Monday, March 22, 2010

If you need something fun to do...

If ever there is a day when you're not sure what to do with the kids, why not take them to a local museum? There is such a rich history in the bay area and there are tons of free museums to visit, and a lot of the major ones have free days on a weekly or monthly basis. Some kid-friendly ones that are free all the time are:

The San Francisco Cable Car Museum

The San Francisco Fire Department Museum

The Marin County History Museum

In addition, the SF MOMA ( is free every first Tuesday of the month, as are the DeYoung Museum ( and the Cartoon Art Museum (

On the first Wednesday both the Exploratorium ( and the Bay Area Discovery Museum ( are free!

So get out and have some fun while learning at the same time, without having to spend a dime!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It is Kite Season!

The March winds have started to blow and we are fully prepared! We carry a wide range of kites for all ages and all budgets, and now is the perfect time to plan a day to fly. We get a lot of questions about which kites are the best kind, and truth be told they are all awesome, it just depends on the flyer's skill level and the speed of wind you will be flying in.

For the littlest kite fliers, we recommend mini kites such as pocket parafoils. They are small enough to fit in a pocket or purse, easy enough for even the littlest kids to fly, and they will not get lost in the wind if the string happens to slip from their grasp. They do not require much wind either, and we find that the little ones love to run with them to get them in the air.

The next step up is for young kids who can hold on to a kite string with confidence and who can get and keep it in the air with some help from mom and dad. For this group we recommend either an "easy flier" or a small to mid size diamond kite. Their simple shapes and single string make them easy to maneuver and easy to fly in relatively low winds.

For kids who can launch and fly a kite all by themselves, there is an endless range of shapes and designs, like delta kites, box kites, and beautifully shaped birds, butterflies, planes, dragons, and pirate ships. Most of these kinds of kites require a little practice to do any fancy maneuvering, and because of their larger sizes they also require a bit more wind.

And lastly, for the big kids (aka mom and dad), we carry some advanced two-string sport kites, also called stunt kites. their shapes are similar to delta kites, but the double strings make them nimble in the air, and they are able to bob, weave, dive, and do loops. These kites are usually for kids 12+ because they require a good degree of control and respect for bystanders, as well as substantial winds.

If you have any kite questions feel free to ask any of our employees or leave us a comment or e-mail!

Images courtesy of one of our favorite kite suppliers, Skydog Kites. They also have some great instructional videos on how to build and fly kites, here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Insect Lore

Every spring we carry a fantastic bunch of products by a company called Insect Lore. They make educational habitats for all kinds of critters. All off our stores have Butterfly Gardens, Ladybug Lands, Earthworm Nurseries, and Ant Hills, as well as a variety of little bug houses for observing the habits of wild-caught bugs. When you buy the kits, they come with a free mail-in voucher to get your little inhabitants shipped directly to your door. These kits are great for teaching children about the life cycles, habitats, and diets of the bugs and animals they get to take care of. It is also a great way to build responsibility awareness, because even though they are just taking care of bugs, they still need to feed them and make sure they have what they need.

These kits also give you the opportunity to teach your children about ecology and the environmental impacts that we would see if we ceased to have these little critters in our world. It is such a great tool to help children understand how wonderful they are - how earthworms filter the soil and feed the plants, how ladybugs and butterflies are not only beautiful but eat harmful bugs too, and how if there were no more earthworms plants could not grow. Let them know how important these tiny creatures are and that preserving our water and land will preserve the delicate balance of nature. Kids tend to relate to these tiny bugs and their big impact with relative ease, and it helps them to have confidence that even though they are small, they can change the world too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easter is Fast Approaching

Spring has sprung and Easter will be here before we know it! We have a ton of adorable gifts to fill up Easter baskets right now at all of our stores. Some of our favorite items are these adorable plush bunnies from Jellycat:

They are hands-down the sweetest, softest little bunnies ever! And I love the sweet little faces and chubby design - just try to resist cuddling them! (I couldn't resist taking one home!)

Another little basket-stuffer that the kids love plying with in the store are these adorable bunny and chick wind-up toys. They hop around all over the place in our store this time of year, and I cannot think of a kid who would not be delighted to et one in their easter basket. We also have tons of egg-shaped bouncy balls and sparkly putty, little tiny plush bunnies with knit sweaters, and Peter Rabbit and Pat the Bunny plush, toys, and books, with even more Easter goodies on the way!

We have some great Easter day activities for kids too, like the Alex's Giant Paper Flower kits. It's for ages five and up, and it comes with enough pipe cleaners and tissue with pre-cut edges in beautiful colors to make over 30 big paper flowers. You could also make them into garlands to decorate for a spring-themed party. It's a fantastic no-mess, no-stress activity for the kids. We have made some extra-huge versions for our stores, so come and check them out!

Stop by any of our stores and let us help you build the perfect easter basket for your little one!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Kettler Is Now On Sale!

All Kettler trikes, scooters, and balance bikes are now 20% off at all three of our locations!*

We have been carrying Kettler tricycles and scooters for years, and their quality construction and value continue to be unsurpassed. A Kettler trike is an investment that will last a lifetime, quite literally. They are designed and manufactured in Germany, are of durable metal construction, and come with a lifetime warranty on the frame, but in addition our stores personally guarantee the entire trike. Plus we sell them in the box or assembled free of charge! There are so many different features to choose from that you are bound to find a trike that is a perfect fit for you and your little one.

Every trike comes with a pushbar, which means you can control the trike when needed, or use it in lieu of a stroller for little ones who are easily bored by a standard stroller. The optional steering lock feature is a great little item to keep kids from steering while you are pushing the trike. If you decide to get a trike for them when they are still too little to pedal by themselves, they will learn very quickly how to steer and pedal and they will be more confident when you decide to take the push bar off and let them ride on their own. The trikes have telescoping frames that will expand to fit your child as they grow, and many children still use their trikes even as they move up to regular bicycles. Other optional features include large seats, air tires, rear-wheel steering, and special color themes such as princess pink and surfer blue. There is also a great range of accessories such as seat belts, foot rests, bells, and baskets, to help you customize your perfect trike.

If you are unfamiliar with Kettler products, all of our store employees are well versed in all the features and will gladly help you find out which trike is the right one to fit your needs. Stop by any of our stores and check them out today!

*Limited to stocks on hand.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Peaceable Kingdom Press

We just got in a fantastic display full of beautiful stickers and sticker kits from Peaceable Kingdom Press, and we just have to show them off! This sweet little company started in the 1980's in Berkeley, CA, and they are still based there today. We love having such a great company so close! The company was started by the son of renowned children's book illustrator Clement Hurd, who is best known for illustrating Goodnight Moon.

They employ tons of fantastic children's book illustrators to design their beautiful games, cards, stickers, and other great toys. All of their cards and envelopes are made from 100% recycled paper, and printed with vegetable inks. Plus their stickers are all printed on a phthalate-free vinyl with soy-based inks, and they're recyclable! They make some amazing little sticker craft kits, and for only $4.99 they're an absolute steal when you need to entertain a few kids for the afternoon. We highly recommend them for party favors or even party activities, and they're great for everyday quiet creative time too!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teething Bling

We just started carrying these amazing necklaces from SmartMom:

Totally stylish, these pendants are actually teethers for baby! We all know how much the little ones love to try and eat any jewelry mom happens to have on, and it usually results in moms having to forgo their accessories. But these little beauties are safe, semi-soft plastic that is perfectly safe for babies to chew on. They come in a variety of colors and patterns too! What a fantastic idea.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why We Love Plan Toys

Plan Toys is by far one of our favorite companies to carry. I have noticed that a lot of people do not know much about why these toys are so awesome, so I just wanted to spread the word!
You can tell just by checking out the box that Plan is something special - their modern, colorful designs are engaging and easy to love for kids of all ages, not to mention that all their products are wood, not plastic. But there is much more to the story than just colorful wooden toys. What a lot of people do not know, probably because their packaging is not smattered with proclamations of eco-friendliness, is that Plan makes some of the greenest toys around. To start with, all the wood comes from organic ruberwood trees which are too old to produce latex. Organic wood? Awesome. Even more awesome is the fact that these trees would usually be cut down and simply burned because their latex yield has decreased, but Plan is the first company to put this wood to a better use. And there is no deforestation in harvesting these trees because they are quickly replanted.

Also, the wood is not treated with any chemicals after it is cut, but rather it is kiln-dried and all of the paints are water-based and free of heavy metals and nasty chemicals. And you know what they use to power the kiln? Scraps and off-cuts from the production process, reducing wood waste to zero. They also use solar power and biofuels to power their machinery, and the toys are assembled with non-toxic E-Zero Glue. And even their boxes are recycled, recyclable, and printed with soy and water-based inks.

Pretty awesome, right? In addition to all of their efforts to reduce waste and make the toys as green as possible, they do a lot of charity work and donations to special needs groups, and they have an ongoing reforestation program. So if you have not had a chance to check out Plan Toys we carry a nice assortment in all of our stores and we would love to hear which products are your favorites!