Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Frugal Shopper, take two

So many adorable and affordable new goodies have come in recently that I figured it was about time for another frugal round-up! In case you missed the first transmission, this feature highlights quality, budget-friendly toys for all those little occasions you want to bring a little something but not empty the piggy-bank on.

Gifts Under $20

We may not have mentioned much of this store favorite before, since she flies off the shelves so quickly, but we carry boatloads of Hello Kitty beauty and hair accessories, lunch cases, outdoor toys, and school and office supplies. The newest and absolutely most adorable Hello Kitty item we've recently received are Hello Kitty Crocs. These red clogs come in toddler sizes and include decorative charms (is the official term jibbitz?). If only they came in larger sizes, I just know we'd see book buyer Donna sporting them...

Battat's Sturdy Work Trucks are perfect for construction-loving toddlers, with moving parts and Playmobil-style little workers. You can choose from a cement mixer, garbage truck, fire engine, dump truck, or the ever popular front end loader.

Shopping for a newborn? Supplement the classic gift of Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon with Goodnight Moon alphabet blocks from Peaceable Kingdom. The blocks picture upper and lowercase letters and items from the book, with my personal favorite, a bowl full of mush.

I love all things Lewis Carroll, so of course my heart pitter-pattered over Alice In Wonderland note cards and envelopes from potter style. This collection of vintage style prints comes bound in a "book" with a magnetic clasp (swoon). As if my pen pals needed more Alice paraphernalia in their mailboxes. We also carry the Alice and Wizard of Oz jigsaw puzzles from potter style.

Down in our chapter book room, challenge your friends, family or just yourself with the quick-to-learn puzzle game Set. Each card has four characteristics - color, shading, symbol, and number - and a set is three cards with either all matching or all conflicting features. You can give it a try at Set's Daily Puzzle page.

Another popular game downstairs is Bananagrams, which yes, is actually a cloth banana full of letter tiles. The appeal of this crossword game is that each person makes their own board, with the object of the game to use all of the letters in the "bunch." ...Perhaps you could sing along to Raffi's Bananaphone while you play?

Gifts Under $10

Hands down, the best toy in this category is the Blooming Flower Wand (or as staffer Bethany terms it, the Tulip Scepter) from Jeannie's, a flower wand with a dignified, not excessive, amount of ribbon and sparkle, perfect with fairy wings and a tutu.

For crafters, menders, or fans of tiny cute things, Cupcakes and Cartwheels offers us the Russian Doll Sewing Kit, a pocket-sized kit in the shape of a matroshka doll, with all of the necessary tidbits of sewing, including scissors, measuring tape, a handful of spools of thread and a tube of needles.

Fans of tiny cute things might also love, as we certainly do, Two's company's Kimono Fish Coin Purses. These adorable, big-eyed fish come in a variety of colors and "kimono-style" fabrics. (I have a feeling this may turn up Rachel's weekly "What I Want" series, another place to discover some of our treasures).

Manhattan Toy's chic is epitomized in the Wobbles Water Teether, a colorful, multi-patterned, ribboned and textured rattler-and-teether-in-one. All this fun, and perfectly sized for infant clutches!

For the budding naturalist (that pun wasn't even intentional), toy giants Melissa & Doug bring us a new brand of gardening tools: Sunny Patch. My favorites are the big, safe, and easily gripped Mombo Snake and Blossom Bright Magnifying Glasses, perfect for sleuthing and staring at bugs (which you can learn about in a variety of books, especially Dirty Rotten Bugs and DK's Big Book of Bugs). Just look at the snake's head handle, too cool!

If our Molly & Me jewelry selection isn't enough for your young accesorizer, try Two's Company's new Charm Candy Charm Bracelets. These faux-silver bracelets can be adorned with cute charms ranging from butterflies, cupcakes and "sweet 16" to cell phones, miniature purses, and a little black dress (!).

Gifts Under $5

This Small World Toys' Viking Helmet brings to mind fond memories of my college roommate one silly Halloween. What child or adult could not enjoy hours of imaginative play/roommate or co-worker amusement with this fun accessory?

For those of you who prefer more practical uses to your toys, try Toysmith's Animal Rubber Bands. These colorful farm or zoo themed rubber bands add pizzazz to any project.

Mad Gab's Lip Balm are tasty and stylish little gifts for pouters of any age. Flavors include Vanilla Shark Smooch, Spearmint Monkey Smooch, and Citrus Penguin Smooch, variety enough to tempt palates of all tastes.

No game room or college dorm is complete without the classic game of pick up sticks. Try Schylling's Pixie Pic Up Stixs, stored in a convenient blue, pixie-decorated tube.

Use your crafty noodle to design anything you can imagine with giant, soft, pliable pipe cleaner-esque Brain Noodles, sold individually or in a set. Just look at this life-like (as life-like as a muppet can be) replica of Oscar the Grouch crafted by yours truly...

Last, but certainly not least, the toy that everyone has been asking for: Japanese Erasers!
Collect all the colors of the cute hamster, make a picnic with the tiny cakes and burgers, or stage Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go with the little fire engines and motorcycles. Or, you know, just erase mistakes with an especially cute eraser.

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