Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big News form BumGenuis: The BumGenius 4.0 Pocket Diaper

We have just learned that BumGenius is once again updating the design of their very popular pocket diapers. We have placed our order and are hoping to receive our first shipment of BumGenius 4.0's in the fourth week of July. Here's the scoop on the 4.0's new features:

1. Now accommodates even larger babies! Better yet, the diaper still fits small babies too.

2. All new hook & loop closures

3. Accessible, easily replaceable elastic. All elastic tack-points are now visible from the inside of the diaper. To replace elastic, turn the diaper inside out, thread new elastic through the casing and stitch it down at each end.

4. Three new colors. Bubble (light lavender), Noodle (light cream) and Sweet (light green).

5. And the best new feature (we think)... you now have your choice of closures (snaps or hook & loop).

We will still have 3.0's in stock and few more on the way, although color choices may be limited. Stay tuned for more info!

Click on the image below for graphical details:

Announcing the MetroIBA Independents Week Promotion

July is the month to celebrate your independents!

Peapods is joining 24 other local independent businesses throughout the Twin Cities to celebrate Independents Week throughout the month of July. (Why limit it to just a week?)

Throughout July, each time you visit a participating business, you'll get a chance to enter a drawing for $1,250 worth of gift cards--$50 from each participating business. Plus, each of us is offering a special discount or giveaway when you enter the drawing. At Peapods, you'll get a free large canvas shopping bag. Stop into the store for a brochure with a game card to keep track of all the indie businesses you visit.

We're proud to participate in this great promotion along with lots of other businesses we admire, including Bibelot, Izzy's Ice Cream, Birchwood Cafe, Electric Fetus, Grand Hand, The Wedge Coop, Wet Paint, Key's Cafe, and many others. This is a wonderful opportunity to spend the month of July getting some great deals and getting to know other unique businesses. The fun begins July 1! Full details are on the MetroIBA website.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Handmade Toy Alliance Blog Week: Spotlight on American Toy Co.

Many of our customers will be familiar with the work of Mike Spikes, the owner of American Toy LLC in Corvalis, Oregon. We've sold Mike's toys for at least 10 years, and they've been a favorite all along.

Our favorite is his ping pong catapult, which launches a ping pong ball across a room or down a flight of stairs. We've also heard that it'll launch a variety of other objects including dog biscuits, acorns, and chestnuts. In any case, this is probably the perfect toy for a rainy day. We don't know of a better way to burn off a whole bunch of energy than running up and down a flight of stairs shooting ping pong balls into a cardboard box and retrieving them.

Another favorite is the basketball free throw toy, which requires just the right amount of pressure on the wooden spring to land the ball in the hoop. It's one game that a 6 year old can consistently beat an adult at.

Like all the members of the Handmade Toy Alliance, Mike has been forced to do extra testing and labeling because of the sins of big toy companies like Mattel who outsource their production to China. To us, his toys have always been safe and incredibly fun and we're hoping to carry them for years to come.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Friday and Saturday: Our 10th Annual Sidewalk Sale!

Dan wrote a song to commemorate this event (apologies to Bob Dylan):

Snelling Avenue (aka Highway 51) Revisited

Millie counted her boxes and started to sing
We need some room for more new things
We’ve got trikes with dents and games with dings
Clothes and books we bought last spring
Do you know how we’ll get rid of these things?
We’ll just put some tables out in the sun
And sell them on the sidewalk of Highway 51.

Ok, so that was pretty goofy, but here's the details:

Yes, this is the big event! It only happens once a year—bunches of stuff on sale 25-75% off. Closeouts, scratch & dents, discontinued items, errant purchases...June 25th and 26th 10am to 6pm

Because our sidewalk sale is a busy event next to a busy street, we recommend (but do not require) shopping without small children. Our sale will take place rain or shine. Sidewalk sale purchases are final—no returns or exchanges. No fair arriving early!

Handmade Toy Alliance Blog Week: Spotlight on Camden Rose

All this week, thirty blogs across the country will be profiling the member businesses of the Handmade Toy Alliance. We're happy to participate and would like to start off the week with Camden Rose, one of our favorites.

Camden Rose began in 2003 as an effort to produce in the USA the same kind of high quality wooden playthings as are made in Germany. We stock their rattles, wooden eggs, child-size mops, little wooden cars, and stacking blocks. All are heirloom quality and will last for years.

A couple of years ago, we visited Camden Rose owners Judy Alexander and Jason Gold at their shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We got an incredibly warm reception and were impressed by their vibrant business.

Their signature piece is their Cherry Rattle, which many of our customers will recognize. We love it for its organic shape and smooth feel. When you hold one in your hand, you know that it wasn't made by a machine on an assembly line but by human hands.

Back in the fall of 2008, when the toy safety law known as the CPSIA was passed, we called Jason and asked him how the law's new third party testing requirements were affecting his business. He told us that he had already contacted a lab and got a quote for nearly $4,000 to test his wooden rattle for lead and phthalates, a plastic additive, neither of which have ever been found in wood.

We've been working with Jason and a collection of several hundred other businesses ever since through the Handmade Toy Alliance. One of our early victories was when the CPSC declared in 2009 that fabric and natural materials like wood will not need to be tested for lead. Hopefully we can make more progress in easing the burden of the CPSIA on small manufacturers so that we can continue to offer wonderful toys from great businesses like Camden Rose for many years to come.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Toys and Recomended Age Guidelines (and some new ones from Green Toys)

One of the challenges we face as toy store owners is how to deal with our manufacturers' perceptions of age recommendation vs. our customers' (and their children's) perceptions. What does it mean if a toy is labeled for 6 and up? Can I not give it to my 5 year old? Or, my four year old really likes these wooden blocks, but they're labeled for ages 1 and up--does that mean they're too babyish for her?

Usually, these age guidelines are only guesses by the manufacturer about which children will most like a toy. Haba, for example, gets real specific with its wood toys--some rattles are labeled for 1/2 year olds, some for 3/4 year olds, if that makes any sense. Almost all of these recommendations can be taken with a grain of salt except for one: Age 3 and up.

When a child turns three, they are officially trusted by government safety standards to play with small parts. Three year olds generally know not to swallow marbles, game pieces, rubber bands, etc. So, if a toy is rated for ages 3+, it usually means that the product contains small parts or that small parts could break off during normal use and abuse.

It costs more to design, manufacturer and test products to be safe for kids under three. Over the years, we have seen some toy companies make products that will naturally appeal to a toddler or a two year old but, in order to save costs, will label the toy for ages 3+. We've dropped several lines of toys because we felt the manufacturer's age recommendations were not appropriate.

For that reason, we really appreciate Green Toy's announcement this week that they have retested and certified several of their most popular toys for kids under three after it became clear that their toys had wider appeal than they anticipated. This kind of action is very rare in the toy business and we really respect Green Toys making this effort. Their new age guidelines are as follows:

Now Ages 2+:
Tea Set
Cookware and Dining Set
Tool Set

Now Ages 1+:
Dump Truck
Recycling Truck

Now Ages 18m+:
Sand Play Set

So, if you've been holding off on buying one of these great toys because your child is too young, take another look! They're all made in the USA from 100% recycled milk bottles. We really like Green Toys--both their toys and the way they do business.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Newsletter Excerpt: Attachment Parenting & Older Kids

The following article, written by Millie, is a preview of our annual newsletter. If you're on our mailing list, the newsletter will be arriving soon in your mailbox. If not, you can sign up today and/or read the current newsletter online.

When we began Peapods 12 years ago, we were firm devotees of Attachment Parenting. William Sears sets out a list in The Baby Book: shared sleep—check. Breastfeeding—check. Responsive to baby—check. We signed up and drank the Kool-aid.

It was really, really hard and really, really good. Best intentions aside, none of our babies were easy. The fundamental lesson of Attachment Parenting for me was trust—trust in my children, trust in myself, trust in the world. Trust that the baby who was awake at 3:00 a.m., after already waking at 2:00 and 1:15, really does need something. Really does need me. That nursing 10 out of 24 hours is accomplishing something. That holding a cranky baby is always more important than weeding the garden.

And it worked! They walked, they talked, they started growing into fabulous small people. Of course the questions and the choices didn’t go away. Now we had to trust that they would wean before kindergarten. That someday they would be done with diapers. That provided with good food options, they would make good food choices. That the universe is unfolding as it should.

Fast forward a few years: Abby is 14. She’s taller than me. She’s smarter than me. Riley is 9 and wants to be a pitcher on his baseball team. Wasn’t he just playing T-Ball a few minutes ago? And Duncan is finishing up his last year of preschool. Suddenly, it seems, we are no longer parents of small children.

There is no checklist anymore. The question, as always, is what do our children need, now, to thrive, to grow deep and tall. And the answer, as always, both changes and stays the same.

The lesson of trusting hasn’t really changed as they’ve grown older. Nor is it a lot easier. My kids have taken their time learning to read. Not like “get out the flashcards” late, but “is it time to call the specialist” late. Now they read. Incessantly. “Put down the book and go outside!”

Today they’re tackling challenges like climbing really tall trees, using power tools, and traveling around the city on their own. Soon we’ll be looking at driver’s ed. These are all wonderful, important things I want my kids to learn. And they can seem so scary as a parent—those trees can be so high, the saw so sharp.

After all the hand wringing, the answer almost always comes back to trust. My kids are capable, strong, and generally not stupid. They need to be safe, but they also need to be righteous. I trust my kids enough to say yes most of the time. I also trust myself enough to say no when I need to. I try to listen to my kids, and in return, they usually listen to me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Introducing 'Wood from the Hood' Growth Charts Made From Local Reclaimed Trees

We are excited about these great new growth charts! They're made from reclaimed trees from all around the Twin Cities. Wood from the Hood harvests trees that need to be cut down to make way for construction projects and distressed elms and ashes. They turn them into picture frames, cutting boards, even cabinets and countertops. For us, their growth charts are perfect. Made in Minneapolis, each growth chart is labeled with the zip code that the tree came from. You just can't get any more local than this! It's the perfect way to create an heirloom keepsake of your child's growth.