December 24, 2014 | Posted in:Brands and Bloggers Connect
By Nay Ayache
After going through a house move with my family, I assure you that I had no interest in opening another box ever again. So when the UPS guy showed up at my doorstep the other day with another huge, unexpected box, I was surprised. When I opened it, it was filled with dozens of toys and games. It was a swag box courtesy of the 2014 Sweet Suite Biggest Night of Play! sponsored by TheBigToyBook.com that had been sent to me by the very thoughtful Debbie Mitchell (Debbie had been a speaker at the annual Blogger Bash conference in July). At that moment, I knew it was going to be Christmas in August for my boys, Zack and Andrew, who are four and two years old. I was right, because when they saw the colorful pile of toys on the kitchen table, they dived in and had a blast!
The first thing that caught their eyes was the Elf Magic package, which contained a book, a plush elf, and paper snow. The prank-playing elf is a big deal for my kids, so much, in fact, that nine months after Christmas, he’s still a trending topic at the dinner table. A lot of bouncing and screaming happened as I unpacked it. I will at some point hide the book and maybe bring it back in November. But right now, that elf is firmly hanging by a foot from the toy box, and if I take it away they won’t stop complaining. I’m not enough of a masochist to put up with their complaining if I make it disappear.
My favorite toy was the Creativity Can by Faber-Castell. I liked the fact that it doesn’t contain instructions, and that the included picture was a mere guide to what the children could do. Andrew lost interest quickly, but Zack enlisted the help of his older cousin to finish up the figure. The project ended pretty badly because the kids spilled glue everywhere, but I’m planning on redoing it with Zack when we have some time alone.
I don’t know how most moms do it, but I keep all crayons in one container, and I’m not very diligent with enforcing the caps-back-on-when-you’re-done rule, I end up having to replace coloring supplies every few months. The swag box saved me from a much-needed trip to the store with a pretty awesome collection of Crayola Ultra-Clean washable markers and Faber-Castell beeswax crayons. The washable markers are a lifesaver when you have a wall and furniture artist such as Andrew in the house. I was able to effortlessly remove the colors from the walls and the lucite dining chairs with baby wipes, as you can see in the picture above. Priceless!
The Faber-Castell oil pastels are so vivid and beautiful, I’m definitely ordering them online! I know you can’t tell, but this is a drawing of Gollum climbing Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. Don’t ask.
Sands Alive by Play Visions is possibly the most enjoyable toy Zack and Andrew have received in a while, and because it allows their creativity to flow freely, they ended up playing with it for four hours. The only issue was that, before I opened the bag, I assumed it was a commercial version of the flour and baby oil mix, commonly known as moon sand. In order to minimize the mess, I poured the contents of the bag in a plastic container on the balcony, thinking I would it hose it down later. Big mistake. The consistency of the “sand” is more like play dough, so I ended up with clumps trapped in the floor and kind of impossible to remove. That was a real “Aaargh!!!” moment, so I brought the kids and the sand back to the kitchen table. Whatever fell on the floor was easily swept after. As for the balcony, I guess I’ll have no choice but to invest in a vacuum cleaner.
A while ago, Zack’s daycare teacher asked me to help him practice his fine motor skills at home. I was looking for a toy that wouldn’t involve beads, since Andrew still puts things in his mouth. Getting Blox Bits by GoldieBlox in the box was a blessing: the idea is to creatively use sticks, cubes, and barrels to build structures. While the pieces are still a choking hazard, I found them easier to control than beads simply because they can’t roll off the table. A lot of inserting and focusing is required, and both kids loved it! They actually loved it so much that they requested I bring back the Sands Alive and incorporated the toys together. Even the lid of the creative can was necessary to create the perfect cake!
Now, I’m a firm believer in the iPad and its constructive role in education, so you can imagine how taken I was with the Tiggly. The game consists of four shapes that are used with dedicated tablet apps; I thought it was too much of a baby app, and that, at the level my kids are at, it wouldn’t do much to further their skills and abilities. They did enjoy it a lot though, and there was enough bickering over it that I ended up taking it away. What I did love about it is that, with a household with two iPads such as ours, it’s easy to share the shapes and have fun.
For as long as I can remember, I have never left the house with my children without them picking flowers for me. Thames & Kosmos’ Flower & Leaf Press lets me keep the flowers neatly under a magnet on the fridge, and was also good practice for Zack’s fine motor skills. I loved that the kit can be replenished with any kind of paper. It doesn’t say so, but I tested it on copy paper, and it was just as good as the reinforced paper provided.
The word building game Bananagrams is not for my kids’ age, but like most moms I often adapt toys. While Zack was building his words, Andrew was finding alphabet letters. It also became an occasion to build towers!
For Hexbug’s Aquabot, I gathered my kids and nephews to watch the shark come to life in my huge, water-filled, salad bowl. Unfortunately, and despite my best efforts, the fish did not move, let alone swim. Batteries are included, and there is no mention of a having to replace them, so that was a little disappointing.
What I did not get to take pictures of were my two nephews, ages seven and nine, who came sweeping in my living room and grabbed McFarlane Toys’ Rabbids Invasion Plunger Blaster, Minecraft Steve with Diamond Armor, Ohio Art’s Polar bear Nanoblock, and Ninja Turtle action figure by Playmates Toys, in addition to a couple more toys. They are clearly a big hit with the boys because I’m not even allowed to look at them.
As for the more girly toys, I saved them for my nieces on Christmas.
Thank you, Blogger Bash and Sweet Suite, for bringing us Christmas in August!
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TV/Social Media Producer Debbie Mitchell is an Emmy nominated producer who is a member of the Producers Guild of America (PGA). She is currently a member of the James Beard Broadcast and New Media Awards Committee. Deborah is Executive Producer of Arise On Screen a global and socially interactive movie review show. If you are a brand interested in Social TV, blogger outreach campaigns, or a blogger or personality interested in television placement follow Debbie Mitchell @SocialTVDeb and/or email SocialTVDeb@gmail.com, or email Nay Ayache on email@example.com.
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