Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pee-wee's Playhouse

Just a quick one today...Maximoo has recently discovered my box set of Pee-Wee's Playhouse - on of my favorite Saturday morning shows from the 80's an now a Broadway show -  and he is HOOKED.

Starring and directred by Pee-Wee (who's real name is Paul Reubens) and featuring a fresh-faced Laurence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis, pre-SNL Phil Hartman as Captain Carl (and a little extra research shows he even wrote some of the show as well) , and Law and Order veteran S. Epatha Merkerson as Reba the mail woman - this show is colorful. bright, silly and fun to watch. There are some great animations - one that seems to have been initially created by one of the members of the Wallace and Gromit team (although the level of his involvement is very unclear but stylistically very similar) - some fun songs to enjoy and a great cast of ridiculous characters. All this taking place on a set rumored to have been initially designed by Rob Zombie.

An oldie but a goodie, this show is addictively creative and offers kids the plahouse they secretly dream of escaping to!

For only $20.99 on Amazon, you can now get the entire series on DVD and if you have a toddler looking for a laugh, it is a great option for some easy entertainment to throw in the DVD player!

Check out the official website at: and read more about the house, the now-over Broadway live show, or check out some videos from the original show!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to the beginning...

One of my best friends it having a baby and I could not be more excited to her. We talk a lot about what she needs and doesn't need and what she wants and doesn't want and where to get what. It had me thinking about some of the things I used right at the beginning or the things we got that we have used regularly since Maximoo was born and I thought I would throw up a quick blog about some of our favorite classics!

Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo
Now this was one of our absolutely favorite forms of entertainment. It was a little devastating to all of us when Maximoo outgrew it and we had to acknowledge that it was going into storage. Maximoo starting using this as early as I could possibly get him in it. So as soon as he was holding his head up he was in the jumperoo. He was a little short for it at the beginning so we needed to put some books underneath him to give him a life and he IMMEDIATELY loved it. Now..when I say he loved it - it is no understatement. He could sit in it for ages and just stare at the characters. He couldnt' move himself around at the beginning so every time we moved him around, it was like a whole new adventure. He figured out the bouncing super quickly and loved that he could trigger the lights and music. He could stay in there for ages and he was never happy to get out. He would fall asleep in there and would be totally happy. Eventually we noticed that even on the tallest setting his little legs were far too long for it so we didn't put him in it anymore but he would still hold onto it as he toddled around the edges spinning and interacting with anything he could. It wasn't the greatest support when he was learning to walk but it was a definite enticement when it came to a focus point. So - I recommend a jumperoo. Not only did Maximoo love it but some of our favorite pictures are him in there because he was so unbelievably delighted with it. There are several brands that offer jumperoo's but we stuck with a Fisher-Price Rainforest theme (note: there are several Fisher-Price themes also)  for most of our stuff so we went with this one. I really liked the characters with that theme and I liked how easy-to-out together this jumperoo was and how washable the different parts were (although it did not go over well when we had to take it apart to wash the seat). At around the $75.00 mark this was also a great add to the registry! It comes highly recommended from the WHOLE family here!

BEST....INVENTION....EVER! The BABYBJORN was a lifesaver for us when Maximoo was born.When I was home on maternity leave it was super easy to throw the little guy in the BJORN and go for a walk around the neighborhood or grab a coffee or even just do some dishes. He was completely relaxed and happy in there and more often than not would just conk out when we walked around. It also allowed us to go out for meals. Those first few months, he would sleep through anything in the Bjorn so we could go out and grab a quick meal together in there and he was perfectly happy. All the zip up sweatshirts I had from the height of my pregnancy were big enough to zip up around the Bjorn so Maxmioo was always snuggly warm in there and we even maneuvered him so he could nurse the couple of times he was desperate or inconsolable. My only complaint about the Bjorn is that it does have a really low weight limit and it is only for wearing on your front, so once your little one gets above the 22 pound mark, you are done with it. By the time we realized how quickly that time went by, we were a little sad not to have an alternative so it is something to think about if you are looking at something that can be worn multiple ways. But we did love that Bjorn until it started to fall apart on us and still highly recommend it. It is a little daunting putting it on at first but once you get the hang of will be doing it one-handed so just give yourself a few tries to get used to it. We had the original version but there are multiple styles that each have different kinds of support. We were happy with the basic and got a ton of use out of it. It comes in around the $65.00 mark and there is a pretty huge price range for other carriers depending on what you are looking for (The Ergo also has great reviews but Maximoo never got used to it). 

We loved the Rainforest theme that Fisher-Price had so for the most part we stuck  with a lot of baby goodies following that theme but the reason we originally went with Fisher-Price is because it is a brand we both knew and trusted. I wanted to note that though everything I'm talking about it specific to that theme, Fisher-Price does have several super cute themes outside of this one. The high chair remains one of our favorite things. We started using it as early as we could and it was the perfect height for sitting on the couch and feeding Maximoo (we don't have a kitchen table - we are terrible parents) and we have since lowered the height so that Maximoo can easily climb in and out of it on his own. It has absolutely evolved into Maximoo favorite place to sit and eat or watch a cartoon or just relax. When he gets super tired, it is also one of his favorite places to sleep (we are stubbornly refusing to nap in bed these days). It is a great high chair that has multiple height settings, is easy to put together,is easy to put-away if need be,  is very washable, and is easy for Maximoo to get into himself. There is a five point seat belt for the first time users which can be changed into a regular  belt when they are a little older and it also comes with an interactive toy that can be snapped into the tray.There are also multiple recline settings (which is great now that Maximoo insists on sleeping in it) and two levels of draw (a top tray that can pop out and go into dishwasher). All in all - we have loved it since we got it and the Fisher-Price Rainforest Highchair continues to be one of our most used pieces of furniture. Coming in at the around $95 mark, this one has definitely earned its keep! 

I'm going to give this one a quick nod because it won't be for everyone. We have family all over the world - and for the most part no family where we actually live - so Maximoo is a well travelled little kid. He has already been in multiple countries, multiple cities, and moved three times. So, that being said, something super handy for us was a booster seat we could take with us everywhere. We love this seat. It is easy to throw on a chair anywhere, throw in a suitcase or a backpack, and just generally be a great travel companion. It is super light, super affordable at only $20, and easy to wash off after a meal. We have gotten a TON of use out of it and we continue to bring it with us wherever we go! 

This is just a few of the great products we have stay tuned for more updates and recommendations!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big Ticket Items

Maximoo turned two this year - in December specifically - and in a multi-cultural family like ours, his birthday is surrounded by Hanukkah and by Xmas. So December is the BEST MONTH EVER for him...but i will be a long year leading up to that month. Being that Hanukkah literally fell on and around his birthday this year, we decided to get him/ask for a couple of big things for his birthday instead of getting a bunch of little things, which we knew he would get for the other holidays. They were both a big hit so I thought they would be great ideas to share here for anyone looking for the bigger play-set type gifts (and it is a totally coincidence that they both happen to be Little Tikes - I'm a bit of a fan girl of their stuff because I feel like they can take a beating).

First thing we got for Maximoo is the Little Tikes Easel. It is a double sided easel that features a clip for a large art pad on one side and a blackboard on the other. In addition it has two trays (one on each side of the easel) to hold all of your art tools. We got all the little goodies that go with an easel - a big pad of paper, paint brushes, paints, spill-proof resealable paint cups, a new box of crayons, multi-colored chalk - and then we all put it together (yes, it comes with some assembly required to be prepared with your hammer) and have been using it ever since. Max really got into he chalk board and the idea that you can draw and erase...although he often tried to draw on that side with the crayons or use the chalk eraser on the there is a learning curve, but that doesn't stop him from experimenting and seeing what he can come up with. He has also really gotten into painting and  and using the whole art pad to create interesting pictures (I'm not going to lie - I love him using his imagination but I'm still not convinced that i am a big purple blob).

There are lots of variations on this kind of easel - some made of wood, some with a white board or a magnetic board and some that use paper rolls instead of pads - so there really is something for everyone. At $59.99, we loved the durability, the different kinds of art options, and the overall look and price of the LIttle Tikes easel.

The other big gift he got was the Little Tikes Super Chef Kitchen. They have a small play kitchen at school and Maximoo talked about it a lot and he loved hanging out in the kitchen with us so we saw huge benefit in getting him his own area to play in. The Super Chef Kitchen has a refrigerator the opens and closes, a microwave that opens and closes, a stove that opens and closes, and a range that makes the sounds of either boiling liquid or something frying, and a little cordless phone that we love to talk into.

Again, there is some assembly required including the fun of putting the stickers on - which is no easy task with a toddler who wants the stickers for himself - so there is the joy of desperately trying to line up the stickers with the appropriate line. But we made it a game and the whole family got involved (his uncles and Grandpa were here for the visit).  The kitchen comes with some of the cooking accessories every good chef needs -  a frying pan, some plates, coffee cups, and coffee pot, and some utensils. Maximoo loves to bring us different foods, make us coffee that we pretend to drink together, or pour us some water from his pretend sink and we all drink it together. We do a lot of pretend cooking and have a good time identifying different foods.

He also got some food accessory kits including the Melissa and Doug Wooden Sandwich Making Kit and a big box of plastic foods from Target. The sandwich making kit is really cute and all the pieces can be mixed and matched and stuck together using velcro found in the center of each piece.

The plastic food is a great accessory set to have just so there are food to put in the cabinets of the kitchen or even to cook and talk about and play with.

Like with the easel, there are so many different variety of kitchens you can get from the super fancy and high end to the really simple. Materials, price ranges, characters, even eras - there really is an immense variety so we went with a familiar brand that we knew was incredibly durable and had all the features we wanted. At around $89.99 the Little Tikes Super Chef Kitchen lives happily in our dining room area right next to our kitchen so the whole family can cook and clean together.

Monday, January 10, 2011

iPhone App-solutely Entertaining! a-

I wanted an iPhone as soon as they came out - especially the iPhone 4. And with the ability to download Facetime for the Mac, the phone became a great way to talk to and see family all over the world. But, what I never anticipated was the was the way Maxioo has effortlessly taken to the phone and learned to navigate around it to find the camera, his movies/tv shows, and his ability to figure out and excel at a variety of different games. What makes the apps really great is how inexpensive they are - I never spend more than about $2.99 - which makes them easy on-the-go impulse buys if you need quick entertainment and totally worth the price even if you only get a couple of weeks of entertainment/learning out of them.

Here are three of our favorites here at home:

A to Z with Moose and Zee
These Nick Jr. characters are always a favorite at home when they pop up on TV. Maximoo is entranced with all the puzzles and activities and loves to play the match game with them. Nick Jr. put out an app, at a reasonable $1.99 USD, that features the beloved characters inviting kids to pick out their favorite letter (both upper- and lowercase) hidden amongst a variety of animated environments. Maximoo was all over the app and it wasn't long before he found every letter he could and then revisited the levels again and again. The only downside to the app is that each letter has only one level and once you have finished that, the game is pretty much over. Once Maximoo realized that the levels were the same..he got bored of it. But it did give us a good couple of months of fun play time and discussions about letters in their different forms. Definitely great entertainment if there is a long car or plane ride coming up!

Angry Birds
I'm sure this all of you have heard about this game. It is nothing new and has been in the news for ages.  It is a very simple game that requires sling-shotting birds and the castles and forts of some very very bad pigs who have stolen the birds' eggs. It is really a game of physics - angles being one of the most important variables when it comes to success - and Maximoo took to it immediately. Within seconds he was navigating the menu's and choose the levels he liked best. To be fair, he sticks to the easier levels and sometimes has trouble with the sensitivity of the touch screen (i.e. shoots the bird the wrong way just because he touches the screen too early) so he generally plays with a little overseeing from us because he does get frustrated sometimes but overall...he is pretty good at it and definitely knows how to get around the game. He even knows it by name (and is yelling it at the screen right now). Totally worth the $0.99!

Talking Carl
Talking Carl is an app I was introduced to long before I was an iphoner. Other people had it and I thought it was hilarious! So when I finally got the iPhone, I thought it would be a funny little app to entertain me. Talking Carl is a little creature who repeats back what you say in funny voices. Recently they have added new features to the app which includes the ability to record what you say and post it up on Facebook or email it out. What I never anticipated was how funny Max found it. When we first downloaded the app, he spent ages in the car having conversations with Carl and making funny noises and silly laughs just to see how Carl would respond. For $0.99, Carl became our best friend. The program is incredibly simple to use and Maximoo immediately recognizes the icon on the phone and can zip over there whenever he wants. Once you are in...there isn't anything else you need to do - but enjoy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Travel Suggestions

Christmas travel with a toddler is NEAR impossible. When our little guy was a baby - it was easy enough to throw him in a baby carrier and he would happily fly the friendly skies. But now that he walks, talks, sings, dances, runs, screams and tantrums - 6 hours in a plane along with the hours in the airport leading up to the flight can be painful. So here are five of the exceptionally entertaining things that were must-haves for us this past Xmas season's trip back hom.

First thing we did was buy Maximoo a whole new backpack. We hid it away and filled it with new treasure for him to find and some old favorites we hid away. He was so excited when we gave it to him and that added to the already-existing excitement about getting on a plane and going to "Danma's house" (that is Maximoo for Grandma) made for a happy two-year-old! Now onto the five best things we had in the bag:

Kids headphones:
There Kidz Gear headphone were the best thing to have happened to us for this trip! Maximoo was so excited to have his own headphones to watch whatever he wanted on the flight (and fortunately we were flying Air Canada which has individual entertainment systems for each seat so Maximoo could choose whatever he wants to watch - which for the most part was YTV's Zigby). We loaded up the iPhone and the laptop with his favorite shows and he totally chilled out in his seat. Really affordable at around the $20 mark

Crayons and Paper:
An age-old classic and still a winner when it comes to being entertaining. There are some great portable art options out there and likely over the next few years we will explore them ALL but for now, Maximoo is happiest with a plain old box of crayons and some paper. Fancy coloring books with his favorite characters don't seem to get a lot of attention so we are happy to sit back and let his imagination run wild with a blank piece of paper. Target always has a great selection of crayons at super cheap prices (I always have a couple of boxes lying around for emergencies). 

I Spy Board Books:
Maximoo loves these books and if your toddler is learning letters and numbers - this is a great way to explore with them. Our favorite is the I Spy Little Numbers. Finding the numbers and some of the little other hidden elements on the page has brought us hours of fun. Additionally, Maximoo is now starting to be able to pick out all of the fun random elements on each page that we keep revisiting whenever we read the book. He asks for it by name at bedtime so it is a definite win for us. We have recently picked up the I Spy Little Letters and I Spy Little Animals as well. I'll let you know if those are as big of a hit but so far these books get a huge thumbs up from home. 

Magnetic Books:
Maximoo is really into books - the more interactive the better. Unfortunately he is at that in between stage where he is a little unintentionally rough and anything with a pop-up element can end up destroyed in two seconds. Finding a book he can enjoy over and-over that will last longer than 10 seconds is a huge challenge. So we checked out a couple of magnetic books. We picked up ABC and Muddle Farm - one for each leg of the flight - and so far they have both been a hit. To be fair, Maximoo hasn't quite figured out how the magnets and the book interact and his favorite thing to do is to open and close the little magnet compartments in each book but we are slowly starting to figure out and explore where the magnets go and what they do. We talk about the different animals and animals noises as well as running through the letters and talking about what word they go with. The books definitely kept us both busy but if you are looking for something that encourages independant play - these require a little more parental help - at least initially. 

CamelBak Water Bottles for Kids
This bottle from CamelBak is actually an at-home favorite and we brought it along because Maximoo likes to have it nearby at night when he gets thirsty. Turns out it was an absolute lifesaver. Whenever there were any altitude changes, a few sips from this and it immensely helped his ears. We kept it filled with water and a little bit of apple juice just to keep him sipping on it and he was a happy camper for the whole flight. The bottle is easy to use, BPA free, inexpensive and dishwasher safe.Note: It can be a little drippy so best to keep it upright. We've noticed it sometimes gets a little leaky when left on it's side. Overall we love it and the selection of designs they offer for kids. For the grown-ups, there is also a bigger version.

Overall - the plane ride was far more painless than we expected but we came prepared. Great toys, some great surprises, and being ready for whatever Maximoo had in store for us was the key to getting through the flight and still all being friends. Happy New Year everyone! 

Monday, December 7, 2009

FIsher-Price Laugh and Learn Line

I love Fisher-Price. I think lots of us grew up with some line of their toys. Recently, for Max's birthday, Nick found some classic Little People toys from the 60's and 70's for Max. They reminded me of being little and playing with those (or similar ones) when I was much...MUCH younger. So, when I got pregnant, Fisher-Price was some of the first toys I looked at. Of course, there a BILLIONS of them out there so today I'm going to just focus on a couple of toys in the Laugh and Learn line we got.

The first one is the Learning Puppy. We got this when Max was about 4 months old and it has travelled with us ever since. It is really cute. Take a look:

Right away Max was drawn to the songs (which he didn't know at all then) and the colors. The heart glows red, which was also a great draw when he was really little. You can squeeze each hand, each foot, its tummy, its left ear or press the heart to hear an assortment of reactions. The right foot has three settings - off, "learning time", and "sing and play games". The learning time involves calling out colors (green hand, blue ear) or learning the alphabet or counting or just chatter. The singing and playing games has an assortment of familiar kids songs - This Little Piggy, Head and Shoulder Knees and Toes, or the Itsy Bitsy Spider. When Max was little..he just liked the voice of the dog and was fascinated by the light. Now that he is older, he has learned how to push the buttons himself and interact with it a little more. He also recognizes some of the songs and it really entranced by the dog singing them. My only complaint about this toy is that, in order to make it baby friendly, they made the buttons VERY sensitive which means Max can gently brush by a button and it will completely change what the dog is doing. I almost feel like there should be a way to ensure the dog runs through the whole song before switching to something else. But, overall, I think this is a great toy and we have gotten a lot of use out of it and at a year old, Max still enjoys it. There aren't many toys that have gotten 8 months of use out of this kid.

>Nick< This bear is great and I love the musical aspect. Touching each of the activation areas toggles between a short song and a sound byte such as "I love you" and "Foot" depending where touched.
As Tali mentions, they can be over sensitive and can stir a resting little Max if I happen to trip over it and it starts merrily singing along while I try to quickly deactivate to prevent the little man waking up.

Alternately, we also have the Fun with Friends Musical Table (and for the record-  that isn't Max in the photo!):

We got this set when Max was about 8 months old. The legs come off so a baby just starting to crawl can play with it on the floor or it has legs so it can grow as a baby is learning to stand and walk. As you can see, there are lots of bright fin colors and toys. There are actually several different settings - speaking, music, and sound effects and all can be used in English or Spanish (although I would guess in Canada it is English or French). The four main components are the piano, the computer, the phone, and the storybook. Everything lights up and makes music of some sort. There are lots of letters and numbers, learning of the alphabet and different words and some really fun sound effects - computer keyboard, dialing, and even the phone ringing. Max has ALWAYS loved the computer and loves to open and close it (which unfortunately for us has translated into him feeling compelled to come over and close our laptops whenever we are on them). He also loved to use it as a walker when he was less steady on his feet. He used to push it all over the room. It doesn't have feels so doesn't quite move as quickly as an actual walker so it was just the right pace when he was starting to stand and make his way around the room.

My only complaint - the handset that comes with the phone is not attached to the actual table. Max immediately took that out and threw it away and now it lives somewhere at the bottom of our toy bin and has never resided on the actual table. I think a better design would have had some kind of attachment so even when knocked off it would still be close by. Other than that, it has been a lot of fun and I think it is a great toy. Leapfrog has a similar table (the Leapfrog Learn & Groove Musical Table) and the reason we went with this one is that we love Fisher-Price and we loved the bits and pieces on this table more than on the Leapfrog one.I have had friends who have had the Leapfrog one, however, and it was also great (I cannot tell a lie...I loved the phone and the computer elements). But both tables are around the same price..within 5-10$ of each other.

So far I have really enjoyed the Laugh & Learn products. To check out what else is available in this line, check out the Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn website here.

- Tali

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Haba Fantasy Blocks

Maximoo has gotten some GREAT birthday gifts from his family and friends so I thought I would take the opportunity to mention a few of the really unique/surprise hits and today that is the Haba Fantasy Block set. This colorful wooden block set from Germany had Max entranced for a good 10 minutes straight before I had to pull him off them to open his other gifts. This non-toxic set filled with different crazy shapes and patterns (including one that is rather breast-like and Max inevitably keeps grabbing that one and sticking it in his mouth. Clearly a nurser)an make even the most impatient little guys stop and take a look. Here is the set:

Since opening the box, Max has sat quietly with them and inspected all the different blocks. One of the blocks has a hole large enough for the other cylindrical to fit in and my little genius (I may be biased) figured out how to get them together immediately. We have piled blocks and knocked them down, checked out the different patterns and textures, and just generally had a good time chewing on these. All in all, a great gift that captured Max's attention and enthusiasm for great toys! At 12m, Max is just at the right age to start appreciating these kinds of toys but I can see the appeal for these going well past the 1 year mark. I think we will be having fun with these for months..if not come (they make a great sound when knocking the towers over and onto the hardwood floors).

Haba, the company who makes the toys, has a great reputation (the reviews for this toy alone were pretty good on most sites I checked out) and several award winning toys. They are available all over the world and for easy access you can buy Haba toys on Amazon. If anyone else reading this has played with any of their other sets, I would love to hear about it!

For more information about Haba and their other toys, check out their website here!

- Tali