Toys and Games

Unique Toy Stores in Marin

December 11, 2017

Toy CrazyToy Crazy at Marin Country Mart in Larkspur

Here in Marin, we're fortunate to able to choose from many unique and often independent locally owned toy stores. A place where the person behind the counter is usually the owner, a member of the owner’s family, or a longtime manager who knows everything there is to know about toys. There are usually samples out and about—great for play-testing—and there are items guaranteed to bring back a major sense of nostalgia.

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 9+

December 6, 2014

birds glitter boardsFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've also reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers, kids ages 3 to 5, and kids ages 6 to 8.

Ages 9+ Indoor Fun

Birds Glitter Boards
A set to create fantastic sparkly pictures of birds surrounded by wonderful patterns. Use this set to create pictures of different birds surrounded by wonderful patterns, brought to life by the sequins. Designed for older children, this kit is a great way of encouraging them to be creative. $19.99

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 6 to 8

December 1, 2014

plushcraft hedgehogFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've also reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers and kids ages 3 to 5.

Ages 6 to 8 Indoor Fun

Plushcraft Hedgehog
A plush, personal pillow? Perfect! Especially when kids can say, “I made it myself!” Here’s a sweet little fabric-by-number craft project with no sewing required. Over 320 brightly colored fabric pieces are ready to be punched into the pillow with an easy-to-master stylus wand. Kids can rest on their accomplishment! $17.99

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Ages 4 to 5

November 26, 2014

All-in-1 EaselFor our Holiday guide to the hottest toys this season, the toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, put together this list, based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've reviewed the top picks for babies and toddlers on Monday; today, we'll look at indoor fun and active play toys for ages 4 to 5.

Ages 4 to 5 Indoor Fun

All-in-1 Easel
Forget the floor, the kitchen table or–gasp!–the walls. Every little artist needs a proper wooden easel. Adjustable to grow with your pint-sized Picasso, this beauty is double-sided for communal creativity, combining a blackboard and magnetic whiteboard. The top dowel holds a roll of paper nearly 19' long, and three paint pots fit into the bottom shelf. What a work of art! $79.99

Lottie Snow Queen
Lottie is thrilled to receive a party invitation to the Lottieville Masked Ball. Inspired by one of her favorite stories, Lottie decides to dress as a Snow Queen. Wearing a silver, sparkly mask and a magnificent ice blue and frosty white gown studded with silver snowflakes will any of her friends recognize her? $19.99

Hottest Holiday Toys for Kids 2014: Babies & Toddlers

November 24, 2014

fold & go trampolineThanksgiving is nearly here and of course so are the Holidays! As many parents know, finding the perfect gifts for kids can be a challenge, especially when it comes to toys. The toy experts at Five Little Monkeys, a great local independent toy store with locations in Novato, Albany, Walnut Creek, and Burlingame, filled us in again this year to the hottest toys for this Holiday season. Five Little Monkeys' picks are based on what kids seem most excited about, what is showing up at birthday parties, what parents are asking for, and staff favorites!

We've broken down their recommendations into lists for various age groups. First, we'll look at the most popular toys this year for babies and toddlers. Tomorrow, we'll look at toys for ages 4 to 5.

Baby (0 to 1 year)

Bead Maze by Whoozit
Beads on the run! Wooden bead run activity toy features 3 colorful bead runs, rotating gears, mini wooden Whoozit that glides on track, fabric cords and a discovery mirror. Water-based non-toxic finish. $29.99

Holiday Gift Guide: Ugly Dolls

December 13, 2012

Our current roster of Ugly DollsIf you're like us, you're still out there looking for Christmas gifts, and one of our picks this holiday season is the Ugly Doll. These hip and huggable stuffed toys are favorites with many kids, ours included. They're not really ugly, even with their fangs, buck teeth, and missing eyes—they're actually pretty cute—and each one has its own distinct look, personality, and back story. Designed by a husband-and-wife artist team, these adorable and hilarious plush toys are even a hit with older kids who wouldn't be caught dead lugging around a teddy bear.

Ugly Dolls are available in a range of sizes, including clip-ons (about 4 inches tall, ideal for clipping to a backpack zipper pull, and perfect for a stocking stuffer), Little Uglys (about 7 inches), Classic (12 inches), and Jumbo (24 inches). Prices range from $6 to $40, depending on size and availability.

You'll find literally dozens of different Ugly Doll characters in different sizes, shapes, and colors, and part of the fun of shopping for them is trying to figure out which ones best fit your children's personalities. That's our ever-expanding team of Ugly Dolls in the photo above, hanging out on our living room sofa. From left to right: Gerry Berry, clip-on Ninja Batty Shogun, Little Ugly Suddy, Classic Brip, and clip-on Puglee .

The Best Toys for Kids this Holiday Season

November 24, 2010

Folkmanis Golden Retriever Puppy PuppetEvery parent knows that finding a truly great toy can be a challenge, especially when you're trying to find one that's not only fun, but educational as well. For this 2010 holiday season the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has again helped take the guesswork out of toy shopping by compiling their annual Best Toys for Kids list! Nominated and voted on by the toy experts who are members of the ASTRA, the list of winners features a wide variety of toys for just about every age group imaginable. There's an emphasis here on good old-fashioned imaginitive play and fun, so you can feel good about buying these for your children.

We're also happy to see some local companies represented here, like Emeryville's Folkmanis Puppets and San Francisco's Green Toys, Inc.

Mompreneur: Marjun Biernath and Kumquats Puppets

February 3, 2010

Marjun Biernath and Kumquats puppetsMarin mom and entrepreneur Marjun Biernath looked back to her native Germany when trying to find a business niche here in the US. She imports unique, handmade, and educational Kumquats puppets from Europe to sell to lucky families in both the Bay Area and throughout the country.

We asked Marjun to answer a few questions about herself, her family, her business, and Kumquats. You can learn more about Marjun and the complete line of Kumquats puppets by visiting www.kumquats-usa.com.

Get Your LEGO Fix at Play-Well TEKnologies—Parties, Classes, and Drop-in Fun

January 11, 2010

LEGO creation at Play-Well TEKnologies“Wow!” my son shouted as we walked in the door and laid eyes on all the LEGO kits and pieces in the room at Play-Well Teknologies in San Anselmo. We have been trying to visit “the LEGO place” (as my son calls it) and try one of their drop-in open-play sessions for a while now, but something always seemed to come up. We finally made it there last week with some friends for a playdate, and we all had a blast.

Play-Well TEKnologies' Marin Engineering Center features a large area dedicated just for the drop-in play. In fact, it's the largest drop-in LEGO center in the country. My son was in awe—they seemed to have every type of LEGO imaginable. Dozens of bins keep the LEGO pieces, reportedly over a million in all, organized by color, size, type, or theme, including wheels, ships, planes, engines, pirates and much, much more.

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