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Face-Off: Silk Slings Baby Product and Kid Product Reviews on Babble.com

 

Face-Off: Silk Slings 

Oopa Baby vs. Sakura Bloom

As luxury items go, silk slings make a certain amount of sense; in addition to being comfortable and looking fabulous, silk is the strongest natural fiber in the world. We asked a friend and her two-month-old baby to try out two of the swankest slings on the market, despite her insistence that they were too nice to be drooled on.

If you’re looking for a sling that turns heads, you can’t do much better than the Oopa Baby ($119-$200). The vivid colors and Pucci-esque prints make this sling a stunning accessory, especially if you wear a lot of neutrals. (If your wardrobe is heavy on colors and prints, you may want to choose one of Oopa’s less expensive solid designs.) All slings are outfitted with a small zipper pocket and color-coordinated metal rings. Unfortunately, our tester found that the Oopa didn’t feel as good as it looked. The fabric cut uncomfortably into her neck and shoulders, yet didn’t seem tight enough around the baby. (It should be noted that our tester was on the petite side, so perhaps a smaller size would have made for a comfier fit.) And the Oopa is high-maintenance; it needs to be cleaned by hand.

The pricier Sakura Bloom sling ($240-$360) is reversible and machine-washable (though not dryer-safe). While it’s made of a heftier silk than the Oopa, our tester found that it kept her baby less sweaty on summer days than the lightweight polyester sling she’d been using. The fabric stayed in place – no tugging or slipping – and was soft enough to wear comfortably all day. Because there’s so much fabric, it’s possible that a newborn would get a little lost in this sling; however, the two-month-old who tested it was perfectly happy. In other words, it’s sturdy, wearable year-round and simple to care for. The website calls it “a functional work of art,” and that’s pretty much the case. Of course, with its triple-digit price tag, it certainly should be. – Gwynne Watkins

 

Two of a Kind: Shower Gifts

Finding the right baby shower gift can be tricky, especially if the expecting parents have gone the no-registry route. These two gifts are suitable for almost any shower – and they both manage to look extravagant while being secretly, entirely practical.

Bloomers Diaper Cakes – $68- $112

These seem to be a favorite among A-listers like Debra Messing and Julia Roberts, but you don’t often see them on the shower circuit. Every new mom needs diapers, but somehow wrapping up a package of forty-eight size smalls lacks a sense of elegance. True, there are websites that give you instructions on how to make one of these bad boys yourself, but if you weren’t blessed with the crafty gene (as I wasn’t), check out the beautiful collection of two- and three-tiered diapers cakes at Bloomers, all garnished with silk flowers and topped with a keepsake ornament. – Katie Bayless

The Baby Bunch – $50-$70

For a gift that’s sure to inspire some double-takes, pick The Baby Bunch. This charming bouquet of silk flowers contains an entire starter wardrobe – a bib, a T-shirt, a hat, a onesie and several pairs of socks – cleverly rolled up to look like roses. The presentation is flawless, right down to the box it’s shipped in, and the cotton baby clothes (particularly the organic variety) are blessedly soft. And hey, if you happen to be the shower host, this can be your gift and your centerpiece. – Gwynne Watkins

 

Baby Carrier Face-Off, Part 2: K’tan vs. Ergo

We’ve been lucky enough to try out several different kinds of baby carriers in our home, and unlike other dubious baby products hawked to the masses of new parents, I think these devices are genuinely useful. Why lug around that huge stroller when you can strap on one of these? Well, the reason, we’ve learned, is that after a while, you get tired and sore from carrying around your little sack of sugar, and even the best carriers and slings are somewhat restrictive. These two brands claim to offer the best possible infant-carrying experience, so we tried them both out.

I’ll start with the K’tan ($55). This is, to my taste, one of the more attractive carriers around. It doesn’t have a lot of buckles and strange designs and padding, so parents who wear it generally don’t look foolish. It employs the simplicity of the cool “sling” design, while using two straps instead of one to share the load with both shoulders, sort of like the all-popular (but ugly) Björn (see a recent review below). It’s the best of both worlds! Except it’s super difficult to put on. It’s like some kind of puzzle and if you don’t have the directions in front of you, you probably won’t succeed. My wife left for a walk with this thing on and returned five minutes later because she’d put it on wrong. This is a drawback with a squirming baby.

The Ergo ($92), on the other hand, is easier to load up. It has two big padded straps for your shoulders and has gotten very high marks from all of our hippie-type friends with kids. They like its versatility (you can use it on your back, too) and (perhaps obviously) its ergonomic design. It really is the most comfortable carrier we’ve found. Drawbacks: it doesn’t look that cool, what with all that padding, and it spreads your kid’s legs kind of wide, so it might be a stretch for the chubby or small-legged. Also, it doesn’t allow for the popular “facing out” option, although personally I think babies look silly and helpless like that, like big ornaments. But that’s just my opinion. Overall, I’d say go with the Ergo, unless you really crave simplicity and fashionable perks – in which, case you must be willing to put up with the yoga-type moves necessary to enter and extract yourself from the K’tan. – Arthur Bradford

Burp Catcher

During the many sleepless nights when my son was first born, I often wondered aloud why they didn’t make a burp cloth with a catcher’s mitt at the end. When my son spit up, it was like the flood dams being released and no amount of absorbent cloth was going to soak up the outburst before it cascaded down my back. Wouldn’t you know – someone invented something that solves this very woe. The ingenious BurpCatcher has a pocket at one end of the cloth, carefully cradling the precious “present” from your newborn. Available in flannel or fleece, and a trio of colors, rest assured that the higher price ($10) will be offset by your decreased dry cleaning bills. – Katie Bayless

Starfish Bathtub Thermometer

This cute starfish-shaped piece of plastic ($15) performs two functions: it emits a shrill alarm when submerged, thus preventing you from over-filling the tub, and it displays the exact temperature of the water, so you don’t burn your baby’s sensitive skin. I’ll address function number one first: the suction cup, like most suction cups I’ve encountered in bathtub/shower situations, is unreliable. The starfish kept falling into the water, causing the alarm to go off too soon. Plus, if you’re far away, you likely won’t hear the alarm over the filling water; it isn’t that loud. Functio1n number two: the thermometer works fine, but really, can’t we just feel the water and know when it’s too hot for our baby? To be honest, I don’t even know what the proper temperature is, number-wise, but I do know when things are too hot. However, my wife disagrees with me on this point, and she often thinks I’m going to do something careless and maim our child – so I was pleased to show her actual scientific proof that I am not an idiot.- Arthur Bradford

 

Baby Carrier Face-Off, Part 1: Björn vs. Jeep

BabyBjörn Baby Carrier

While toting our four-month-old through the neighborhood one day, my husband ran into a friend who was toting his six-month-old. “Is that a Björn?” our friend said. My husband was about to reply that it was, but we’d gotten it off Craigslist for $5 and the labels were all peeled off, when our friend smacked his own head and said, “Jesus. That woman walking by just heard me ask you that. How stupid did that sound: ‘Is that a Björn?’ No wonder everyone hates us.” The Björn ($70-$90) is ubiquitous and the Eurotrashy name is, indeed, embarrassing to utter in mixed company. And, at $80, it’s become a symbol of all things baby-trendy. However, it’s also hard to beat for design and convenience if you choose to go the way of the non-sling carrier. It’s very sturdy and accommodates babies of many sizes. You can face your baby in for down time or out to charm passersby. And it’s so form-fitting and sturdy, you can run down the subway stairs without waking him up.

Jeep 2-in-1 Baby Carrier

But there is competition: the Jeep 2-in-1 Carrier ($40) is half the price and just as good. There is a dopey-looking zipper panel in the front, supposedly for a little extra air (and potentially a crazy-looking tan) on hot, sticky days. Depending on your build, it may be more or less comfortable than the Björn. I couldn’t really tell the difference, but my husband said it cut into his ribs a bit once the baby got close to twenty pounds, whereas my friend Lauren said it better suited her petite frame. In any case, it’s light and well-made and the Jeep label is sewn in on every available surface, so no one will ever mistake it for a you-know-what. – Ada Calhoun

Stroll-A-Tune

The sound is a little tinny, sure, and if you place your iPod too close to the speaker, the whole thing sounds more like a beeping car alarm than a portable stereo. But if you’re dealing with a meltdown that no amount of milk, Cheerios or chewable morphine will cure, then the Stroll-a-Tune ($30) may be the perfect stroller toy for you. Just cue the music and watch the meltdown dissolve with the blissful, calming melodies of Gwar (or whatever your kid likes). In the beginning I wanted to mock the Stroll-a-Tune. How hard is it, I wondered, for a parent and child to simply talk? Does technology need to follow us to the stroller, too? Then I installed the stereo (it took a half hour, mostly because I’m as mechanically inclined as my one-year-old) and was pleasantly surprised to find myself singing out loud on the street and seeing my daughter actually enjoy it. If you can’t live without music or if your kid can’t live with your voice (or simply doesn’t react well to chewable morphine), then this gizmo is for you. Don’t let the cheap-looking packaging fool you – it works better than it looks. – Mike Adamick

The Mommy Hook

On its face, the Mommy Hook ($5) looks like an oversized and (thankfully) under-priced rock-climbing carabiner – something you can pick up at any reasonable sporting goods store. “What a crock,” I said, put out by yet another common product slapped with a “mommy” label and marketed toward The Parent Who Must Have Everything. Then I gave it a try. It wasn’t half bad. I hooked it on my stroller and went shopping, grateful that the hook gave me some spare storage space when the bottom of the stroller filled to the brim. When I got home, I unclipped the hook and used it to carry all the grocery bags inside with one hand. The cushy handle, I found, was actually quite comfortable – at least, more comfortable than the death grip of a thousand plastic bag handles strangling my wrist. I wouldn’t advise rushing out to buy The Mommy Hook; it didn’t actually open the door for me or offer to babysit, so it wasn’t that useful. But if you’ve got five bucks to spare and you do a lot of shopping, it might just come in handy. – Mike Adamick

The Bobo Glove

You’ve gotta give the folks at Bobo Central credit for promotional chutzpah. They are shilling what amounts to a souped-up gardening glove as “the world’s first fully interactive, sensory-stimulating, touch-sensitive, portable, wearable, audio-visual entertainment system made exclusively for babies.” Awesome! Our five-month-old did, in fact, find The Bobo Glove ($19) fascinating for a brief time. And I feel confident that she would have loved the glove if the rubber teething ring, or the plastic pull toy, had been located on one of the fingertips, rather than (bizarrely) on the wrist. That way she could have gnawed away while enjoying the rattle or the squeaker or any one of the several other noisemaking doodads on this very busy little glove. As it was, she got tired of chewing on the doodads, which are covered in fabric. My wife and I did appreciate the basic ingenuity of the BG, as well as the fact that it doesn’t require batteries. But our baby thinks a redesign is in order. – Steve Almond

Babesta Bottle Hugger

The function of the Babesta Bottle Hugger ($10) is threefold: it helps your baby get a grip on her bottle, maintains the temperature of the beverage inside and protects the bottle from breaking when your kid flings it across the room. Of course, all three things could be accomplished just as easily without the stuffed duck apparatus, but then it wouldn’t be so cute and theoretically appealing to your child.Our daughter was not a huge fan of the duck-shaped Bottle Hugger, but she’s still a little young for such things. So we gave it to another set of parents, who told us that their son really liked it. It wasn’t that convincing a claim, though, and when we grilled them, the father revealed that he’d been mainly using the Bottle Hugger as a beer holder. My wife and I thought of a few other unorthodox uses, none of which is appropriate to mention in a parenting magazine. Seriously, don’t a lot of baby products seem like they’re intended for something naughtier?- Arthur Bradford

Timboo Hooded Towel

There’s a bathtub in our cramped Brooklyn apartment, but the sink is too close to kneel by it – so I bathe the baby in the kitchen sink, then hustle her to a waiting towel in the bedroom to dry off. Before we got the Timboo hooded towel from Baby Dagny ($28), some part of this drying-off process used to make my daughter cry – maybe the towel I was using was too scratchy, or the color palette a little dull. But since the arrival of this insanely soft, bright green towel, I’m not exaggerating, she hasn’t cried once. Whether she knows that bamboo is nature’s most sustainable resource (some species grow four feet a day), or just really appreciates a soft towel, who knows? I’m just psyched she likes the hypoallergenic, non-chemical, antimicrobial version, and that for once it isn’t twice the price. – Deirdre Dolan

Bummis Cotton Diapering Kit

For parents who are self-conscious about their carbon footprint, cloth diapers are a clear, if intimidating, choice. Luckily, Bummis makes it easy, with user-friendly diapers that won’t have you yearning for those landfill-clogging disposables. The company’s cotton diapering kit ($120-$160) includes enough diapers and covers to get you started, as well as extensive – and comprehensible! – directions about how to wash, fold and attach them. They even have a toll-free number for the diapering-challenged among us. The cost is a fraction of what you’d pay for Pampers, especially when you consider that you can use them again with siblings. We were also impressed with their new Bamboozle line – diapers made of bamboo, which is naturally antibiotic and absorbent enough to last through the night. These will cost you up to $20 a pop, but it’s worth it. They make your baby look like Bam-Bam from the Flintstones! – Erin Almond

 

Wipe Warmer Face-Off: Safety First vs. Prince Lionheart

There are some things baby can’t do without: diapers, food, shelter, your undying love. Then there are “must have” items that seem a bit suspect, especially while you’re still pregnant. For instance, a wipe warmer – you know, so baby can get his little butt wiped in balmy tropical grandeur. Ridiculous! At least we aren’t wiping butts with leaves and twigs anymore; room temperature wipes will do just fine, thank you very much! Then comes baby, he poops, it’s winter, your hands are freezing and you have to clean him up with an ice-cold wipe.

The world of modern convenience beckons. Feeling like an entitled brat from Monaco, I buy the Safety First Especially for Baby Wipe Warmer ($20) from Babies-R-Us. It hangs just off the changing table, and comes with a “bonus diaper organizer.” The hole your fingers reach through to retrieve a toasty wipe is heart-shaped. Life is good. Then Daddy uses it. The heart-shaped hole is too small for his bigger, faster, more impatient fingers, he yanks out the plastic piece and tosses it over his shoulder. Within a week, the lid is broken from his flipping it up like he’s popping the hood of our car. The wipes dry up and now Mommy’s pissed.

Meanwhile, across town, my friend Carie and her son Ike are enjoying booty-wiping bliss with the Prince Lionheart Ultimate Wipe Warmer ($22). (Pretty serious name for such an un-profound, but definitely Crusader-worthy, item.) Shaped more like a tissue box, the warmer allows each wipe to be pulled out with ease, leaving the next ready for plucking. It even comes with an Ever Fresh System – a thing on the bottom to keep wipes moist. Hallelujah.

So, I’m here to tell you that unless you live near the equator, where a cool, refreshing wipe on the bum is much appreciated, you, too, may wind up with a wipe warmer. Stick to a straightforward model like the Prince Lionheart, especially if Daddy approaches diaper changing like he’s roping a calf. – Ondine Galsworth

Sophie Giraffe

Despite the fact that our six-month-old daughter is teething up a storm – and drooling the approximate contents of Lake Tahoe on a daily basis – we cannot get her to bite onto just anything. Josie has turned away all manner of ready-to-freeze/pediatrician-approved teething devices. Thus, we did not greet Sophie Giraffe ($19) with high hopes. Sure, it’s “handmade in the French Alps.” And it comes in a cool box covered in swanky French adspeak. But it’s basically a squeak toy in the shape of a giraffe. Le grand whoop. Imagine our glee, then, when our little saliva factory immediately chomped onto Sophie’s head and let out a joyous yelp. (Our daughter, that is, not Sophie.) In fact, Sophie has become just about all our daughter wants to chew on these days, aside from our fingers. We figure this is fine, because the product is “all natural rubber” and, as instructed, we washed it before handing it to her. At seven inches tall, with lots of thin limbs, Sophie is also incredibly easy to latch onto – a crucial quality for Josie, who loves to use her hands, but hasn’t quite sussed out the cause-and-effect pattern of loosening her grip. There is always the concern that our daughter might grow up with an insatiable hunger for giraffe head. Until her teeth come in, we’re willing to take that risk. – Steve Almond

JeJe Therapeutic Teether

While this intensely vibrating rubber ring ($13) resembles nothing so much as a marital aid, it is in fact designed to massage a teething baby’s gums. As anyone with a teething baby knows, anything that gives even a shred of relief is worth having around. And this teether seemed to be a pleasant enough distraction for my five-month-old tester. It’s easy to grip and has a nice, gnaw-able texture. (It also vibrates for seven minutes before shutting off, and so conveniently doubles as an egg timer.) The only problem: it’s kind of heavy. In his urgency to get it to his mouth, my son occasionally whacked himself in the head with it – distracting him momentarily from his gum pain, but by no means alleviating it. – Ada Calhoun

BabyBeReady Pre-Packed Diaper Bag and Babysparewear Travel Packs

While the Boy Scouts hold the monopoly on “be prepared,” it’s not a bad motto for new parents. Sure, you can probably manage an outing with a few diapers stashed in a Ziploc bag, but with these much-more-stylish options, why bother?

For neophyte parents who panic at the thought of leaving the house, the BabyBeReady pre-packed diaper bag ($99) has got your back. Everything you’ll need for a first outing is neatly zipped inside a durable carryall, which is a snap to keep clean (all bags are covered, inside and out, with PVC vinyl). The full arsenal includes a rattle/teether, bottle, pacifier and case, sun hat, travel wipes, onesie, bib, three diapers, a burp cloth and a changing pad. It’s enough to make even an absolute beginner feel like a seasoned pro. Patterns range from conventionally cute to pleasantly modern, plus the requisite dad-friendly camouflage.

One of the less pleasant surprises of new parenting is the “poopsplosion”– a mess that even a super-absorbent diaper can’t contain. That’s why most caregivers tote along a spare outfit, usually something generic and mismatched that get wadded up at the bottom of a diaper bag and forgotten until disaster strikes. Break the cycle with Babysparewear’s sleek, modern outfits for trendy tots ($42). The zero-to-six-month spare kit includes two eye-catching tees and a coordinating pair of pants, but the best part is the packaging: each set is tucked into a handy plastic zip-pouch. With these comfy outfits at the ready, messy accidents finally have a plus side. – Nicole Feliciano

The Floor Nanny

In my house, we love floor pillows. My children are constantly moving these big things around the house and making places to sit or play from them, so the Floor Nanny ($75) fit right in with us. The square cutout in the center is perfect for keeping a rolling infant at bay, or in our case, providing a cozy nest for a toddler. In fact, my youngest loves to crawl into it with a blanket, where he covers himself carefully, hangs his head over the edge and sighs with satisfaction. My older children have gotten into the act as well, and the Floor Nanny has alternately been a boat, a house, a roof and the lead in several plays. I love the retro polka dots, and the handles make it easy to sling around. If you’ve got the space, this one’s a keeper. – Karen Murphy

Kukunest Bedding

The designers of Kukunest artisan-crafted bedding ($35-$119), parents themselves, set out to create a line of children’s bedding with a visually arresting aesthetic. The result is so hypnotic to my kids that I find myself believing all the hype about how they inspire creativity and imagination as well as a good night’s sleep. As a bonus, the high-quality cotton is soft and snuggly and Oko-Tex certified (meaning free from harmful or allergenic chemicals). Of course, my kids just like “sleeping in the ocean with the jellyfish.” – Stefania Pomponi Butler

Enchantmints Fairy Folding Boxes

Enchantmints, a magical toy company based in the heart of Northern California wine country, describes their products as having been designed according to the principles of “goodness, beauty and truth.” That may be true, but as soon as my preschooler saw the Fairy Folding Boxes ($13 each), she fuh-reaked out. My daughter (a.k.a High Priestess of the Girly-Girls) ripped the package out of my hands, unsnapped the four folding boxes and exclaimed, “Look! There’s a surprise in every box!” And sure enough, each petite box contained a different winged fairy encased in its own colorful satin bag. She spent the afternoon playing “house” with them. She chose “the prettiest one” for herself and the “other one” to be her sister. I tried to interject something about which fairy was the smartest, most socially-just one, but really, I was just delighted that these weren’t Polly Pockets. The boxes are lovingly crafted, each with a different homey scene, and the fairy figurines have just enough colors and sparkles to entrance a preschooler for a rainy afternoon. – Stefania Pomponi Butler

PlajaPets Plush Pet Friends

You know how you keep two kids under the age of five occupied for a good long time while you cook dinner, grab a shower or sneak a peek at Babble? You give them PlajaPets Plush Pet Friends (3 for $53) to play with, that’s how. PlajaPets are adorable stuffed toys with removable heads and tails that kids can mix, match and rearrange to make imaginative combinations of hybrid animals. My gals were quickly in hysterics making “fish-ducks” and headless creatures. The parts attach with magnets that are sewn into the animals themselves, so there are no parts to get lost or broken. PlajaPets have a quizzical, light-hearted (read: goofy) look, and are undeniably delightful. My daughters give them two tails up.- Stefania Pomponi Butler

Aden + Anais Australian Muslin Baby Wraps

Our daughter doesn’t particularly like being swaddled, but these compact, easily stowable fabric wraps (4 for $42) are still a big hit in our house. Made of that material one associates with foreign countries and hot weather, the wraps double as lightweight blankets and breezy bassinet covers. The fabric is printed with excellently classy patterns (so says my wife, who has very good taste) and soaks up baby barf quite well. If you’re a swaddler, the material is well-suited for tightly binding even the squirmiest babies – although if you’re used to those specially cut wraps with Velcro fasteners on them, you may find these big squares of fabric intimidating. – Arthur Bradford

The Cuddle Sleeve

Everyone who saw the bulky Cuddle Sleeve ($50) asked us the same question: “What’s that thing for?” The idea, as explained by the enthusiastic Arizona mother who invented it, is to provide a comfortable padded surface to cover the crook of your arm as you hold the baby – while protecting your child from those nasty germs which apparently can be transferred from people’s arms and sleeves. The literature suggests that parents carry this puffy sleeve with them and, when strangers ask to hold the baby, make them wear the Cuddle Sleeve to keep things sterile. (Personally, I’ve found that it’s awkward enough just asking people to wash their hands.) While the Cuddle Sleeve is actually quite comfortable once it’s on, it’s not practical for the quick pick-ups and transfers involved with typical baby care. The pastel material screams “suburban mom,” so I’d imagine this product won’t go over so well with style-conscious urbanites. . . then again, that’s what I thought about those ubiquitous Boppy nursing pillows. – Arthur Bradford

Monkey Museum Custom Monkey Portraits

When I was six, I was forced to sit still for several million hours while a semi-talented local artist rendered me in oil pastels. The strangely haggard formal portrait resulting from these sessions bore a closer resemblance to Anne Frank than to me, and eventually ceded its place of honor to a gilt-framed likeness of my stepfather’s Labrador retriever.

Mercifully, our experience with the Monkey Museum ran to the opposite extreme. The kids ran amok in the playground while I uploaded their school pictures to the museum’s website, the first step in a process that can turn up to five family members, including pets, into monkeys (paintings start at $200, posters at $65). A few weeks later, the Fed Ex man delivered the gorgeous original painting you see to the left. Sticklers will note that they’re not so much monkeys, as monkey suits. Like that matters! The artist has managed to capture something essential regarding both children’s natures as well as their relationship to each other. A mother couldn’t ask for more. – Ayun Halliday

Potty Monkey, Your Potty Training Pal

My youngest daughter has always been curious about the potty, but her love affair began in earnest the first time she pushed the “flush” button on the mini-toilet that comes with Potty Monkey ($36) . And how could anyone resist? It’s just big enough for the adorable monkey (who comes with a pair of big kid pants AND a diaper) to practice on. The set also includes a book with the usual encouraging messages about pee and poo, but it is ultimately the tiny toilet that won hearts in my house. All three girls (even the potty-trained) routinely fight over it: “No, give ME the monkey toilet! I said please!” As a parent who has experienced the joys of diaper changing well into the preschool years, I’m thrilled that Potty Monkey might save us from a similar fate with our 22-month-old. – Rachael Brownell

Pr’maxx Baby-Bag Sling

What drew us to the Pr’maxx Baby-Bag Sling ($50) was its rugged good looks – my husband wanted to look less whipped than the other baby-bonding neighborhood dads. But what made us grow weirdly attached was the fact that it’s a sleeping machine. Sure, we tried other slings, but they all required a lot of fussing and shifting, and could only still a squiggling baby for so long. Made by a Dutch company, this miracle sling has more in common with a knapsack, most happily the reasonable price. It has drawstrings that can be let out for a perfectly smooth crib transfer, and pockets big enough for a bottle, wallet or keys. But most importantly, putting the baby inside it is as good as flipping a sleep switch. And since no such switch exists, I guess that means it’s better. Our lone criticism is that the back strap could be a little thicker – it bunches up when you adjust it – but it’s a small tax to pay for a 100% cotton transitional womb. (Note: you can throw it in the washer, but don’t. Babies find their own smell comforting.) People tell us how lucky we are all the time, that our baby got good sleeping genes and a calm temperament, and we nod knowingly. If they want to chalk it up to genetics, that’s fine with us. – Deirdre Dolan

DadGear Diaper Vest

Pacifiers. Swaddles. Gin and tonics. Every so often, a new product comes along that makes raising a baby that much easier. Enter the latest: the DadGear Diaper Vest ($81). The self-contained, wearable diaper bag includes enough pockets to hold several bottles, a thousand diapers, burp cloths, cell phones – whatever you need for an outing with the little one. There’s also an easily accessible “wipes pocket” and a hidden pouch in the back that contains a sleek, lightweight changing pad. And the best part is, the vest looks cool – it’s indistinguishable from any REI or North Face vest out there, although it could get a little toasty on a summer day. Still, a recent outing with my baby and my new vest left me wanting for nothing. Except maybe a gin and tonic. – Mike Adamick

Svan Convertible Chair

I bought a Svan chair ($250) for my youngest son almost 3 years ago, and I’m still convinced it is the coolest high chair out there: it gets the most compliments, keeps my son from climbing out of it or falling out by way of sliding through at the bottom, and most importantly, it is Not Made of Plastic. It comes to you in a flat box (much like some other stylish Scandinavian furniture), and if you can wield an Allen wrench, you can put together a Svan chair. The result is something that looks like furniture – retro-modern, Eames-type furniture – instead of something that screams “babies live here.” It’s also durable, cleanable and completely height-adjustable. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Svan chair someday accompanies my son to college.- Karen Murphy

Uppababy Vista Stroller

If your definition of a good stroller is one that rides well and pushes like a dream, the Uppababy Vista ($599) may be for you. Its high-set adjustable handlebar and raised axel mean it’s comfortable no matter who’s pushing – and you won’t find yourself kicking the bottom, no matter how long your stride. I love its tight turning radius, extra large storage basket and slick design. It was also incredibly easy to put together; all the pieces just snap on and off. My girls love sitting high up off the ground (no more dogs at eye level, or close proximity to street trash) in a cushy seat that’s armchair-cozy. But if portability, convenience and affordability are what matter most to you, you’ll probably want to pass on the Vista. The giant, heavy frame is difficult to manage with both hands and impossible with one (which is often all I have to spare); the wide-set wheels that make the ride so smooth are a tight squeeze through standard doorways; and yet the stroller barely accommodates my older girl, who fits easily into a Maclaren. When folded down for storage, it occupies every inch of my car’s trunk (where would an urban dweller store this monster?). For a hefty $599, I expected to be blown away by the Uppababy, but I just wasn’t.- Alisyn Cobb

 

Face-Off: O Yikes! Messenger Diaper Bag vs. Skip*Hop Pronto! Mini Changer

Ah, the brave new world of the diaper bag! Yet another consumer niche that struck me as patently absurd until we had our first baby and came to realize just how much kids defecate. (A lot.) The problem: there are really only so many ways you can design a portable changing table. The folks at O Yikes! have gone with the SUV approach: big and spacious, with a large mat and enough room for, say, 400 diapers, just in case you get stranded in, say, the Mojave Desert. The two models also include a nifty holder for bottles, which I’m sure the relevant literature describes as something like an insulated food storage receptacle.

Honestly, we were more taken with the Skip*Hop, which follows the Mini Cooper route. It’s the size of a small purse – done up in denim, no less – and unfolds ingeniously to reveal a flowered changing pad, along with all the necessary pockets for diapers, wipes, lubes and so forth. It’s the ultimate non-schlep baby bag. We test drove the Skip*Hop on our first flight across the country and are happy to report that it works just fine in airplane lavatories, just so long as you keep one hand on the kid’s belly during turbulence. The “pronto pillow” (a padded area for the soft baby head) proved a godsend, as our child often expresses her excitement during changings by channeling her inner metalhead (meaning: she bangs).

Actually, we took the O Yikes! model on the trip, as well. My wife is now using it as an auxiliary purse, and quite happily. When she wants to head out on a longer trip with the baby, she sticks the Skip*Hop inside the O Yikes! and quietly prays nobody forces her to say the names of both products ten times fast. – Steve Almond

2 Dishes and a Cup by OOTS!

“Cute!” my four-year-old exclaimed as I unpacked these new dishes ($30 for a five-piece set). “Look, Mamma! It’s a fried egg! Cuuuuuute!” The squealing went on for several more minutes. OOTS!, the innovative design company that introduced the world to terry cloth sleeved “bbibs,” has applied its design savvy to another culinary necessity, children’s dishware. Created by a ceramicist in New Mexico, the dishes’ uncommon contours are reflective of high design and seem more like fine china than children’s dishware. But the design is actually where I had a slight problem. The diameter of the base of the plate (which is more of a pasta bowl) and bowl are very small, meaning that if little diners try to stab at food towards the edges of the dish, they have a tendency to tip. My four-year-old did fine, but my two-year-old tipped her bowl several times. (Thank goodness we were eating smashed potatoes and not Rice Krispies.) Overall, the richness and vibrancy of the dishware combined with the fresh, modern design make this set a winner, and I can recommend it for older diners. I’d stick with IKEA for the younger set. – Stefania Pomponi Butler

The WubbaNub Infant Pacifier

The WubbaNub ($25 for 2) is a terrific idea, one that I’m quite sure soothes and fascinates any number of babies who are not my daughter. The basic gimmick is this: pacifier (medical grade silicone, natch) attached to small plush toy. Nice. We figured Josie would love the thing. At four months, she’s both a binky-holic and a big toy grabber. Alas, this last fact proved the rub: Jos kept grabbing at the toy and thereby ripping the Nub out of her mouth. The Nub itself is uncontoured, which did not help matters. (My wife pointed out that the Nub also tends to collect cat hair, a fact I feel cannot be held against the product, and should be blamed, instead, on her cat, who sheds excessively.) Josie wound up treating the WubbaNub like just another toy, and we went back to stuffing a contoured pacifier in her insatiable craw. – Steve Almond

Strollometer

I can walk 3 miles in 15 minutes – if the Strollometer ($40) is to be believed. A Bugaboo can also reach baby-rattling speeds of 25 mph. Who knew? I swear I installed the stroller speedometer correctly, attaching a tiny magnet sensor to a rear wheel and strapping a digital display to the handlebar. I even used the handy cheat sheet to calibrate the device, but I still can’t make it work properly. The wheel sensor flops around and the speed gauge fluctuates wildly, letting me know I’m going 4 mph even when standing still. Huh? The idea is to time workouts and let you know exactly how far you’ve traveled – but if you’re like me, you’ll break a sweat simply cursing at thing. – Mike Adamick

Milkscreen Breastmilk Alcohol Detection Strips

The “happy hour play date” fad could make these strips ($20 for six) as popular as those bar-room Breathalyzers, but the developers have a loftier goal: to encourage women to breastfeed longer by showing them that drinking and nursing aren’t mutually exclusive. I tested my milk at 30-, 45- and 60-minute intervals after drinking a Corona, but the strip, which is supposed to turn blue or green or grey within two minutes if there’s alcohol present, remained cream-colored. The next night, I drank three glasses of white wine in the course of a dinner party and tested my milk about an hour later. Nada. I thought I was throwing such caution to the wind with my dinner-party drinking, but now I know I’m really disgustingly responsible. Clearly, Milkscreen is just a great big frat-house-y dare: how far will you go to be declared unfit to nurse your child by a strip of plastic? – Ada Calhoun

Lifeway Probugs

Probugs organic kefir drinks ($4.50 at Whole Foods) have two major selling points for kids: they look like bugs, and they taste like yogurt. Parents will appreciate that, while the kids are sucking down their bug-milk, they’re also ingesting 10 probiotic cultures – “friendly bacteria” that helps combat food allergies and lactose intolerance. Both the Orange Creamy Crawler and Sublime Slime Lime flavors are tasty; however, they’re significantly less sweet than most mainstream kid foods. If your child has trouble making the transition from more sugary dairy snacks, just point out that Go-Gurt is not shaped like a bug. – Gwynne Watkins

Slimlines Milk Trays

As a mom who has wrestled with the question of how best to store breast milk, I know a good storage solution when I see one. Slim Lines Milk Trays ($16 for two) are a breast milk freezer storage system developed by two Florida moms.Each plastic tray has eight one-ounce compartments, making eight milk “popsicles” guaranteed to fit into any bottle. Upside: my tray didn’t leak one bit, even while wedged upside-down between the veggie links and the frozen burritos. Downside: a little on the expensive side for a simple piece of plastic. Unexpected plus: excellent for making juice pops for older kids. – Alisyn Cobb

Otto Dental Floss Holder by Alessi

Comedian Mitch Hedberg once said, “People who smoke say you don’t know how hard it is to stop smoking. Yes, I do. It’s as hard as it is to start flossing.” Which is why you should get your kids into the habit early. The Otto dental floss holder from Alessi ($14) is good incentive; who could resist stealing the floss out of this little guy’s mouth? And unlike the myriad disposable flossers aimed at children, Otto takes refills, so he’s as good for the environment as he is for your gums. – Gwynne Watkins

SIGG Water Bottles

The jury is still out on BPA, the chemical that allegedly leeches out of plastic bottles into your drinking water. Still, concerned parents need look no further than Sigg, the hundred-year-old Swiss bottle manufacturer. Sigg’s bottles for children ($16-$20) are molded from single pieces of aluminum, meaning that they’re virtually leak-proof as well as BPA-free. They also have interchangeable, replaceable lids (in case you lose one on the playground) and are safe to use with juice and soda. One downside: those cute Japanese-inspired exteriors won’t survive trips through the dishwasher. – Gwynne Watkins

Latitude Enfant Giraffe Train

Child fantasyland is better than the real world, because in reality, trains ferry I-beams and grumpy commuters, and in the land of the French toys, they transport only smiling giraffes. This soft train ($18) is not only adorable, it takes its giraffes safely to any upside-down-or-sideways destination, thanks to their velcro feet. When squeezed, the train also makes a very realistic (and remarkably long) series of sounds associated with a train chugging along, then slowing down as it comes into a station (complete with clanging bell). You’ll hear the sound so often you’ll start to feel like you’re living next to an Amtrak station. If Amtrak were run by cuddly European zoo animals. –Ada Calhoun

The Joey Wrap

I’m sure I’m just an idiot. I’ve seen all the photos of the securely attached babies and I’m sure the parents’ hands weren’t Photoshopped out; clearly, it works. And yet, even following the website’s directions to the letter, I couldn’t for the life of me get the mountains of fabric (seriously, my curtains are less voluminous) of the Joey Wrap ($70) to create anything that didn’t feel precarious. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the snugness of the industrial-strength Baby Bjorn ($79; or, like, $5 on Craigslist). Maybe my husband’s lack of enthusiasm for the “bougie,” “Old Navy yoga pant” fabric undermined my efforts. But I felt outsmarted by the Joey Wrap, like I’d failed an IQ test. Still, in theory, this is one of the more versatile sling options out there, so you may want to give it a shot, if for no other reason than to show off your superior intelligence. – Ada Calhoun

Baby Plane Spoon

So you’re feeding your baby, and you’re making all kinds of running-motor sounds and saying things like “here comes the airplane! Open wide for the airplane!” – and all the while, your baby is giving you a look that says “You can’t be serious.” Might you be a little more convincing with this in hand? The little plastic plane ($15) is cute and colorful – an effective diversion from the spoon’s cargo – and it slips off for easy cleaning. Of course, it’s also a tad flimsy, so you may want to save it for special occasions. Like pureed-spinach night. – Gwynne Watkins

Laptop Lunches by Obentec

Judging by the declining state of school lunches, it’s safe to assume that a homemade meal will continue to be the healthiest choice for your tyke. And the popularity of Vegan Lunchbox, a site devoted to making cute Japanese-style mini-meals, points to a resurgence of the brown bag craft. Anyone with the time and energy to jump on the bento bandwagon will find a comfortable starting point with Laptop Lunches ($20). This kit contains a bag and plastic case with utensils and four colorful containers – perfect for preparing small servings of veggies, tea sandwiches, noodles and crackers. Although the accompanying booklet is less than inspiring, you can find plenty of creative recipes online. Simply Flickring “bento” yields pages of visual stimulation (be warned: you may find yourself up at 4 am, and only on page 50 of 900.) It may be a few years before your toddler can fully appreciate a “Tiger hiding in the grass,” but in the meantime, you can have more fun playing with your kid’s food than he does. – Mandalee Meisner

The Patemm Diaper Pad

“When my first child Patrick was born,” says Grace Welch, creator of the Patemm diaper pad, “I found the small rectangular shape of diaper changing pads frustrating because aligning him in the right position was always a challenge.” Rather than dwelling on the unfairness of the universe, Welch invented a diaper pad that can be all things to all parents. The Patemm’s circular shape is tailored to squirmy babies, its inside pockets are large enough for spare diapers, the oilcloth surface is simple to clean, and the whole thing folds into a discreet one-handled bundle. To top it off, Welch has incredible taste in fabrics. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself longing for a matching raincoat. – Gwynne Watkins

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

Bumbo Baby Sitter

Once a baby can hold his head up and look around, he typically starts struggling to master the art of sitting up. Until then, it’s all about the play mat, elaborate pillow prop-ups and being carried around. But the stylish, comfortable Bumbo Baby Sitter ($40) makes it possible for babies from three to fourteen months old to sit upright immediately, and with perfect posture – on the floor, on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table. It’s heavenly: the baby gets to feel grown-up; you get to make dinner with both hands. – Ada Calhoun

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

HABA Fantasy Blocks

The basic wooden block has been a perfect toy for centuries; it needs no bells and whistles. Yet bells and whistles are quite literally what HABA has added to its Fantasy Blocks ($35), along with “optical effects” like prisms and mirrors. What actually makes these blocks great is a detailed paint job and a variety of architectural shapes: domes, turrets, stairways. They’re perfect for the child whose fingers itch to create dazzling cities, but still find Legos a little too daunting. – Gwynne Watkins

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

Limited Edition Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump

It can be hard to maintain one’s dignity with a breast pump. It’s great to be able to keep breastfeeding your baby and still have a life, but they really need to come up with a euphemism so one can say something more professional than “I can do that meeting in fifteen minutes. I just need to pump.” Pump. It’s so The Miracle Worker. But the Limited Edition of the Medela Pump In Style ($350, but you can often get a new one for $100 less on eBay), one of the best you-know-whats out there for working mothers, is classy: blue with brown ticking. It looks less like a mechanism you attach to your body to drain it of milk, more like a stylish overnight bag. So when you head into that supply closet, your co-workers will just think you’re jetting off to the Catskills. Two or three times a day. For fifteen minutes at a time. – Ada Calhoun

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

Tiffany 1837 Teething Rattle

There’s nothing quite like the moment when a baby gets his or her first little blue box from Tiffany’s. This sterling silver Tiffany 1837 teething rattle ($95) is one of those ridiculously lavish, impossibly pretty little presents that instantly confer Most Glamorous aunt or uncle status on the giver. And when you shake it, it makes the most delicate, melodious little rattle-tinkle. “What is that sound?” I asked someone, shaking it next to his ear. The reply: “Money.” – Ada Calhoun

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

The PeePee TeePee

The Peepee Teepee ($15) is one of those products, like the Diaper Genie, that fascinates the non-parent with its simplicity and effectiveness. I can’t tell you how many times single people at cocktail parties have said, as if such gadgets could solve every possible parenting crisis, “I just heard about this wonderful little invention . . .” The Teepee is just little cup you place strategically when changing a boy that keeps you from getting sprayed. And they come in various patterns – the most ironic one being the fire truck. – Ada Calhoun

 

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill click to close

The Nintendo Wii

The controllers for the Playstation3 and the Xbox 360 have so many buttons sometimes it seems as if they should double as Blackberrys, cellphones, universal remotes, and lazer guns. For a chlid under the age of six, these controllers can be bulky, confusing, and overwhelmingly frustrating.

Nintendo’s new, awfully named Wii (pronounced “whee”) console drastically simplifies gaming with a motion-sensitive, wireless controller that looks a bit like an iPod shuffle. Wave the controller during a tennis game (one of the Wii’s must-have games), and your player slaps a backhand, a forehand, or an overhead smash. Tilt the controller backwards and forward during an off-road racing game and your truck will catch more air jumping off a ramp. The graphics aren’t superb (Microsoft and Sony won the polygon wars, while Nintendo opted out). Instead, Nintendo’s idea is to drastically simplify the button pushing and combo-codes, to make gaming accessible again, and to get kids up off their lazy asses.

Nintendo’s technology works. The sports games are ridiculous fun, not jut because the controller is sensitive, but becaue the games have been stripped down to their barest essentials to work intuitively with the controller. (The Wii moves your tennis player from side to side, for instance, so all you have to do is whack away.) I have only one caveat: The Wii is so bare-bones that it may even work too well: the new controller only complicates new editions of mature games like Metroid, despite its precision. So stick with the goofy sports and racing games, play the Wii with friends, and, please, move the coffee table before somebody hurts himself with an overeager first-serve. – Logan Hill

Creations By You Craft Kits

For a certain kind of child, little is more satisfying (or winter-friendly) than a craft well made, and there are countless art kits and craft sets on the market to oblige them. But few manage to be creative enough to be interesting, simple enough for a child to execute with a minimum of parental assistance, and most importantly, useful and/or large enough to not be eaten by the dog. While the colors are a bit overtly girly, the Knot-A-Quilt activity set from ALEX ($20) is a good bet. Made by knotting together fleece squares (an activity repetitious and hypnotizing enough to calm even the most hyperactive child), the quilt is surprisingly attractive and pleasingly substantial, just the right size for a small child. Intended for ages six and up, the kit is simple enough for a kid to navigate on her own, and the more satisfying for it.

For more outdoorsy types (which in big cities means kids with a yard – or a window), there’s the ALEX Home Sweet Home birdhouse kit ($18), a sturdy little wooden house with a cheerful thatched roof and a set of weatherproof paints, waiting to be decorated by budding ornithologists and house painters alike.

But perhaps best of all are the Creations By You sets. Using special paper and markers, your kids makes a drawing, you send it off in the mail to the specified address, and a few weeks later it’s a plate, a bowl or a mug! Or you can get a museum-style print, complete with artist’s name, date and gallery name. (Full disclosure: my mother still uses a plate I made in this manner, many hundreds of years ago.) With these sets, your young artist can not only conquer the business of making art, but achieve the true measure of artistic success: a gift-shop quality reproduction. – Rachel Shukert

 

The Fisher Price Kid-Tough FP3 Player and Digital Camera

This $70 FP3 player (FP stands for Fisher Price, natch) is a product that makes perfect sense. Take every adult’s favorite toy, package it as “educational” and “tech-savvy,” reinterpret the sleek, efficient iPod to look like a scale model of a Discman, slap on a pair of miniaturized headphones, fashion the whole thing in indestructible plastic in gender-specific colors and you’ve got yourself a sure-fire winner, right?

Almost.

The software itself is easy enough to load – and by easy I mean that it only took me four tries and two phone calls to my husband, so it shouldn’t pose much of a problem for the average six year old – and with large, easy-to-read buttons designed expressly for little fingers, easy to use. It comes pre-loaded with a variety of songs Fisher Price deems appropriate for the average pre-schooler, and more are available for downloading and purchase from the somewhat insipid catalogue available on the website (Berenstain Bears read aloud by a somnambulant voice, the Wiggles, assorted lullabies.)

One of MP3 players’ chief selling points is the ease of personalization. I can only imagine the number of music-savvy parents dying to introduce their toddlers to the kid-friendly musical stylings of Jonathan Richman. Unfortunately, due to copyright laws, downloading non-Fisher Price approved music to the player is almost impossible. Which kind of defeats the purpose, right?

Oh, and I did I mention that it isn’t Mac compatible?

The Fisher Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera (also $70) fares better (although installing the batteries requires two different sizes of screwdriver). It’s easy to use and takes pictures of satisfying quality.

But the 3+ age recommendations on both of these products should be considered seriously. Buy either product for a child much older than six, and you are likely to be met with a blank stare and this question: “Why didn’t you buy me the real one?” – Rachel Shukert

Ceci New York Announcements

It’s a Boy! It’s a Girl! It’s a bore! Baby’s first impression is way too big a deal for you to settle on storks and ducks smoking cigars.

Lisa Hoffman, designer and owner of Ceci New York, custom designs each announcement according to your personal taste and vision. Lisa makes it her mission to bring your vision to life, giving you the unique opportunity to act as creative director for your new baby’s introduction. Do you want to follow baby’s nursery theme? Include a quote or an original message? Lisa is happy to collaborate with you on anything from typeset to envelope d’cor.

Ceci New York is also the place for your stationary needs, because let’s face it, you’re going to be sending out quite a few “thank you” notes after that extravagant shower-brunch your BFF just threw in your honor. – Rebecca Woolf

Article Posted 8 years Ago
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