Now here's an interesting project, by Yael Mer and Shay Alkalay. Take a look at the photos above, and what do you immediately think of?
Fisher Price, I'll be bound. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they've copyrighted that precise turquoise, that tomato red, and that gradually-turns-yellow white. We all grew up with it; I understand that certain pieces change hands for hundreds of dollars, not to kids but to nostalgic adults; and Toy Story 3 brought the FP telephone back to the forefront of all our consciousnesses.
Mer and Alkalay have used that universal familiarity in 'Raw Edges', a project where the colours lead you to believe the items are plastic. Get close up and you'll see that they are high-spec beech wood.
Most interestingly, they say that their pieces have ‘Alice in Wonderland’ qualities as the scale of our childhood toys, now dwarfed by adulthood, regain some of their stature in this sympathetic environment. I guess there's also a message about landfill versus biodegradable materials somewhere in there.
Mother nature showed me a glimpse of spring and already I'm looking forward to summer. Sun, beach, and barbeques, that's what it's all about. This year junior can cook in style right alongside Dad with their very own Kids Kettle. (Apologies to all the Mom grillers out there. It's just that I use the grill as an excuse to take a much needed cooking break!)
The Kids Kettle features a sturdy plastic drum, which fortunately is easier to clean than Dad's, as well as beautiful wooden accents. It's a wonderful way for kids to get into the summer spirit and perfect their burger flip before real food is on the line. Available in blue or red.
No, this is not just another car play mat. This is YOUR play mat, a customized map of your neighborhood! Available in three sizes, each map is professionally printed on sturdy, easy-to-clean canvas. Perhaps best yet, it's totally portable, so if you get lost on your next road trip, maybe your kids can help you find a way home. From Board Stiff, a company that specializes in making sure your children are anything but.
Still have some time to kill, Board Stiff's free-form farm and dwelling structures are a another great activity.
For a pram toy that's a little bit different (and, if you can get past the gory name, cute) how about these Hanging Heads?
Danish company LuckyBoySunday was founded by two fun-seeming ladies named Camilla, who aim to create products that are both "silly and serious" with "top of the pop quality".
As well as these bobbing heads, I liked their collection of cushions and sometimes grotesque soft toys - indeed, the whole site is worth a look.
This room looks like a lot of fun - for those not carrying, say, a teetering tray of wine glasses: jump down the stairs and straight into a game of hopscotch. What's more, if you have smooth floors anywhere in your abode, your house too can be just as playful.
Plan Toys is one of those companies where, when choosing which product to feature, you might as well close your eyes and stick a pin into the catalogue: almost every single item they produce is desirable, beautiful, and made with exquisite care, this stacking tree being a case in point.
As well as being a rather gorgeous object in its own right, it has the modest yet important aims of teaching your baby about size and colour, gradating from dark to light, big to small.
I have no idea how Plan achieves such consistency, but I'd give a lot to be a fly on the wall at their product design meetings, that's for sure.
Is it just me, or do you ever wonder what some of these poor women of the world must think of us, as they manufacture some of these quirky toys?
Not that I don't like the Beauty doll. I like it a lot. I'm just saying.
That aside, did you ever see anything quite so contrary to the usual baby toys? In actual fact, it's rare to see a toy for the pre-school set that isn't smiling (we've remarked on it before). In my book, that alone makes this a worthwhile purchase. That, and the chance to inject a little surrealism into the lives of some women in Bolivia.
There are times here at Babygadget when we have to relax our strict rules of aesthetics - just as there are times when you, as the aspiring owner of a tasteful home, have to let the ugliness in.
For, let's face it, you had kids, and this is tantamount to inviting an entirely arbitrary - and possibly high - person into your home to dictate your interior design. Kids don't read Elle Deco; kids haven't (yet) had their preferences honed by that pretentious gap year in the art galleries of Paris.
And so, I present the inevitability of the Dino Hopper. It is big. It is green. It won't match your curtains. But the minute they see it, your kids will want it.
And the chances are they are looking over your shoulder at the screen right now.
You'll remember reading about the Bilibo when it first came out: Babygadget along with many other design and baby blogs covered it. It was intriguing. It was brightly-coloured. And most of all, it was what they trumpeted as 'open-ended' - that is, the child could decide how to play with it, just as they might with a stick or a stone they found in the garden.
Four years on, the Bilibo website contains a special section with the 'most popular' ways of using yours - could it be that some parents - some children, even - found themselves nervous without direction?
Since then, there have been other Bilibo products, and here is the newest: the Bilibo Pixel. It's basically a set which consists of several coloured 'chips' and a container - when the discs are placed inside the cube, it's very like a colour-sided die. You can play tiddlywinks with it, thread the chips on a cord, or ...um...well, I'm sure the kids will have some ideas.
While the original Bilibo looks like a lot of fun and a really practical toy to have around the house for pre-schoolers, this one has me scratching my head a bit. I'd be nervous about the different pieces being separated and lost, especially in the chaos that is our toy cupboard. But then, who am I? Bilibo does seem to be making a mark for itself in open-ended play, and perhaps your kids will adore this too.
The BIT from Barcelona company Glodos sure has the looks: those wide wheels, the curved wood, and the very 'now' colourways make it stand out as this year's must-have for the small set.
Practicality hasn't been lost in the quest for a good-looking product, though. We parents all know that the toy ridden joyfully down the road ends up being carried - by us - back up again. The BIT features a carry-handle for just such eventualities.
Purchase yours on the Glodos website - it seems they ship worldwide. I've also seen them in various other webshops, and it may be worth looking for a more local solution if you are outside mainland Europe. Entering a U.S. address into their form resulted in shipping costs that almost doubled the €95 cost.