No Grimms? No Problem, 5 Alternative Block Sets to Buy

2020 will certainly go down in the books as the year that set the world on fire. In every way possible. For a while, we even thought the toy world would be left unscathed. That’s not happening either.

Between Covid-19, raw material supply issues, and extreme demand, Grimm’s Wooden Toys (Spiel und Holz) is under immense pressure to try to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, it’s not working out. Restock alerts for Grimms often sell out within a day, and popular items like the Large Stepped Pyramid and the 1001 Nights set sell out within minutes. It’s crazy!

And here you are lovely reader, gearing up for holiday shopping. But Grimm’s sells out in minutes and you’re left to wonder which block sets to buy.

I picked 5 block sets alternatives to purchase. These blocks are just as fabulous as Grimm’s, and just as versatile in open ended play.

Bauspiel Grid Blocks – I call these the waffle blocks. And these waffle blocks are SO MUCH FUN. I haven’t seen any other brand on the market remotely as neat as these blocks. Modern Rascals has them for $237 (with a 10% coupon, you can get them for $213.70 USD.

Bauspiel Color Street – Glitter Glitter. Right, need I say more? These blocks are a lot of fun to build with, AND they glitter! Made of alder wood (used for wand making in Harry Potter too), the Color Street blocks have a lovely smell and rich color. Available: pre-sale Modern Rascals for $226.

Gluckskafer Rainbow Building Slats – If you want “flat” pieces that range in short to long lengths, the slats provide variety in color and sizing.

Skandico Castle Blocks – Bright and cheery, this Russia based company makes block sets in a variety of styles and tray sizes. One of my favorite is the castle blocks set. Coming in a set of organic shapes and classic rectangles, you can get a little bit of everything with it. Available: Danny & Luca $176.

Uncle Goose Blocks – Any blocks you choose from UG will be a winner. Made in the USA, Uncle Goose makes blocks in many languages (from English to Hebrew to French) and interests (bugs, moon phases, women, and more). Fun to build with and learn. Available: Modern Rascals, prices vary.

For more inspiration on building with these blocks, check out my Instagram. And if you have a favorite block set that I haven’t listed, drop a comment below.


Getting Started with Open Ended Toys


If you are new to open ended play and open ended toys, the possibilities of what to buy are overwhelming. Googling and reading, and reading some more what to buy, what not to buy, and oh my it’s just a lot!

It’s alright! I got your back. I wrote this article to help succinctly pare down those massive lists into something you can digest. And purchase. For several of the options I list, I also have toys that are more affordable.

First, two questions for you:

Are you buying open ended toys to replace the toys you have?
Are you buying open ended toys to complement what you already own?

Let’s talk about question 1. Are you buying open ended toys to replace what you have?
Answering this question involves knowing what your children already own. Let’s start with an inventory. Go and inventory all the toys that your kids own.
I’ll give you a moment (or a few days) to make an inventory. A written list is best.
Now, besides each toy, mark the following:
– Is it plastic?
– Does it have batteries and make lots of sounds?
– Is it a push button toy (I.e. you press a button and the toy does the playing)?
– Does the toy annoy you?
– Does your kid like the toy (do they play with it)?
– Do you think the toy has play value for your child?

Now, you want to decide what you want to keep from this list. I recommend keeping toys that your kid loves AND do not annoy you. Some of the toys you keep maybe closed ended, like a puzzle, and that is OKAY!

Other toys you may choose to keep are plastic. There is nothing wrong with plastic stacking bowls. They offer the same function and play value as a set of wooden stacking bowls. You don’t need to replace them. Repeat with me, it’s OKAY THAT I HAVE TOYS THAT ARE NOT WOOD.

Once you have inventoried and questioned the play value of all the toys you have, place the giveaway toys in a pile. Sell them, donate them, put them in a Buy Nothing group – I encourage you to avoid the landfill. You can use the lists below to help you finalize whether to keep or giveaway toys.

I divided the lists below by age groups. This is not meant to be orthodox but loose guidelines. Some children may not use a toy for months, while others start using immediately. Some children may have development delays which means the toys may not be used by them for some time. And that’s okay too! Give them time.

The list offers a few different brands at different price points. I encourage to buy what you think your children will love along with a price point best suited to you. The options are left to right most expensive to least expensive.

Last thing, this article took 10 hours to write and pull the links. Some of the links below are affiliate – I may a little money should you choose to purchase through that link (any product). It comes at no cost to you, so please consider buying through the links. And consider following me on Instagram. My eternal appreciation to you.

The Open Ended Toy Guide

Open Ended Toys for 1-2 Years old
Stacking cups – Grimms (US/Canada) | Green Toys | Mushie (Denmark origin)
Cube Blocks – Grimms (US/Canada) | Uncle Goose | Melissa and Doug
Large Balls – Grimms (US/Canada) | Grapat | Hobby Stores
Rings/Coins – Grapat (US/Canada) |
Basic puzzles – Melissa and Doug (fish and pets puzzles, farm animals, ) | Tender Leaf Toys
Animals – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakacraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Carrying Doll – Dinkum Dolls | Minikane | Corolle
Small cars/trucks – Grimms (US/Canada) | Mama Made Them | Green Toys | Melissa and Doug
Push toys – stroller/pram – Moover (found many times at Home Goods) | Plan Toys | Melissa & Doug
Pull toys – Hape | Plan Toys Puppy |
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Leftover food containers (Free!)
Art supplies – large crayons – Stockmar 8 crayons, Stockmar 24 crayons, Stockmark 16 crayons, , paper (here and here), paint, stamps (here, here, and here), wow water books , colored pencils – Lyra 12 pack,
Bonus:
Large block set – Grimms Basic Block Set 1 (US/Canada)| Haba Basic block set | Wooden Story

Open Ended Toys for 2-3 Years Old
Connectix Tiles | Magnatiles | Picassa Tiles
Duplo
More advanced puzzles – Melissa and Doug |
Small dolls + few furniture pieces – Plan Toys (here, here, here, and here)| Hape (here, and here) | Tender Leaf Toys (here, and here)
Trains – Brio | Haba
Animals and trees – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakacraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Push Toys
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Fiskars at Amazon | Home Depot
Nesting boxes – Grimm’s | Plan Toys | Melissa and Doug
Art supplies – crayons, paper, stickers, scissors (supervised! For the older ones), play dough
Peg dolls – Grimms (US/Canada), Grapat (US/Canada), Dixie and Bee, Jen’s Pretty Pegs
Music toys – Plan Toys | Natural Baby Company selection

Bonus:
10 Cylinders (more Montessori but can last years)
100 board (Montessori but a basic counting device that lasts years)
Extra block sets Grimms (US/Canada) | Bauspiel | Raduga Grez | Ocamora
Indoor climbing – Large Pikler and ramp | Wobbel board
Build your own fort – Nugget

Open Ended Toys 3-5 Years Old
Advanced block sets – Grimms (US/Canada) | Bauspiel X-blocks, Lucent Cubes, Waffles | Lego- Duplo
Advanced puzzles (okay, technically not open ended,but great to have) – Djeco Aero Airplanes | Mudpuppy double sided black/white and colorful puzzle (at amazon)
More dollhouse pieces – Plan Toys (here, here, here, and here)| Hape (here, and here) | Tender Leaf Toys (here, and here)
More animals and trees – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakakraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd
Tracing board for letters – Mirus Toys | From Jennifer| Kid-O Magnetic
Alphabet blocks – Uncle Goose (uppercase and lowercase on amazon), Uncle Goose,
World mat – Urban Outfitters
Loose Parts (mandala pieces, coins, rings)- Grapat (US/Canada)
Trucks/cars – Fagus | Bruder | Plan Toys | Melissa and Doug
Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Target | Home Depot
Doll – Dinkum Dolls | Minikane dolls | Corolle
Small dolls – Maileg | Calico Cats | Zooble
Lacing cards – Wee Gallery | Wren & Mae Creations | Melissa and Doug |

Art supplies
Peg dolls – Grimms (US/Canada), Grapat (US/Canada), Dixie and Bee, Jen’s Pretty Pegs

Bonus:
100 board – Mirus Toys
Measuring weights set – Erzi
More block sets – Grimms (US/Canada) | Gluckskafer (US/Canada) – Rainbow Building Slats, Rainbow Bridge, Yellow Sunray Stacker| Uncle Goose – Constellation (amazon or Modern Rascals) | Uncle Goose Bugs (amazon or Modern Rascals) | Bauspiel Color Street (US/Canada)|
Indoor climbing – Large Pikler and ramp | Wobbel board
Build your own fort – Nugget
Loose Letters (for creating words) | CVC word groups collection.

Balance Bike/bike – balance bike – Banwood or Strider

Open Ended Toys for 5 Years old and Up
Legos or Magnatiles/Connectix Tiles
World Mat
Trucks/Cars
More animals and trees
Small dolls
Circuit board
Basic tool set (real tools) – Home Depot | Lowes

Bonus: Sumblox math blocks , wobbel board , balance bike – Banwood or Strider … and more of everything

I hope this list helps you get started with open ended toys. Please check out my other posts on the world of open ended play, Montessori, and wooden toys.

$25 & Under Toy Gift Guide for 4-5 Year Olds

Now that our kiddo is invited to birthday parties, I have been trying to figure out what toys to buy.

Quality toys that won’t get dumped or fall apart.

I’ve made a list of easy to find toys on Amazon and Natural Baby Co (plus if you need a free shipping code, use this), but also a few bespoke/DIY toys.

The toys are under $25 while the book gift sets are $20-50. There is everything from Green Toys and Legos to Holztiger to small dolls.

Gift Sets

Art caddy – Box of Crayola markers, crayons (my kid loves Jumbo crayons), drawing pencils, stickers, stamps and a notebook. Sometimes I will also add glue, modeling clay, and scissors. Put them in a Sterilite storage box (or a tiered drawer from Sterilite) and parents can be happy the collection is contained. I buy all these things during the school supply sale and stock it for when needed. #winning (Also, this reads like a promo for Crayola but it totally isn’t meant to be! It’s what I love and is solid quality for little children)

Play-doh caddy – Make your own play dough (so it doesn’t smell like the store brand) and color it any way you want. Add glitter even. Or a couple drops of essential oil so it smells delicious. Pack the dough in a container with a rolling pin, couple cookie cutters and you’ve giving a kiddo plenty of open play magic time.

Toys

Plan Toys Fruit & Veggie Set – Classic play food that kids can “cut”. Also a favorite are the soft toy foods from IKEA and their metal pots and pans.

Grimm’s Large Convertible Car

Grimm’s Mini Rainbow – At 10.5 cm (about 5 inches), the Grimm’s wooden mini rainbow will delight the rainbow and fantasy dreamers out there. It’s perfect for decoration when not in use and great for small world play. Doll houses, barns, race tracks can all use a dash of colors.

Fairyshadow Pocket Mama Doll – Four years old is the sweet ago when children get into dolls and small world play. Made in California, these 4in mama dolls with tiny babies come in three skin tones and handmade love. Fairyshadow comes in many different styles and sizes for your little one to love.

Fagus mini cars

PlanToys Meadow Ring Toss

Plan City Car Transporter

Green Toys Parking Garage

Green Toys Rocket with 2 Astronauts

Green Toys Car Carrier Vehicle Set – A car that carries cars. Enough said.

LEGO City Heavy Cargo Transport – There is also a nice little truck loader set; it’s perfect for a friend getting started with Lego building and can use a simpler set (less than 100 pieces).

Green Toys Wagon Outdoor

Melissa & Doug Service Station – A parking garage with cars and a ramp. You get the picture.

Green Toys Dump Truck – In red and yellow or pink and purple. This is one heck-of-an outdoor truck toy. Schools use them, museums use them, everyone should have a GT dump truck.

Tegu Magnetic Racer – Looking for something more than Lego and Magnatiles? Introducing Tegu. Handmade in Honduras, Tegu blocks are magnetized and empower kids for lots of open ended play and building. The racer is a fun way to get started.


Snap Circuits Jr. – Introduce your children to circuitry and electricity with the Snap Circuits Junior set.

Lego Duplo Town – Truck and Digger. Also a favorite is the submarine set – a winner for bath time AND has a female person of color figure. Win for racial diversity.

Green Toys Boat and Helicopter – Another bath time win: a boat AND a helicopter. And if you haven’t noticed, I really love Green Toys.

For even more toys, from Boon and Plan Toys bath time to Melissa and Doug puzzles and Tegu travel sets, see my list below.

For extra bonus: Book & an Animal Gift Sets

Giraffe and a half + Holztiger Giraffe – Give Shel Siverstein and a wooden animal giraffe.

Little Blue Truck + Grimms Pull Along Truck

Uni the Unicorn +

Small Business Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals

It’s here! Black Friday sales are here! And so are some great deals from small businesses. These are all the ones I know, if you have a company I should, comment below or instagram me @bindisandbottles.

As always, many of the links below are affiliate. This means I make a tiny commission if you buy something through the link. It costs you nothing but helps pay my hosting bills and to keep writing. Thank you for the support!

Danny & Luca – 20% off over $100 purchase. Few items left, subscriptions are sold out though. There will be a restock in a week or two.

Oompa Toys – No sitewide sale but some products are on sale. They have Grimms, HABA, Petit Collage, Wee Gallery. Use my referral code to get $10 off a $50 or more purchase.

Lollipop Sky – Grimms blocks, the dwarf village, pink pebbles, stacking boxes, fire and earth, and large rainbow are available.There are also some Holztiger and Ostheimer left too. Be sure to use my referral code and sign up for the newsletter to get a coupon code.

Dearest Diapers – 20% off with DDBFSALE20, some exclusions. Grapat bowls and nins still in stock, Glückskäfer, Grimms, car seats and lots of other brands.

Meenal Patel Studio – 15% off eligible orders, free shipping on most products. I love Meenal’s illustrations and books. An Indian American, her stories resonate with children of color and anyone who loves a good story.

Orlando Wooden Toys – Etsy – Free shipping on all purchases. Sale currently on, date ending unknown. Know for their elements stackers, rainbow stackers, and vehicles. Can come finished or unfinished.

Mirus Toys – Free shipping – last day for US orders is Dec 2nd for Christmas delivery; International guarantee deadline passed. The prettiest Montessori and Waldorf perpetual calendars you’ve seen.

Happy Tree Store – 20% off wooden toys AND free shipping. Trees, rainbows and lovely open ended wood toys from Russia is hot. Be sure to confirm ship out date to arrive to you by Christmas.

TheWoodPeckerFactory – 10-15% off, free shipping on most products. Great collection of wooden animals.

Wooden Caterpillar – 10-20% off and free shipping on most. German toy shop on Etsy. They have a massive collection of wooden animals. Particular favorites are the animal sets and trees.

Heir Loom Kids USA – Made in the USA wooden toys. They have a few classic Montessori toys: the stackers and shape puzzles along with custom name puzzles, and push toys.

Your Little Doves – Current 20% off sitewide with code SHOPSMALL (exclusions apply). Special Black Friday products will be 50% off (cannot be stacked with sitewide code). Also, you can use my discount code for $10 off (ymmv)

Studio Yali on etsy – Indian goddess peg people! Looking to add diversity and a little mythology to your wooden toy collection? Studio Yali has divine goddesses like Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. You can also buy peg dolls wearing different Indian outfits.

Jens Pretty Pegs – Free shipping for most purchases. Jen’s hand-painted pegs are TO DIE FOR. Seriously, if you want beautiful peg people, go to her.

The Natural Baby Co – 15% OFF STOREWIDE* Fri., Nov. 29TH(12:01 AM ET) Through Mon., Dec. 2 (11:59 PM ET). *Excludes Jellycat, Grimms, Veer, Lilly & River, Wobble. GroVia 20% Off. Sale Category 50% Off. Referral code here should give you free shipping. Gluckskafer, Ostheimer, and more.

Rose & Rex – Sale over. My referral code with give you 15% off. They have WaytoPlay (though check pricing), Gluckskafer, and Grapat.

LOVEVERY – Sale over but plenty of things around!

Sanskar Teaching – Needing to learn Gujarati? Or freshen up? Enjoy 50% all week on the long and short classes. Use code HALF

Dyper – Not toy related, but diapers! Not any old diapers, bamboo diapers that are compostable. They can go in a home compost or be sent off for composting. (I’m not sure if they can be used in the city compost bin. Still, a way more environmentally friendly than any other company.

Why and Whale – 15% off sitewide with BLACKFRIDAY.

I also want to mention Nest.ca as a lovely store too. They aren’t doing Black Friday sales per se, but they have fantastic service and great prices.

That’s all for now! Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for supporting me!

/Preeti


http://i.refs.cc/7livserj?smile_ref=eyJzbWlsZV9zb3VyY2UiOiJzbWlsZV91aSIsInNtaWxlX21lZGl1bSI6IiIsInNtaWxlX2NhbXBhaWduIjoicmVmZXJyYWxfcHJvZ3JhbSIsInNtaWxlX2N1c3RvbWVyX2lkIjozODcwMzYyODl9

The Holiday Wooden Toy Gift Guide

It’s that time of the year to shop for the loved ones, and little people, in your life. To help support small businesses, I have put together my favorite products from Etsy and other small retailers (though a few are from Amazon for sheer convenience).

As I am part of several wooden toy and open ended play groups, these products come highly recommended.

This Christmas gift guide is ALL about wooden toys. It’s difficult to shop at, and find, businesses that foster a more environmentally friendly, sustainable method of production. Most of the toys listed below are made in Germany, Poland, Russia, and Thailand by small businesses.

This list *isn’t* about the big box manufacturers, it’s about the small, family grown companies that want the toys to last generations.

Skip the beeping and batteries, the branding, the fast fashion and return to the simplicity and elegance of wooden toys.

Share this list with your friends and families needing advice on what to buy for Christmas.

Also check out the Montessori toys & development small business list (coming soon) and the desi/South Asian toy and book lists (coming soon).

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate. It doesn’t cost a penny to you to click and shop, but I get a small commission by purchasing through the links below. This help fuels my sleep-deprived mom of 3 self with caffeine, fruit, and nuts.

Please note that some of these sellers are overseas so shipping times may vary. Also be sure to communicate with the seller if you want a custom order or need rush shipping.

Jen’s Pretty Pegs

It’s ridiculous how cute these peg dolls are. You can buy ready made peg people or have Jen custom make dolls to look like you. Exclamation point!

The Blockbuster Brands of Wooden Toys

Grapat – Made in Spain

Gluckskafer

Grimms – Made with love, and by hand in Germany, Grimms wooden toys is by far the powerhouse of the wooden toy world. Loved by children in endless open ended building of ball runs, peg people, and whatever landscapes a wooden block can bring, the Grimms toys are loved.

I own only a few Grimm’s toys, but expansion is on my horizon. The toys have a higher price point, but if you want quality, know the source of the materials, handmade items, then they are worth every penny.

We LOVE the large rainbow, 1001 nights, building boards, and semi circles. I plan to buy the stepped roofs, large stepped pyramid, moon houses.

Ostheimer – Made in Germany by hand, the gorgeous wooden animals and people are treasured in households across the globe. There’s something magical about holding a handmade wooden animal.

Holztiger – Also a German company making wooden toys by hand, Holztiger is a household name. Available at a more economical price point than Ostheimer, Holztiger animals are uniquely special.

Tegu – Tegu opens the world of wooden builds through magnetic play. Each wood piece have magnets on the ends and can connect with each other. Safe for one year olds and up, Tegu toys hit the stride with 3-6 year olds. While they are on the pricy side, they have good resale value and can be used for years. Like Lego, the Tegu block sets can be combined and built to make massive creations or pocket sizes bits.

Plan Toys Made in Thailand, these wooden toys are made from rubberwood, a renewable resource.

Happy Tree Store

You guessed it, they sell wooden trees. Different shapes and sizes and colors, pair them with wooden blocks, a cityscape or roadway, and the kids are good to go.

The Wood Pecker Factory, based in Romania, also sells a variety of wooden tree toys and wooden animals that have a striking resemblance to a certain German brand.

Myers Natural Rainbows

These rainbows are SO popular that as soon as they appear for sale on Etsy, people snap them up. These toys are made in the USA and are oh so gorgeous. Like Grimm’s rainbows and Ocamora rainbows, Myers have a special place in people’s hearts.

Skandico Toys

Skandico Toys is a Russian toy shop with a focus on blocks and puzzles. Their colors are from Germany and the wood is lime wood, a popular tree used for block making. They have several block sets so they worth investing if you want to keep the same color scheme.

outside everywhere

A made in the USA shop, outside everywhere features lots of different wooden animals. Some are highly detailed in painting while others are simplistic. You’ll find favorites for sure.

White Stork Wood


An up and coming woodworking shop from Russia, their whale, penguins, and ducks have phenomenal detail. Some of their products are one faced painted, so may disappoint if you want them painted on all sides.

Lapps Toys

Want a ball run that is made from wood AND made in the USA? Look towards Amish country and you’ll hit the spot.

Russian Nesting Dolls – ROSTOK Toys

Paint your own Russian Nesting Dolls. These are beautiful and are worth the price tag and the shipping. I have a couple sets and love them…now to just finish painting them!

Star and Moon Stacker – Timber Wolf Concepts

Teaching children how to balance, this stacker will delight little ones (2+ years old). Made in the USA wooden toys.

Wood Toy Car – Timber Wolf Concepts

From the same toymakers as the star stacker, these wooden cars are handmade and perfect for little roadways.

Weather Peg Dolls

There are several peg people artists on Etsy that make weather inspired dolls. My favorite designs are from Artistically Playful, Goodfaith Toys, Daniellasunflower, BettySkyla.

Daniella Sunflower
Goodfaith Toys
Betty Skyla Toys on Etsy
Artistically Playful weather gnomes on Etsy

Wooden Animals

wooden dinosaurs with magnets

wooden vegetables



More toys to be added to the list!

Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans

Shopping for a family car is complicated. Throw in the need for children’s car seats, and your mind may explode.

After searching, and still being in the process of buying our second car, I decided to write a guide on car seats on SUV and minivan models (we don’t want a sedan so they are not included). This includes both 2 row and 3 row vehicles.

With nearly ZERO car manufacturer websites being transparent regarding car seat placement, the burden is left entirely on the consumer to figure this out.
Some questions families with children (from infant babies to toddlers to kids) have to ask:

  • Does the second row come with BOTH lower anchors and back seat tethers?
  • Does the second row middle seat have lower anchors?
  • Do the third row seats have lower anchors? If so, which seats?
  • Do the third row seats have back seat tethers? If so, which seats?
  • Does the third row lack any child seat safety tethering?

That’s a lot of information to figure out. And even on the internet, it is disjointed. However, there are a couple websites to absolutely check out.

First is The Car Seat Lady – she covers just about every car make, model, and year and tells you which car seats can fit. Rear facing, forward facing, booster, etc. Bless TCSL and her team because it is THE MOST THOROUGH resource on the web for car seats.

Second, is A Girls Guide to Cars. The car reviews are detailed and helpful, though the breath of car seat reviewing is limited.

Last, and where I obtained all the below diagrams, is IIHS – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization that is funded by auto insurance companies. Their safety information is up-to-date for most cars though some, most notably the Chevrolet and GMC car models stop in 2017.

After you have perused the above and feel seriously overwhelmed, it’s time to get a cup of tea and review your intentions with buying a SUV. I wrote a pdf on questions to ask yourself (and your partner) on what is most important in your car purchase.

I also have a spreadsheet comparing pricing, engine power, anchor options, vehicle dimensions for 20+ car models. I manually pulled this data from car manufacturer sites, Edmunds, Car & Driver, and Google excerpts. It is by far the most comprehensive spreadsheet you will find comparing family size SUVs. As I work to complete the list and add new car, you’ll be able to see the changes. I very much hopes this helps you in your car buying process!

Then, figure out how many children you have/plan to have and how many children you want to fit in the car.  For anyone with 1-2 children, every SUV/minivan is available for you.

If you have 3 or more children, then you need to do some planning. How many kids will be in rear facing seats, and how many in front facing seats? Do you want to squeeze another kid in if you’re doing car pooling?

Once you’ve written down your needs, the below diagram of 20+ car models will get you going in the right direction.

Each of these diagrams is from the IIHS, so please visit their website for more information. Also, I’m not a car seat expert and I cannot vouch for the information provided. Car manufacturers can change their info at any time.

I reviewed 25 cars that are both two row and three row options. Some of the interestings findings are:

  • Many car manufacturers do NOT have lower anchor latches in the third rows. This is puzzling to me as bucket seats (used for babies and infants), car seats (rear or forward facing) and booster seats (for older children) all have lower anchor clips.
  • Yet, many of these third rows have back seat tethers, which clearly mean front facing car seats *can* work IF you use the seat belt. Yea, I’m confused by this logic.
  • Fiver seater cars do not usually have the rear middle seat with lower anchors. This means that slot needs to be a booster or a front facing car seat using a seat belt.
  • Subaru as a car manufacturer is a winner hands down for all the larger car models.  Personally, I dislike the interior finishing quality, but by golly, they know how to put down car seats.
  • The Audi Q7 is the only car model that has lower anchors and backseat tethers for EVERY car seat slot. (If there is another model out there, please let me know!)

The list of popular car models and their car seat options

2019 Acura MDX

2019 Audi Q3

2019 Audi Q5

2019 Audi Q7

2019 BMW X-5

2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

2017 Chevrolet Traverse

2017 Chevrolet Suburban

2019 Ford Edge

2019 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Expedition

2019 Ford Explorer

2019 Ford Flex

2019 Honda CR-V

2019 Honda Odyssey

2019 Kia Sedona

2019 Mazda CX-5

2019 Mazda CX-9

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander

2019 Subaru Ascent

2019 Toyota Sienna – Not as versatile as the Honda Odyssey for car seat position, the Sienna does a better job than most other SUVs. Oh, and it comes in all wheel drive option too.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Subaru Outback

2019 Subaru Forrester

2019 Volvo XC-90

The A-Z of India – Playtime with Indigrow

I love being an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). Why? Because our children today have SO many more options to blend their mixed heritages and learn about them in creative ways than we ever did.

30 years ago I never had cool matching cards or puzzles or even beautiful hard bound books to learn about India, Hindi, Gujarati and religion. If you are Generation Xennial, you know what I am talking about.

This generation is the South Asian renaissance. Our immigrant parents have firmly planted themselves into the diasporas, the children (us) have grown up as American and Desi, and now our children live multicultural lives on all levels.

Today I’m super excited to introduce you to indigrow, a small business publishing company based in Singapore serving the global community.

They have created their first collection of learning and play materials for children 0-5. Each of their products ties into the A to Z alphabet yet in different ways. There is a book, a memory match game, on the go flash cards, and a floor puzzle.

Indigrow was sweet and sent me their launch collection to play with. Our children loved them!

The puzzle was the most popular with my 3.5 year old. We did it once together and then he did it on his own. There is a mini poster of the puzzle in completion and it *really* helped us know how to place the pieces (yay!).

Little missy, who is 1.5 years old, was crazy over the matching card coins. I like how they are round instead square, it’s something unusual and fun to hold. I will admit Little Missy did not get the concept of matching but she love looking at the watercolor drawings and asking, “what’s dis? what’s dis? what’s dis”… “OHHHHHHH”

What I love about indigrow’s products are the paper quality, drawings, and diversity. The drawings are watercolor style yet so detailed and exquisite. The card stock for the matching coins and puzzle pieces are thick and heavy – perfect for little, destructive hands!

And, the alphabet takes inspiration from ALL over India, not just the well known cities and things. I even learned about different areas of India, like Nagaland.

Photograph on right: Retlaw Snellac Photograph

Did you know the outfit above is traditional to the Nagas? Me either. I ended up doing some fascinating reading on the state, which was enlightening. Turns out, we adults have plenty to learn from A to Z too!

Thank you indigrow for growing our curiosity and knowledge. Visit Indigrow on Instagram and their website. Shipping is easy and they send anywhere in the world.

Toys R Us Closing Sale Questions and Answers

It’s the death of an American icon for children – Geoffrey the Giraffe.

Of Toys R Us of course.

I’m not that sad to be honest. Toys R Us have always been an expensive place for toys. Always charging full retail price and managing thousands of “special sales”, it was cheaper to go to Kmart and Sears in my days.

Still, it’s the end of an era. Here’s a quick FAQ on what you need to know about the Toys R Us closing sales.

How big are the discounts?
When the sales first start, they will be 10-20% off retail price. Retail price is the full MSRP which means, even with 20% off, toys will be similarly priced to Target, Walmart, Amazon. Remember, Toys R Us always works off of MSRP, which makes them one of the most expensive toy and baby stores.

Are the deals really that good?
When I visited my local Babies R Us that was part of the first round of 180 stores closing, the deals were all over the board. Diapers, formula, food were not on sale at all. Clothes were 20% off MSRP, totally not worth it. Toys were 10-40% off, some were great deals, others not so much.


This week we’ll see how low the discounting will go.

Will Toys R Us honor gift cards?
Yes, until April 15th. But if you’re smart you’re going to use that gift card right now.

What about the Babies R Us gift registry? Will it still exist?
The registry will exist for a couple more months, but you should look to going over to another baby gift registry ASAP.

Are both Babies R Us and Toys R Us really closing?
Yes. It’s sad. Debt and heavy interest payments dragged the company down. Bain and Co, which was part of the restructuring and leveraged buyout will probably make a killing (as it usually does in LBOs) at the expense of the death of an American icon.


Will price matching be honored? What about coupons and discounts?

No. Once the store enters into liquidation, there will be no price matching. Coupons and discounts will also not work.

That’s because once a store enters into liquidation, it’s run by the courts and has to follow set by the judge. In liquidation, the object is to sell everything off, including the floor, fixtures, and whatever can be moved to pay off debts.

Can I return products?
You can return only if you bought before liquidation began. Once liquidation starts at a store, all sales are final. It doesn’t matter if your toy was broken or was missing pieces, the sale is final.

What will happen to the employees?

They are guaranteed wages until mid-May (about 60 days from now). The 33,000 works will be out of a job as soon as their store closes.

Be nice to the employees if you are shopping during liquidation. Chances are that moral is low and they don’t care. Why should they; they are planning their own funerals. So be courteous.

How do I know if my store is closing?
If you’re in the United States or the UK, your store is closing. Canadian stores seem to be in a mixed bag and may stay open longer as a buyer is found.

Is there anything that can be done to save the store?
MGA Entertainment CEO, Isaac Larian, is pledging $200 million of the $800 million needed to buyout half of the stores. Things get weirder though because he started a GofundMe page to raise the rest of the $800 million.

It’s by far one of the most bizarre things to happen in corporate America: a GoFundMe page to save a for-profit corporation in bankruptcy from hedge fund vulture shareholders.

If you donate any money, you are NOT part of the ownership or shareholder of the new company. You’re just throwing your money to millionaires who want you to finance their block party.

A user on GoFundMe said it best:
“So let me get this right. Billionaires want us to donate money for them to buy toys r us. But if I were to donate $50,000+ I wouldn’t get a share of the business. They just want to keep the stores open so they have a store to sell more if there products. So… I guess they are asking people to donate so they can get richer. They just don’t want to take the risk with there own money so they will use yours instead. Incase the business failed.“

Seriously, don’t donate – save your money.

The Ultimate Must Have Newborn Baby Products

After a long time in the making, I’ve finally completed my newborn must have list! This is inspired by my friend R who is expecting a baby next year and is overwhelmed with what to buy.

I wanted to keep the list simple and easy. The baby market is massive and there is so much you can get lost in. While there are plenty of fancy things you can buy, newborns are fairly simple creatures; they just need clothes, milk (breast milk or formula), a safe place to sleep, and a way to be transported.

For some sections, like strollers, I listed budget friendly and splurge items. Splurge products are more expensive but not necessary something you need.

Note: There are affiliate links below. If you click and buy anything, I may make a small commission (and it doesn’t affect your cost). Your support keeps this blog running. Thank you!

**Strollers:**
Splurge: Uppababy Vista Stroller, Bugaboo
Budget Friendly: Uppababy Cruz Stroller, City Mini, Graco

Buying for twins: Uppababy Vista, Bugaboo, and City Select all

**Car Seats:**
For newborn babies, you can get a bucket seat (see pic below) or a convertible car seat that lasts a few years (from newborn to toddler/child). The benefit of bucket seats is that you can remove them and insert them into the stroller. Standard car seats cannot be removed for in-out use but have a longer lifetime.

Depends on the type of stroller you buy, you’ll need to get a compatible baby bucket car seat. Top line car seats are Maxi Cosi, Nuna; more economic friendly car seats are Graco and Britax.

Also good to have is a car seat mirror.

**Diapers:**
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what brand of diapers you get, as long as you buy ones in your budget and style.

Budget friendly diapers tend to be the store brand, Up and Up (Target).

Environmentally friendly diapers: Eco by Naty Premium (biodegradable, compostable, and eco-friendly), Seventh Generation (eco friendly diapers), Honest Company (less chemicals used), Earth’s Best (biodegradable and eco-friendly). Babyganics (less chemicals used but not biodegradable.).

Major brands: Pampers, Huggies, Get Dyper

Don’t forget the wipes, diaper pad, and diaper genie.

Bathtub: A simple tub is the best. If you have space, you can get a standard size baby tub. For space conscious bathrooms, get a folding tub like Puj, Blooming baby, or Skip Hop.

Bottles: Bottles are tricky; every baby is different and bottles deliver formula/breastmilk at different speeds.

In general, for newborns to four months, use nipple size 1 from the bottle manufacturer. Around 5/6 months, you can switch to nipple size 2.

Some bottles help with reflux or colic (though not proven through any research studies), some are ergonomic, and some are simple.

Personally, I like the Munchkin bottle. You can try out a single bottle with nipple size 1, before buying a 3 pack package (better pricing). The Munchkin bottles also come with adapters for the breast pump, which means you can directly pump into the bottle.

I also used the Lansinoh bottle when my firstborn was 5 months old.

Other parents love Dr. Brown’s (either in plastic or glass bottles), Aventi, and Medela.

**Pacifiers:**
Like bottles, pacifiers are dependent on the each baby preferences. Almost every bottle manufacturer makes pacifiers from newborns to twelve months (after one year, baby should be kicking the habit).

Many gift bags that stores give when you create a baby registry will include a pacifier. Try it out and see what sticks.

Health: Thermometer, nasal aspirator, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, gripe water, butt cream or lotion , baby wash. You can skip the baby oil and bubble bath for now.

For moms who are breastfeeding: lanolin cream and nipple soothies (the most amazing thing ever!)

**Clothes:**
Depends on the time of the year baby is born, you’ll need a mix of cool to warm clothes.

To buy a whole collection for a reasonable price, your best is to search Facebook Marketplace. Many moms will sell giant lots of newborn-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, etc clothes/accessories. They can be as cheap as $.50 an item. Considering how quickly babies go through them, it isn’t until they are older, you need to buy them. And from experience, the older baby gets, like toddler hood, the harder it is to buy secondhand (I don’t know why).

Buy the basic lot of clothes and your special items as splurge. Holiday outfits, dresses, and trendy brands for example.

Remember if you are in a cold climate, you will need more full sleepers and pants.
5-10 Onesies
4-8 Full sleepers – zipper ones are the best
6-12 Pairs of Socks
3-5 Pants – My favorite pants are the ones with the footed covers. This way, you can skip the socks and the search 5 minutes later when baby kicks them off!

**Swaddles:**
My favorite is Aden and Anais, the market standard. Made from muslin, they are soft and a bit stretchy.

**Nursery:**
This is when I highly recommend to get these items used. Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, and Craigslist are the best places to buy nursery pieces.

Truly, nobody cares except you how the nursery looks and how much you spent. We bought our bassinet used for $50, the crib (an IKEA one) also for $50 (and the parents gave us lots of extra things), and a small IKEA dresser for $75. We instead splurged on a high end stroller system that would last years.

* Crib + mattress or bassinet
* Dresser
* diaper changing table

Splurge:

* Rug
* Quilt set – this is really just for decoration as baby won’t be using blankets for at least a year
* Rocking chair glider

Wraps & Carriers:
Baby K’tan, Lillebaby, Ergo baby
Baby carriers are the wild west.

Swing:
For the ultimate swing/bassinet, there is SNOO. It is pricey at $1295, but the majority of parents swear by it. And for those it doesn’t work out with, well, baby just doesn’t like it.

On the cost effective side (but also more prone to breakage) is the Grace Dreamglider.