Robots, Fish, Dolls. Janod Toys

A plethora of subscription boxes reaches our door every month, much to my husband’s chagrin.  One of the best parts of the subscription service is that it introduces you to brands or products you might have otherwise have never known about.  Which, is also the downside, because you suddenly realize that you “need” coughmarketingatitsbestcough more of that otherwise unknown product.   Sure, there are duds in the boxes and another subject for another post is how certain subscription services continually send Lana stuff that is geared toward itty bitty babies.  We don’t need yet another stuffed rattler positioned as “Lana needs to learn how to look at herself in a rattle with a mirror at age 19 months because…”  yeah, nice try.  Anyway, like usual, I digress.

In a couple of the various boxes, predominantly Little P’nuts, there have been a couple of Janod toys.  I knew nothing of Janod.  But, after receiving a couple of puzzles or other toys, I looked them up on Amazon.  You know, my favorite website of all time and the bane of my mailman’s existence.  Ahem.  Most of the toys are designed in France, are wooden and toxic free.  Many feature magnets as well.  The brand as a whole, doesn’t push gender-ification of the toys.  Here are a couple of examples of the items that have made it into our home either by subscription or by moi purchasing it (like what I did there with the French ;P).

Janod Helicopter & Rocket Magnetic kit with Coloring Book:

Janod Helicopter & Rocket

Janod Robot Magnets: (we have the Doll version too)Janod Robots

Janod Fish PuzzleJanod Fish Puzzle  Janod Stack & Link Turtles:   Janod Stack & LinkJanod Zoo & Forest Puzzles (we only have the zoo one): Janod Puzzles

There are probably a couple other toys in our house that I am forgetting about, but this at least gives you a general overview of their products.  It seems they have an extensive product line, but I really have only had to be exposed to age appropriate for a kid who puts pieces in her mouth still.

* p.s. nappies + milk does list products via Amazon to help pay for hosting and blog related costs

Mall Entertainment

I suppose I always knew there was “Mall Entertainment.”  Somehow though, it never pertained to me, even though I vividly recall the Mallrats scene, involving a mall and a TV show.  Chocolate pretzels have never been the same for me, but I digress.  Facebook as an app seems to be smarter than I am these days and shows me content that I actually would click on, in direct contrast of how I used to actively avoid clicking on any suggested ad or post.  The other day, Ella The Elephant’s Live Show at a local mall was suggested as an event I attend.  Okay, I will bite, click.

Sure enough, Ella is coming to one of our local malls today, but of course, it is during the hours I need to be at work.  I can’t really justify having Ella-phantitis to take today off, cough cough, so I asked my aunt if she would take Lana to see one of the show times.  She obliged and hopefully will send me a picture or two as I daydream about missing this moment with my daughter while I frenetically attempt to meet deadline after deadline.  I suppose having a kids’ Live Show on the weekend might draw Easter Bunny or Santa Clause level crowds, but I can’t possibly be the only working parent who would enjoy taking my kid to something like this?  If we want to be stereotypical for discussion purposes, so all of the SAHM (stay-at-home-moms) get to take their littles, but no daddy wants to see their little mesmerized by a dancing Ella? (I am being provocative, so SAHD readers please don’t bite my metaphorical head off ;P).

So, if you are a caretaker during the week of little ones, check out these free events that travel throughout the malls of our country, providing entertainment to our little ones!  Often, they have crafts, photograph opportunities and various activities.  I never had considered the mall for entertainment until Facebook suggested I do so. Clever, clever Facebook.  Knowing what I want before I even know I want it!

For the Socal readers:

Ella the Elephant is at the Westfield Culver City this Thursday – September 18th

Curious George StoryTime at the Palm Desert Westfield’s Barnes & Noble – Saturday, September 20th

Elf on The Shelf StoryTime at the Palm Desert Westfield’s Barnes & Noble – Saturday, September 27th

Peppa the Pig is at the Westfield Culver City on Friday, October 3rd

Playdate with Anna from Frozen at the Westfield Century City on Thursday, October 9th

Brobee of Yo Gabba Gabba is coming on October 16th to the MainPlace Mall


For all other areas and if you want to find non-kid events like say, the local Williams & Sonoma hosting a knife skills class (it’s a thing at the Fashion Square Westfield Mall!):  then go to the main Westfield page and scroll to the bottom to “change Westfield” to find your local Westfield Events.  There are lots of Happy Hour events for mamas needing some adult time!

I searched Simon Malls but their website didn’t have a lot of events at our local malls.  I did find this:

Kidgits – “themed crafts& activities, giveaways and much more”

Saturday, September 20th at the Brea Mall – this mall also boasts a new Kidgits play area – Located on the Lower Level Near Macy’s Women

Saturday, November 8th at the Westminster Mall in the Target Court




Dress Up Dolls

Let me preface this post with, I am not an Alex Toys affiliate, whatsoever!*  My previous post about the Alex Toys’ craft kits were purely coincidental!

A few months back, I bought the Alex Toys – Learn To Dress Kitty on Amazon.  Lana was starting to show curiosity toward buttons, zippers and snaps, so Dress Up Kitty seemed like a perfect fit.  Normally, I wouldn’t pick an obvious gendered toy, but in this case, Kitty wasn’t terribly “girly.”  Alex Toys does have the Learn to Dress Monkey as an option too.  For months, Lana would randomly play with Kitty, but about a week ago, Kitty became her favorite toy.  Kitty has been going with Lana in the car, to my aunt’s house, pretend plays with Lana, and even sleeps with Lana.  Kitty sits next to Lana during bedtime storytime, and we remove Kitty’s shoes for bedtime!  At first, my husband was worried we were allowing something bad, but I explained that this is great for her to pretend and use her imagination with Kitty.  Somehow Kitty has also assisted in calming the sleeping issues we have had recently.  Once when Lana was hysterical during bedtime, after asking Lana if she was scared, she hugged me and then I asked Kitty the same thing.  Lana immediately started gently petting Kitty, followed by a huge.  It was so sweet and innocent!  Maybe I am screwing Lana up by personifying Kitty, but I am trying to teach Lana how to express what she is feeling.  Lana laid down and hugged Kitty all night.

I’ve seen Lana reading to Kitty, showing her how to color, talking to Kitty while playing and even sharing a cup of pretend tea with her.  Hopefully I am not writing about Lana in 12 years and how she won’t part with Kitty on her first day of Junior High.  I kid!

While researching for this post’s images and media, I stumbled upon a fairly hilarious Alex Toys’ item.  GIANT Dress Up Kitty!  Lana’s Kitty is already almost as big as her, I can’t even fathom a GIANT one?!!?  For nearly $200???  That’s terrifying and expensive!  Can you imagine waking up to a giant kitty looking at you??  Maybe I have seen too many Puppetmasters or Chucky movies?Giant Kitty

But, on the upside, today I discovered that on Alex Toys’ website, they have free printables and a great search function by age and type in their toy section.  That being said, Amazon and Target usually have better prices, Kitty is nearly $44 on Alex Toys’ site and in contrast is $29 on Amazon.  Today, I did read the reviews for Kitty on Amazon and people mention the snaps coming off or being poorly made, we haven’t had any issues related to that, but I will agree with other reviewers that the button is frustratingly difficult for little hands.  Here is the promo video of Monkey & Kitty by Alex Toys:

There are many other brands and options, some with well known characters, like say Elmo as a dress up, learning toy.  Montessori has gear for sale that is supposedly superior to Kitty and all dress up dolls (based off reviews out there by Montessori teachers, so that’s biased).  You can find the Montessori frames all over the internet, but here is an example off youtube:

For a comprehensive overview of the stages of learning to dress themselves, I find this the more encompassing and informative:

All in all, Lana is only 19 months, so I am not as concerned with imposing the Montessori ways or spending a ton of time trying to get her to figure out buttons and zippers (she can unzip my purse now, egads!), so Kitty works well for now.  As time progresses, I will look at other options if she isn’t where she should be developmentally.  But for now… I leave you with a picture of Lana in my trainers:

Lana with Mama's Shoes

*disclaimer – nappies + milk is an Amazon Affiliate to help pay for the site costs

Homemade Foam – Easy Sensory Fun

As a working mom, making an intentional giant mess isn’t always in the cards. First off, we don’t have a lot of free time to prepare for some of the sensory activities on many of the mommy blogs. Secondly, I don’t have a craft arsenal begging for use. Thirdly, cleanup has to be considered, because of the same reason for the first point.

I’ve noticed lately that Lana loves squishing and poking at various food. Watermelon squeezed and smushed, spaghetti poked and swirled, and the list goes on. I knew my baby girl needed some sensory freedom without a caregiver intervening.

I searched around for any sensory activities but homemade foam made a lot of sense. Simple, check. Supplies on hand, check. Space on our patio, check. Labor Day weekend with some free time, check! I setup Lana’s water table that we had bought for her earlier in the summer. While she was playing, I whipped up two pink batches and then a couple of the blue batches. I had read the comments on the site I found the recipe and many stated the Dawn soap, often recommended for homemade foam, burns little eyes. I first tried the Burt’s Bees Bubble Bath that we have, but the foam wasn’t as fluffy, so I swapped to the Dapple soap we use for Lana’s dishes. Instead of food coloring, I used some of the color tablets we use at bath time. Voile! Success and she was free to squish, throw, and dump the foam as she wished!

I found the initial recipe here:



Ladybug Art

Tots Art Start

Full disclosure, we do take Lana to Gymboree Art Level 1 on the weekends.  We recently swapped from the Play and Learn class after she turned 18 months and due to the timing and how it hit her nap schedule.

That being said, lately, I feel as though I default to iPad and TV while trying to prep dinner.  Sometimes, we cook “together” but I worry considerably when she is under my feet while the stove is going and I have my hands on a knife.  We had an incident months ago where she grabbed a knife on the counter and sliced her index finger a little bit, so I am overly cautious now.  After perusing Amazon and Zulily one day (another story for another day, but I am an online shopper to the nth degree due to being a working mom with multiple balls in the air at any given time, hehe hear my rationalizations for the plethora of boxes that show up at our doorstep?), I spotted the Alex Jr. Tots Art Start kits.  Most of them are geared for 18m+ so I grabbed a couple via Zulily and waited the obligatory 2-3 weeks for arrival.  They showed up on Tuesday! Tuesday night, before I could even get the box open, Ladybug had spotted the package and was eagerly trying to assist me as I opened the box.  I pulled out one of the simpler kits, setup Lana up near the end of the kitchen and she created art while I cooked.  It was a nice way to still spend time with her but keep her from being under my feet and potentially in harm’s way.

Sure you could buy your own craft stuff, but I don’t have the space nor the time to really think it out, at least not for now.  Perhaps after working through these kits and going to Gymboree’s Art class for a bit, I will be able to do it all myself, but for now, this is AWESOME mommy and me time while I work on getting dinner on the table after a long day at work.

I have no affiliation with Gymboree nor Alex Jr. but here are a couple of the kits that we have now in the house:

Lacking a yard?

We live amidst the typical Southern California urban sprawl.  Tucked inside of our three story townhome that was built in a tightly packed community.  Sure we have tennis courts, a pool and two spas, but there isn’t a single playground or grassy patch that would break down the gremlin energy Lana has to burn.  I love being outside, and we try to take her to the beach or to parks, but that fool eats sand.  Yep, every single time I think “wow I have a genius on my hands,” she licks the sand, expresses her displeasure with the sandy mouth and then does it again!  I digress.

In Southern California, lots of indoor trampoline type places have popped up whether it be a “Sky” place or a bounce house style, but consistently they all get low ratings on imposing their rules against older kids in the toddler areas.  Let’s be clear here, I have to take Lana on the weekends and usually that correlates to larger than average crowds.  Chasing her around an indoor bounce house wouldn’t be so bad, if I also wasn’t having to block and prevent tackles from older, much larger children all while trying to remind Lana that she needs to share and/or wait her turn.  EXHAUSTING.

Thankfully, in our community there are a couple of alternatives.  Pretend City is one of them, and while it can get busy, the price and location keeps it relatively manageable.  Pretend City is a non-profit children’s museum.  While most of the events and classes are during the work week, the weekends are fun to visit and even reasonable in pricing to consider for a birthday party.  Secondly, there is a new kid on the block called We Play Loud.  We Play Loud has only been open about a month, but the 50+ Yelp reviews are stellar.  Their website has a few broken links and kinks, but I am certain over time, that will all be resolved.  I love that you can fill out all of the registration information online and avoid trying to temper your toddler’s potential tantrum as you try to rebuff the unfettered attempts to break free and run! 

I highly recommend googling or searching yelp for various Children’s Museums in your area that have tactile play, but also, indoor complexes that don’t just bank on the bounce house and/or trampoline experience.