Friday, December 7, 2012

Peapods Favorite #23: The KaZAM Balance Bike

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

A simple insight made its way to us from Europe almost ten years ago: the way we teach kids to ride a bike in this country is kind of backwards. The way we do it here, we use training wheels to teach peddling and steering first and balance later.

In Europe, kids are taught with "kick bikes", which start with balance and steering. Only after balance is mastered do kids graduate to bikes with peddles. With a kick bike, kids propel themselves with their feet, building confidence and coordination. Balance is learned slowly as kids learn that the faster they go, the easier it is to lift their feet and coast. With a balance bike, the scary part of balancing is learned first and kids won't need to fear the day when the training wheels come off.

Unique among this style of training bike is the KaZAM bike, an all-metal bike that features a step-through design that's easy to climb onto with a footrest that encourages kids to lift their feet up and balance. The KaZAM is adjustable to fit kids ages three to six.

We've sold maybe eight different brands of training bikes over the years, which has included everything from assembling them to fixing them if something goes wrong. By far, the best feedback we've gotten from customers and the fewest problems have been with KaZAM bikes. From the tires to the handlebars, KaZAM bikes are made with quality parts just like a real bicycle. And, although we think wooden training bikes look great, you can't beat the KaZAM for long term durability. Which is why the KaZAM is a Peapods Favorite.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peapods Favorite #22:The Rody Horse Ride On Toy

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

We love toys that offer the opportunity for gross motor indoor play that won't destroy the furniture. Rody Horses fit that description better than just about any other toy!

Made in Italy, Rody is easy for young kids to hold on to and is an open invitation to endless energy-burning bouncing. We like Rody especially because of its enduring play value--six year olds love them just as much as three year olds. (For younger kids, use less air in Rody so it's more stable. Add air for older kids so it's bouncier. Rody can literally grow with your child!)

We also offer the Rody rocking horse base so that Rody can easily convert into a rocking horse.

Our kids have bounced their Rody all around the living room, the yard, and even on a trampoline (which was extremely crazy and not at all recommended!) Rody is light enough that kids can bring it wherever they want to play. It's great for channeling a fidgety kid who needs an outlet for excess energy during quieter activities. Rody's also been useful in therapy for kids with special needs because of it softness and easy rideability.

No matter what kind of kid you have, we think she'll find a friend in Rody or Rody's friend Gyffy the Giraffe. So stop sitting and start bouncing!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Peapods Favorite #21: Chewbeads Nursing Necklaces

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Chewbeads nursing necklaces are jewelry that makes life just a little easier.  Babies are unrelentingly inquisitive and love to explore the world by grabbing ahold of anything they can reach and bringing it to the mouth. Hair, earrings, shirt collar, nose--they'll all subject to ongoing exploration and occasional tugs and pulls.

Chewbeads offer a satisfying diversion that babies can really sink their teeth into. Made from food-grade silicone, Chewbeads look great on mom (or dad!) and are pleasantly soft for babies to teethe on.

We've seen lots of other nursing necklaces, but we think Chewbeads do the best job of combining fashion with a compelling teething experience. As one of the first stores in the country to offer Chewbeads, we've enjoyed watching the company grow and hearing lots of great feedback from our customers. We also appreciate that Chewbeads are designed and tested for safety.

There are a number of different Chewbeads styles to choose from, including the classic round bead Jane necklace, it's multi-colored cousin the Waverly, and flattened bead designs Hudson and Perry. They've also just created a cool new bracelet/teething toy called the Mulberry which is cleverly designed to look like a ring of beads but is actually one continuous piece of chewable silicone.

So, we are pleased to name Chewbeads as a Peapods Favorite. They're a gift that both moms and babies will love!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Peapods Favorite #20: Potholder Looms by Harrisville Designs

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

There is a simple kind of magic in the good old fashioned potholder loom, a toy that brings back fond memories from our own childhoods. Yes, it's fun to make potholders, but the magic is that kids can use a loom to make a gift that the grownups will really appreciate.

Raise your hand if you have a handmade potholder that you use daily in your kitchen, lovingly crafted by your son, daughter, niece, nephew, or neighbor. What a great lesson for a child to learn: how to create something useful and appreciated.

Potholder looms come in handy both for making Holiday presents and as great activity during the long holiday break. Potholder looms also travel well and are perfect for keeping occupied on car trips. We recommend them for ages 7 and up. Be sure to get plenty of loops!

Historic Harrisville, NH
Our potholder loom kits and loops are made in the USA by Harrisville Designs, a New Hampshire family business continuing a small town New England textile tradition that dates back to 1794. Harrisville Designs began in 1971 as an effort to keep that tradition alive and is today one of only a few remaining New England woolen mills. We're proud to have been part of that tradition for the last 10 years or so!

Bonus: Our Unhelpful Video on How to Make Potholders:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Friday 2012: Bigger, Better (and Less Blechy!) than Ever!

Big box retailers have crossed the line this year and are beginning their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving. We say phooey to that! Celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, sleep in on Friday, and then shop your locally-owned independents and celebrate Black Friday in style. Skip the crowds and the big boxes and have some fun instead! 

At Peapods, our Black Friday celebration is bigger and better than ever! No need to get up early—just stop by during our normal hours for a cup of hot cider. And, with a purchase over $30, you can draw an instant-win prize from our Black Friday fishbowl. You’ll draw one of the following fabulous prizes:
  • $5 Peapods Gift Card
  • $20 Peapods Gift Card (at least 4 available in the fish bowl!)
  • $50 Peapods Gift Card (one of these in the bowl)
  • Heidi, a blonde 34" tall waldorf doll by Käthe Kruse (a $200 value)
  • One of 2 deluxe cotton fleece baby blankets from Swaddle Designs (a $50 value)
  • A handmade wooden kitchen from Starlight Woodworks (a $200 value)
  • A bunch of other prizes including art kits, night lights, a silicon owl nursing pendant, and a handmade boy waldorf doll.

Plus, we'll have a bunch of great stuff on sale!

  • 40% off a HUGE selection of in-season organic baby clothes from Kate Quinn and Parade
  • 50% off select Thirsties diaper covers
  • 50% off  select Käthe Kruse baby toys
  • 50% off stocking stuffer games and puzzles by Crocodile Creek
  • Buy 1, Get 1 Free Crocodile Creek stainless steel water bottles
  • Pocket diapers from Sweet Pea for the very low price of $7.99 each (regularly $16)
  • 50% off select stuffed animals and Fraggle Rock dolls from Manhattan Toys
  • 50% off hand puppets from Educo and Manhattan Toys
  • Rockin' Green Detergent's brand new SECRET HOLIDAY SCENT will be $12.99 for Classic Rock and $13.99 for Hard Rock (Normally $15.95/$16.95)
  • Ergo Baby Carriers: Get a free infant insert or sucking pads with each Ergo Purchase
  • And, the last weekend of Buy 5, Get 1 Free on bumGenius Freetime AIO diapers

But wait, there's more!

Our Holiday Rewards Program is back! Through the end of the year, our rewards program is for everything in the store, not just cloth diapers! Earn a $15 store credit when you spend $200 on anything in the store before 12/31. Existing Rewards points from cloth diaper purchases or last year's Holiday Rewards count, too!

And, We're excited to help BabyLove MN with their 2nd annual Bum and Belly Drive! Donate your used cloth diapers, maternity wear, and baby carriers at Peapods thru December 12. Your used goods can make a big difference to a new family!

Do you have friends and family out of town? Order online for free shipping on all orders over $50!

Finally--We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Peapods Favorite #19: Keva Planks Wooden Construction Toy

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

We've mentioned it a few times before, but we really like Keva Planks. They seem really simple at first, but Keva's precise dimensions make it possible for kids to build elaborate structures like towers, bridges, arches, and ball runs.

Keva Planks offer tremendous play value which is unmatched by almost any other toy we sell. Kids from three years old to 13 years old can make fabulous structures which tend to get more complex and original as kids get older.

Since the Minnesota company Mindware took over distribution of Keva in the past couple of years, they've expanded Keva's range of possibilities with kits like the catapult, trebuchet, and contraptions sets. Keva Contraptions sets are made from pine while Keva's Structures sets are made from pine or are available in a made in the USA maple version which comes in a sturdy canvas storage bag.

And, as if that weren't enough, we now feature Bionic Blox, a Keva connector that extends play in whole new directions. Made in the USA, Bionic Blox clip on to Keva Planks like a tinker toy hub, so you can build with them in whole new directions!

So give just about any kid some Keva Planks and see what they do with them. Our guess is they'll be playing with them for years!

Plus, be sure to check out our brand new Keva play table in the store!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Peapods Favorite #18: The Yoga Garden Kids Cooperative Board Game

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Designed Jennifer Durand, a San Francisco kids yoga teacher, the Yoga Garden Cooperative Game is long-time Peapods favorite. It makes a great rainy day or birthday party game for kids ages 5 through 10 because it gets kids moving without creating chaos. Basically, the idea is to work together to plant a flower garden before the sun sets. The unique twist is that each player strikes a yoga pose during their turn and has to hold it until their turn comes again. The more players there are, the longer you have to hold your pose! 

We like cooperative kids games because kids aren't always very good at winning or losing, especially when playing against siblings. Anyone who has ever played Candyland with a 4 year old knows how this plays out. 

Players can still win or lose a cooperative game, but they win or lose together. So, you get all the fun with a lot less drama! With the Yoga Garden Game, brothers and sisters, friends and parents can play together, learn some yoga, and turn a boring sleepy afternoon into some lighthearted fun for everyone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Peapods Favorite #17: The Green Toys Recycling Truck

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

When we first met Green Toys co-founder Robert van Goeben in 2006 and heard about their new environmentally friendly toys, they were still in prototype mode. We immediately placed an order and waited for the first batch to arrive. We've been impressed with their quality and design ever since.
Did you know that every Green Toys Truck has an 8-track cassette player depicted on the dash board? Is true!
We think Green Toys succeed on multiple levels, First, they have great play value, with a wide age range and the durability to stand up to lots of rough play inside or out. Second, they're super-green and made in the USA. Third, they really help teach kids about the value of recycling in a positive and non-preachy way. And none of their toys does that better than their recycled Recycling Truck. What better way to teach kids about closing the waste loop?

We feature lots of toys that are made from recycled materials, but Green Toys' Recycling Truck happens to look just like the green recycling trucks that ramble up and down Twin Cities streets! It really is a brilliant toy and we're proud to feature Green Toys in our store. 

By the way, we're also thrilled with the brand new submarine, airplane, and seaplane from Green Toys. Be sure to check those out, too!

The Green Toys Story:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Peapods Favorite #16: The Folkmanis Monkey Puppet - Monkey Monkey Monkey!

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

We've always loved Folkmanis Puppets! They use quality materials, are impeccably designed, and they pack a bunch of personality into every puppet. Each one is an open invitation to storytelling, pretend play, and learning about animals.

In our opinion, no puppet has more personality than the Folkmanis monkey puppet, which almost seems to have a mischievous mind of its own. We got our son Duncan a monkey puppet when he was just a baby. Eight years later, it's still one of his favorite toys. As a baby, we could always make him laugh with his monkey puppet or comfort him when he was upset. "Monkey monkey monkey!" is it's cheer. It's traveled with him everywhere and has created an enduring interest in Duncan for all things primate.

You never can tell which toy will resonate with a young child or which subject will strike his fancy, but we have a feeling that there's probable a Folkmanis puppet that'll strike a chord for just about every kid.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Peapods Favorite #15: The Fiesta Ware Toy Ceramic Tea Set

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!
The Fiesta Ware Style Toy Tea Set by Schylling is simply a really cute kid-sized ceramic tea set. The beauty of this set is that although it's sized for little hands, kids (and grownups!) can actually drink tea with this set. Each cup is about 1 1/4 inches tall and holds about 2 ounces of tea. The set is sturdy enough to hold up to lots of play. We often open a set up for kids to play with in the store and very rarely does a piece break. Plus, it's dishwasher safe!

Designed for ages 3 and up, the Fiesta Ware Tea Set is an easy choice for any girl or boy with an active imagination who loves to pretend play with dolls or stuffed animals. The only choice is: chamomile or English breakfast?

By the way, we also stock the Green Toys Tea Set, which is also very popular and safe for use with real tea.

The Peapods Holiday Rewards Program is Back!

Everything Counts!

Our Holiday Rewards Program is back! Throughout November and December, everything in our store earns rewards points, not just cloth diapers. Earn $15 store credit for every $200 you spend!

Do the points I earned buying cloth diapers still count toward Holiday Rewards?
You betcha!
Do the points I earned during last year during Holiday Rewards still count?
You betcha!
How soon do I need to redeem my points?
Anytime you like! Our system will keep track of them indefinitely.

There's no need to carry a points card--we'll keep track of your purchases for you. Simply sign up when you make your next purchase. Or, email orders at with your name, address, and phone number and we'll add you to our system. Give us a call or email us anytime to check your rewards points balance.

More details and a modest amount of fine print can be found on our website.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Peapods Favorite #14: Our Handmade Wooden Magnetic Fishing Pole

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Made in Indiana by Darren and Teresa of My Unique Wooden Toys, our magnetic wooden fishing pole is truly a classic. Designed for ages 3 and up, kids love reeling out the magnetic "hook" (a wooden ball with a weak magnet attached) and reeling in a fish! It's a lot of fun for a very simple toy.

For more fun on a rainy day, set up an indoor fishing pond! Simply drape a blanket across the back of two chairs and have your child cast her line over the blanket and into the pond. Which fish will bite? From the other side of the blanket, attach a different color fish with each cast (or maybe a spoon or a paper clip!). We've also seen this idea used for school fairs with winning prize numbers attached to each fish. There aren't any blinking lights or beeping sounds, but it's nonetheless a great diversion for any 3-5 year old.

Each fishing pole comes with three fish and extra wooden fish are also available.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Peapods Favorite #13: Dancing Alligator Pull Toy by Plan Toys

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Plan Toys' Dancing Alligator Wooden Pull Toy is another iconic Peapods toy! Made in Thailand from reclaimed rubberwood, the Dancing Alligator wiggles and chomps and makes a compelling clacking sound as you pull it along.  We've always appreciated the Dancing Alligator's play value--toddlers just learning how to walk enjoy chasing after it and older kids will enjoy pulling it throughout the house. We also like the alligator's cousin, the Plan Toys Pull-Along Snail.

As we've written many times before, we also appreciate the extremely high quality of Plan Toys and their commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Plan Toys are toys that you can really feel good about!

Making Dancing Alligators at the Plan Toys Factory in Thailand . Visit Plan's website to learn more about their environmental and social responsibility initiatives.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Peapods Favorite #12: Haba Fantasy Blocks

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Made in Germany, Haba Fantasy Blocks take block play in a completely unique direction! Designed to complement a collection of unit blocks or to play with on their own, Fantasy Blocks use color, sound, and light play through a prism to encourage experimentation and creativity.

We've carried Fantasy Blocks for years, so they get the nod as our favorite.  But, we've also added several other unique Haba block sets, including Cordoba, Sevilla, Torrino, and Sakrada, each with its own style. Haba also makes several colorful wooden block sets with chunkier pieces for younger children, including the Habaland Play Set, the Large Animal Play Set, and their incredible new My First Ball Track set, which is part block play and part kenetic fun. All of these sets are compatible--mix them together to create amazing Suessian architecture!

How are Haba's colorful Fantasy Blocks made? Watch this video tour of the Haba factory in Germany, which documents the process from forest to toy store!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peapods Favorite #11: the Haba Wooden Walker Wagon

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

The Haba Wooden Walker Wagon is an incredible toy for a one year old. Both our sons Riley and Duncan learned to walk while pushing this incredibly sturdy toy all around.  Made in Germany from sturdy baltic birch plywood, this is a toy that kids can jump up and down on without making a dent. 

The Haba walker wagon works best on a long stretch of open sidewalk. Or, during inclement weather, try taking it with you to a mall and point your child and the wagon toward open floor and watch her go. (We always preferred Har Mar Mall for this purpose.) As your child grows, the walker wagon can double as a doll stroller or toy transporter. 

This is the first of several Peapods Favorites by Haba, so stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Peapods Favorite #10: The Rainbow Lawnmower Push Toy by Papa Don's - Made in Oregon

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

Papa Don's tumbling rainbow lawnmower push toy has been a favorite of ours for over a decade. Push toys are a perfect one year old birthday present. And, if you've ever seen (or heard!) the blinking and beeping electronic versions sold nowadays in mass market stores, you'll know why we like Papa Don's so much.  It's simple, colorful fun that won't overstimulate a toddler or drive the adults out of the house. Made in Oregon from solid hardwoods, it's truly an heirloom toy that's likely to last for more than just one generation. 

Papa Don's began in 1973 and is one of several of our toymakers who have grown their business at the famous Eugene, Oregon Saturday Market. Papa Don's daughter Diana and her husband Garth are now second generation toymakers, carrying on her father's business after her his death in 2009. We think it's wonderful that a multi-generational family business lives on through these wonderful toys and we're proud to have been a small part of that story over the past dozen years or so.

Papa Don's Toys also makes a floor tumbler, which is basically the caged beads part of the rainbow lawnmower, a colorful stacking rings toy, and a bead threading toy.

Dispatch from the 2012 ABC Kids Expo

Whoa! It's been a busy few days! On Saturday, we talked to hundreds of people at the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo, an amazing event that was crazy busy this year. It was great to talk to so many new and expecting parents and our peers in the Twin Cities natural birth and baby scene. (Special thanks to Nichi from My Healthy Beginning for jumping our car after the event!)

Early the next day, we were off to Louisville, KY for the annual ABC Kids Expo. With Ellie in her Beco Gemini, we walked the entire 8 miles of the Expo twice over three days, talking to hundreds of baby product manufacturers. We got to see a bunch of new products and reconnect with many of our vendors, including Haba, Beco, Rockin' Green, bumGenius, Naturepedic, Green Toys, Chewbeads, Zutano, gDiapers, and many, many more. Of course, Ellie got to talk to them all, too, which she loved. Seems like our girl is a little social butterfly!
Checking out new teething toys with Chewbeads.
Of course, we found lots of great new products that we'll be featuring in the coming weeks. We really appreciate seeing stuff in person. Ellie got to try many of them herself, too, including a bunch of new baby carriers. We can't wait to share what we found!

The Bad Idea Fairy
As always, the Bad Idea Fairy was busy at work at the ABC Kids Expo. This year's Expo had binders full of questionable new products, many of which sought to solve problems that don't really exist or are more easily solved by simpler means.  It's become our annual tradition to share some of our favorites (search for "expo" in the box at right for previous years). Here's our picks for 2012:

Snow Patrol Ergo: Not sure what's going on at Ergo, which was bought out by a new company a little over a year ago. One of their latest offerings is this all-white carrier lined with fake fur that comes complete with a muff for $195. We though it looked like something from a James Bond movie or perhaps the snow battle dream from Inception. Just be sure to keep grape juice away from it.

The Peeko Baby Monitor: We saw a couple variations of this idea, which is a baby monitor that "monitors your baby's respiration, room temperature, and body positioning on your phone from anywhere in the world". The Peeko did this via a wifi device on a onesie while others used video monitors or a mat placed on the crib mattress. We thought a better idea might be to put down the phone and pick up the baby.

Tinkle Tinkle Little Star: For another hi-tech fix, we found the Potty Patrol Diaper Alarm. These special disposable diapers use an alarm that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star whenever they're wet because, as the inventor states, it's really hard for a toddler to know when he's wet in a disposable diaper. We're not sure what the long-term effect of this auditory operant conditioning will be whenever he hears Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the rest of his life, but we're pretty sure cloth diapers are a simpler solution.

Diamonds are Forever: Yes, this is an ad for a $17,000 pacifier.

The hills are alive with portable potty chairs:
Finally, here's this marketing image for an otherwise perfectly good potty chair by Regal Lager. Sometimes an image can oversell a product...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Peapods Favorite #9: DoodleTown Cars, Made in Minnesota

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on Facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!

We really love DoodleTown Cars! What can we say? They just make us happy. They're made in Minnesota, they're safe for all ages, they smell wonderful, they make perfect stocking stuffers, and they're great for pretend play, block play, or travelling. And, Mike and Linda, the folks who make them, happened to be just about the nicest people we've ever met.

Mike began making DoodleTown Cars back in 1972 and his classic design has endured. Over the years, he's sold his cars to toy stores across the country, to a US President, and at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Today, DoodleTown cars can be found in dozens of small toy stores from coast to coast, but we're proud to be Mike and Linda's biggest fans. Over the years we've sold several thousand Doodles. We've probably sold more Doodle Cars than any other toy!

DoodleTown also recently added a semi truck and a train with tender that are on the same scale as the Doodle Cars.

We hope you like Doodles as much as we do!

Here's a WCCO-TV profile on Mike and Linda from November 2011:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peapods Favorite #8: The Ping Pong Catapult

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!  

This is such a simple toy, but it's created a lot of fun in the past 12 years or so! Made in Oregon by Mike Spikes' American Toy Company, the Ping Pong Catapult shoots ping pong balls across the room. We've had many customers who buy this toy for every birthday kid they know from ages 5 to 45. 

Kids love the ping pong catapult because it invites experimentation. Can you know down a tower of spools with it? Can you land the ball in a cardboard box? Will it launch an acorn, a conker, or a Lego guy? Can you make the ball go farther by launching it down the stairs? Can you bounce the ball off a wall and catch it?

During all this play and experimenting, your kids will be running back and forth, maybe even up and down stairs, retrieving ping pong balls and launching them over and over. Honestly, we can't think of a better rainy day toy to burn off steam with some creative kinetic energy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Peapods Favorite #7: Wooden Unit Blocks by BEKA - Made in Minnesota

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!  

There's one toy that's been front and center in our living room for 15 years. One toy that's been played with by 3 kids (soon to be a fourth!) from ages 1 to over 12. It's our set of BEKA maple unit blocks. Since we bought them 15 years ago, they've never been been in storage but have always been at the ready for building towers, roads, bridges, forts, marble runs, arches, and a hundred other creations. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, BEKA's maple unit blocks are the best toy we've ever owned.

BEKA blocks are made in St. Paul, Minnesota from solid maple. Like many of our favorite toys, we've been carrying BEKA products since we first opened in 1999. We also carry BEKA train tables and easels.

Of course, our kids aren't alone in their love of simple wooden blocks. Wooden blocks have been a childhood favorite for centuries. Unit blocks were the core of the original Kindergarten curriculum formulated by Frederich Froebel and were praised by Maria Montessori, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote:
What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home. 
We offer BEKA blocks in three different sets: Starter Unit Blocks, Standard Unit Blocks, and Deluxe Unit Blocks. The differences between the sets are in the number of blocks and the variety of shapes; the Standard Set is probably the best place to start your block collection.

We give our thanks to BEKA and the entire Kreisman family for their wonderful toys and for working with us for so many great years. They really are a Peapods favorite!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Peapods Favorite #6: Sarah's Silks Play Silks

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!  

We've always believed that open-ended toys are the best; toys that require kids to imagine and invent their purpose. We can offer no better example of this than Sarah's Silks Playsilks.

Sarah's Silks has been a staple of our store since we opened in 1999. Their playsilks are wonderful, sheer and airy squares of colorful silk that can be anything a child wants them to be--a cape, a skirt, a hat, a scarf, a crown, an ocean of water, or a bed of grass.  Available in two sizes, the original playsilks are  35" square and the mini playsilks are 21" square. Our kids have used them over and over again in a million ways.

Like wood blocks, playsilks are an open-ended invitation to pretend.  We also stock a great selection of capes, fairy wings, and garlands from Sarah's Silks to complete the perfect dress-up wardrobe.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Peapods Favorite #5: Sophie La Giraffe

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season!  

Sophie the Giraffe, with her charming smile and beguiling squeak  is a longtime Peapods favorite. Made in France from natural rubber, Sophie keeps her poise no matter how much your baby chews on her ears and legs.

We've seen many young children who are fiercely attached to Sophie and bring her everywhere they go. She's such a great gift idea that she sometimes comes back to us because a family received more than one as a shower gift. That's alright, though, because Vulli also makes a number of other charming baby toys from natural rubber, including the Sophie So Pure Teether.

Last year, Sophie celebrated her 50th anniversary. Please join us in wishing Sophie another 50 years of making babies and children happy!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peapods Favorite #4: The Camden Rose Octagon Wood Stacking Toy

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook  and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season! 

In addition to Zingerman's Deli (vegetarian rubens!), and the University of Michigan marching band, Ann Arbor, Michigan should be proud of Camden Rose toys.

Camden Rose toys are simple yet refined, using beautiful woods that are sanded silky smooth and finished in an all-natural beeswax.

Camden Rose began in 2003 as an effort to produce in the USA the same kind of high quality wooden playthings that are made in Germany. We stock their rattles, wooden eggs, little wooden cars, and stacking blocks, all of which are made in Michigan by Amish craftsmen.

Our favorite, though, is one of their newer toys, the Octagon Stacking Toy. Finished only in beeswax, the Octagon Stacker uses natural maple, walnut, and cherry to add color and interest. The blocks can be arranged in any configuration on the column, encouraging children to develop creativity and pattern recognition. It's another great toy for ages 9 to 24 months. We often recommend this toy to customers who want to avoid paints and stains all together, but at only $19.99, it's a great addition to any child's toy box!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Green Toys Vehicles are on Sale!

Made in the USA from recycled milk bottles, Green Toys trucks are great toys for indoor and outdoor play. And, for a limited time, they're marked down from $27.99 to $19.99!

The Green Toys dump truck, pink dump truck, school bus, fire truck, and recycling truck are some of our most popular toys. Safe for ages one and up, they have enduring play value for kids of all ages. They're tough, sturdy, and environmentally friendly.

This sale is for a limited time only while supplies last, so stock up now for the holidays!

Green Toys on sale!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Peapods Favorite #3: The Punch and Drop Wooden Ball Pounding Toy by Plan Toys

Peapods Favorites is our continuing series about our all-time favorite toys. Keep and an eye on facebook and Pinterest for more favorites through the holiday season! 

The Plan Toys Punch and Drop is a very simple yet satisfying wood toy. Just push or hammer the large wooden balls on top and they drop down with a hearty clunk and roll out the side. We've found that for a one year old, no other toy is this compelling.

The Punch and Drop stimulates a one year old in several ways. First, it plays on their newfound sense of object permanence, similar to a game of peek-a-boo, where the ball disappears and reappears in a new place. Wow!

Second, it build coordination through hitting and retrieving the balls and using the wooden hammer as a tool. (The hammer itself can also become a source of enduring fascination. What else can we pound on? Pots, pans, stairs, chairs, etc. It's an open-ended opportunity for further exploration.)

Finally, the Punch and Drop stimulates a toddler with colors and kinetic motion, which helps build a sense of cause and effect.

What this all adds up to is an enduring classic that we've been recommending to our customers for nearly 14 years.  In fact, the Punch and Drop is probably our all-time best selling toy.

Plan Toys is also one of the most respected brands in educational toys. They're extremely well designed, affordable, and durable. Plan toys are made in Thailand from kiln-dried recycled Rubber Tree wood using fair labor practices. We're proud to feature the Punch and Drop and all of Plan's other great toys for all ages.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Peapods Favorite #2: The Wood From the Hood Growth Chart

This fall, we're sharing our personal selection of our all-time favorite toys. These are classics that our store just wouldn't be the same without. Keep an eye on our blog and on facebook for new favorites up until the holiday season.

Today's favorite is the Wood from the Hood growth chart. These hyper-local growth charts have a lot of character and a lot of integrity.

Made in Minneapolis from locally-harvested reclaimed urban lumber, each growth chart is labelled with the zip code where it was harvested. Our selection often includes silver maple, elm, white pine, white oak, poplar, spruce, and linden. Each piece has its own unique grain pattern.

Wood from the Hood is part of Siewert Cabinet, a millwork and cabinet shop in Minneapolis. We've enjoyed working with them for many years now. Their first growth chart was made from baltic birch plywood and was also very popular in our store. But, when they started using reclaimed wood and developed Wood from the Hood, they created a truly wonderful product.

Wood from the Hood is Rick & Cindy Siewert
and Jon Buck.
This is one item that we don't usually ship because of its size, so it's available in-store only. Wood from the Hood growth charts make a great gift for a child of almost any age and are a heck of a lot better than marking heights on a door jamb!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Introducing Peapods Favorites, A Collection of Our All-time Favorite Toys

We are proud to introduce our new selection of our all-time favorite toys which we will be rolling out through the end of the year, one toy at a time. Called Peapods Favorites, these are the toys that our store just wouldn't be the same without.

Sure, we love finding new toys and posting them to Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  But at the end of the day, our favorites are the ones our kids have grown up with. They're the toys that we've sold for years and years--some since the the first day we opened back in 1999. This year, we're giving some much-deserved attention to much-loved classic toys.

Our first Peapods Favorite can only be Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks. Indeed, these blocks reflect much our what our store is all about.Over the years, we've featured them in advertisements and displayed them prominently at the front of our store. They're a toy that truly exemplifies the art of American toymaking.

Made in Michigan, Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks are based on a 100 year old design. Sure, they're educational, but they're also fun to stack and tumble. They're not just in English, either. We have a full selection of languages from all around the world. We even have Elemental Blocks based on the periodic table. Each set is an enduring classic.

Update: Learn more about Uncle Goose Toys and see behind the scenes with this Michigan news report!

Watch for more Peapods Favorites posts in the coming weeks!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Announcing the Peapods Used Diaper Buyback Program

Got cloth diapers you’re not using?  Peapods is  beginning a trial program of buying back used diapers.

Just drop off your gently used cloth diapers or covers anytime during store hours.  We'll have you fill out a quick form with your contact info, and we'll get back to you within two business days with an offer. Our offer will be based on  condition and popularity of the diapers. Diapers must be thoroughly clean and in good condition.

Peapods Cloth Diaper Buyback Program
If you accept our offer, stop by the store any time to pick up your cash or store credit.

This also means that once we have a good selection on hand, we will begin selling quality used diapers at affordable prices.

A few notes: 
We will send your offer via email.  Please be sure to leave an accurate and current email address. Diapers must be clean, odor free, and pet hair free.  Velcro needs to be picked clean. We are buying diapers in brands we sell, in excellent or good condition.  We may at our discretion purchase other brands of diaper or diapers in well loved condition. Please bring your diapers in a container you do not need back--cardboard boxes or paper bags are great.  We are unable to track or return plastic bins. We'd love it if you'd bring in at least a few diapers at a time.

If you do not choose to accept our offer, you can pick up your diapers. If you reject our offer, you  must pick up your diapers within two weeks or we will donate or sell them at our discretion.

Friday, August 17, 2012

New in Store: Swaddlebees Simplex AIO Cotton Cloth Diapers

During 8 weeks of cloth diapering our daughter Ellie, we've (of course) been trying out a bunch of new cloth diapers. The other day, we asked ourselves which ones we liked best. We both answered "Swaddlebees Simplex".

What makes Swaddlebees Simplex 2.0 All-in-Ones so great is that they're super cute, fit great, and don't leak. And we like the simplicity of an all-in-one, which keeps everything together in one quick and easy package.

But, more than anything, we like the fact that they're cotton.

Don't get us wrong, there's plenty of great microfiber AIO cloth diapers out there, many of which we've also been using a lot. But, nothing beats cotton when it comes to cleaning. Cotton is just a lot easier to keep clean than microfiber.

Swaddlebee's unique design features a soaker pad that's attached at one end which can be stuffed into a pocket or simply folded on top (we usually just leave it on top). You can add a hemp or microfiber insert into the pocket if you need extra absorbency.  All and all, they're just a remarkably well-designed AIO cloth diaper.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Non-Toxic Crib Mattress Options

Lullaby Earth and Naturepedic non-toxic
crib mattresses at Peapods
We've recently updated our selection of non-toxic crib mattresses and are now stocking four unique options. We believe that two issues are important when selecting a crib mattress: waterproofing and fireproofing

First, it's important to keep a crib mattress dry to prevent stains, smells, and mildew. Mildew spores in particular can pose a health risk to a young baby. Choose either a waterproof mattress or a washable waterproof cover. In either case, the cover should be PVC-free and should not offgas.

Second, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission requires all mattresses to meet stringent fireproofing standards, a requirement that most manufacturers meet by using boron, boric acid, and/or antimony. These chemicals can pose a health risk to babies and should be avoided. Look for a mattress that uses less toxic materials such as wool, baking soda, or hydrated silica.  

Our non-toxic crib mattress options:

Weighing only 7 lbs, the Lullaby Earth crib mattress is super lightweight. The core and cover is 100% food-grade polyethylene (recyclable PE and PETE). It does not have steel springs. This makes it a breeze to change the sheets, especially with the recent US ban on drop side cribs. Fire protection is achieved with hydrated silica, a harmless natural mineral commonly used in toothpaste. Available as a standard crib mattress or as a two-stage infant and toddler mattress. Made in USA.

Naturepedic Quilted Organic Deluxe Crib Mattress

A luxurious non-waterproof organic baby crib and toddler mattress. It is made with organic cotton quilted batting over a firm 252-count coil innerspring.  Does not contain wool or latex or other high allergy materials. Naturepedic's fire protection system uses baking soda and hydrated silica permanently bonded to cellulose. We recommend using a quality waterproof cover with this mattress. Made in the USA.

Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Crib Mattress
Similar to the Naturepedic Quilted Organic mattress, above, but with a built-in polyethylene waterproof cover. The cover provides the ultimate non-toxic and stain resistant waterproof surface that also keeps dust mites out. 150 spring coils provide plenty of even support. Also fireproofed with baking soda and hydrated silica. Made in USA.

As always, stop in to the store to see these mattresses in person along with cut-outs to show what they look like inside. Or, read more on the crib mattress page of our website.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reintroducing Tweber Outdoor Exploration Toys

We are happy to reintroduce Tweber outdoor exploration gear. Made in Wisconsin, Tweber toys have been a long time favorite over many summers at our store, but they went on hiatus for a couple of years in the recent past. We're happy to have them back!

What we love about Tweber is that they're super sturdy and will stand up to the most vigorous play.  Their nets, for example, are supple enough to catch butterflies but strong enough to scoop through underwater muck in a lake or pond.

These are toys that truly encourage kids to get outside and explore nature. If you're doing any travelling this summer, consider bringing along a pocket leaf and flower press to create a truly unique record of your trip.

Let the explorations begin!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peapods Sidewalk Sale Friday & Saturday, June 8-9th

Our Twelfth Annual Sidewalk Sale! 

10am - 6pm, June 8th and 9th

It only happens once a year, and it's a doozey! Oodles of stuff on sale for 25-75% off. Closeouts, overstocks, samples, scratch & dents, discontinued items, and a few things we thought would be a big hit but...weren't. Expect a little of everything--toys, baby carriers, cloth diapers, games, music, etc. This is stuff we've been saving up all year and we don't ever want to see again. So, everything is priced to move!

Because our sidewalk sale is a busy event, 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! 

Peapods Sidewalk Sale 2012