At times in the Canadian prairies it’s tough to find those great natural & open ended toys that many of us believe in(toys that allow children to play…and learn…without getting overstimulated or ingesting nasty chemicals)without paying insane shipping charges and customs fees. We recently discovered a northern Albertan company, Play and Learn Toys, that solves that problem for parents all over Canada. Owner Narissa Singh, a UNB Business graduate, has lived in northern Alberta for nearly ten years and struggled to find Canadian sources for quality toys for her own children. She has chosen to offer a super array of products from some great manufacturers known for their quality & safety, and runs her business out of her home since her tiny town doesn’t have retail space for a store.
Play & Learn Toys carries many products that I’ve seen on European sites and been curious about, so I was thrilled to see that they’re available in Canada now – and being from a mom-run business makes it even better!
My children are absolutely loving their new Stepped Pyramid ($54.99) from Grimms. It consists of a square wooden base filled with blocks in a variety of colours, sizes and versatile shapes. With an open ended toy like this, the possibilities for learning are endless. We now use them daily for imaginative building play and they’ve been castles, rocketships, dragons, post offices, houses and so much more. That’s the thing with great toys – they don’t do the imagining or noisemaking for you, so they can be anything at any time. Grimms’ products are made in Germany of wood and non-toxic colourings.
Another super product the Play & Learn Toys carries is Contina by Bamboo($29.99). This is not just another sets of blocks. Contina includes a rainbow of colors, black and natural finishes on 100 bamboo sticks which are small and lightweight for children 3 years and up. Combine colors, create a rainbow, stack lengthwise like dominos or pile them high for tons of creative fun. The possibilities are endless with Contina. It’s no wonder that Contina won the Best Toy award from Child’s Magazine.
Join Play & Learn Toys on Facebook.
There’s no doubt that we’re in the midst of a recession, and even if you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t lost any money or jobs you’re sure to be feeling the urge to be a little bit more careful with your spare cash. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your desire to splurge for yourself and your babes on high quality and functional merchandise.
Medicine Hat, Alberta based ChicPeek, offers a great variety of incredibly high quality products at great prices. Owner & designer Echo Wells is a mom of three who has been creating beautiful items for over 15 years. Her experience is evident as soon as you see her products in person. They’re of a highly professional quality but sell for a handmade price.
The ChicPeek nursing covers(a steal at $24.99 without your discount – see below) is truly one of a kind. (Pictured in the two centre images at right.) Made of a gorgeous cashmere & silk pashmina (black or brown), it’s the required amount of discreet and modest, but unusually fashionable for a nursing cover. There are enough “Hey, guess what? I’m breastfeeding!” (a.k.a. ugly) nursing covers out there; it’s about time someone made one like this. Essentially just a long & wide scarf that’s strategically sewn with a head & arm hole, it covers all the way around, making it fully tug-proof. There’s an open side so one hand is always free to multi-task, and it’s the perfect weight to not swelter you or baby while you cuddle. If someone notices that you’re nursing, it’s likely either someone who has seen one of Echo’s great covers before or who spotted the gorgeous little toes peeking out from underneath. Even better is that when you’re done nursing or in between children, your nursing cover is a beautiful scarf that you can wear several ways without anyone having any idea that it once hid your boobs from strangers.
ChicPeek offers a large selection of Miklips hair bows & clips for newbies and right up to moms. From the most adorable corkers to gorgeous big bows, the Chic Peek clips are of top quality, stay in your hair and are absolutely gorgeous.
Most of all, though, I was thrilled to discover the ChicPeek buggie hugs shopping cart cover ($49.99 – two bottom images at right). I have looked everywhere – brick and morter as well as online – and ChicPeek is the first place I’ve found stylish looking covers with holes and belts for two children to share the front seat of a cart. (The standards is two holes and one belt, but just ask and Echo will put another belt in for you.) The design of her buggy hugs are brilliant. Aside from the extra wide leg holes to accommodate one leg or two, these are also the only covers I’ve seen come equipped with an attached caribiner to secure the cover to the cart. My kids ride in the different shades of red pattern, which is gorgeous and commented on everywhere we go – particularly Costco when both kids are germ free & buckled in the front seat of the cart. If you’re going to have a second child before your first turns four, I highly recommend you pick up a Chic Peek buggy hug and get a second belt put in. The longer you can contain them safely, the happier you’ll be. Trust me on that.
The Chatterbox is a new game developed by Kim and David Maksymuik, Canadian parents who were stumped by a lack of resources available to parents to assist them when teaching their young twins valuable life skills. Their mission is to empower families to communicate, work together and master key life skills by providing them with tools and information that will help them learn in a quick, easy, fun and interesting way.
Each box comes with 140 cards covering topics in six life skills categories: family harmony, building character, developing people skills, goal planning, achievement skills and understanding money.
The Chatterbox provides age appropriate questions for children aged 3-6 years, 7-11 years and 12 years and up that are designed to stimulate conversation within the family. The Chatterbox also suggests fun games related to the subject matter addressed on each card and reinforcing tasks to be completed over the next week to facilitate retention and family fun and to ensure that families gain experience with real life skills in addition to the hypothetical ones. We’re sure looking forward to using The Chatterbox as a tool to facilitate our family dinner table conversations when our kids are older!
As of August 1/08, The Chatterbox is available online at Please Mum.com and, if you’re not an online shopper, just head to the local mall and pick yours up at any Please Mum store across Canada!