Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

Just Because it’s a Good Deal Doesn’t Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap 5

Here are 5 ‘great deals’ that have filled me with regret and five fun read alouds you should get instead!
A blinger, it’s litteraly just a contraption for applying sticker jewels. I admit when I purchased it, I thought that the jewels would stay on more firmly than a regular sticker? But no. They’re just stickers. Ridiculous.
So, one day, a few years ago, I was driving along on a cold November’s day, much like today and I saw a big sign! “GIANT TOY OUTLET SALE!” We were passing through a strange industrial complex we had never been through and I yelled “STOP THE CAR!” And my husband, reluctantly did. I jumped out and ran, into this giant warehouse, there were loads and loads of toys, they were in fact very cheap…in every sense of the word. The piano mat was not the only thing I bought from this sale, and all of it was garbage, I also bought a microphone with stand that never worked, period. But of course sales like this-all sales are final. So turns out, not such a great deal.
My older daughter asked for a pogo stick, and we were like, why in the world do you want a pogo stick? She had seen one on a tv show and became obsessed with the idea. So we searched around for her birthday and found one, it was a pretty good deal, we bought it. She used it twice. Pogo sticks, are just not fun. Add to this they’re wildly impractical and dangerous.
I was at Costco. Which is the number one place I fall for good deals that are in fact bad deals. They had this absolutely enormous packet of unicorn crystals. You grow these crystals with like a powder that then flakes off and leaves a disconcerting dust on everything. I said to my self “WOW! LOOK AT THIS GIANT PACKET! WHAT A GREAT DEAL!” Not a great deal, and now I’m going to have this enormous box in my house forever.
Whoever came up with “Baby Alive” hates parents. It’s ugly, it’s noisy, and it yells at you when you’re trying to think and you jump five feet out of your chair. Just say no.
Just Because it's a Good Deal Doesn't Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap
Fun Read Alouds you should get instead! Light hearted books that pull little readers in and invite them to stay. All of the books today are from the submissions for the #bookstagang_bestof2021.
“Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” by Diana Murray and Luke Flowers from Source Books Kids

This is a weird incidence of me really preferring a sequel to the original, “Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” is the sequel to “Unicorn Day” which was fine but it never really stole our hearts to be perfectly honest. “Unicorn Night” however, has become a fast favourite in our household. My kids just love this book, it’s one of my 3 year old’s go to bedtime picks. it’s a cute rhyming read aloud, and perfect for bed.

“A Pizza with Everything on it” Kyle Scheel and Andrew J. Pizza from Chronicle Kids Books

“A Pizza with Everything on it” is completely ridiculous. A kid and his dad make a pizza, but they have to put EVERYTHING on it, and they really explore the boundaries of that. I will be honest, I really questioned the physics behind the pizza dough continuing to expand when they started adding like, cars and things on it, but I think I need to let go of that. It’s one kids will enjoy and, the illustration is really full of personality.
“My School Unicorn” by Willow Evans and Tom Knight from Simon Kids

One little girl is nervous about starting kindergarten, but as luck would have it the school uniform store also provides a handy little school unicorn to lend emotional support. This story was adorable, my kids were confused about why the girl had to return the unicorn, and honestly I kind of wish they got to stay friends forever too. Either way, very cute, very colourful, fun read aloud.

“Room for Everyone” Naaz Khan & Simon Kids

“Room for Everyone” is an instant classic in my opinion, fast paced, colourful, fun read aloud. With a structure that really is reminiscent of classic folk tales. It’s beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and tons of fun for readers.

“Wolfboy” by Andy Harkness

“Wolfboy” is truly a delightful book, with it’s unusual plasticine illustration, that are fun and unique and a story that’s charming with a sweet twist at the end that readers will have a laugh at. Adorable.

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide, Uncategorized

Why are most Gift Guides so Arbitrary?: More Books Less Crap 4

Most gift guides seem completely arbitrary, whether it’s a book guide or a toy guide, what do we look for in a guide that’s responsive to kids’ personalities?
I’ve never bought anything my kids liked from an age based gift guide. All Flops. I should’ve asked ‘do my kids like trains?’ Not ‘are they two years old?’ What a waste!
Any guides that distinguish between binary gender are awful. Who are building toys for? ids who like building! Toys have no gender!
Age relation to developmental stage is not universal. Puzzle complexity, for example is about what a kid is ready for, and that is personal. And you might say, but what about choking hazards! Well yes naturally safety is one issue, but skill development is a completely different thing. Also five year olds who put crap in their mouth can choke just as much as a two year old.
If we’re going to use random criteria to assign toy recommendations then we might as well make the categories fun…
Kid’s gift guide based on their Zodiac! Because why the hell not? Gemini Kids gifts!
Or Personality type gift guide?…Am I on to something?
Enneagram Kids gift Guide? Wouldn’t this make more sense?
OK but how do I find a useful guide?

Look for a guide where:

-the writer has tried the actual products and tells you about how their real kids used them. Helpful if you can tell if that kid’s personality aligns with the kid you are buying for.

-the toy company did not pay for a spot on the guide, gift guides in most magazines are paid for spots, and certainly in all junk mailers.

-where you can ask questions to the guide creator and get answers.

consider the actual kid you’re buying for.

-is the criteria for selections on the guide clear? And are they the criteria you yourself value?

-Ask the kid you’re buying for what they like, or ask their care givers and educators, use that as a starting point. If the child is going to daycare or kindergarten, they’re playing with lots of different kinds of toys, and their educator will know what they gravitate towards.

Being a thoughtful gift giver doesn’t mean being a good guesser. Asking shows respect for the child as an individual.

Delightful Funny Stories Your Kids Will Love, Gender and Age is irrlevant: These are all stories that my own children have enjoyed over multiple reads, or in some cases over the past year over and over again. The criteria is humour, enjoyability, good strong story line, likeable characters, excellent art, and that MY KIDS LIKED IT! All of my books are gifted, period, but I have not accepted any money and the links bellow are not affiliate links, I strongly suggest you buy them from your local indie bookstore.

“Leopold’s Leotard” Rhiannon Wallace, Risa Hugo 2021, Orca Book Publishers.

Leopold loves the dance! He doesn’t love his itchy performance costume. What will he do?

“Atticus Caticus” by Sarah Maizes and Kara Kramer, 2021, Candlewick.

A rhyming delightful tribute to a boy’s beloved cat. One of my three year old’s favourite book.

“Off-Limits” by Helen Yoon 2021, Candlewick

There’s nothing like the allure of office supplies, especially when they’re left unattended.

“Cannonball”by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan, 2020, Source Books Kids.

Doing a cannonball is no simple act, it takes courage, it takes chutzpah, has he got what it takes?

“On Account of the Gum” by Adam Rex 2020, Chronicle Kids Books.

A bad situation, and it just gets worse. Don’t sleep with gum in your mouth.

“Lobstah Gahden” by Alli Bridon and EG Keller, 2021, Sourcebooks Kids.

Two lobsters are just trying to win a gardening competition but boats keep dumping garbage on them, read in a Bahstan accent.

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

You don’t need more Crap: Affirmations, plus a screen saver for you!

It’s Nov. 8 and I’d like to remind you, no matter what you see there’s no urgency that you buy all kinds of crap immediately.

In fact there’s no reason to by useless crap at all. Does anyone actually like getting baskets of soap? Or kitchen signs that say “live, laugh, love”? No.

Your kids will be just as loved if they don’t get a new menagerie of stuffed animals and whatever the new “hot” crap toys are. Trendy crap never lasts anyways

I know it’s hard to resist the insistent messages to buy, so I made you these screen savers to remind you, you can and should say no. Save up for something you really need, like a beach vacation. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

Babies don’t need this crap, and a list of great books to gift instead: More Books Less Crap 3 @readwithriver

When I was pregnant with my first child, I bought all the things. Anything I didn’t buy, other people bought for us. Most of it was completely unnecessary and I try my best to block the entire thing out of my head.

I’m not unusual in these mistakes, when you’re waiting for a baby, whether you’re the parent or the aunty or just a very good friend you want to show your love and excitement and buying everything in sight is an easy and fast way to do it. The trouble is most of the stuff gathers dust, takes up space, creates waste, and at the end of the day it was money better spent on a RESP for school or diapers!

With Christmas coming, people don’t want to gift boring things like diapers and school money. It’s unfortunate but it’s true they want something they can wrap with a bunch of ribbons and watch the baby open. That’s just a fact, unfortunately when it comes to toys for babies-it’s basically all useless. Your baby really just wants to chew on your tv remote, or old water bottle. They’ll be more excited by the wrapping tissue than any fancy electronic rattle.

So here’s my solution for everyone. Buy books. You can wrap books. They’re made of paper instead of crap plastic. You can read to the baby you give it to, and that’s an experience you can enjoy together with actual value. And you can write a little message in it that will be kept for years to come. Books are relatively easy to store, and they’re not annoying. If everyone could just call up their local independent bookshop and order a ton of books for all their babies this year, the world would be a much calmer more literate place!

Now I know, you’re like, ‘but WHICH books?’ the baby might already have it? Well don’t worry I got you, I have two lists for you, one of active play books that babies and toddlers can experience and destroy with great joy over time, and a second list of beautiful books that are sure to be future classics in a child’s library. All of them new books of the last two years! So it’s unlikely they’ve got it already.

Click on the photos of the books to check out their publisher website, and place an order with a local independent book shop and support your local economy!

Indestructibles from Workman Publishing rip proof, chew proof, light, washable, great for any trip, or visit. 
Indestructibles from Workman Publishing rip proof, chew proof, light, washable, great for any trip, or visit. 
“Where is Everyone?” Tom Schamp my kids LOVE Tom Schamp’s work, and this lift the flap is a quirky masterpiece of the unexpected.  Probably our favourite board book this year. @prestelpublishing 
“Where is Everyone?” Tom Schamp my kids LOVE Tom Schamp’s work, and this lift the flap is a quirky masterpiece of the unexpected.  Probably our favourite board book this year. @prestelpublishing 

“Young Gifted and Black” with Mirror, a beautiful, board book celebrating Black icons and full of affirmations for little readers. @quartokids

“Young Gifted and Black” with Mirror, a beautiful, board book celebrating Black icons and full of affirmations for little readers. @quartokids
“Shape Up Construction Trucks” Victoria Allenby @pajamapress  fun new rhyming book full of shapes and details to notice and discuss, perfect for a little vehicle lover!
“Feeding Time: Hungry Animals” Part of a new pop out series from Happy Yak @quartokids that my toddler adores, feed the animals on each page with the little bookmarks.
“Feeding Time: Hungry Animals” Part of a new pop out series from Happy Yak @quartokids that my toddler adores, feed the animals on each page with the little bookmarks.

“Woodland Dance” Sandra Boynton @workmanpublishing the newest release by the master of all bedtime books, is it a song or is it a rhyme? Kinda both!
“In the Half Room”Carson Ellis @candlewickpress is a surreal and gentle dream, beautiful and ethereal.
“In the Half Room”Carson Ellis @candlewickpress is a surreal and gentle dream, beautiful and ethereal.
“As Strong as the River” Sarah Noble @flyingeyebooks little bear sees the world around her and loves what she sees, in this book about the joys of growing up and the beauty and love in the world.
“As Strong as the River” Sarah Noble @flyingeyebooks little bear sees the world around her and loves what she sees, in this book about the joys of growing up and the beauty and love in the world.
“Ergo” Alexis Deacon and Viviane Scwarz @candlewickpress A chick discovers that there is infact a world beyond the egg, enjoy your new world little chick.  Charming. 
“Ergo” Alexis Deacon and Viviane Scwarz @candlewickpress A chick discovers that there is infact a world beyond the egg, enjoy your new world little chick.  Charming. 
“Songs on the Vanilla Trail: Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes from East and Southern Africa” Musical picture book with download and CD @secretmountainpress Beautiful, inclusive, and a wonderful introduction to lullabies of the world. 

“Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Skinnamarink” Randi Hampson and Qin Leng @tundrabooks the classic song we all know and love set to bright, and inclusive illustrations.
“We are One: How the World Adds Up” Susan Hood and Linda Yan @candlewickpress    Probably one of the best new release rhyming books, an instant classic, full of wonder.

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME YOU HATE ME? A Holiday Anti Gift Guide & 5 Books We Would Strongly Prefer

The expectation that when someone gives your kids something- when they were not asked to do so- you must pretend to be grateful, and then let it collect dust until it finally finds its way onto a donation pile or scrap heap is complete nonsense. And I object. So I’ve created a sample season’s greetings but no thank you letter for you all!

 

The narrative of forced gratitude for something that is actively inconvenient and wasteful is especially infuriating, to me, when the offending item was purchased for my child without considering my child as a person with preferences and feelings.  (My kids are capable of talking, why doesn’t the person call them up and ask them “Hey what kinda stuff do you like?”)

Extra infuriating when it’s gigantic and noisy.

Can we please start changing the narrative that relatives and family friends need to give flashy toys to demonstrate a relationship?  It’s really messed up, inconvenient, wasteful, and desperately harmful to our environment.

Before you say “well some people can only afford crappy plastic toys and they deserve to enjoy the gift giving time of the year” YES, they do, but can they ask first? Can they ask what the kid actually likes instead of deciding ‘that’s a boy-child and I’m gonna buy them a great big gun thing.’     Can they maybe get a ten dollar bill, go to the convenience store, have it broken into nickels, and give the kid a giant bag of coins? (My brother in law did that one year, and it was such a huge hit with my kid, and it cost him less than ten bucks.) Can they perhaps just buy some nice books, write a nice message in them, and sit down and read to the child?  It’s not hard to make space for books, if they’re good books they get enjoyed way longer than a crappy plastic toy, and its an opportunity to build a relationship.  

So here is a list of 5 love filled Grandparent Books I recommend Grandparents buy instead of getting random crap in the clearance section at Walmart. 

TIME FOR BED, OLD HOUSE Janet Costa Bates, A.G. Ford @candlewickpress  a boy’s first sleep over with his Grandpa, and it’s time to say goodnight to every part of the house.

CARLA AND THE CHRISTMAS CORNBREAD  Carla Hall and Cherise Harris @simonkids a beautiful nostalgic story, with a delightful array of foods, and family traditions.

THE ELECTRIC SLIDE AND KAI Kelly J. Baptist and Darnell Johnson @leeandlowbooks  One boy practices his dance moves in anticipation of finally seeing his grandpa again. A joyful happy family story.

THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP Hunter Liguore and Vikki Zhang  Absolutely beautiful, would be nice to include your own recipe to pass down when writing a dedication into the end papers.

WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN Lucy Menzies and Maddy Vian @quartokids  this one is unusual, it flips open like two doors, and shows the little girl waiting to be reunited with the grandfather, who is on the otherside.  

THE LONGER THE WAIT THE BIGGER THE HUG  Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar @faberchildrens the third book in this charming classic series about love and affection.

These books were all submitted by the publishers for the #bookstagang _bestof2021  which is currently being judged! 

#picturebooks

#christmasgiftsforkids

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

5 Toys I Regret Buying & 5 Books You Should Get Instead! : More Books, Less Crap

This year I’ve had it with the garbage. I’m done I tell you, finished.  I’ve been burned too many times before, and not only am I going to try my best to minimize the plastic crap that comes into my house, I want to warn you all against some of my worst purchasing choices (that came highly recommended) and give you a short list of the most hilarious read aloud books from this year. So yes, I bought all of these crappy toys, please don’t make my mistakes.

These book were all gifted to me by publishers, some are submissions for the #bookstagang_bestof2021 which is being judged as we speak. I am doing NO affiliate linking. If you choose to buy any of these books, I recommend ordering them from your local independent book shop, you can call and place an order ahead of time! 

“Gigantosaurus: Roar, Giganto, Roar!: A Puppet Book” by Cyber Group Studios @bigpicturepress Willow is obsessed with this dinosaur puppet book.  Such a huge hit! 

“When I’m Not Looking” Farren Phillips @yeehoopress hilarious, engaging, search and find element included. Absolute delight. 

“The Grumpy Fairies” by Bethan Stevens, adorable, funny, beautiful. 

“Here Be Dragons” Susannah Lloyd and Paddy Donnelly @quartokids this one doesn’t technically release until February in North America but if you order from Blackwell’s you can get around that in time for the holidays.

“Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle” Cathay Ballou Mealley and Kelly Collier @kidscanpress

“Maybe…” by Chris Haughton Okay I said five but here’s a bonus book because I can’t leave it off the list! We love Haughton’s humorous books about mischievous animals and this new one about monkeys tempted by a tiger surrounded mango tree is top notch.  Instant classic.

So these are the books I thought were the funniest of the year so far, they’re not the most educational, they’re not the most important or diverse. Just the funniest books my kids and I loved. If you’re looking for something more sentimental, fact filled, or looking to create a more intentionally diverse collection, check out some of my other recommended lists!