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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 .
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
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.
Great for 2 young children requiring car seats or 3+ older children (boosters).
NOT recommended for families requiring 3 latched car seats.
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.
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:
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.
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!