7 Quick Takes: Toy With Me edition

Today for 7 Quick Takes, hosted by Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary, I’m sharing what we’ve learned from years of research in the field of toy-buying.  If you want to do your own seven quick takes, add your link to the list at Jen’s website, and don’t forget to link back to Jen on your blog.

7 Quick Takes:  Toy With Me edition

From the beginning of April to the middle of July, five of our eight kids have birthdays.   I think we spend more money on spring and summer birthdays  than we do on groceries for the whole year.  Any rational person with eight children would try and scale down birthday expectations, right?  And I know many of you will say, “Oh, we’re trying our best to raise our little Wyatt in a non-materialistic way, so for his birthday, we just put a soy candle in his organic kefir, and let him use the pillow that night.   If he remembers to say ‘thank you’ for the kefir.”

I don’t know what to say.  For some reason, it’s turned out that we’re trying to raise materialistic kids who expect to be treated like supreme galactic emperors on their birthdays (or, if their birthday falls on a day which is not convenient for a party, they expect that treatment on their actual birthday and on their party day).

Besides the cake, the candy, the party favors, the balloons and streamers, the games, the snacks, the craft, and the birthday throne, there are, of course, the presents.  So I thought I would share with you seven presents that we really like (and which the kids seem to like, too!).  Because I’m lazy,  most of the links are to  Amazon, but you can often find a better price if you hunt around a bit.

1.  The glitter ball.  It’s a bouncy ball filled with water and glitter.  Everyone loves it.  It’s beautiful,  it’s low-tech and non-batterified, it’s satisfyingly heavy, and it bounces well.  Use it as a prop in a play (the Princess and the Frog), use it as a way to soothe and mesmerize an overheated toddler, or just use it as, you know, a ball.  It comes in different sizes, but I recommend the jumbo one.  For all ages.  About $11

2.  Tribot.  This one is the opposite of the glitter ball:  it’s expensive and complicated and slightly obnoxious — but it’s also cute and appealing, and was pronounced the Christmas present that induced the most sibling jealousy, 2009.  It’s a red, remote-controlled, interactive robot that has motion sensors, so it skirts around obstacles on the floor; and if it falls over, it yells, “Master!  Master!  Suddenly my floor has turned into a WALL!”  It also has a funny alarm system, it lights up, it wiggles its eyebrows, it makes jokes — I don’t know, it’s just an appealing toy.  Absolutely perfect for a seven-year-old boy, but the rest of the family likes it, too.  Oh, and it has a fascinating wheels-within-wheels system of transport, so it is extremely maneuverable.  About $40

3.  Skwish.  So many baby toys are exciting and attractive, but they are hard for the baby to grasp, or they roll or tumble away too easily.  This one is super-easy to grasp, and it doesn’t get very far if the baby drops it.  Just a nice, bright, pleasant toy with lots of possibilities.  About $12

4. B. Toys FunKeys.  Babies love car keys, but I guess they have lead or something in them?  So you give them toy keys, instead,  but babies can tell they’re just plastic.  Plastic keys clatter, rather than jingle, and aren’t heavy and cold like real keys.  So these particular toys keys are actually made of steel, without being sharp or dangerous, and our baby is crazy about them.  They come attached to a holder with buttons for making car-related noises (mercifully muted in volume), plus a little light.  They come in a slightly irritating  “behold what a fabulously unique company we are” package, but that’s not so bad.  About $10

5.  Krazy Kar.  We haven’t actually bought one of these for our kids — it’s $75!  I had one when I was little, though, and I think I spent three entire summers inside this thing.    You crank the wheels with hand pegs, and make it go wherever you want, including in circles (the wheels move independently, like oars on a rowboat).  It’s hard to describe why it was so much fun — much more fun than a pedal car or a Big Wheel.  I just remember feeling secret and powerful as I sat in the little seat between those two big, yellow wheels, and smelling that smell of plastic that’s been sitting in the sun, and feeling the static electricity crackle in my hair.  It made a wonderful rumbling noise as it barreled across the grass.

6.  Snorta! A non-board game with funny little animal figurines.  Okay, so we lost the pieces and can’t play anymore, but it was fun while it lasted.  You turn over cards, and have to rush to be the first one to make the animal noise of the other person’s animal.   It’s a reasonably simple, entertaining game that isn’t too excruciating for adults (and it’s fairly easy to let younger kids be your “partner,” if they’re too little to hold their own, or if they’re the type who have slow reflexes and burst into tears when everyone else is faster.  If.)  About $18

7.  Care Bears Magical Care-a-Lot Castle.  This well-crafted, educational little wonderland

Ha ha, just kidding!  Only one of our kids really got interested in the Care Bears, and I think the Halloween costume I made, at her insistence,

cured her of that infatuation.  The rest of our kids had no trouble discerning that the whole Care Bear franchise is one of the most stunningly crappy aspects of modern day America, and should be taken out and shot.

And now I have to go and plan one more birthday, and then we will be off the hook until the end of September!  My daughter, who will be turning three, has requested a “wonky tonky.”  We think this means “walkie-talkie,” but we are not sure–she might actually want a wonky tonky.  I hope I can find one on sale.

See you on Monday!



  1. So, my kids birthdays somehow got obnoxious spread two months apart from one another. I’ve only got 3 so far, I expect this won’t last forever. Actually, except for the Care Bear thing, I’ve never seen any of these toys, so good suggestions. But what are my kids getting for their birthdays because they ask for them EVERY FLIPPING TIME THE COMMERCIAL COMES ON: it’s a pillow, it’s a pet…

  2. I had a Krazy Kar, too! (Hmm, maybe it was the same one as yours, come to think of it). And I loved it for the same reasons. I can still remember the smell of plastic-and-static-electricity.

  3. Ha! When I saw the Care Bear thing, I couldn’t wait to scroll down and see what you had to say about it! I couldn’t imagine what alternative universe I had discovered!

    Phew! : )

  4. Tiffany, you would be surprised at how many things we buy which are almost this bad. Our policy is to get at least one present that the kid wants desperately (if it’s not too expensive, dangerous, trashy, etc.), and then any other presents are things that we think he will actually enjoy. (We find that we generally only have to do this once, and then next time they beg for something that we know will stink, we can say, “But remember when we got you that Barbie Cupcake Factory” or whatever, “and it broke right away?”

  5. haHA! You totally got me on the Care Bear Castle. I was reading along, nodding, taking notes, and then WHAAAAA?! Good stuff.

    I really am bookmarking this post for future reference. My girls would love Snorta and somehow I’ve never heard of it before. They can only play with it after they eat their kefir, though.

  6. You had me going on the CareBear Castle too.

    Timely post. We have a similar birthday season to yours with two birthdays next week. And your birthday boys and girls sound very much like ours.

  7. I remember the Krazy Kar, too, and I bet it was the same one, but I only remember riding it in Nana and Lenny’s basement.

  8. Might I recommend Candy Land Castle for your soon to be 3-year-old. I bought it as a last minute Christmas gift two years ago for my then three-year-old. It’s like playing a slot machine, the games tend to move fast and be short, and it entertains kids from 2 to 7. Or it’s kind of educational with that whole shapes and colors thing.

  9. Seems like weapons are the only toys my kids want now- airsoft guns, bows, BB guns… My oldest son actually managed to hit himself with an arrow yesterday. Who knew that shooting a basketball could do that? For his next birthday he’s getting something soft like one of those car-driving rodents that were popular last year.

  10. Simcha,
    I’m so glad you’re back! I enjoy your posts so much. Justine announced your return on her blog and I was so happy.

    Thought I would add a possible 8th quick take to your toy-buying guide. My husband and I started a Catholic toy company two years ago. We are struggling through the start-up process, but have 3 products out and lots more to come, God willing!

    Our website is: http://www.weebelievers.com

  11. That pic is priceless…her face says it all. I have one of our 3 yr old in his Thomas the Tank Engine Halloween costume & he has the exact same expression!

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