Do you have wooden animals? A bunch of Holztiger perhaps? And looking for new ways to help your children learn about animals?
I created this Montessori type three part card series for the Holztiger animals (don’t worry Ostheimer and Schleich lovers, I’m making sets for you too).
The Montessori three part card series is much more than a flashcard – it helps children learn words through sight, assign them to a visual representation (a photo), and match.
To make a three part series you will need to make 2 (TWO) copies of the pdf. Then the first page you cut along the lines with each animal and their name. On the second copy you have, cut the animals AND the words.
Place a small group of animal cards out on a table. I recommend 4-6 cards. For younger children, use the animal+name card. You can group the animals by type (reptile, mammal, bird) or location (Africa, wildlife, Australia, woodland, farm), or something else (what you have on hand).
Then, place the animal cards (without name) and name only cards in another pile. Now show your children how this works if they have never done this before.
Once you model how to match, let them try!
Other ways to play:
Match the card to the wooden toy animal.
Match the animal card (without name) to the name card.
How to get the Holztiger animal printables for FREE. Sign-up below using the link and you’ll get cards delivered to you. Currently the Africa set is available but I’m working hard to get the rest done!
This week I am featuring five products from female small business owners. They are all based in the US. They are all awesome.
Custom Peg doll – Need a peg doll to match your kid’s room? Or their favorite character? Jen is your gal. Her peg dolls are exquisite and the details are mind blowing.
Stacking hearts set by Sensory Play – $40 – This set of 6 wooden hearts are made from cherry and rainbow poplar. You don’t see many woodworkers using rainbow poplar so I find it to be real treat. Also, owner Magda is wonderful and based in the US. She also has a great Montessori and Waldorf wood toys.
Unicorns from Cranberry Creek Forest – If there is one wooden toy Cranberry Creek Forest is known for is its unicorn collection. Choose from a varieties of manes, these unicorns are more feminine looking than the well known Ostheimer Unicorn.
Narwhal from Cranberry Creek Forest – I’ve not seen anyone else making narwhals. And what’s not to love about the unicorn of the sea? Watch the BBC documentary (the one on the Arctic and Antarctic) and have your narwhals break the ice too!
Hundred Board from Mirus Toys – A gold standard in Montessori math and beyond, the hundred board is your go to for all things math. Order the wooden balls or wool balls with it (add-on in the menu) and help your children visualize AND love numbers. Plus you are supporting a brown woman business based in Washington state!
Custom Birthday Ring from Moth and Moonstone- Can’t find the birthday ring you want? Ask Katy and she will paint you an exquisite custom piece.
Hope you discovered some new businesses and get sucked into their gorgeous collections like I have!
As always, there are referral links above. I earn a small commission if you purchase something through that link. I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart.
This is a fun way to learn three letter words, the Montessori way. I made 50 (or more, I cannot remember) three letter CVC words. Then you take the individual letter and match them to the word.
More advanced children can use the a,e,i,o,u chart and make three letter words of their own.
I will caution that you should give your children this activity if they are already into learning letters and words. Don’t give this to kids who don’t have any interest. Best age group is 4-7 years old, basically kindergartners.
Things you can do:
Match words to physical objects. Fox to a wooden toy fox, Pen to a pen, etc.
Group words by sounds. Cat, hat, mat. Ram, fan, dam. You can do this for younger children while older kids can hunt for the words.
Find similar letter. If you group by sounds, you will find a common vowel. What is it? What other words have that vowel?
What you need:
Printer – color printed is needed. You want kids to learn the difference between consonants and vowels.
Feel free to share the link with friends. Feeling extra sweet? Send a dollar to cover my chai costs (at home of course) in Venmo. It’s silly to say but I need to say it: please do not upload the pdfs to your own site, sell them, commercialize them.
Stay at home, stay safe! Remember you don’t have to home school overnight. Keep your kids’ brain occupied and you’re doing more than enough as a parent.
Feel free to share the link with friends. Feeling extra sweet? Send a dollar to cover my chai costs (at home of course) in Venmo. It’s silly to say but I need to say it: please do not upload the pdfs to your own site, sell them, commercialize them.
Sometimes you want wooden toys to be in your own color scheme. Or you want them cheaper than the major brands. Or you want to go crazy with the limited time of raising that you decide painting 100 little mushrooms is a *good idea*.
I’ve been there and back. Painting your own wooden toys take time and effort. What paints to use, what sealants to use, and where to buy from.
I put together this list of Etsy sellers who make their own wooden toys. You can purchase them unfinished, sand them, paint them, and seal them to your own color scheme.
I choose only small businesses because 1. support small business!, 2. skips out on “made in we don’t know where” products. All the products listed are made by artisans themselves. Some are in the US, a couple in the UK, and a few in Russia.
If you have a photo you’d like to share of your wooden creation, please contact me and I’d be happy to post it here.
Disclosure: The links to purchase these toys at Etsy are affiliate. I make a tiny amount of commission for each sale made through the links below. It costs you nothing but helps me cover my costs to continue writing and maintaining this site. Thank you for the support!
I went through each peg doll listing and pulled their dimensions. This should help you when building your collection. Below is a photo I took of all the Clickity Clack people I own. They #1, #4, #5, #2, and #10.
#10 Bumble bee/baby – 1-3/16 tall like the Little Tots, but has a curved body that is 5/8 inch at the widest point. They have a flat bottom only 3/8 inch wide. Chocking hazard! One of the kids favorite peg people.
They also sell vehicles that match to the sizes of the people (READ the listing properly!). Go crazy, the prices are great and they are made in the USA.
Cedar Oaks– They make wine racks but they also make peg dolls. Sizes are pretty standard and below are the sizes currently for sale. Of course confirm with the owner in case you need the peg doll to fit something specific.
Dads – 2-3/8″ tall x 7/8″ wide Moms – 2-1/4″ tall x 3/4″ wide Girls – 2″ tall x 7/8″ wide Boys – 1-11/16″ tall x 5/8″ wide Babies – 1-1/8″ tall x 5/8″ wide
ROSTOKToys – The prices are amazing. I have the sorting bowls with mushrooms, rattle, lacing vegetable beads, and nesting dolls. The shipping will cost a lot as with most of the other shops, but I love the quality. Made in Russia by a family, all the products are popular with the kiddos.
I Used to be a Tree – The name of the store is adorable. I haven’t shopped here personally, but I am eyeing the wooden acorns and kokeshi dolls. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the roundness?!
Crafty Wool Felt – The owner has a beautiful collection of felt products. Felt balls and sheets and ready made pieces – it’s all eye candy. She also has a small collection of wooden items: people, trees, spools, beads, snowmen.
House Mountain Natural – Delightful wooden food, eco friendly baby gift sets, and paint your own wood pieces, Ross has a lovely collection.
Bob Hudson Wood Crafts – Need wooden animals? Why yes, you do. Bob makes lots of wooden animals and wooden Christmas pieces. Based in Connecticut, it’s another made in the USA toy.
Have a shop I should include or photos to share? Let me know!
Can I tell you a secret? A secret you can share with a new mom. In fact, promise me you’ll share this with another mom.
You don’t need fancy toys to entertain a baby.
Say it again with me, YOU DON’T NEED FANCY TOYS TO ENTERTAIN A BABY!
First of all, newborns only care about three things: milk (from your boob or a bottle), snuggling and cuddling with a warm body, and having their diaper changed. When it comes to entertainment, newborns love being outside, they love looking at trees and leaves, and they love looking at faces. Guess what, all these things are free!
Now, here’s when life gets tricky. Babies evoke ALL THE FEELS in us. Utter happiness, misery, sleeplessness, joy, pain, you name it. We also all want what’s best for our babies, so we tend to over shop. Families too.
My list here is a combination of things you can find at home and simply elegant toys. They are not battery operated, they are not over-colored willy nilly junk, these are toys that benefit their development without overwhelming them (and you).
A word of warning. A lot of Amazon listed toys today come from unbranded/off brand companies from China. They’re Chinese companies selling plastic and wood toys at a fraction of the price. Do your research. Amazon does not check compliance for meeting toy safety standards for the US or the EU (in the same they don’t check for copyright infringement and fake books)
Make sure you, family, and friends understand the need to purchase quality, well known brands (more on popular brands coming soon in a post) because of counterfeiting, evasion of toy safety standards, and in some cases, poor human rights records.
If you want an easy list of good retailers, check out my Cyber Monday list supporting small businesses.
Now on to the good stuff! The 0-12 month period for a baby
Tupperware, pots and pans, wooden spoons, kitchen utensils – Notice something here? They’re all things you can find in the kitchen! Look no further than your cabinets to entertain a crawling/sitting baby.
Teething? No problem. Give them a wooden spoon or a silicon straw.
Want to make noise? Fill a tupperware with dry beans and seal it shut with tape (avoid the choking hazard). Give them a few pots and a few wood spoons and let them bang on them. They will probably bang on your cabinets, the floor, you, and themselves, but guess what? You can teach them about density and materials composition? “Ohhh, I see you found the tile floor. How does the wooden spoon sound when you bang on it? Your kiddo won’t answer btw, but probably giggle. “Look at that! A metal spoon on a metal pot, that’s pretty loud!”
Want to teach them colors and food? Grab a bunch of different dry beans and pastas and put them in containers. Seal them with tape and hand them to baby. You can talk about colors, sizes, shapes, whatever you want.
Now for toys you can buy. These are developmentally appropriate, foster thinking and curiously, and lack the flashy beeps and bops of traditional battery operated toys.
LOVEVERY Play Subscription – Go on autopilot with this nice collection of curated toys for newborns to two years old. Easy for family to pitch in and you get just a few toys every month. Some of the toys are inspired by Montesorri ideas (like the Imbucare box, circles), others are Waldorf inspired (e.g. blocks).
Grimms Pebbles – Are they rocks? Are they plastic? No, they’re wood! Light and soft, the Grimms pebbles are fun for stacking, matching colors, and even a little chewing. As your baby gets older, the pebbles can be used in imaginary play as grass, water, sand, and whatever your child conjures.
Jellycat Tails books – I never knew the magic of crinkle books until I was gifted the Jellycat tails books. Rainbow tails, farm tails, jungle tails, the series is a hoot. Babies love the books to chew on, crush with their fingers, and throw. The whole series is fun, so pick one you like.
Plan Toys Baby Key Rattle – Just like the plastic counterpart from popular brands, this sweet wood key rattle is perfect for teething babies. And babies who want throw stuff (which, by the way, are all babies). Good for 4 months old and up.
Stacking bowls and boxes – Stacking blocks, stacking bowls, stacking cubes, stacking cups, stacking pacifiers, you name it and a toddler will stack it. I love the black and white Grimms stacking bowls and nesting cubes. Yes, they are pricey, but they will last several years. They are durable and are multi-functional. Babies, toddlers, and even young children love stacking filling containers and moving them around.
Pounding toy – $12.99 on amazon – What better way to bash stuff than to give your young toddler a toy that *can* be bashed! The Melissa and Doug pounding toy is great for those little hands. Good for babies 10 months+, this toy hits its stride with 15 months and up. Make sure to supervise baby so they don’t pound their fingers (or remove the ‘hammer’ and let them use their hands to press the pegs in).
Manhattan Toy Skwish – $13.99-$16.99 depending on color on Amazon – My baby received the Skwish when he was 10 months old. He didn’t really know what to do with it except throw it around. By 12 months old, he loved it! Throwing it, squishing it, stretching it; this was clearly a hit! Having never seen one in my life until then, I eventually ended up three Skwishes (other parent friends getting rid of them). Again, super fun. E
Even when my toddler was 3 years he would play with it. I’d tell him to step on it and stretch it as if he were angry – win on the expressing feelings front!
Teethers – Not just a gift, but to also protect your insanity once baby begins teething and chewing on everything like a wild golden retriever. Freezing teethers can be frozen – your kiddo will have a love/hate relationship but they are worth it because they will last a few years as your little one goes teething nuts. Then they are jelly like keys, wood teethers, silicon based beads, the famous Sophie la Giraffe for babies to chew on. You will want 4-5 of teething items because they get lost easily and your baby will go in phases of what they love. Have them on hand now.
Toothbrush + Toothpaste – You probably can’t believe it, but by the time your newborn becomes a one year old, they will sprout some of teethy fangs. Create good habits with daily brushing. At this time you need a teeny tiny bit of fluoride free toothpaste ( Jill and Jack toothpaste creates eco friendly packaging and products) and a soft toothbrush. You can use a finger toothbrush, a bamboo toothbrush, or a silicon toothbrush. Whatever works for you and baby.
It’s that time of year! The stores are full of toys and kids are full of imagination from toy catalogs to what’s a la mode.
Here’s the deal, you know, and I know, that the majority of toys advertised on TV, in the catalogs, and by other kids, are junk. Noisy, small pieces, gimmicky, things that have no value after a couple weeks of play. Does these toys delight little kids? Absolutely. Are they really a good idea? No, not really.
If you need to send family or friends Christmas ideas that aren’t character branded, Disney slathered, Marvel Comics pumped, then I have a list for you. All the toys are under $50, they’re great quality, and they will last your kids years, not days. Please bear in mind that while some of these toys don’t look exciting to *you*, does not mean they won’t be beautifully loved for years to come.
Sometimes the best toys are the most simple and elegant ones.
Grab the link and share!
Disclosure: Most of these toys are my or my child’s favorites. The links to purchase these toys at Amazon or Natural Baby Co are affiliate. I make a tiny amount of commission for each sale made through the links below. It costs you nothing but helps me cover my costs to continue writing and maintaining this site. Thank you for the support!
Play Kitchen – Of all the toy play kitchens on the market, the best by far is from IKEA. It is elegant, aesthetically pleasing, and mostly wood (a couple pieces are plastic. There are no stickers and crazy colors, the IKEA toy kitchen is a calming place to play.
To fill that kitchen, you need some basic items. Goodwill or the thrift store is great for buying real objects: utensils, little plates, and kitchen knick-knacks. For something more specialty, Plan Toys has a sweet tea set made from wood. It’s gender neutral and perfect for all ages and genders. Hape also makes lots of wooden fruits and veggies and tea sets.
Whatever you choose to buy for the play kitchen, be intentional in purchasing non-gender conforming colors. The days of pink cups are over. Girls AND boys play with tea sets and dolls, so please don’t be the person limiting your child’s interests.
Bruder dump truck – $49.99 on Amazon – Bruder is my go-to toy truck company. While you can get them on Amazon and at some specialty toy stores, the best place to score a Bruder truck is at the Home Goods store. They are well made, a mix between plastic parts and metal parts, and many of the models are still made in Germany.
Snap Circuits – $20.99 on sale at Amazon – Get your child involved in electrical engineering with Snap Circuits. Good for kids 4 years and up (5 years is recommended on the box), this junior will pique your little ones interest in building and engineering.
Adopt an Orphan – Managed by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the adopt an orphan allows you to contribute to caring for an orphaned elephant, giraffe, or rhino. Through the $50 adoption, you’ll get a certificate, access to updates, and special photos. Teach your children about the importance of saving our wildlife for future generations.
Corolle dolls – My friend introduced me to these dolls as a birthday present present for my 1 year old. It became a hit. My toddler son fell in love too that we had to purchase one for him as well.
Our favorite Corolle are the ones with the weighted bean body. Bonus for being washing machine safe (trust me, they will eventually go to the bubble bath). The company still lacks in having a diverse line-up of different skin toned dolls, but there are a couple at least.
Petit Collage magnetic sets – Going to a restaurant? At the doctor’s office? Need to entertain kids in a mess free, noise free way? These magnetic tins are the best! I like the veterinarian play hospital, funny faces, tree house sets.
Marble runs – The Hape Quadrilla marble run is a feast. The basic set is under $30. With fun add-ons and expansions, the set isn’t cheap, but it’s a great gift from family members for large builds by several children. As a bonus, The Wall Street Journal calls the marble run a STEM coding toy.
Green Toys Car Transporter – $24.99 on Amazon – What makes this plastic toy so great you ask? Well, it’s 100% recycled plastic. And it’s darn good quality. Green Toys is another one of my personal favorite brands and what toddler/young child doesn’t love a car carrier? For an alternative, check out the Melissa and Doug racecar carrier set.
Brio train sets – Trains, trains, more trains. Brio is a Swedish company famous for their train sets. You may have even grown up with them. Either way, trains are still awesome. Get started with a few small sets and build from through secondhand shopping (FB marketplace) and off-brands (okay, I said it). You can also add on with specialty pieces like the Brio bridges, off-brand level stacking (to create multi-level train tracks), cool trains, and switches.
At this point you are probably thinking, “oh no, Thomas the Train, please no no no!” I’m with you on that. I despise the Thomas the Train tv show and I absolutely despise the overpriced trains. Solution? Buy those secondhand. FB marketplace is a treasure trove of other parents dumping their kids Thomas the Train tracks.
Unit blocks – $52.49 on Amazon – The essential building blocks for every child. The natural colored blocks allow children to create cityscapes, farms, oceans, castles, houses, wherever their imagination takes them. For the $50 budget, Melissa and Doug is sure bet, the Bajo Manhattan Skyline (though I’d use it more as supplement, $49.95)as is the 40 piece set from Plan Toys. If your budget has lots of room, you can look to Grimms Large Stepped Pyramid ($199). Fora fun add-on, check out Uncle Goose blocks. These made in the USA blocks (yes! MADE IN USA!) range from beautiful alphabet blocks to planets and moon phases to dinosaurs and ocean blocks.
A word of caution if you are looking on Amazon for unit blocks. There are a lot of off-brand, Chinese companies selling unit block sets. You need to thoroughly check that all the pieces are *not* a chocking hazard. In addition, you should vet the paint and wood used by those companies. Frankly, I don’t trust them, and Amazon reviews won’t help in terms of consumer safety.
Ostheimer wooden animals and figures – $7.95-$25.95 prices vary on style from Natural Baby Company Co – These German handmade animals are a mark of beauty. They are durable, beautifully painted, and if taken care of will last your to your grandchildren’s generation. These wooden animals are not cheap in comparison to plastic stuff, they are an investment for birthdays and holidays each year. You can buy a few at a time or ask each family member to purchase a couple pieces – the collection will grow quickly thanks to a loving family.
If Ostheimer isn’t quite your thing, check out Holztiger, also wooden animals made in Germany. They come in a bit better price point and are just as loved. Perhaps my favorite are the subscription boxes from Danny and Luca. The website shop is run by a mom and she curates these gorgeous Holztiger sets. If you subscribe to a 3 or 6 month box, you’ll be paying $8-9 per piece, a substantial discount over retail.
When you’re starting a wooden animal collection, start by theme. If the kids love farm animals, put farm animals on their wish list. If they love the ocean, fill their gift list with ocean animals.
Duplo – Seriously, can you ever go wrong with Lego Duplo? The building possibilities are endless, there are loads of animals and cars, and so many specialty pieces, your little ones will be busy for hours. As a bonus against Legos, you won’t vacuuming Duplo or stepping on them like spikes in the house! I recommend using Facebook Marketplace to buy loads of mixed up Duplos at rock bottom prices. A grocery bag full of Duplos would cost $20-40. These mixed bags will give you lots of pieces to go build crazy. For specialty sets, buy the boxed Duplo. Some of my favorite are the, Truck excavator, fire station (set 10903), baby animals, and submarine set.
Extra credit for Lego being one of the few major toy manufacturers catering to women. Female truck drivers, female doctors, female people of color scuba divers, the company is making big strides forward.
Tegu tram set – $49.99 on Natural Baby Co – Anything Tegu really is super fun.
Melissa & Doug Wood Barn – $39.99 on Amazon – Includes 7 animals, this is a great starter barn set for any creative mind. As your child grows, you can add on more animals, Schleich is great, and wood blocks to create a farm world. Make sure not to buy the *latches* barn; it’s just a barn with a lot of latches!
Magnatiles – Build with magnets! Similar to Tegu, Magnatiles allow you build. Compared to Tegu, Magnatiles are plastic based, build larger systems, yet are trickier in forming complex designs. You could also buy Picasso Tiles, which are a lot cheaper.
Art Supplies – price varies at Amazon &Target – Art supplies of any sort are loved by little ones. Notebooks, crayons, markets, stickers, glue, this is not just a refresh of your kiddo’s book bag, it’s a way for your child to have private space to think and express themselves. Art is therapeutic and developmentally important. Classic Crayola crayons and markets are always a win.
Cuddle + Kind – $52 on Natural Baby Co – These stuffed toys are the cutest! Made in Peru by hand, each purchase provides 10 meals to children in need. You can get the 13” for $52 or the 20” doll for $72. Yes, they are pricey, but they are not made in China and they are not cheap quality. You get what you pay for.
Hope you enjoy this non-mainstream list of toys for your little ones to enjoy this holiday season. Your kids will love you and so will your bank account.
I have been pondering this for sometime now. I visit the doctor, rather several doctors, on a regular basis because I am pregnant. OH sooo pregnant! Plus I like to get sick too, so there are always extra visits to the GP (general physician).
After reading a book earlier in the year about pregnancy, the author asked if you, the client, truly felt that the doctors you visit care for you. That they get to know you, they are interested in your overall health and well-being. This is not the same as being competent or having good bedside manners. Rather, the author wanted to know if you as the client felt your doctors could advocate for you. They could empathize with you.
They were your advocate.
Over the past few years, I noticed a slight change in doctor-patient visits. They were shorter, by a few minutes, there was more time spent looking at the computer screen, there were fewer questions, and there was a need to move on. For them to move on to the next patient.
I soon figured out that every OB visit I have is allotted 15 minutes between the medical assistant and the doctor. There is an additional 5 minutes for paperwork, walking around, whatever. In all, each OB exam gets 20 minutes at best. The reality though is I get closer to 10 minutes with the OB (though surveys say 13-16 minutes to be the average).
10 minutes to discuss ALL your pregnancy issues, questions, concerns with your OB until they need to leave. And what happens when you do take up more time? The next patient’s appointment is inevitably delayed.
Looking back I realized I should have kept a timekeeping table on the delayed start of every appointment. Some were only 10-15 minutes late, other 60-90 minutes late. 90 minutes late for a 10 minute appointment. An incredible waste of time for everyone. And yet the appointment was less than 10 minutes.
What did we accomplish during those 10 minutes? My blood pressure, temperature, list of medications. Checked for fetal heartbeat. Got to ask my list of questions to ensure rapid fire response.
The point I’m trying to make is that as a patient, do you feel your doctors truly care for you? Or are they just competent and well mannered? And does it matter to you?
While I don’t think my OBs have the full picture of me and my medical history, I think they are knowledgeable people. And they’re kind. And I think they will get the job done safely (keeping the baby and I alive before/during/after labor and delivery).
The latest in the Subaru family takes aim at the seven seater market. And for good reason, their last model didn’t do so well.
Subaru is back. And they are playing ball. The brand new Ascent, introduced in 2019, is simple yet big, bold, and fun.
We took a test drive with the Ascent. Here are our thoughts: The pros: 🚗 Lower anchor latches in both the second and third rows. 🚗 third row seats three 🚗 19 cup holders (!) 🚗 USB charging cable in the third row 🚗 Panoramic roof option. 🚗 Tons of safety features
🚗 All wheel drive on all trim levels (actually, all Subaru cars are AWD)
Cons: 🚗 noisy – you can hear a lot of outside noise leaking in 🚗 very hard suspension – the worst thing for potholes and crack roadways. 🚗 Plastic’y feeling to the interior components. Okay, true, Subaru is not a luxury brand, but the parts just felt too low level for the cost. 🚗 Difficult to get into third row because of car seats.
For the 8 seater Subaru, it can fit plenty of car seats: a maximum of 3 car seats requiring front latches and 3 car seats requiring back tethers.
The 2 row seats move easily but they don’t have a great fold radius. There is the possibility you may have to remove one of child car seats in order to fold the seat itself.
Last, it was recommended to us to stick to the captain’s row and opt for the 7 seater. The 8 seater works if you must fit 8 people, but it’s not advised. And the Ascent doesn’t have the option of removing the 8th seat like the Honda Odyssey does.
Preeti’s verdict: not our choice but this is a great family vehicle for 7-8 people. The ride is a bit splotchy and the interior isn’t refined (then again, Subaru doesn’t pretend to be luxury either).
For cars in this price range, $35,000-$55,000, the Subaru Ascent is a must test drive for families.