{Gift Guide} The 8 Top Toys for Tots

Want a gift that the kids will play with long past Christmas morning? Here are 8 toys and games to GIVE this season, recommended by FOFs who are serious about play.


FOF Sarah Baldwin spent 20 years as an elementary school teacher before opening Bella Luna Toys in 2002, an online shop specializing in Waldorf toys. The Waldorf method emphasizes the role of imagination in learning, and the toys are designed to do the same, from modeling clay and “dress up silks” to a gorgeous wooden dollhouse fit for faeries. Sarah blogs about parenting, education and play at Moon Child.

1. Waldorf Rocker Board, $129.95
“Rocker Boards are extremely popular in Waldorf classrooms for their developmental benefits and great open-ended play value. They can ‘become’ a boat, a bridge, a slide or a cradle. They also help develop a child’s sense of balance and core strength, but kids just know they are fun!”


2. Play Silks from Sarah’s Silks, $14.50
“Large squares of colored silk were a staple in my classroom. It may not look like a ‘toy,’  but children play with them in so many ways! They become capes, headdresses, belts, skirts or a baby blanket for a favorite dolly. A blue silk can become a pond or a lake for a child’s small toys; a green silk may become a grassy meadow. The possibilities are endless!”


3. Modeling Beeswax, $21.95
“Sweet-smelling, colored beeswax makes an ideal modeling medium for children. It never dries out and is reusable. After warming up the wax in your hands, it becomes pliable and can be molded into people, animals, trees, butterflies–you name it! As it cools, it hardens, but can later be warmed up again, and molded into new forms.”


4. Twig Studio Wooden Doll House, $299.95
“With multiple levels and a variety of charming details, it makes a home for a dollhouse family, or a hideaway for gnomes, fairies and wooden animals. It also comes in a smaller version.”



FOF Mara Kaplan is a mom and an advocate for children with special needs.  Her consulting company, Let Kids Play, makes sure playgrounds and toys are accessible and fun for all kids. You can find more recommendations on her blog, LetKidsPlay.

5. Tegu Blocks, $110 and up
“These beautifully-made wooden blocks have magnets in them, making it easier for a child to build without knocking the blocks down accidentally. Perfect for children working on fine motor skills. Plus, Tegu donates a portion of their proceeds to plant trees in Honduras or fund a day of school for a child in Tegucigalpa.”


6. Green Toys’ Sandwich Shop or Pizza Maker, $22.04
“Sandwich Shop and Pizza Maker are the newest additions to Green Toys’ eco-friendly line. Each toy comes with over 15 realistic pieces, made in the USA from food-safe, 100-percent recycled plastic milk containers. While serving you lunch, your child is working on writing, memory, speech, and many other cognitive skills.”


7. Brain Noodles, $14
“Brain Noodles are fluffy, fiber stems that resemble jumbo pipe cleaners. They bend and twist anyway you want, are easy to hold and manipulate, and provide a unique sensory feel which many children love. Your child can make simple or complex sculptures without making a huge mess.”


8. Rubbabu Toys, $11.95 and up
“Rubbabu makes vehicles, balls, shapes and blocks that children can easily grip and catch. All made from 100-percent biodegradable, all-natural rubber. They also bounce! Perfect for improving motor skills and hand-eye coordination.”

Enter to win a Waldorf Rocker Board by leaving a comment below.

One FOF will win.
(See all our past winners, here.)
(See official rules, here.)
Contest closes December 18, 2011 at midnight E.S.T.

{Giveaway} Custom photo mementos from Pinhole Press

FOF is giving away 3 bundles of custom photo mementos from Pinhole Press. Each bundle includes a brag book, 50 customizable stationery cards and 9 wine bottle labels. To enter, answer in the comments below: Do you keep a photo in your wallet? Who is it of?

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

Have digital cameras killed the old-school photo album? Not according to Pinhole Press, a company that makes simple, elegant photo mementos from your digital prints. They’re easy to create — you just upload your favorite photos (grandchildren, daughter or son’s wedding, anniversary) and choose from dozens of gorgeous products– like framed prints, wine labels and notebooks. Our friends at Pinhole are giving 3 lucky FOFs the chance to win a bundle of their bestsellers!

Enter to win a trio of custom photo mementos from Pinhole Press. 3 FOFs will win. To enter, answer in the comments below: Do you keep a photo in your wallet? Who is it of?

(See all our past winners. See official rules. One winner is chosen at random from all those commenters who answer the question. Contest closes June 23, 2011.)

{Gift Guide} GIVE wine gifts, RECEIVE a wine pairing cookbook and two bottles of wine

Our FOF vintage veterans handpick 7 top bottles to GIVE for the holidays.

Plus! enter to win below, and you may RECIEVE 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook  and two bottles of wine from Casey Flat Ranch. (One FOF will win.)

To enter, comment below and answer: When you’re served wine at a restaurant, do you sniff and taste it before you drink it?

1. 2006 Wild Horse Cabernet, $18.99

It’s very smooth with a hint of smoke at the end,” says FOF Mary Maynard of the popular blog, “Happy Hour Mary.” “It’s just a bit over $15 but tastes more expensive!”

2. 2007 Open Range Proprietary Red Wine, $18

“This wine comes from Yolo County, California, an area at the forefront of seasonal, sustainable and organic agriculture.” says FOF Ursula Hemacinski, author of The Wine Lovers Guide to Auctions and VP of Marketing for Casey Flat Ranch. “With its notes of plum, black currant, fresh earth and cedar, it’s a great accompaniment to pastas, seafood stews, pork and lamb.”

2009 Open Range Sauvignon Blanc, $15

“This wine is also from the up-and-coming wine region of Yolo County,” says FOF Ursula Hemacinski. “With it’s crisp foundation, delicate minerality and notes of green apple, kiwi and lime, it holds its own against pork tenderloin and seafood pastas. It’s especially delicious with cheese trays.

3. Mumm Napa Cuvee M Sparkling Wine. $20

“The winemaker himself, Ludovic Dervin, told me he designed Mumm Cuvee M to taste like peaches and cream – and it does!” says FOF Jill Silverman Hough author of  100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love “It’s my favorite sparkler.”

4. Swanson Alexis Cabernet Blend (vintage years 2004 to 2007 from Oakville or Napa), $58-$79.99

“I enjoy Swanson’s Alexis Cabernet Blend from Napa,” says FOF Eve Bushman of Eve’s Wine 101 blog and the Santa Clarita, CA, newspaper column by the same name. “In the ‘04, I noted pleasant black fruit in the aroma and taste–dry with a lovely length.  The ‘05 was quite complex and the ‘06 had aromas of anise and eucalyptus.”

5. Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain (vintage years 2005 or 2006), $106

“If you like mature jam on the nose and full flavors of cherry, blackberry, softened tannins and black pepper, you’ll like this,” says FOF Eve Bushman.

6. En Tirage 1992 Russian River Valley Recently Disgorged Extra Brut, $60.

“Longtime winemaker Don Baumhefner finally has released En Tirage, a bottling he’s let linger in the cellar for 17 years,” says FOF Virginie Boone, contributing reviewer for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. “Disgorged just this fall, it’s creamy, voluptuous and deep honey in color, with a lovely apricot nose and layers of texture.”

100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook by FOF author Jill Silverman Hough

“It’s full of easy, delicious recipes and makes wine pairing absolutely unintimidating,” says FOF author Jill Silverman Hough. “If you’re serving, for example, Chardonnay, turn to that chapter, pick any recipe, and it’ll go with Chardonnay. If you don’t have a particular wine in mind, pick a recipe you like and then get the wine to go with it.”

To enter to win 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love cookbook and two bottles of wine from Casey Flat Ranch, comment below and answer: When you’re served wine at a restaurant do you sniff and taste it before you drink it?

Contest closes December 14, 2010.

(See all our past winners, here.)

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.