Thursday, November 6, 2008

You've got to see This! A Toy Company; A Not-To-Miss Post; Waldorf dolls, wood toys, playsilks, and more. Oh, and did I mention the giveaway?

*all pictured toys are from A Toy Garden

*The shirt my daughter is wearing is by Whimsical Walney, a company I'll be featuring within the week

I can hardly contain myself I am so very pleased to tell you all about a FANTASTIC company called A Toy Garden. The store offers the most beautiful and unique toys I’ve ever seen. Have you ever had an experience of going to a back street and finding a little shop where every corner of the store offers something you love? Where everything in the store is beautiful and just being around the items makes you smile with delight? This is how I feel when I look through the pages of A Toy Garden. If this were a brick and morter store, I imagine it would be the type to have the bells that jingle when the door opens, maybe a hint of patchoulli scent in the air, windsocks blowing on a porch with rockers, and tea served for the customers. I imagine the owner of the store would be the type of lady you want to hug and who always says exactly what you need to hear that day. Every time I go to this site, I don't just spend a few minutes looking around but literally hours. I get lost in fantasy and the store brings back memories of when I was a child pretending to play among the fairies, unicorns, and a land far, far away.

First up for review is the greatest tea set I’ve ever seen. I can sincerely say this is the first time I’ve ever been excited about a tea set. This set is completely wooden-every item from the pitcher to the tea bags! The set includes a teapot with removeable lid, sugar bowl with removable lid, milk pitcher, 2 tea cups, 2 saucers, 2 tea spoons, 2 tea bags, and 2 pieces of wooden sugar. My little girl plays with this tea set every day and myself, her daddy, and all her dollies are treated to lovely tea parties on a daily basis. This set is made so well! Seriously, when I showed family members her tea set their response was, “You aren’t going to let her play with the set are you? It’s too cute-you should put it out for a decoration.” If that doesn’t attest to how much this set goes beyond being a regular tea set, then I don’t know what does! If you are in the market for the best tea set out there, this is it. This set sells for $24.95. Here is their direct link to the tea set http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=2418. Here are a few pics of Zhana having a tea party with Mr. Bear all dressed in her mama's necklace, high heels, and makeup. There is nothing quite like being a mother and watching your little girl have her first tea party.


The second item for review is their set of herbal play bean bags. Again, huge praises for this wonderful item that surpasses any bean bags I’ve ever seen. These bean bags are homemade and come in a variety of cotton prints and are filled with organic herbs (lavender, mint, chamomile) and beans. The smell of the bean bags is amazing and bring a whole new element to the bean bags. (My daughter loves the smell as you can tell by the last picture below). Since having these bean bags for a little over a month, they have quickly became one of Zhana’s favorite toys. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so as the website lists numerous positive customer comments about this product and it was named as One of the Best Toys of the Year by Mothering Magazine November 2005. These are A Toy Garden exclusive and I can’t say enough, how much I recommend them. They can be used for so many activities such as tossed, stacked, counted, used as doll furniture, dramatic play, and so much more. This lovely set of 8 sells for $20.00. Here is a direct link to them: http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=22

The third item for review is the sewing apple. My little one has really enjoyed threading the wooden worm in and out of the sticking apple. It is an excellent tool of enhancing motor skills and practical skills. The apple is handmade from an old Walnut tree that was raised organically and only cut down when it stopped producing fruit. This item sells for $12.95. Here is a direct link to the item: http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=868



Next up for review is the wool felted pizza. This gorgeous pizza is precut into four slices of dough and tomato sauce. The child is left to decorate the pizza with cheese, peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni. It comes in a handwoven serving tray. This is handfelted in Nepal by a Fair Trade group. This is just a beautiful toy. One thing, I've come to realize is that children are able to recognize beauty and seem to play with toys that are handcrafted and made beautifully differently, almost with a sense of respect. This item sells for $19.95. Here is a direct link to the item: http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=1171

The final item for review is the most beautiful children’s story I’ve ever read to Zhana entitled Mother Earth and her Children by Sibylle von Olfers. This book retails for $19.95 and here is a direct link to the product: http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=2319 . The illustrations are so lovely and inspired by a quilt. The author is an award winning quilter and the illustrations are actually photographs of a quilt she made. The book is a wonderful way to introduce the seasons and circle of life to children. In the Spring, Mother Earth calls her children to prepare for spring and you read about them painting the ladybugs and dusting the bumblebees, for example. Every creature is so beautifully and magically detailed that you will love looking at the book and sharing the story with your child for years to come.

This is a large store many many fabulous products. I want to feature every single one of them because I love them all. However, I've resisted but have to show you a few more that I have interest in. Everytime I go to the website I find something new, so I highly suggest you go to the website yourself:
*Wood Squirrel Puzzle: This puzzle is cut without a pattern. It is made by a community of people with disabilities. It retails for $14.95.

*The Girl Who Never Let Her Mother Brush Her Hair by Rainville. A Toy Garden website describes this book as She was a lovely girl with a sensitive head and a stubborn streak. She needed to use her imagination a lot to get her to do what she wanted her to do. One day when she did not want her hair brushed, she said, "But didn't I ever tell you about the girl who never let her mother brush her hair?" Then she made up this story and she heard it day after day, until she started to brush her own hair.

*Felt Mushroom House Set: Includes a needlefelted mushroom house, gnome, gnome's broom, and felted fire. This item is handmade. Retails for $49.95

*The Apple Cake by by Nienke van Hichtum. A Toy Garden website describes this book as "A wonderful story about an old woman who wants to make an apple cake. She sets out with a basket of plums, and along the way trades her plums for feathers, feathers for flowers, and so on until, as last she finds an old man happy to trade for apples from his tree. A story, beautifully illustrated, about sharing, caring, giving, and less importantly, being rewarded." Retails for $14.95

*Crocheted Pot with Cakes and CookiesThe crocheted cookie pot is brown and decorated with crocheted flowers and vines. The flowers have colorful beads embedded in them to add to the charm. The pot is 8" across, 9" to the top of the lid and comes with 5 goodies to keep it stocked! There are two wool felted pieces of cake, two felted cookies and one felted cupcake. $59.95

*Rainbow Play Silk-I just love this beautiful play silk. I can see so many possibilities with it. It ranges in size and price from $5.95 to $44.95

*Tree Puzzle: This is a puzzle that stands. It is carved from poplar wood into 5 large sizes. $24.95

*Dwarves Stacking House:
This beautiful stacker has two rooms and a chimney on it. It can be used as a stacker or in imaginary play as a home for little gnomes. $44.95

*Wood Shield and Sword: This is made from birchwood; Set is $19.95

*The Magic Knot & Other Tangles by Reg Down: A Toy Garden website describes this book as "The Magic Knot is a making-tale comedy, starring Pine Cone and Pepper Pot the gnomes. They decide, since it is soon to be Tiptoes' birthday and she has no furniture in her little house, to make her one table and three chairs. A simple task for clever gnomes - so we would think! But, from the finding of the 'perfect' branch, to getting the table and chairs to the top of the Great Oak Tree where Tiptoes' acorn house swings back and forth, things go awry. On the way they get the help of a host of friends: Ompliant the Elephant, Jeremy Mouse, the Carpenter Ants, Chiron the Pony and Spin-a-lot the Spider (to name just a few). Finally, when her surprise birthday party finally rolls around, Tiptoes tells the enchanting tale of how she came to live in the Great Oak Tree as a daughter of Father Sun and Mother Wind."

*SweetPea Doll-The doll is filled with 3-4 pounds of millet and wool to make it feel like a real baby. It comes with skin hair, and eye color options. The doll is handmade by a mother. $94.95 Beautiful!

Stocking Stuffers: (From Left to Right)
Necklace doll: $15.95, Rainbow Felt Gnomes: $14.95, Handcarved Owl Gourd Shaker: $4.95, Nutshell Canoe: $9.95, Oinking Pig: $7.95, Festive Gnome Pair: $7.95, Time for Bed Board Book: $6.95, Mini Memory Game in a Tin: $9.95, Charming Doll: $8.95

In summary, I am blown away by the quality and beauty of the products offered by A Toy Garden. The items really are like little treasures. The toys really do make me smile and almost bring a sense of warmth, kind of like when grandma would give you homemade cookies and warm milk. I guess it is that you can feel the love Sonya (the owner) has for her store and her customers. You also know that the toys take a little piece of the person who made them with love and know that the quality of the toys shows that whoever made the toy has a love for children. I know, maybe I'm a little emotional and this will sound silly about a store, but sometimes when I go there my eyes get a little misty, because it reminds me that a child's imagination is one of the most beautiful gifts mankind is offered. My site spends a lot of time on learning but really if I could choose one quality for my child, it would be imagination. No amount of money could ever replace my own memories of sitting in an old crooked tree as I pretended to play with unicorns, build fairy houses, and drink tea with gnomes.

Of course, I have to mention to kindness of a Toy Garden owner Sonya. I don't know her personally but I really get the sense that she is a kind person. Anyone who reguarly reads this blog knows how important that is to me! She was kind enough to answer a few interview questions so we can all get to know here better-

Q: Can you start by telling the readers a little bit about yourself? I am a mother of two beautiful children, 7 and 10 years old. Happily married and live in Fair Oaks, CA. I am a social worker as well as run my online toy store
Q: What were you doing before deciding to start your own business? I was a social worker/case manager with teens and adults with developmental disabilities. When I had my daughter, I developed a new social work job I could manage from home and started making crafts with my daughter. This developed into a small business where I sold bean bags, children’s aprons, tablecloth sets, and silks at local fairs. Slowly my business grew and finally we started selling online – and then stopped selling at fairs.
Q: How long have you been in business? 8 years.
Q:How is business, as far as being a green business and selling fair tradeproducts (and with the economy not being so strong right now)?The selection of toys that I have gathered from around the world is veryunique and extensive. Many families can find all they need in terms of toys,gifts, books, art supplies, and woolens to keep their children warm, so theycan do "one-stop shopping" for these items. I like to offer a large varietyof items and most of my treasures can be played with by children in manyways. Adults even find many items that they buy for themselves. I alwayshave new treasures that I'm working to develop with the craftspeople whomake things for me. So there is always something new and different arriving.Because of this unique selection, I've experience steady growth over thelast few years. The recession has had no apparent affect on my business.

Q:Do you find that more and more parents of today are switching to Fair Tradeand Made in the USA toys, as well as natural toys (over the plastic ones)?The customers who shop with me are picky about the items they buy and theitems they want in their homes. My prices are very fair but when somehandcrafted or wooden items cost more than similar plastic toys, mycustomers value what they are getting and are willing to pay the difference.A few dollars different amounts to a toy that is beautiful, smells and feelsnice, is sturdy and has real weight, is open-ended, and will last for many,many years. Many of our toys can be passed on for generations. While mycustomers have always appreciated toys made in Europe, the US, and FairTrade, the "recall issues" last year heightened people's commitment to buyquality toys that are safe. We heard from many families last Fall that theywere committed to buying only US made toys for the holiday season. All ofour US made wooden toys were very popular and it was hard to keep them instock as they are made by small family run businesses. Part of the increasedbusiness was due to more "mainstream" families starting to think consciouslyabout the toys that they give to their children - and realizing that they dohave a choice and that there are "quality, affordable, and safe" toys beingmade in the US.Many of my crafters use recycled, organic, old growth, or "waste wood". Withmore and more sources for organic wool, cotton, velour, and other craftmaterials, more of our other toys will become more "green" as well. Many ofmy customers think this is great!Our Recycled Tea Set, Dish Set, and Sand Play Set made out of recycled milkjugs are unique products, also made in the USA. They have been wellreceived. Many of my customers also are committed to supporting family run businesses(and WAHMs) as opposed to corporate run businesses.
What is one of your most popular items?We specialize in many handmade and unique items. I’ve found and developed many of my crafters and we work closely to develop toys that I think my customers will enjoy. I love selling toys where I know who made them and what they are made out of. I especially love working with US crafters but we also get items made in Europe, Brazil, and other places around the world. We’ve traveled to Europe to find small family run companies that sell exclusively to us in the US. We speak German so we are able to communicate with small companies that have no US reps. Whenever possible, we buy from family run companies as opposed to larger companies. Some of our most popular items are gnomes, fairies, wooden vehicles and puzzles, books, handmade dolls, and always, our woolen undergarments and play silks (best quality and prices in the world)!

Where do you find some of your most unique items, and the items that aremade specially for you? (Do you still make stuff to sell on your site)? Ihave spent 9 years searching the world for crafters and companies that Iwant to work with. It is an ongoing process, like a perpetual scavengerhunt, but is also very rewarding. I spend a lot of time working withcrafters to develop toys that I want to offer my customers. I lovesupporting work-from-home-crafters and small family businesses. As I have abackground in social work and anthropology, I also enjoy supporting FairTrade efforts around the world. I still make my Herbal Play Bean Bags, Silkand Flannel Blankets, Aprons and Tablecloth sets, and iron a lot of playsilks that I, or other WAHMs dye.
Q: If you could give a one line phrase to describe your business what would it be?We carry quality and unique toys made from natural materials that you and your children will enjoy playing with and having in your home.

Q: What do you think makes your store unique?It is so much more healthy for children to have few quality and open ended toys than to have many brightly colored plastic or fabric toys. Most of our toys can be used in many creative ways, not just for 1 use. All of our gnomes, fairies, play silks, blocks, tree houses, vehicles, etc. can be mixed and matched and played with together to create stories and puppet shows and used in open ended play through the child’s imagination. Some toy companies focus on “gift sets” or toys that look impressive in a gift box but when opened up, they have little play value. We focus on looking at each item and examine how beautiful, well-made, and creative it can be used in child’s play. I personally test and select every toy I sell. If I don’t love it, I don’t sell it. My customers know they can call me or email me any time and I’ll answer the phone and help them out. We are real people and we want our customers to be happy. We stand by our products and frequently go above and beyond normal customer service to satisfy a customer. We ship as fast as possible and provide free gift wrap –many of our customers really like this service.

If you would like to add anything else about your business too, that wouldbe great!
I probably have the largest selection of US and handmade toys online (atleast that I've seen). While I also carry toys from Europe, Thailand, a fewfrom China, and other places around the world, selling US made toys is veryrewarding to me. We have so much talent in our country and I think it isspecial for our children to have a close connection with the toys they playwith. When I used to sell my toys to children, face-to-face, at WaldorfFairs, I always enjoyed handing the toy to the child and telling them thename of the person who made the toy, where they lived, and a little aboutthem. I think this personal connection to the person whose hands createdthis toy, creates respect and reverence. Making toys for our own childrenourselves would be ideal, but if we can't make everything, at least bringinghandmade toys to our children is a wonderful gift. This is the reward thatkeeps me going each day!We are constantly thinking of new ideas and products as well as putting together sets that we think our customers will enjoy. We have many exclusive items that we’ve developed that you won’t find elsewhere. We go to extra lengths to introduce unique idea that will make family life more meaningful and bring celebrations into the home. Our Advent Spirals, Felt Advent Calendars, Springtime Celebration Rings, felt Tooth Fairy and Wizard, and Birthday Ring Sets are some examples. Because many of our toys are handmade, it takes a long time to restock. If you see something you love, order soon, as it may sell out quickly and take a while to restock. We look forward to answering any questions your bloggers may have. They can visit us online http://www.atoygarden.com/ or call me 916-390-5320. We also always welcome new crafters so if you love making treasures and selling them wholesale, contact me via email.





I am very pleased to announce this weeks SuperFunMama giveaway. This week, I'll be giving away two items: The Sewing Apple and the Mother Earth and Her Children book. Both items are so wonderful and you are going to love them.


Official Rules:IF YOU DO NOT LIST YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS ,IT ISN'T ON YOUR BLOG, AND THERE IS NO WAY TO LEAVE COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOG I HAVE NO WAY OF CONTACTING YOU. ALMOST EVERY GIVEAWAY, THE ORIGINAL PERSON DRAWN TO WIN CAN'T BE CONTACTED THEREFORE THE GIVEAWAY IS GIVEN TO THE NEXT NAME DRAWN.If I don't hear from you within a week, another name will be drawn and you forfeit your prize. 1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite A Toy Garden product. The website is http://www.atoygarden.com/2. For a second entry, Subscribe to my site/follow my site and make a post letting me know about your subscription.This contest is open only to those with a United States Shipping Address .This giveaway begins 11/07/2008 and ends 11/15/2008 11:59 PM Central Standard Time.The name will be chosen by Randomizer.org. The first person drawn will win the item of their choice and the second drawn name will win the other item.
I always love hearing about how my reviews lead these wonderful stores to more sales. I'd love to hear posts letting me know you decided to purchase some items!
**I'm not responsible for item not arriving; Make sure all shipping info is correct, please.

66 comments:

kygirl said...

Four Rolling Vehicles is my pick

KLM39 said...

The five-layer block set. klm39 at optimum dot net.

Sandy said...

Geodesic Dome Model Kit is neat..there are alot of unique fun and affordable items here

Valeta said...

I love the little sweetpea doll. Its so sweet.

valeta.brown@gmail.com

matty55 said...

luckymatt5 AT gmail DOT com

Dwarves Stacking House is my fave. its so colorful !!!

Maja said...

four rolling vehicles


angelina115@hotmail.com

Shannon said...

The Mermaid's treasure.

mverno said...

little sweepea doll

teachingtinytots said...

me and the girls love the Colored Twig Pencil Set

that is soo cool! my oldest was like i want that!

my youngest was like look mommy colored sticks!

cdziuba said...

The Felt Play Mail Set is hilarious, and my cousin is a mailman so he'd play with it too.

cdziuba@aol.com

Hil'Lesha said...

I love the Wildcraft: An Herbal
Adventure Game.

lilacbutterfly [at] earthlink.net

samsakara said...

I love the laptop lunch box.

samsakara@twcny.rr.com

E and T said...

This certainly was a do not miss post - packed full of wonderful gifts and toys for the little ones in our lives. Like you, I see so many beautiful things that I think my daughter would absolutely love.

Given that I do not have a US shipping address I am ineligible for the competition. However, I will be popping over to the online store, to have a leisurely browse so that I can select some Christmas pressies for my two children.

Thank you so much for providing such a detailed review featuring so many fantastic unique toys. You have made my day.

Elise

jenny said...

wow i must say i realy love and like all the toys what can i say i'm just a big kid with a lot of heart and well i love to try and get this for my little one i think she would realy like it thanks

Karen said...

Love the butterfly puzzle.

ktgonyea at gmail.com

reb said...

I love the Sweet Dreams Silk/Flannel Blanket-Dogwood Flowers.

rebbi511 at peoplepc.com

sweetsue said...

Wow-great review and photos! This shop has so much I love, thank you for introducing it! My favorite item is the Caucasian Doll Family; my granddaughter would love it!

smchester at gmail dot com

tatertot374 said...

Thank you for having this. I like the Horse Carousel. Thank you!
tatertot374@sbcglobal.net

drming said...

My Grand Daughter would love the little sweetpea doll

kdkdkd said...

Wonderful site. I like the Felt Train Set with Animals

dwarzel said...

We like the colored twig pencil set.

dwarzel at hotmail.com

Melissa said...

Thanks for this review! I love the wool felted pizza. This is going on O's wish list :) My email address is chasingcheerios@gmail.com

- Marybeth I. said...

5 Layer Block Set is my favorite. LOVE it

- Marybeth I. said...

subscribed via google reader - also my email is on my profile

judybrittle said...

I just love all the play food. My favorite being that crocheted pot with the cookies plus the Wood Food and Beverage Set.

Jenn S. said...

I really like the felt advent calendar and the felt play mail kit. Neat site!

TaraB12 said...

I really like the Fish and Boat stacker for babies.

LIDARKSIDE said...

I like the "Deluxe On-The-Go Bag".

Lisa said...

Holiday Fun Apron with Red and White Edging

Tonya said...

The face crayons look like lots of fun.

Julie said...

the oinking pig - or the Dwarves stacking house.

vboackle said...

i like the four rolling vehicles.

mogrill said...

The Fish and Boat Stacker is very cute!

Smooshy said...

i like the laptop lunch box!

Casey Becher said...

I like the Rose Fairy Play Canopy.

Kari said...

I love the Geodesic Dome Model - it would keep my kids happy for hours!

Kari said...

Im a subscriber!!

JoniK said...

Oh my goodness ... I think my pick is the Wildcraft.
Great stuff.

Abby said...

the dolls are all so beautiful they would have to be my pick!

ajcmeyer AT go Dot com

jennem said...

My favorite is the Felt Advent Calendar.
Jennifer, jennem22 at yahoo dot com

rosannepm said...

I'm a subscriber

rosannepm said...

I like the Mermaids treasure for my granddaughter who wants to be a mermaid when she grows up

palamintohorsegirl said...

I like the butterfly puzzle.
palamintohorsegrl@yahoo.com

Tanya W. said...

I like the felt advent calender.

valerie2350 said...

the felt train set is cute!

valerie2350 said...

following you :)

wwe11 said...

I like the four rolling vehicles. Thanks for the chance to win.
erma.hurtt@sbcglobal.net

Veronica said...

I absolutely love the I love the wool felted pizza. These would make perfect Christmas gifts for the little ones!

Thanks for a great giveaway :)

Becca Ann said...

I like the Large Red Fire Engine!

kaylee8 said...

I love the Holly Fairy Doll!

bison61 said...

I picked the Geodesic Dome Model Kit

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Jinxy and Me said...

I like the Laptop Lunch Box.

fancyfeet48 said...

I love the Wildcraft: An Herbal
Adventure Game.

Raspberry Light Bulb said...

Sweat Pea Doll! I always call my daughter "Sweet Pea" and "Sweet Pea Baby." She would love it!

Amy said...

Gnome hideaway!

Timster said...

Four Rolling Vehicles is my pick.

sito50 said...

That Sweetpea doll is adorable.

Teresa690 said...

I love the 5 layer block set! Thanks!

retellingstories said...

Mermaids treasure would be great! Thanks for the giveaway!

SeahorseLady said...

That is a great store! I really like the Heirloom Boat Pull Toy.
Thank you for the nice giveaway.

SeahorseLady said...

I'm also a subscriber.

Jodi said...

I really like the
Medieval Knight's Cape.

purehrt555(at)yahoo(doT)com

klp1965 said...

i love the Rainbow Ark its so nice :)

masonsgranny59 said...

The Fish and Boat Stacker is very nice!ty 4 the entry and giveaway!:)

Helen said...

I love the First Tool Box Set.

lilyk said...

I love the Crocheted Pot with Cakes and Cookies!