It’s Almost Easter Basket Time!

Do you celebrate Easter with baskets full of goodies? Well, it’s March now, Easter is about four weeks away, and it’s once again that time to start thinking about what to put in those baskets.

In our house, after 11 years of Easters, we have a pretty set formula of what’s going in an Easter basket. Each child gets one outfit (or just a shirt if I’m having a lazy year), one movie, video game, or book, one small toy, maybe an iTunes card, and candy to fill in the empty spots. As you may be able to tell, my kids have fairly large Easter baskets. After my second child was born we needed another basket. We ended up being suckered into getting the ones from Pottery Barn Kids after seeing all the adorableness in the catalog. And in the wide-open of the store the basket seemed a lot smaller than when I started to try and fill it up. I swore it was the same size as the one I had when I was a child. It is not.

That being said – obviously, what one puts in an Easter basket is dependent on the size of the basket, but I think several guidelines can generally apply to everyone.

  1. Keep it fairly small.

I’m not good at this. And as the kids get older the clothes are becoming more and more impossible to fit in the basket – even with our big ones! And now that I think about it, they are just getting shirts this year. But, irregardless of their clothing size, I always find a toy that’s too big. Since I own a toy store you would think I could manage this part better, but really, no. The toy almost always ends up behind/around the basket. Square corners are not friends with round baskets.

This guideline also applies because Easter is just somehow cute and for cute things. And everyone knows that small equals cute.

2. Keep it age appropriate.

Age appropriateness is important for a lot of reasons, but here I am referring to the idea that a child will get the most out of the toy (or book or even video game) if it’s age appropriate. This seems obvious, but a lot of people (myself included!) tend to forget this when shopping. I always tend to want to buy something that is for a slightly older child and give it to my kid to stretch him, or I think that maybe he will grow into it and it will last longer. But when I do this one of two things ends up happening (and it’s happened a lot in my house). One – my kid starts out having fun, quickly ends up frustrated or overwhelmed, gives up, and then never wants to see the toy again because it’s always thought of as too hard even though the child has aged and it would now be appropriate. Or two – it’s never opened because either the child isn’t old enough to see just how awesome the toy is or it doesn’t quite fit where his interest level is with the topic. The toy then ends up in the back of a cabinet or closet to be opened later, and is never thought of again. We end up with a lot of unused toys (books and video games) this way.

Instead of pushing them with something inappropriate enable them with something appropriate. It’s okay for a toy to be right at a child’s skill level – the fact that it’s at their current level will allow for them to grow without being discouraged. And that’s only encouraging.

Now about the under 3 crowd – I know I said keep it small, but this can be hard to do for very young children and really isn’t age appropriate, what with the choking hazard problem and all. For this I would suggest taking things out of their packaging. All toys get smaller when this happens, and if it’s something like a set of blocks or a stacking toy or something you can spread it out in the basket. It fits, it’s fun, and it’s age appropriate.

3. Keep it quality.

Again, this seems obvious. And I will say I’m better at this guideline than I am the first two. We all want to give kids something that they will love to play with and will hold their attention, but it is so much easier said than done. For this one you really just need to know your child and you need to keep it simple. I think people end up spending a lot of money buying a lot of small trinket type things that end up not used just for the sake of filling space. If that same amount of money was spent on one thing that is more substantial and different then it is more likely to be played with. There are only so many rubber bouncy balls a kid can have. Think quality and not quantity. And if there is space left in the basket add a couple of Peeps or a good book.

4. Keep it tasty.

This is really just about the candy. My only guideline is to give your kids candy you like to eat too and then buy an extra bag (and hide it).

There you have it – my Easter basket buying guidelines. Hopefully they have helped in some small measure and maybe you can even use them for other holidays (ooohhh, like for stockings!). Have a Happy Easter and maybe we will see you in the store before then.



My Favorite Toy

Customers often ask me what’s my favorite toy in the whole store. This usually leaves me giving them a blank stare because I love so many of our toys it’s hard to choose. (I picked them out after all!) But after much thought I realized the answer is quite simple – wooden blocks.

Have you ever thought about blocks? Just plain old wooden blocks? They don’t seem like much to look at; they don’t do anything. But then that is kind of the allure, isn’t it? The child (or the adult – hey no judgement!) can make the blocks whatever they want them to be and make them do whatever they want them to do. There is such freedom there – freedom to explore, examine, imagine, and just be a naturally curious kid. block_building_smallThey can become skyscrapers or slices of pie, turrets or telephones. It’s all in how you want to play with them. My kids would play and build for hours with their blocks. They built structures, obstacle courses, and went wherever their imaginations took them. ranch_tinyI have many, many pictures of their creations before they would have to clean up. And I still remember playing with my brother when we were little and building towns and roads and castles. And, maybe to the chagrin of my parents, drawing on them with marker.

Wood blocks cover so many developmental and educational objectives without trying that it’s actually hard to find another toy that does that. Every time I put a toy on our website I have to check what skills the toy supports (i.e. independent or cooperative play, visual skills, motor skills, creative play, logic development, etc.), and when I add a building toy I end up clicking almost every skill. Blocks can be used to learn early math and spatial concepts, including engineering concepts. They foster creativity and imagination. They develop gross motor and fine motor skills. They can help develop social skills if they are played with another person. And they are even a role playing toy, because once you build that town you don’t want to just look at it – you need to add some characters and play with it. As a friend of mine says, with wooden blocks “the play possibilities are endless.”

At Naturally Curious Kids, we carry four different brands of wooden blocks – Beka, Uncle Goose, Tegu, and KEVA. All are different and all have their own special qualities. Beka makes the traditional, hardwood wooden blocks. Uncle Goose makes handmade alphabet and language blocks, as well as some other specialty blocks. Tegu makes wooden blocks that are embedded with magnets to add another dimension of play to traditional wooden blocks. And Keva makes single-sized wooden planks that can be used to build simple or elaborate structures.

Check them out and you might fall for these toys as hard as I have.