The Biz: The Grapevine

Stuffed toys occupy a special place in kids’ hearts as the adored creature they take to bed, the special pal they hang with during the day or the loved fuzzy they turn to for cheer. The third generation of the Mary Meyer company, in business for over eighty years, makes stuffed wonders that incorporate important safety features with creative designs and top quality materials, explaining why toys from here are best sellers. The new Camouflage line offers a whimsical, washable lobster in pink or green camo as well as the Bestever Baby Mat that comes in both pink and green featuring a big bear hug.

Parenting young children is often all about the small details. Something as simple as a malfunctioning part on a toy or a sticky stroller wheel can lead to a string of irritating events that can cast a shadow over the day. On the flip side, small enhancements that bring more convenience and ease to daily life can transform a family’s routine for the better. Happy Kidz is a company that offers a small but highly useful range of products designed to do the latter. Some their standout offerings include the Doona Car Seat, The Kid-Sit and the Twoo, The Clam-P, and Scotchi educational games.

European toymakers have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to blocks and other building sets. They tend to prefer wood to plastic for both aesthetic and environmental reasons, and their sets are often extensive, detailed, and realistic. Janod is a French company that’s been the recipient of multiple international toy awards. They offer superior quality wooden building sets designed to inspire children to have fun while expanding their skills. Simple, class building blocks are available in various colors, sizes, shapes, and patterns. In more advanced sets, kids can create their own cars, trucks and other vehicles, as well as buildings.

Channel the wanderlust of summer with The Sweet Potatoe, a modern organic children’s clothing brand inspired by travel and cities that embody culture and history. Create everyday wee wardrobe staples for curious little explorers with a brand that launched last year and grew from a farmer’s market stop to a boutique favorite. Lazers will never go out of style and The Sweet Potatoe knows it. They’ve even centered parts of their 2015 collections around them. The Lazer-T is a soft, comfortable all-season piece that can be layered under a sweater during chilly summer evenings, or paired with a skirt or short for hot summer days.

For kids who don’t just want to own a pony but would like to be one, check out Hoofitz rain boots, footwear with a unique sole that leaves hoof prints. The rationale is that the sole mimics the grip, flexion, and balance of a horse’s hoof so the boots are comfortable as well as long-wearing. As an antidote to couch-potatohood, these boots are fun to wear, encouraging youngsters to get up, go out and horse around. Eileen Kenney, professional horse trainer and highly experienced rider who competes in equine events often on her own horse Riot Gear, created Hoofitz.

Learning how to code seems like a daunting task, but with the dome-shaped Ozobot it just feels like playing games. This little USB-charged robot can be programed to do virtually anything the user wants, from playing interactive games to racing other Ozobots on a custom made course. It can even learn choreography and get its groove on. Following a color-coded path, the Ozobot can change speed, direction, and action depending on whatever the user wishes. For kids curious about programing, or the robotic obsessed, this makes a great birthday gift for a whole group of friends.

Toys that promise to entertain kids while also teaching a skill are rare, and oftentimes are more for show than education. Not with LightUp, a company devoted to teaching children about the world of electronics and programing through interactive circuit building and coding. Kids will become fascinated when they learn how to make a circuit run, and can even write a custom program for it once built. It’s the perfect gift for the curious child interested in how everyday objects work.

Bath time will never be the same with fun, interactive products from BKids Toys. The bright colors and adorable animal collections keep children entertained, while the safety lock features put parents at ease. Each bath product is made with smoothed corners and durable plastic to ensure safe play. The Tub Time Water Park Playset and the Stack’n Squirt Pals make the perfect gift set. Include some bath essentials in a display for a water friendly section that will be sure to attract customers of all ages.

The art of doll making has a history that goes back thousands of years. In a world without mass produced playthings, items like dolls were precious and hard to come by. Eventually, dolls evolved into the comfort and fashion objects we’re familiar with today, and can be found by the hundreds in just about any discount or department store in the world, but there are still a number of craftspeople who continue to produce interesting, beautiful and top-quality dolls. Viola Hale, of Viola Studio Dolls, is one of these artists.