Parenting magazine listed its best toys of the year for 2010 in its November issue, and the Chimp and Zee Shopping Cart Dash was one of the games receiving praise. Parents’ Choice also gave the game an award this fall, so the game seems to be racking up some honors.
This food-themed game teaches kids about foods and counting at the same time. Essentially, the players race to complete their shopping list and pay with coins for their items after each turn. The game is recommended for ages 3 and up and can be played with 2 to 4 players.
Pressman Toy was featuring this game in November as a give-away, so you can find a lot of ‘reviews’ of this product on the web. I was not a participant in this promotion, and I’m often a bit skeptical of these give-aways and the subsequent reviews, but this toy made the cut for me. It’s about food and I could see my daughter enjoying it.
With that said, out of all the reviews I read, this one from Enjoy Life, Enjoy Now seems the most sincere. The author is a foodie mom who wants to go to culinary school, and I trust foodies.
The game retails for around $15 at Amazon and I have just put in my order. If I remember, I will give a follow up review once I have had a chance to test the game out.
If you sign up for Gilt, you can access their sales aggregator site and this week KidKraft has a sale. This retro kitchen in red is on sale for $110 (+$18 shipping) and is regularly $150. I think it looks rather cool, and I am definitely tempted to buy one. The knobs turn, doors open, and it is made out of wood products instead of plastic. If you don’t like red, you can also get a silver one on Amazon for $150 with about the same cost of shipping, so this is definitely a good buy if you want this specific color.
It also seams as if this might be a close-out model because the next iteration of this cooking playset has a refrigerator and it also sells for $150 at Amazon (but is only in pink). Granted, there are fewer knobs to turn with the new kitchen, one less storage drawer, and no grilling grate on top, but it does have a fridge which can provide for a different type of imaginative play. Of course the newer toy would also be bulkier and take up more space. I guess it is all a trade-off between what you think the little ones might like and how much play space you have.
The sale at Gilt only lasts for another couple days (ending 17 October at 8pm CDT) and there is always a chance the item may sell out earlier. If you don’t catch the sale though, you can always look for similar items on the web. These KidKraft sets seem to get good reviews on Amazon.
These matryoshka nesting dolls from the whimsical company, Fred, also serve as handy measuring cups and would be a fun set for kids to use. My daughter received a real set of matryoshka dolls when she was younger, and she was fascinated by them for years. The M Cups — as they are called — are made out of durable white plastic, and even though they aren’t as colorful as the real hand-painted nesting dolls, I am sure they will still capture your kid’s attention.
There are six different dry measuring sizes: 1/4 , 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 full cup. A lot of measuring cup sets don’t come with the 2/3 or 3/4 cup sizes, so on top of being fun, they are also quite functional. Just be aware that the measure markings are noted inside the cup, so look at the size before filling. Another nice feature is that they save space because they are both stackable and nesting, thus reducing clutter in your kitchen drawers.
The cups were featured last year in Real Simple magazine, and they quickly flew off the shelves — so get them while they last. The cost for the Fred M Cups is around $10 from Amazon, which is actually quite reasonable. I am definitely adding this item to my daughter’s cooking gear.
Note: The photo above is from Real Simple magazine and taken by James Wojcik. He has some rather fascinating food photography on his site, and it is well worth checking out.
Ok, I know that this bowl set might not appeal to all kids, but I could definitely see the intrigue that some kids would have with it. Whether the child loves to stack things or just wants a fancy plate to eat on, this dish could be a good addition to the dining routine. Of course, I could also see my daughter taking it to her bedroom to play fairies with and never see it again. Oh well. And some pieces may get lost too.
Regardless, what I would probably do is use it for a picky eater. I’d stack the bowls and put food in the top dish. Once the child was done, they’d get to go to the next layer and so on, and once they get to the green dish, that means dessert. Just an idea, but it might work.
You can buy the bowl at Amazon or at MoMA for around $30. The bowls are produced by Zak Designs and they actually have a whole garden series of nesting serving bowls. I think the daisy ones are best though.
From PBS Kitchen Explorers comes this wonderful article about raising kids to love food. Eating habits are a big enough challenge for parents, but the next step of learning to cook is an excellent skill and can provide for quality family time. Aviva Goldfarb interviews J.M. Hirsch, who is the Associated Press food editor, about how he has involved his child in cooking. The article provides a lot of examples on how to include kids in cooking and provides great suggestions. Hirsch even gave a knife to his two-year-old, but explains how he created rules to ensure safety. Basically, when using a knife the child must only use one hand and keep the other hand by his side. Any breach of the rule means that knife privileges are lost. That’s a good idea for kids starting to use a knife regardless of age.
Some of the advice in the article includes ideas about kitchen games, having kids make spice rubs on their own, introducing kids to smells early on, and embracing the kitchen mess. You can also check out J.M. Hirsch’s cooking blog for his recipes and videos, and he also has a book out called High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking. The book gets good marks on Amazon and looks like a great reference for the parent who likes to cook but has limited time. There is also a video on Amazon of Hirsch actually putting his kid to work on a spice rub. I like the idea of putting selected spices that work together in a plastic tub so the kid can smell and combine with minimal guidance to come up with flavorful mixes.
Even if you as a parent aren’t comfortable with such mixtures or know what spices go together, there are some good books out there that provide guidance. Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman is a good reference and has a chapter on herb mixtures. Also, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg has a lot of useful tables that even break things down into different ethnic cuisine flavors. Both are good books on herbs, spices, and other flavors.
In the August issue of the Rachel Ray magazine they highlighted an interesting roll-up chalk mat that would be a nice option for entertaining kids, especially when eating out. The product comes via Sam & Bellie and is part of the Jaq Jaq Bird line of eco-friendly educational products for children. I am not sure that this product would keep a kid’s attention any better than Crayons or another type of drawing pad, but with that said it is stylish, reusable, and definitely something different.
One side serves as a placemat (see above) while the other side is a flexible chalk mat to the keep your child entertained. You can use regular chalk on the mat, but the the Sam & Bellie site also sells special colored chalk markers. The cost of the roll-up mats are $30 each and the markers will run you $16. The chalk markers are admittedly rather expensive, but they work like a dry-erase marker and would definitely be less messy.