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


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!

Does Your Doctor Really, Truly Care for You?

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).

Fun stuff!

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).

But I’m not sure on anything else.

Subaru Ascent:

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)

🚗 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.

Honda Odyssey: Stuff the Kids, the Grandparents, & Soccer Balls

The Honda Odyssey is THE Golden Standard for the soccer parent (formerly known as the soccer mom car). It’s not just a minivan, it’s the minivan of minivans, winning its own Game of Thrones of the 7 kingdoms of parentdom.

There are of course other minivans out there, most notably the Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, and Kia Sedona. At this moment, I haven’t been able to check out one of these cars.

We did not have time test drive it, but, here’s the scoop:
The Odyssey is BIG – 203.2 inches long, making it one of the longest 7 seater cars. Longer cars are the true SUV beasts like the Tahoe, Suburban, Explorer.
The Odyssey has one of the largest cargo space area of any vehicle: 32.8 ft³. No joke. You can see in one of the photos how the trunk has a drop to allow even more space!
The interior is spacious and can accommodate 8 people. The middle chair in the second row can be removed to make it a captain’s row.
All 2nd and 3rd row seats have lower anchors #latch for #carseats(unlike the #volkswagon #atlas which lacks 3rd row lower anchors). There are a couple downsides to the Odyssey: AWD is not an option on any trim level. Panoramic roof only comes at the top trim level. And the third row does not have any USB ports. The materials in the car are not luxury but solidly good.
Price wise, the Odyssey is between $35-50K + taxes, putting in the same class as the #hondapilot #vwatlas #toyotasienna #fordexplorer #subaruascent .

Volvo XC 90 Car Review: A 3rd Row Disappointment

We saw the Volvo XC90 finally! Here’s what we thought:
✅ comfortable seats
✅ reasonably spacious third row
✅ extra cargo space under lid
✅ 2nd row middle seat child booster seat option
✅ all wheel drive option

❌ NO 3rd row lower anchors
❌ NO 3rd row back seat tethers
❌ Poor 2nd chair folding – you may have to take out a baby car seat to allow third row access
❌ not a car for 3+ children who require standard car seats.
❌ good interior but not truly luxury

I’ll be posting a video, but considering this is. Swedish brand with a history of safety standards and features, it’s shocking that the 3rd row allows for no car seats. A great car for five people for older children, but definitely not for kids under 4,

Car seat layout is disappointing at best. The middle seat in the second row has to steal from one of the end seats. Also an issue: to access the third row, the second row end seat must be folded; that means TAKING OUT the car seat.

And what parent has time to remove and reinstall a car seat every time the third row is needed?!

The only perk to the XC 90 is the 2nd row middle seat has an optional installed booster (33 lbs+) for older children.

You are still screwed in the 3rd row where no latches are available.

Preeti’s Recommendation:

Great for 2 young children requiring car seats or 3+ older children (boosters).

NOT recommended for families requiring 3 latched car seats.

Chevrolet Traverse Family Car Review

Here are my thoughts on the Chevrolet Traverse:
✅ surprisingly spacious
✅ 3rd row seats three people
✅ trunk space has extra space under the lid
✅ all wheel drive option
✅ back tether latches on all five rear seats
✅ bench or captain’s chairs for 2nd row ❌ interior not as refined
❌ no panoramic sunroof (comes as double sunroof)
❌ classic 3 year warranty (though it’s the standard for most cars, but just not great)
❌ top trim levels offer all the safety features, while lower levels you have to upgrade.
Note: we didn’t get to test drive so I can’t speak to drivability. If I have time (sans children), I’ll do so in the next couple weeks.

Photos from Instagram:

The image below is from 2017, so I am glad to say the 2019 Traverse has back tethers for ALL three seats in the third row.

The Comprehensive Family Car Comparison Guide

Here it is! My comprehensive spreadsheet on 50+ car models comparing cargo space, fuel economy, base price, vehicle length, car seats availability and more, just for you.


This is still a work in progress and is is being updated all the time. If you see a car model that I’m missing, please let me know!

Also check out my series on car buying for 3 young children. Turns out, it’s a lot more complicated than one would expect. There are pdfs, videos, and questionnaires.

Family Car Buying Guide: Questions to Ask Before Buying a Family SUV

Preeti’s Car Seat Guide for Family SUVs & Minivans

Which 7 (or 8) Seater Car Should You Buy? A Quiz!

Individual Car Reviews:

Chevrolet Traverse

Audi Q7

Honda Pilot

Honda Odyssey

Volkswagen Atlas

Subaru Ascent

You can view the full spreadsheet here.

This took many hours to compile and create, if you have a few dollars, help buy me a postpartum donut with a Paypal donation. You’ll be super loved!

PS – Are you a car manufacturer and looking to have your car reviewed? Please contact Preeti and we will be glad to test out your vehicle for family friendliness.

Hospital Bag Checklist for Mom, Partner, & Baby!

We always end up over packing for the hospital. To be honest, you don’t need much if you’re going to be there for a couple days.

But, if you think you might be spending more than a couple nights at the hospital, definitely get your packing done early.

Here’s what I learned from my past two pregnancies.

What the hospital usually provides:
newborn blankets
nose aspirator
mesh undies
ice packs
sanitary pads

What I didn’t find useful to pack:
Extra clothes for baby – baby will have his/her newborn swaddle. You need one or two outfits.

Sanitary pads – the hospital gives you pads, and they are not terrible. They are not great but the pads do the job the first couple days. If you really want to have comfortable sanity pads, then make your own.

Nursing nightgown – I still don’t know what that is. A comfortable robe or shirt works just fine.

What you should really pack for the hospital:
Portable fan – you never know the temperature in your room. Some rooms will let you control the temperature, others not at all. Upon admittance into the hospital, you will go from triage to the labor & delivery room and then to the maternity ward. Since you cannot open windows in a hospital room, a portable fan can keep you from feeling stifled.
Pillows – Bring 1-2 of your favorite pillows from home. Be aware though, if you use them during delivery, they just may not cleanable when it’s over.

Chapstick – dry lips. Need I say more.

iPad – to watch movies. Especially nice if your room has no tv and you have a long labor. Or you’re in the maternity ward and the only tv you have is from 1999.

Phone charger – do not forget this!

Extension cord – no joke. Outlets are in the weirdest spots in a recovery room. Get an extension cord and you won’t be stretching your arm out trying to instagram and charge at the same time.

Camera and camera stuff – Bring your camera.

Phone – duh.

Maxi or mini dresses – Pack a dress that is EASY to wear; no buttons, zippers or hard to access area for the boobs.

Zipper hoodie – if it is cold in the room. ZIPPER is key.

Robe – makes it easy to nurse and provides a layer if you become cold. Plus a robe makes you feel a little more stylish and human.

Blanket – feel cozy and bring a light blanket you love. Don’t bring your ultimate favorite because you never know what could happen.

Socks – continue the coziness with your own socks. If you get cold easily, pack 2-3 pairs.

Toothbrush and toothpaste – I was surprised my hospital provided them for me, but it’s always good to have them packed in your bag.

Disposable contacts – if you wear contacts, don’t forget to pack them!

Flip Flops – Do you really want to walk barefoot on the hospital ward?

Toiletries – Collecting hotel toiletries? Now is the time to use them! Pack a travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap. Also pack face wipes – even if you don’t time to take a full shower, a refreshing wipe will give your face life.

Makeup – Bring your absolutely must have to walk out the door on any given day. I always have eyeliner, lipstick, and mascara. Even in the chaos of new baby and learning of your newly weird body, a little makeup will give you an instant esteem boost. Not to mention, a good time to take a photo!

One nice top – Speaking of nice photos, have one nice top you can take a photo with. The top should be easy to wear, comfortable, and quick for nursing. Look for a maternity top, nursing top, or something loose fitting.

Swimming trunks – If you have a bathtub during labor and delivery, you may want a two piece bathing suit.

Snacks – have your favorite snacks for when you’re in the recovery room. If you take an epidural during labor, you will not be able to eat, at all. Keep the snacks for your spouse (when they are starving and it’s 1am) and yourself.

Baby things:

Going home outfit

Something cute to take a photo with – a newborn printed sign, a special gift from a family member, an outfit, a stuffed toy, something lovely.

If you leave in the hospital in a car make sure you have a CAR SEAT!

The Yummiest Low Sugar Banana Bread Recipe You’ll Ever Need

What’s more delicious than smelling banana bread wafting through the house?

Nothing, am I right? The smell of fresh baked banana bread is intoxicating and inviting. Everyone knows something delicious is about to pop out of the oven.

I have been working on my banana muffin and banana bread recipe for a while. My muffins are a total hit with the kids because they are yummy, full of good things, and don’t have much sugar.

I wanted to translate that into a delicious that was also low in sugar but full of the good stuff.

There is also some room for modification with the recipe too. You can replace the peanut butter with any other nut butter or sun butter. You could also skip the nut butter entirely (but also eliminate the milk).

Banana bread likes to take time in the oven, at least 45 minutes. Not the best when you have kids who are super excited and have zero patience!

You could convert this to a muffin, but I recommend you head over to my muffin recipe as there are a few changes to make healthy cupcakes.

For the bread:

3 very ripe bananas mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup room temp butter
1/2 cup milk (may not be needed if fruit/veggie are very moist)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup instant oats
3 spoons hemp seed powder (optional)
1 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts optional or 1/2 cup peanut butter

Mash bananas.

With a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add bananas.

Mix all dry ingredients.

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients together. If the batter looks doughy or tough, add milk. You can add peanut butter (if you are doing so) at this point.

The batter should be a bit wet like cake batter but not very wet like pancake batter.

Spoon into a loaf pan and bake for 45 min- 1 hour at 325F. Loaf breads take a while. If you don’t have the time, you can put this into a muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes (be sure to spray the muffin tin).

Once out of the oven, let rest, and enjoy!

What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day

It’s that time of the year again. Spring has sprung. The flowers are blooming. Allergy season is killing us already. And moms are wondering, what their families have planned for their Mother’s Day celebration.

Is it brunch with the kids at a restaurant? Oh joy! A meal OUTSIDE, at a RESTAURANT, with SMALL overdressed creatures. Great, I wonder who will be the point person on that one.

Or is it breakfast in bed? Scrambled eggs, hot coffee, donut, bacon. Now, that’s dreamy! But is it? Who’s gonna steal that donut? And who’s gonna spill the coffee on the bed?

And then…what happens the REST OF THE DAY? Why must your family insist that you hang out with them? ALL DAY? Don’t they know you already hang out with everyone enough?

Here’s the deal. We love you to bits. We love our family so so much. But sometimes, we need a pause. A refresher. A chance to enjoy ourselves as people BEFORE we had kids.

Side note if you are wondering why all the fuss over Mother’s Day, it actually has a great history. Until commercialization ruined it (which took a few short years).

It was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 as a *memorial* to her mother’s 3rd year death anniversary. It exploded into a national phenomenon and was recognized by president Woodrow Wilson in 1914. It was quickly commercialized by the greeting card and candy industries so much that Jarvis tried in her later years to rescind the holiday.

That’s how messed up Mother’s Day is.

Listening to other moms, I put together a list of what we REALLY WANT FOR MOTHER’S DAY. Sure, we like beautiful flowers (read: beautiful) and excellent quality chocolate. But for icing, sprinkles and the cake itself, this is what we want:

A real day off – Partner catches up ALL the dishes and laundry while mom catches up with Game of Thrones.

No brunch outside – If you’re going give mom a meal, make it tasty, something she likes, and requires 0% of her energy to watch kids.

Spa day – Book her and a friend a day to get manicures, pedicures, lunch. You take care of the kids AND the house (no excuses on not doing laundry).

Weekend off – Really love your wife? Give her whole dang 2.5 days off by sending her and a friend off to a mini-vacation. Have the hotel pre-paid. Make a list of to-do’s that she can choose from. If your wife likes things to be in order, you can prearrange for meals to be paid for.

Otherwise you can give her an envelope with cash and let her choose the schedule (don’t be stingy on the money). And DON’T forgot to clean the house, do the dishes, and finish all the laundry before she comes home. There’s nothing more enraging than having the “day off” only to still have to do all the work because people couldn’t adult in the house.

Have the house deep cleaned – You read that right. Do the cleaning. Be an active partner in the relationship and get it done without whining. Did you know that women still do 2 hours 15 minutes per DAY of housework versus men 1 hour 25 minutes? And that daughters do more household work than their brothers? Do you really want your little girl thinking she is supposed to do more house chores because she’s a woman? Didn’t think so.

Sound of silence – Having nobody call your name 100 times only to irritate you or scream about what they want in life. It’s possible to avoid this?

Send your wife away for one night to a fancy hotel and breakfast just so she doesn’t have to hear this. You do.

Week of house care – This is the GOLDEN EGG of gifts you can give. You do all the laundry, all the dishes, all the childcare, and most of the meals (we will forgive you for being a mediocre cook if you wipe down the kitchen). And don’t forget, on Mother’s day itself, mom still gets a day off and you take of the kids and the clothes.

Family events – unless the family event includes mom not going, chances are, her idea of spending a spa day is not with her mother in law. So please don’t plan some complicated affair with extended family.

So in case you are still not sure what moms want, let me repeat:

Sleep, movies alone, complete silence, wine (beverage of choice), food. Alone, sleep.

We love you. but we love sleep too.