your drawing becomes the place mat! 4. Pretend to Go Grocery Shopping: Start by making a list of everything you need. Then have your play food lined up, in baskets, or any way you can organize it so that you can shop! A shopping cart is ideal for this but you can use bags or small boxes for carrying groceries. Time to check out! Who's going to be the cashier? Now pack up your groceries and pay! Use real money, play money, or pretend money! Educational Value: Children are often unaware that planning takes place for an event like grocery shopping. Start from the beginning and go over the whole sequence with them: What have we run out of or need more of? We need to make a list. Let's go to the store. How do we find these things in the store? Let's put them in our cart. Don't forget we need a way to carry them home(bag/box). Now let's pay for our groceries. This is a great opportunity to teach counting and the value of money. 5. Pretend to be a Farmer: Turn your play area into a garden oasis! Use your imagination to create a fun area that's like a farm. Put down a tan blanket and pretend it's the soil. Take your play food fruits and vegetables and line them in row on the "soil." Get your picking baskets ready to be filled. Maybe dress up in "rugged" clothing, sunglasses, and a sun hat to really get into the role! Now pick those luscious fruits and veggies! Another option is to "bury" the fruits and vegetables as if they're seeds. Pretend to water them and have the sun shine on them. Watch them grow and then pick them. Educational Value: This role play lends itself to many other fun activities like planning a real garden in the spring. You can also talk about how seeds grow into plants and vegetables, the life cycle in general, and how plants grow. You can draw pictures of your favorite fruits and vegetables and make a collage of garden pictures to proudly display. That can be your indoor garden. It's also a great time to talk about nutrition, and which food are fruits or vegetables. Each of these activities can last for a half hour or longer, even with young children. Some children will enjoy it so much they'll be role playing for days! Enjoy these 5 ideas and add your own in comments :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

GIVEAWAY: WIN a Train/Activity Table from

Susan Margaret said "Our family would love the
Make Your Own Monster Puppet by Melissa & Doug!"
January 17, 2010 3:15 PM
We are contacting the winner now!
True Random Number Generator Min: 1 Max: 1120 Result: 700 Powered by RANDOM.ORG
This solid wood activity & train table is approximately 33"W x 50"L x 16"H and includes a play surface big enough to display a 100+ piece wooden railway set! The large pull-out drawer is perfect for storage and clean up! This Melissa & Doug multi-use table is also a great place to play with trains, blocks, or a dollhouse. BUT it's also great for arts and crafts projects! The low-to-the ground design makes it a perfect play space for children 3 years and up. The painted white finish will match any decor. Sturdy construction and easy assembly. MSRP:$129.95 Now Only $103.96 at with FREE Ground Shipping to the Continental United States. *Train & accessories are sold separately and are NOT part of this giveaway.
PURCHASE the TRAIN TABLE HERE *Anonymous Entries will NOT be accepted UNLESS your email address is included in your post. We have to be able to contact you if you win. If your profile is private or there is any other reason we can not contact you, your prize will be forfeited in 48 hours and a new winner will be chosen. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Train & accessories are sold separately and are NOT part of this giveaway.
Basic Entry: Go to and pick one OTHER product your child would love. Put that in your comment for 1 entry per day. Your comment should say something like "Our family would love to have the play food ice cream set". To Create Your Entry Click on "Post a Comment" at the end of this post OR Click on the Link Showing the Number of Comments for this post.

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NOTES: It is very important that each entry has a separate comment. That means 5 comments with your order number if you place an order :) Any combination entries will only count as 1 entry.

Entries that do not follow the stated instructions will not be counted as entries. Please email if you have any questions about entering this contest. We are happy to help you! *Anonymous Entries will NOT be accepted UNLESS your email address is included in your post. We have to be able to contact you if you win. If your profile is private or there is any other reason we can not contact you, your prize will be forfeited 48 hours after the drawing and a new winner will be chosen.

We trust you but...if you win for an entry that says, for example, that you're following us on Twitter, and you're not, your prize is forfeited and another winner will be chosen.

Accepting entries thru midnight January 28, 2010



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