Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our favourites and our bests 1

I have been Christmas shopping on and off for a few months now. 'So organised!' I hear you gasp. Yes, well, if I hadn't LOST some of the presents I bought, lost without a trace, then I would perhaps agree with you.

Una is easy to buy for, which makes her hard to buy for because there are so many things out there that you know she would like, nay, love. Fred is impossible. She becomes fixated on things that we know are not really her taste - at the moment she really wants a Baby Alive. Putting aside the fact that Martin and I find them creepy, and think the company cynical in the way they try and hook you into ongoing dependency on dolly food and disposable 'diapers', and also putting aside that they cost an awful lot of money, I am sure that once Fred has pushed all her buttons, seen her wee and poo and blink and heard all she has to say, she will lose interest in it. She's just not especially invested in her toys. There are things that she goes back to over and over again, but they are not necessarily things with faces.

Anyway, for those of you who are buying for smallish persons this Christmas, here are some of our biggest successes in the present buying department:

What is with that ages 10 and up? Are they worried that younger kids won't glean the full educational purpose of it? Or do they think someone might have their eye out? Fred got one of these in her stocking last year (she was 5), it cost about $9 and she has never tired of it. Both girls love making a pet of the little tame rainbow it casts on the floors and walls. I guess if you have a kid who chucks stuff at other stuff it might not be the most sensible toy, but Fred and Una have always treated it with reverence. I mean geez. There's a rainbow in that thing. You gotta respect the rainbow.We got Fred her own MP3 player when we went overseas last year, and this year Martin picked up a pair of these Phillips kid-friendly headphones. Una inherited my ipod shuffle when I got my iPhone. In our small house the MP3 player offers escape and solace through music and stories and Fred or Una will retreat to their beds to listen during the day (which sometimes results in sleep). They also like to lie together in the lounge room, singing the occasional refrain out loud, sometimes swapping to hear what song or story is piping through the other's headphones. Also good for long drives. If we could afford it (we can't), I would get them each an ipod Nano, so they could watch the odd episode of Charlie and Lola or play little games while camping and take videos of each other. Yes, I really said that. I cannot believe it myself.

This German castle retails online in Australia for $18. We bought one at the toyshop in Lorne over Easter for Fred's 6th birthday - it was the speediest present shopping I'd ever done. We got some great Papo figures to go with it, though I must admit Fred doesn't seem all that interested in them (I love them). The castle comes white, you slot it together and decorate it yourself. Martin and the girls had a very happy afternoon doing just that. Ours doesn't look anything like the above, but it's sturdier than you'd think and they play with it often.
We bought the above Ikea trainset ($19.95AUD) for Fred when she was around 2. Over the years we have bought the Ikea add ons - tunnels, track splitters etc - and acquired the odd Brio piece from garage sales. I love the classic simplicity of this track and train, and have never found myself yearning for a more complex set - this is one of the few things I think Ikea does really well. A very very common activity in our house is building a large convoluted track and then creating a town, or zoo, or kingdom, with the blocks all around. Both girls love it, as does any visiting child. These days I notice that Fred often sets the train tracks up for Una, the way Martin used to set it up for Fred. It's grown with them and their imaginations, and it's one of those toys that continues to intrigue me in the way they use it.
This was the quiet achiever. I bought this for Fred's 6th birthday very much at the last minute from Readings. I wasn't sure what she'd think of it (I expected it to get cast aside and rediscovered later, which is often the response to books), but it was instantly her favourite thing. She took it to show and tell. She pores over it. We haven't actually made many of the projects, but I am full of good intentions. They actually look quite feasible, it's just getting organised to do it and Fred catching me in the right mood (she has the habit of asking at bedtime or as we're frantically looking for her socks before school).
This sweet little teapot cafe was Una's 4th birthday present. It's made by Le Toy Van and quite a few Australian online and brick and mortar shops sell them, in fact I'd been eyeing them off since Fred was little. We got an ex-display so it wasn't too pricey, but they generally retail around $100 without the dolls. I know, it was an extravagance. It was worth it though, it is taken out, played with, then carefully packed away afterwards most days. All the little things fit inside the big thing, which was why we chose it, as we have a bit of a storage problem (ie, we have none). It's very, very pink, isn't it? It is also very well made.

Well, I'll stop now. I should go to bed. But I am going to keep going with these posts, because there is something about them I find endlessly satisfying.


  1. Love the German Castle, Penni. This is now on my list. We're also in the process of building Toby's Brio collection, and I had no idea the Ikea stuff was compatible. If only there was Ikea in Canberra...

    Great post. Really enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for all the tips. I'm not much of a shopper, so it's great to get some ideas!

  3. reckon your instincts are prolly right on the baby alive...I begged and begged for one and, for a reason I will never know, my parents bought me one. It really was quite boring once you'd watched it poo and wee a few times (in itself something of a disappointment, because it more or less just ran straight down a hollow tube)

  4. Anonymous7:42 AM

    We have lots of blocks, lots of cars (which get played with every single day) and lots of arty crafty stuff.

    Today we are celebrating the kid's 3rd birthday. The Bloke and I are up and breakfasted, the balloons are blown up and all over the floor, the bike is wrapped and in the loungeroom amongst the balloons and the kid is asleep. We're so excited we are tempted to wake him up, but I probably should ice the cake first.

  5. Anonymous7:44 AM

    Our kid's favourite things are usually whatever he's most recently purchased at garage sales and op shops, they're not usually great toys, but he loves being able to choose himself.

    I'm also very impressed that you've found Brio train stuff at garage sales.

  6. I love these posts! Any ideas are always gratefully received. We have too much STUFF by far which means when Christmas and birthdays come along we really want to find something that's right - it's so easy to just get a pile of plastic stuff that Raeli will sadly adore and will create more colourful clutter.

    My child is such a tragic consumerist. She wrote a letter to Santa that was adorable "I want a lollipop and a Cinderella movie and an Aladdin book" - so restrained!

    But then the other day with a light in her eye Raeli declared that she needed a new dollhouse and that baby Jem could have her new one - in front of the friend who had GIVEN Raeli her own childhood dollhouse after painting & personalising it.


    The German castle is awesome, and I am also very jealous of the Ikea train set. I would love to see more.

  7. I love that castle! Is there room iside to play with it dolls house style once it's made? Is it easy to unmake and remake? Temptation is lurking.

  8. The castle is easy to make, though we've left it set up since, not sure how easily it would come apart (but it's survived fine, obviously it's very light so easy to move around and out of the way). You can't quite play inside the buildings, though there are doors that open and close so you can put toys in and take them out. There is a large internal courtyard and a ledge inside around the turrets etc, so it's excellent for knights and horses and windswept princes and princesses.

  9. Lovely little teapot! (wish i was little again! .. or had girls! lol) .. what about some Berrylicious hair ties for stocking stuffers? Have a few spares floating around if the girls would use them, I would be happy to send you some!

  10. Frangipani12:15 AM

    Don't give up on the lost presents. The Rattle Street ghost may have them them. I found Bob's address book yesterday after a 3 month search and one of the cards he bought in Richmond has turned up but not the other three.

  11. Do NOT get the Baby Alive!!! We caved and got one for Tara and I think she played with it once. It is completely freaky looking and a huge waste of money.

    I love the castle too :-)

    Can I add to your list? Speaking of castles, this is one of Tara's presents this year when I get off my lazy bum and go and get it!

    This is from a great shop here in Launnie but you can order online too. I have brought lots of birthday presents for Tara and for her friends here :-)

  12. I'm very, very tempted.

  13. You always have wonderful present ideas. I fondly recall when Fred got her gumboots! Anyway Ella begged for a Baby Alive last Xmas (she is 2 mths older than Fred) it was all she wanted so we gave in and got her one. She honestly plays with it every single day. She no longer feeds it, but she changes her outfit and nappy about 5 times a day, takes her to school, puts her to bed, walks her we walk around the block. heck she even buckles her into Ruby's seat when it's free!

  14. The teapot is VERY cute!