FAVORITE THINGS: A Guide to Classic and Cool Toys, Gear, Gadgets and Stuff

Originally published 11-13-09

Finding a beloved childhood toy in an attic, hearing an ageless lullaby or teaching our children to ride a bike can bring back nostalgic memories.  For future generations, here are a few of those favorite things, from timeless collectibles, heirlooms to destined-to-be classics and just great kids stuff for little ones and parents, and some even come in brown paper packages tied up with string.


Toys to Remember


Since 1789 Holgate Toys has made fine wood playthings, right here in the USA, including the latest edition to their collection of Presidential planes, the Barack Obama Air Force One ($18, for ages 18 months and up).  Available at

The Skuut wooden bike ($99, ages 2 to 5) is a first bike that kids will always remember, and with its durable design, it can be passed on child to child as a family grows.  It has no pedals and no training wheels, so children propel themselves by kicking off the ground, helping them to learn balance, steering, coordination and independence.  Available at REI and other retailers at

The sturdy birch ply Guidecraft Big Rigs Wood Crane ($90, ages 3+) is ready to lift, move, pull and handle your child’s toughest building tasks.  More big rigs and other quality luxury toys and keepsakes available at

Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes


The original TwirlyGirl Reversible Twirly Dress ($75, sizes 2-12) is all that the name promises.  A dress that can spin and flow like a top in scrumptious colors and imaginative patterns, sure to be a little girl’s favorite dress. Available at

Cupcakes & Pastries is a new line of artsy, deliciously styled dresses for girls designed by a mom and inspired by her two-year old daughter.  The fabrics and details are contemporary and luxurious yet still affordable.  ($58-$72, 12 months to eight years).  Available at Fred Segal and other retailers at

Schnitzel with Noodles


Meal time for baby was never so stylish as with the Boon Flair Highchair ($229.99, Up to 4 years/50 lbs.), which combines innovative features with distinctive modern design.  The seamless BpA/PVC-free molded plastic seat makes clean-up easy, and the pneumatic pedestal base and gliding casters allow for effortless height adjustment and positioning, including under tables.  Available at Right Start and BabyGAP.

The Baby Dipper Feeding Set features a stay-put rubber grip base that makes it easier for toddlers to feed themselves and gives mom a free hand for other duties.  Transparent angled sides help mommy and baby see when food is all gone. ($9.99, 6 months and up.  Order or find retailers at


I scream, you scream, we all scream for alternatives to sugary treats and soft drinks for kids.  Now there’s Power Ice, a delicious, healthy frozen snack that helps quench thirst and replace electrolytes with 0 grams of fat and cholesterol and no caffeine, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Lime Kicker and Orange Blast flavors come in packs of three for $1.99.  Available at drugstores and supermarkets nationwide.

Swashbuckling Slumber Party


Every budding buccaneer dreams of setting sail in the likes of the Pirate Ship Toddler Bed ($289.99) by Just Kids Stuff, a built-to-last solid wood bed with a booty of quality handcrafted details.  For stashing kiddie loot, there’s a matching Pirate Toy Chest ($230). Available at

Lil’ mateys will go overboard for the adorable Olive Kids Pirates Toddler Bedset ($69.99), including a light-weight reversible comforter, pillow sham and sheets, made from ultra-soft 100% cotton and a pattern of ships, secret hideaways and treasure maps, and a pillowcase with four friendly pirates.  Add a matching velvety Pirate Floor Pillow ($45.99) that can be personalized with your little pirate’s name. Available at

Captivate young adventurer’s imaginations with characters and scenes from pirate lore with themed wall décor, like the Pirate Ship print by artist Joelle Dreidemy, framed ($114.99) or un-framed ($19.99).  Available at

After a day of adventure, put your little pirate to bed in swashbuckling style in the Pirate’s Life PJs shorts set ($32.95, sizes 2-14), made with a flame resistant cotton and acrylic weave, or Pirates Raglan Pajamas ($42.95, sizes 4-12) in a flame resistant cotton/acrylic waffle fabric, both by Sara’s Prints.  Available at

Along for the Ride

Built for luxury, the Mutsy 4Rider Light stroller ($545, birth to 55 lbs., 42.7 height) is a ride to envy.  The beauty of the Mutsy is not only in its high quality and stylish design but its versatility.  With separately purchased components it can convert from bassinet to Babysitter rocker to Fun Seat in which toddlers can pretend to steer and ride along. There’s also a shopping basket for mom, and the system is compatible with a variety of car seats.  Available at Babies R Us.

The must-have push-around buggy for every kid on the block is now available in a quieter version, the Step 2 Whisper Ride Buggy ($59.99), with Silent Ride Tires.  Also comes with a mounted cupholder and battery-powered horn.  For kids up to 50 lbs.  Available at Babies R Us.

For the hard-core kid, the Weplay Push Scooter ($224.44, ages 4-8) is a heavy-duty ride built with materials that can take a beating, by children as well as outdoor elements.  Its wide three-wheel base provides a safe and steady platform to push off to help kids develop balance and scooting skills.  Available at 

Kids Will be Kids


Reminiscent of the derby cars kids used to whittle in Boy Scouts, but a whole lot more streamlined, Automobox wood cars are toys to pass down through the generations.  The snap-on parts keep little mechanical minds busy while the styling and function make them a pleasure to look at and play with, from SUV and sedan models to sports cars like the sleek convertible A9-S ($38.00, ages 3 and up).  Available at

Get kids moving with Italtrike Outside Series Scooter ($69.99, ages 3-5). A wide non-slip foot plate and convenient foot brake make the scooter safe and easy to use, even for small children. The plastic wheels have rubber tires and no spokes to protect from pinched feet. Powder-coat paint on the steel tubing frame won’t chip so your scooter looks good year after year. Find dealers at

Kids love to carry around their plush toys, and with Zoochini Plush Friends ($19.95, ages 3 and up) characters like Lars the Lion, Elsie the Elephant and Marvin the Monkey, it’s easy to keep these cuddly companions clean when they travel in their own special plastic buckets.  Find retailers at 

Steppin Out


Rowdy ranchers in training will be ready to ride in Ariat’s Quick Draw Kids Cowboy Boots ($79.95, Sizes: Child: 8-13.5, Youth: 1-5), in full-grain leather with a four-row stitch pattern for rugged style and a comfy Ariat Booster Bed for comfort.  Available at LA Saddlery, Country General Store or other retailers at

When is playwear truly play-wear?  When its accessorized with touch-and-feel tags, appliqués, flaps and pockets to encourage interactive, tactile development, like the 100% cotton TAGGIES Colours Sweet Swirls 3-Piece Take Me Home outfit ($28.00, sizes newborn to 12 months), with a secret friend hidden inside an opening in the jacket. Available at


For little feet that prefer to go bare, the Pediped Flex line is the next best thing.  Made with flexible rubber soles for comfort and a system that adjusts as the child grows to prolong the length of wear.  Available in sizes 6-12 for boys and girls in 45 adorable styles, including the ultra-cool Jayden ($29.00).  Find retailers at

Help kids learn left from right with Monkey-Toes Boogie Monsters Teaching Toes ($31.00, infants and toddler sizes) canvas shoes with hand-painted characters Ralphie Right and Left Lu to differentiate each shoe.  Available at select boutiques or at

For the coolest styles for little dudes and little misses, Peek Aren’t You Curious shops  carry the latest hip and happening styles for babies, girls and boys, like the 100% washed cotton fleece USA Track Jacket ($58, sizes XS-2/3 to XL-10).  Locate stores at

Bring it On


Forget the hulking backpack carriers that look like you are heading out for a tour across Europe.  For a quick trip to the shopping mall, walk around the block, the comfy Kokopax Classic Carrier ($149.99, up to 35 pounds), is all you need for everyday use.   With fashionable designs on 100% cotton canvas, it looks great; and with its adjustable light-weight aluminum frame and shoulder straps and padded waist support, it feels great too.  Includes a handy storage pocket, toy ring and eco-friendly carry bag. Find retailers at

The Sunshine Kids Radian 80 Convertible Car Seat ($249.98, 5 to 80 pounds) grows with your child, with safety features galore, including 5-point harness, side impact protection and adjustable cushions for bigger kids.  Thanks to its steel frame and narrow seat, you can place three across in a car, and it folds flat when not in use.  To insure you get all the safety benefits, use a professional safety seat technician, such as Infant Toddler Youth,, to demonstrate the seat’s features and instruct you on future adjustments.  Available at Target. 

Cart your stuff in style with the Reisenthel Carrybag ($39.99), a modern twist on the old wicker picnic basket, constructed of heavy-duty tear-proof polyester, with a collapsible soft rubber handle and a zip pocket inside.  For the little Farmer’s Market shopper in your life, the carrybag comes in XS size ($29.99), with all the features of the full size plus a draw-string cover flap to keep contents inside. Available at Sur la Table, or find other retailers at

Organize yourself with Baggino ($149), the  3-in-1 Combination Diaper Bag-N-Changing Belt.  It coverts from a shoulder bag to a mommy tool belt, equipped with changing mat, wipes case  and pockets and pouches for all your diapering supplies and personals.  Available at

Share and Share Alike


When the playdate is over, make sure you get all the goodies you came with, with Mabel’s Labels ($12 for 60 labels), stylish, waterproof labels that stick to just about anything and clearly mark your child’s belongings.  Available at


Music to Mom’s Ears


For busy moms with no time to download music for workouts or speedwalking stroller jaunts, there’s the slotRadio player ($99) by SanDisk, a pre-loaded player with more than 1,000 Billboard hits from a variety of genres, including a chillout selection off mellow music for lulling little ones to sleep using a docking station.  Additional cards are $39.99.  Available online and at Radio Shack stores.

Plug in your iPod or Mp3 player in the iH12BR iHome Docking Station ($79.99)  to play lullabies in the nursery or music by your bedside.  The compact cube design features a lighted digital alarm clock and a remote control to change tunes or turn the player off when baby is finally snoozing.  Available at Marshalls/TJX or at

Tired of children’s songs about duckies and rainbows?  Plug into Ziggy Marley’s Family Time CD ($13) with some cool kids melodies with collaborators mom and dad will love like Paul Simon, Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jack Johnson and Jamie Lee Curtis.  Available at

In Touch on the Go


It’s no kid’s toy, but the Blackberry Bold 9000 sure is fun, and it keeps mom and dad connected, by phone, email and Internet, so they can spend quality family time away from the office without losing touch with work.  With a built-in camera 2 MP and MicroSD slot you can capture and keep plenty of family photos, and GPS, Wi-Fi music and news feeds and other cool apps, even games, inform and entertain on the go.  

Protect your smartphone investment with Otterbox custom cases ($19.95 to $49.95) that shield from inquisitive little hands to dirt, dust, scratches, bumps, drops and other daily mishaps, from the sleek silicone skin of the Impact series to the heavy-duty shell of the Defender series, your device is covered.

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