Stocking Stuffers: Animal Puppets

Hand Puppets and Finger Puppets for Kids

Puppets make great small holiday gifts for children. You give not just the character you see but the character the puppet becomes for your child and the stories your child tells through the character.

Puppets inspire creativity, promote hands-on discovery, encourage interaction, teach fine and gross motor skills, help develop early language, and become a child’s lovable companion to be treasured for years.

We carry dozens of small animal hand puppets and finger puppets. You could collect a whole safari, but it usually just takes 1-2 puppets to start the story rolling.


Hand Puppets for Children

Each of our puppets comes with facts about the animal to help your child understand the creature in its own environment.


Little Turtle Hand Puppet

Turtle Puppet for Children

You will want to keep petting the textured shell of the turtle hand puppet. At about 7″ long, the hand puppets fit in a stocking then in your purse or your child’s bag for easy entertainment on the go.


Little Polar Bear Hand Puppet

Polar Bear Puppet for Kids

This soft, furry polar bear comes with interesting facts about this solitary mammal. About 8″ tall.

Add these other hand puppets to your collection: Little Lion Puppet, Little Wolf Puppet, Little Lop Rabbit Puppet, Little Elephant Puppet, and more.


Finger Puppets for Children


Mini Fawn Finger Puppet

Deer Finger Puppet for Children

This soft fawn finger puppet easily fits in a pocket or a diaper bag. About 6″ long.


Mini Cardinal Finger Puppet

Mini Red Bird Finger Puppet

Your child will fly this bright, soft cardinal all over the house. What a great opportunity to learn about wild creatures of the world. About 5″ long.

Need a puppet for each hand? We also have these finger puppets: Mini Penguin Finger Puppet, Mini Black Sheep Finger Puppet, Mini Skunk Finger Puppet, Mini River Otter Finger Puppet, and many more. We have 20+ animal puppets to choose from.

Gifts that encourage open-ended play give your child more than just a morning of delight. They open up a wide, wild world of adventure.

Imports at What Cost? Quality

At What Cost Quality

Quality isn’t necessarily your primary concern when you are looking for low-cost toys, diapers, clothing, and other children’s products. Many companies outsource production to keep costs low, which allows importers to sell to North American markets at lower prices than products Made in Canada or Made in USA. Often quality suffers for cost.

Over the past month, we’ve been looking at the real costs of imported children’s products. Today we look at quality of imported children’s products.

Give It to Me Quick

When you buy low-quality imports, you pay in safety and durability—and sometimes you pay at the store twice when you replace cheap products.


Quality Issues

Issues with imports overlap because they all lead to larger issues of sustainability.

Quality can be a safety issue. Last week, I wrote about safety and what you can do to ensure that you don’t buy unsafe children’s products. In some cases, safety issues are caused by inferior materials. As a matter of fact, the rash of recalls in 2007 of toys made in China and sold in the U.S. was the catalyst for safety law of 2008 after the U.S. CPSC recalled 276 different toys in 2007. Mattel alone recalled more than 20 million toys that year. A few of the recalls were for bad design, like the Easy Bake oven burn hazard and the magnetic Batman whose magnets fell off. Most of the toy recalls, though, were for lead in paint or other surface coatings. These toys were made in China with materials sourced in China.

How could so many low-quality toys come out of Chinese factories? Chinese officials wanted to know as well. Factories in China have to be licensed for export. After the recalls began in 2007, 1,726 factories in the province manufacturing the most toys, Guandong Province, were inspected, and 85% were found to be substandard. 44% lost their licenses, reducing the overall number of toy imports that year. When 70-80% of the toys sold in the U.S. are made in China, it shows on store shelves when Chinese factories fail so spectacularly.

What was the consequence of the toy recalls? A group of scholars from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) explored in 2009 consumer and stock market response to 2007 toy recalls. Parents surveyed said that they intended to change their buying habits, and researchers found a spillover effect in lower sales for non-recalled types of toys and for brands not involved in recalls. The whole industry suffered. Why didn’t consumers just avoid the offending manufacturers? Because “Consumers do not recognize manufacturers as well as they recognize brands and trademarks,” said Mara Lederman, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and one of the authors of the study. Consumers worried about the safety of all toys that year.

All of this because large toy manufacturers were cutting corners to squeeze costs and boost profits. None of the recalled toys were Made in Canada or Made in USA. Local toymakers weren’t wondering where they could get their hands on some of that cheap leaden paint or how to add a few exposed magnets to cut their costs. Small manufacturers often choose the highest quality materials and do highest quality work. They are making heirloom toys to last long enough that your child can save a favorite toy for their own child someday.

Durability is another cost issue. Inferior materials and faster work cost less, but they often result in products that don’t last as long. Making products that will break and need replacing is exactly the clever plan of Planned Obsolescence. You can’t stimulate demand by making toys that last a lifetime. The idea of making products that would last only for a limited time was a mid-20th century idea of American industry to ensure long-term sales. If toys didn’t break and diapers didn’t wear out, why would anyone ever buy more? They wouldn’t, and that would be the end of industry. You see your role in this process, of course. Once you are in the cycle, you must continue to buy as products regularly break or wear out.

The only way to release yourself from the cycle of replacing faulty, unsafe, or worn out products is to buy high quality products.


Lead-coated Toys of 2007

Lead in paint on toys made in China wasn’t the only story during the 2007 toy recalls, but it was the biggest story. In addition to the 20 million Mattel toys mentioned above, millions of toys made by other brands and under no brand at all were also recalled. It’s easier to relate to iconic brands, though, because we can recognize them so easily. Thomas the Tank Engine wooden trains are a product like that. In June 2007, 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden trains and components of 25 types were recalled. These colorful toys were coated in paint that contained lead. Now, to be clear, Thomas & Friends products currently sold are all certified compliant to the new toy safety laws.


Wooden Mite Cars

As an alternative to branded, mass-produced toy vehicles, we carry toys made from bamboo, recycled plastic, and wood. Among our favorites are the little Mites wooden cars and trucks. These are the same size as popular wooden train toys. The Mite cars are made in Vermont from local Eastern white pine and rock maple. The toymaker, Montgomery Schoolhouse, has been making wooden toys for 40 years. Like all other toymakers selling toys in the U.S., their products are also certified compliant to new toy safety laws.


Go-to Organization

ASTRA, the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, works hard to help consumers find quality toys. The members of ASTRA are specialty stores, individually owned neighborhood toy stores. ASTRA urges you to shop at your Neighborhood Toy Store on Neighborhood Toy Store Day, November 10th. Participating stores have entertainment, crafts, donations, or other events scheduled that day. Search for a store near you.

To ensure that you and your child have a positive experience, buy smart in the first place. In ASTRA’s Toy Buying Guide, they suggest that you “Focus on the kind of play a toy encourages, rather than on the features of the toy. (i.e. Think about what the child can do, rather than what the toy can do.)” They give helpful suggestions for each developmental level.


What You Can Do

As with issues of safety, you can ask for certificates, but this only tells you whether a product passed a test in a lab. What you really want to know is whether the product will last long enough to meet your child’s needs. A test doesn’t necessarily answer that question for you.

Shop at a local toy store or baby boutique where you come to know and trust the staff. They are experts in children’s products. As them about the quality of toys and other products before you buy.

Check customer service reports. If you do have a problem with a product, will the store help you solve your problem, or are you out of luck? This customer service site shows Toys R Us has a 7% positive rating. Their lowest score is in Issue Resolution. Ouch.

Check reviews . Start with the bad reviews and look to see how long it lasted for other buyers. Let other parents share their experience with you, and do them the favor of sharing your honest experience with both positive and negative reviews for products and for stores.


Resources

Seth M. Freedman, Melissa Schettini Kearney, and Mara Lederman, “Product Recalls, Imperfect Information, and Spillover Effects: Lessons from the Consumer Response to the 2007 Toy Recalls,” National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2009.

Eric S. Lipton and David Barboza, “As More Toys Are Recalled, Trail Ends in China,” New York Times, June 19, 2007. “China manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States so far this year, including the enormously popular Thomas & Friends wooden train sets, a record that is causing alarm among consumer advocates, parents and regulators.”

Toy Buying Guide, Your Neighborhood Toy Store (ASTRA)

More in this series

3 New Summer Fun Toys

Wooden spaceship toy

Are you facing a rainy day with restless kids indoors? Once my children decide that it is summer, they crave activity every day, even if they spend less time outside because of the weather. That’s when I find them bouncing around and looking for something interesting to do.

At bynature.ca, we have a few new toys that help your children find new worlds to explore indoors when they have had enough of the weather outdoors.


Angling Fever Toy Fishing Game

Kids fishing game

I can hear it. You ask your child, “Do you want to go fishing?” But, it’s raining outside. Create an adventure day inside with this fishing game. There are four poles and twelve fish in four colours, so you can try to match colors by catching the fish and putting them on the stand of the same colour, or just mix up the rainbow. Includes small parts, so this toy is for over 3 years old only.


Wooden Toy Spaceship

Wooden toy spaceship with wooden figures

For hours of imaginative play, our new wooden spaceship can take your child from blast off to splash down. Includes human (and alien) figures, vehicles, and a bunch of moving parts on the ship itself. 37 pieces total—all wood, so you can feel good about your child spending hours with this toy. This is an adorable and durable toy.


Wishbone Flip Ride-on Rocking Toy

Wishbone flip wooden ride-on toy

For restless toddlers, you need a tough toy that encourages activity and stays interesting for a long time. With the Wishbone Flip, your active explorer can rock, ride, or push. It takes you, the parent, just a few seconds (and no tools) to flip and twist. You can also adjust the main bolts so the toy grows with your child. This is a beautiful wooden toy made with sustainably managed beech wood. We love this toy both for its sustainability and the flexible fun it provides a toddler.

Create a Toy Trading Circle

Circle of children

Are the holiday toys getting old yet? If you need to renew the toy box, you can lend, borrow, or trade with parents in the same situation. Create a toy trading circle to keep your child’s toys new.

I don’t know how often a child needs a new toy—really NEEDS a new toy—but I found it worked best to vary the time between new toys. Surprise new toys were wonderful! Surprise old favorite even more so.

Now that they have more control over their own possessions, my children still trade toys with their friends. I don’t think there is an age limit on the idea of toy trading.


Set the Rules with the Parents

Talk to parents at play groups and in the neighborhood to see if they are experiencing a similar toy fatigue. Whether you involve the children depends very much on their age. A two-year old is very unlikely to give up any toy in their hands, but a few years later you might find your child intrigued by the idea of a trade. Set the rules of the trade with the other parents.


Clean Toys

Be sure to clean the toys well. If the toys can’t be put in the dishwasher, at least find a non-toxic toy cleaner to clean them up for the next family. Usually, vinegar and warm water will do.


Buy and Sell Toys on Consignment

If you haven’t found a circle of friends to trade toys with, create your own circle with a consignment store.


Toy Retirement

If you have enough toys in your own family, you can rotate toys out of the toy box into the attic. When I found that my children had too many toys and too little time to appreciate them, I created a toy retirement program. Put one away to get one back out. It was interesting to see which toys they chose once they had to give it some careful thought. You might learn something you didn’t know about your child’s real preferences.

Image © Marzanna Syncerz | Dreamstime.com

Trends in Wood Toys

Anamalz wooden lion posable toy

This year I’m seeing a trend in wooden toys: an emphasis on sustainably harvested wood and non-toxic finishes to make the toys completely safe for children. We’re very impressed with two companies whose products we’ve begun to carry recently: Tegu magnetic wooden blocks and Anamalz posable wooden animal figures.


Tegu

Tegu logo

Tegu wooden blocks

Tegu are magnetic blocks made from eco-friendly wood that is safe and non-toxic for children. These blocks are designed to be socially and environmentally sustainable. The business creates jobs and preserves the environment in Honduras. A simple toy like blocks gives children plenty of space to engage their imagination.

Tegu adds a twist. The magnets encased in these blocks allow children to build up and out. Tegu blocks can dance! Watch videos of the Tegu Genius creating animals, vehicles, and dancing vegetables.


Tegu magnetic blocks

Origin: Made responsibly in Honduras
Age: 3+
This product contains small parts and magnets. Not for children under 3.

Available


Anamalz

Anamalz logo

Anamalz Crocodile posable animal wooden toy

Anamalz are eco-friendly wooden animals made from sustainably forested maple. Even the waste wood is used on a farm to grow mushrooms. Anamalz are coloured with water-based paint and fabric used is azo dye and formaldehyde-free. Each of the Anamalz is handmade, tested and certified according to international toy standards.

Limbs on Anamalz are posable as your child twists and turns the wire inside cotton rope. Look closely at the limbs on some of the animals. The crocodile’s tail, for example, is fabric-covered and posable. The flexibility of these animal figures encourages role play and other open-ended imaginative play. Apparently, adults can’t resist either, as you can see when you watch animated Anamalz videos.


Anamalz posable animal figures

Origin: Designed in Australia, made responsibly in China.
Age: 3+
This product contains small parts. Not for children under 3.

Available

When you give your child a toy as a gift, either of these wooden toys leaves wide open spaces for imagination with long-term environmental sustainability.