Fun Dish Sets for Toddlers

November 29, 2006


It’s lunch time at our house. Watching two little girls eating their green beans, rice and chicken while chatting away about school got me thinking.

Melamine dishes are a must-have in our house! Easy to wash and almost indestructable, they’re the perfect solution to messy and busy toddlers who almost always need an excuse to sit at the dinner table.

Above: Doggie Dish Set from Schylling for $14.99.

When I first started buying melamine dishes for Maya, I didn’t realize that I would have to outfit the whole kitchen with these cute dinnerware for tots. With daily playdates and neighbors galore, soon I realized that one set is never enough. So over the last few years, we’ve been shopping for sturdy dinner sets for Maya and her friends.

Of course our girls are partial to anything that has princesses, fairies or butterflies on them.
Left: Fairies & Frogs Dish Set from Schylling for $14.99.
One of my favorite sites also has some great alternatives like the Funky Monkey Dish Set from French Bull for $23.50.


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Whether suffering from sleepless nights or winter skin, this ultimate must-have evens out skin tone with the sheerest coverage. It not only provides just the right amount of hydration to dry cheeks but also protects the whole face from the damaging effects of the sun.

I’ve tried other tinted moisturizers over the last four years and have never found one that provides the needed coverage while still working as a moisturizer. Browse the five available shades on or visit MD Skincare‘s own web site to get additional skincare tips. It’s a pricey commitment at $40 for a 1.7 oz pump but worth every penny! Once you get hooked, you won’t be able to go back.

I am convinced that the first word Maya clearly spoke was “book.” My husband claims it was “baba,” the Turkish word for daddy. Of course!

Maya loved books as an infant, especially to chew them. With my personal fascination with the written word, I wasn’t surprised. Eric Carle, Karen Katz and Sandra Boynton were our favorite authors the first two years. When she started preschool at two and a half, we began ordering from the Scholastic catalogs she would bring home. Our library opened up to new authors, picture books, rhyming books, poems and even books on tape.

One of these great finds is called Wild About Books. Written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown (of Arthur the Aardvark fame), Wild About Books is the story of Molly McGrew who by mistake drives a bookmobile into a zoo. The accomplished librarian that she is, Molly ends up finding the perfect book for all the animals.

This book has won numerous awards in the past three years but don’t be fooled with age suggestions of seven and up. Although I’m sure her understanding of the hidden humor will grow as she gets older, Maya has been able to appreciate this beautifully illustrated book and its rhyming story since she turned three. At the very least, it’s a great excuse to learn a few exotic animal names!

Leapfrog Musical Table

November 25, 2006

Our Leapfrog table went to a new home today. Maya insists that “it’s on loan” until she gets a baby sister or brother, then we have to get it back from Baby Leo.

I can understand the attachment. For nearly two years, this table was the first toy Maya would want to play with almost every morning. I hid Cheerios inside the purple chest when she got it at her first birthday. I think that’s how she got so attached to the table — because of the Cheerios. (Even this morning, she wanted to send off the table with the treasure chest full.)

Leapfrog has come out with a new, bilingual version since. It still works based on the same, basic principle though: flip the page of the book on top and all the buttons and instruments will do something totally different than what they did before. Whether in the LEARNING or MUSIC mode, this table is guaranteed to hold any toddler’s attention for a long time. In fact, one of Maya’s first steps was taken to be able to get to the table — that’s how much she loved this it.

The Leapfrog Table is one of the few annoying and too bright space-hoggers I would buy again. Currently selling for $28.49 on Amazon, it would be money well spent!

To Potty or Not to Potty

November 24, 2006

I was lucky. My daughter shed her diapers after her evening bath one day and never looked back.
The truth: the pressure to pottytrain started the day Maya turned one. My Turkish grandmother would drill me during our weekly chats on the phone and sounded disappointed when Maya showed absolutely no interest. When Maya was eighteen months old, my grandmother came to visit us in New York, but couldn’t get her going either.

So at two, I got Maya the Once Upon a Potty DVD on the recommendation of a friend. Alona Frenkel’s imaginative story about a child’s body and toilet training experience comes in boy or girl versions. You can even get an accompanying book and potty with it. In our version Prudence comes to life in a dated but still charming animation and is followed by a couple of real-life toddlers singing The Potty Song.

After watching it occasionally for a whole summer and reading her favorite potty book “Where’s the Poop?,” Maya finally said goodbye to diapers at age two and a half, days before her first day at preschool.

A year later, Maya’s Baby Bjorn potty is still in our bathroom even though she mostly uses the regular toilet these days. It has served us well! She loved its ocean blue color from day one (her favorite at the time) and I loved that it was so easy to clean. The splatter guard is actually just the right handle for emptying it. Its clean Swedish lines match up with our decorating sensibility (yes, even in the bathroom!) and its no-frills size is perfect for our small apartment.

Pick your favorite color on or Target from $22.99

Baby’s First Toys

November 20, 2006

Maya and I were at Baby Leo’s first birthday party in Pennsylvania this weekend. Leo, Maya and 7-week old Baby Jack are all related through their college-buddy moms and were collectively the center of attention at this mostly-adult event.

What was so amazing is that these three kids are at most two and a half years apart, an age difference that will surely become unnoticable as they grow older. Developmentally they are light years from each other! While Maya, at three and a half, is getting ready to try her hand at 100-piece puzzles, Leo was just beginning take an interest in 4-piece wooden peg puzzles. Jack can barely see whoever is holding him, let alone play with toys.

That got me thinking! It is so important to aid children’s development with age-appropriate toys instead of rushing ahead. I made the mistake with Maya on many an occasion and realized too late sometimes that the toy she wasn’t interested at two would probably rock her world at three. There were some other toys I know I should have kept from her early days since they were probably the best first toys. In retrospect of course.

Here you’ll find some of our favorites from the first six months of our baby’s life. They all stood the test of time and drool, and are probably filling some other baby’s mouth as I write this.

1. Whoozit by Manhattan Toy (as seen above) is $18.99 at It was one of the first toys that grabbed Maya’s attention. It was easy to throw into the diaper bag and guaranteed a good twenty-minute break when I needed one. Easy to wash and also attach to the stroller, the Whoozit is the real deal! Definitely splurge for the big one. It is the more durable version. From 3 months.

2. Another great first-toy maker is Sassy. This 5-piece baby set gets five out of five stars on and was one of Maya’s favorites too. Priced at $14.99, the set is a huge bargain considering you’re only paying about $3 per toy and each one will last through several babies’ teething craze. Durable and clean, this set is a must-have for any diaper bag. From 3 months. Also available at Target.

3. Finally the Miniville stacking puzzle from Haba Toys ($32.99 at Oompa Toys) was Maya’s favorite from the time she could sit up. Based in Germany, Haba Toys are made of the highest quality materials and last for generations. Known to produce age-appropriate yet innovative designs, the company has been using maple and beech wood from European forests to make heirloom-quality wooden toys since 1938. The more recent baby collection also utilizes natural materials including felt and leather.

So definitely check out the huge variety of Haba gems at the amazing online toy boutique Oompa Toys. They’re worth every single penny.

Nesting Blocks to Last

November 15, 2006

After almost four years of toy shopping, it amazes me that I can still find unique toys I’ve never seen before and that Maya will play with over and over again.

We recently acquired the Doll House version of WJ Fantasy’s nesting blocks. These sturdy cardboard blocks measure 6″x6″x6″, are hollow inside and make up the ten rooms of the Doll House when resting on their side. They can also be built into tall towers as the five differently-designed sides of the blocks offer hours of fun.

There are 16 different versions of the building blocks on WJ Fantasy’s web site ranging from $12 to $25. From Mother Goose rhyme characters to alphabet or construction-themed sets, there’s a large variety of artwork for both boys and girls in different age groups.

Once again, even though the web site notes the toy appropriate for ages 3+, I don’t see why a 2-year old couldn’t play with these; especially the Touch and Feel set featuring cute animals. Click here to browse now.