Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Retailer of the Month Feature: Five Little Monkeys

The History and Magic Behind the locally-owned, family run, green certified, San Francisco Bay Area toy store

Owner Stephanie Sala opened the first Five Little Monkeys location in Albany, CA in 2001.  Opening her own toy store, was not part of her original plan after graduating from college.  She had every intention of applying to graduate schools and becoming a teacher.  But after 9/11, her focus shifted.  Stephanie soon realized that she wanted to be closer to home and her “little monkeys” (brothers and sisters).  Being raised by entrepreneurs, “business was in [her] blood”.  She soon found herself renting out a vacant space and opening a toy store next door to the children’s clothing manufacturing business her mother owned.  

"What started out as an 840 square foot store, has expanded to four locations, with stores in Albany, Burlingame, Novato and Walnut Creek."

Why a toy store?  Turns out, Stephanie's father, originally from France, is a toy designer and is the creator of the award winning Whoozit®! Some of her fondest memories as a child consisted of annual trips to France with frequent visits to toy stores.  Five Little Monkey’s design and feel is reflective of the fond memories of Stephanie’s childhood, mixed with inspiration pulled from the quirky shops and cute boutiques she came to know on Solano Avenue in Albany, CA.   Five Little Monkeys opened their doors on November 16, 2001.   

Since Stephanie's Father created the Whoozit, after deciding to open the store, the first toy order she placed was through Manhattan ToyThe store has always had a special affinity for all Manhattan Toy products and their toy assortment has continued to grow over the years.  When it comes to selecting products for their store, they are always on the hunt for fun, educational, environmentally sound and safe toys.  Their motto is "Imaginative toys for creative minds!"  To stay abreast of the newest toys, they have their staff complete weekly reports to stay up to speed with what their customers are looking for and ways to improve their selection and customer experience. In addition, they attend yearly trade shows to discover new designs, as well as the latest innovations and trends in the industry. 
 
If you’re in the in the Albany area, be sure to check out Five Little Monkeys.  They have a wide selection of products and offer a one of a kind experience.  Be sure to check out what’s going on at each store location, you may just find yourself taking part in one of their yearly community-wide events.  Got a softball team in the area?  Five Little Monkeys sponsors Little League and Softball teams, not to mention, they donate to local events and fundraisers and even hold shopping nights designed specifically to raise money for the local community.  Just another few great reasons so stop by your local Five Little Monkey’s specialty toy store.

Visit any of the four Five Little Monkey Store Locations:

Albany
1224 Solano Ave.
Albany, CA 94706
United States
PH: 510.528.4411

Burlingame
1111 Burlingame Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010
United States
PH: 650.342.4411

Novato
852 Grant Avenue
Novato, CA 94945
United States
PH: 415.898.4411

Walnut Creek
1366 North Main Street
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
United States
PH: 925.939.4411

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Earth Day and The Lorax


In honor of Earth Day, we suggest you do what you can to help the Lorax and his friends make our World a better place to be for all living things. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax  Project provides a list of many easy things we should consider every day.

Trying to teach little ones about environmentalism and sustainability can be tricky - but The Lorax is great way to bridge that gap.  How about make it a family event or better yet throw a party?
Here's some of our recommendations for celebrating Earth Day:
  • Watch the movie the Lorax and snuggle with your own little Lorax.
  • Order our Lorax finger puppets and tell the story yourself or have little ones share his story.
  • Make these fabulous and healthy Lorax snacks, idea courtesy of Desert Chica Ramblings.
  • Remember the trees!  Create your own Truffula Tree Pencils, idea courtesy of Club Chica Circle 
  • Mix up some Bar-Ba-Loot Snack's! Idea courtesy of Babble.
  • Get creative and make this super fun (and cute) Lorax dice game, idea courtesy of Smashed Peas.
Looking for other ideas?  There are many, many more.  See this awesome list courtesy of Desert Chica Ramblings:  http://desertchicaramblings.com/2014/02/50-lorax-ideas/

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Boosting Self Esteem Through Pretend Play

Guest Blogger: Marcie from Obviously Marvelous

When I was pregnant with my first child and learned I would be having a daughter, I made a few very important promises to both myself and my unborn little girl. I first vowed to teach her how to become self-sufficient in hopes she would never put herself in a situation where she had to stay with someone harmful or abusive due to financial or emotional dependency. I then pledged to raise her to know that women can do absolutely anything a man can do, and finally, I also felt it was important to ingrain in her that the beauty standards placed on women by the media are often unhealthy and unattainable. After making this vital lineup, I quickly realized each of these goals could be reached simply by ensuring she had great self-esteem. I set out on my journey of motherhood with a sense of inner peace and a lot of determination.
Once my daughter entered her toddler years, I started to truly realize how important simple play could be. I spent many afternoons watching her discover the world around her and learn to communicate with others through different types of play. It truly made my heart sing, and by this time, I was pregnant again, with yet another little girl, so my desire to instill a strong sense of self-worth in my sweet girls only heightened with the birth of my second daughter.

Since play creates constant opportunities for inner growth, and pretend play was something in particular that both of my daughters have enjoyed for as long as I remember, it was greatly encouraged around our home. We had everything from a play kitchen, shopping cart and an array of fake food, to toy doctor kits and a ton of dress up outfits. They could be anything they wanted to be, right in the comfort of their own home.

My how they grow! My daughters will be turning eight and ten in just a few months, but that hasn't stopped them from taking some free time to enjoy moments of pretend play. They especially love dolls and their collection of Groovy Girls is growing rapidly! Groovy Girls are colorful characters that encourage girls to develop a sense of self-identity and individualism. They will also celebrate their Sweet 16th Birthday this year and I especially love them since they encourage personal style, diversity, and the power of friendship.
Due to increasing technology, imaginary play seems to have really taken a dive. Since children learn and express what they feel and understand about their world through complex action during play and take on intricate role playing, it is more important than ever before that we keep play alive! Below are some key tips on how to encourage play and self-esteem in your home.

·         There will certainly be many occasions where you have a limited amount of time for your child to play, but do your best to also create special play times when you can tell your child they don't have to hurry or clean up right away
·         Talk with your children about their play. Let them share what they're doing from their point of view and respect them by listening
·         Play with them so they see and know how much you value play
·         Get involved in providing suggestions, activities, ingredients, props, and ideas
·         Control television watching and technological toys
·          Walk outside often, play in nature, explore, ramble and swim together
·          Never underestimate the power of music to relax and teach your child
Happy Playing!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to Keep Little Hands Busy on Rainy Days


We all know that Spring brings rain, and rain means finding fun and educational activities to keep our kids engaged while inside. Not always an easy task!

As a teacher, I really try to search for the best of the best for my girls. I just can’t see purchasing just "toys" when there are so many amazing things that are fun to play with and teach at the same time.

While searching for the perfect activities to fill our "playroom"-home school area, I ran across the Manhattan Toy Company and have been thrilled with all of their products. So far my favorite has definitely been the Put & Peek Birdhouse.

My daughter Annaliese is a whopping 1 year old now and let me just say that it is getting harder and harder to keep her engaged! She just has so much energy!

As parents, and teachers, it is important that we know and understand that discovery play is a MAJOR part of a child’s life. Heck, the Montessori Method of teaching (which is what I taught) is totally based on it!

Not sure what discovery play is? It’s simple really. Discovery play allows children to learn about their world and how things work. I’m not sure if you are this way, but in most cases, children (and some adults) learn best by doing. This means that discovery play just fits into their daily lives.
In order for discovery play to go smoothly, you need the right toys and environment. Here is where Manhattan Toy comes in!
Right there on their website they describe themselves using just the words I am looking for!

About Manhattan Toy - Imaginations at Play!
Play is discovery and exploration, and joy, and growth, and learning, and so much more. And for us play is serious work. So when we bring play to life, we do it with a commitment to the finest in craftsmanship and creativity. All of our products, from the newest concepts to our time-tested classics, are innovatively designed to inspire imaginative play and delight our consumers large and small. (From About Us section of the company website)


Play is extremely important in a child’s development. If you can combine simple play with imaginative exploration and discovery play you will have hit the jackpot! This is exactly what Manhattan Toy has done.

I chose the Put & Peek Birdhouse because it has such an awesome array of visual and tactile stimulation as well as the exploration possibilities that easily push it to the top in the discovery play category.

This toy is simply adorable and I love the fact that it has a variety of places for the birds to be put in and taken out. The Put & Peek Birdhouse is recommended for ages 9 months and up.

From the moment the box came, Annaliese was absolutely captured by the brightness and noises that this toy displays. Each bird has a small difference in the noises it makes (some rattle, some crinkle, etc.) and according to Annaliese ALL are edible!
She has spent many rainy days playing with this, she just can’t get enough! She will pack the birds in, close the top, grab the handle and walk to a new spot to do it all over again.

What’s not to love about a toy that makes a child think, engage and problem solve all while having fun?

Watch this video! She loves figuring out which hole she will find the birds in next. :)

 
Here's a list of our other top toys from Manhattan Toy to keep little hands busy  on dreary spring days:  http://www.manhattantoy.com/c/shop-by-category_baby-developmental-toys

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Three Must-Haves on Your Next Family Vacation

Keep the Kids Busy with These Great Suggestions
As the snow melts away and the brown grass slowly starts to peek through the white blanket of slush and ice, vacationing to a warmer climate starts to sound like a fantastic idea.  After five “long” months of bitter cold, many are eager to pack up their family and go on a spring break get away.  But, after a winter of minimal long distance road trips, you may have forgotten what' important to pack before you hit the road.

If a tropical destination is where your family is headed, you know you’ll want to pack the sunscreen, swim suits and flip-flops.  But if you think a pair of sunglasses and fun colored sandals are going to keep the kids busy in their seats, think again!  That’s why we’ve come up with some great kid-conscious travel necessities to bring with on your next family getaway.

Three Travel Accessories to Keep the Kids Busy:

1.  Games and Travel ToysGames and toys are just the thing to keep your 
     kids happy in the back seat or occupied on the plane ride.  Choose games 
     and toys that will keep everyone entertained.

Manhattan Toy® suggestions:

       For Baby: Wimmer-Ferguson® Car Seat Gallery™ or My Snuggly Ellie 
       Activity Toy™

My Snuggly™ Ellie Activity Toy
Wimmer-Ferguson® Car Seat Gallery




















For Kids Ages 3+:  imagine i CAN® Magnetic Play Sets or Small Tin  Games

imagine i CAN® Magnetic Play Sets
2.  BooksReading is a great way to keep everyone occupied.  Choose books 
     that are good for your children’s reading level.  If you’re traveling with an 
     infant or beginning reader, Manhattan Toy soft fabric and board books 
     provide a great means of lasting entertainment.

Manhattan Toy® suggestions: 

          Sea Life Adventures Activity Book or Count & Play Puppies
Count & Play Puppies
Sea Life Adventures











 








 3.  Snuggle CompanionsTravel can be tiring, especially for the little ones, 
     which is why you always want to have a snuggly soft toy or blankie at-the-
     ready.  With a snuggle buddy, a little afternoon snooze can make you 
     feel right at home.

Manhattan Toy® suggestions:

        For Baby: My Snuggly Misty or Snuggle Pods Sweet Pea
Snuggle Pods™ Sweet Pea
My Snuggly Misty
For The Kids: Lovelies Giraffe™ or Delightfuls Duffy Dog™ 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Think Spring!

Spring starts tomorrow – and then Easter is just one month away!  We love the light pretty patterns and soft pastel colors that this season brings and the fresh smells of the Earth in bloom.

This spring, whether planning Easter baskets, giving a birthday gift or going to a birthday shower give the gift of spring and snuggles.  All of our stuffed critters are fabulous, but our newest additions truly stand out.

Lovelies:
Lovelies, are ultra soft and pretty in all pastels.  In Easter fashion, White Bunny Riley, Pink Bunny Binky, Blue Bunny Bailey, Lindy Lamb or Piper Pig would be perfect to pair with yummy sweet treats in a basket this spring.  For something non-traditional but just as cuddly, there’s Mocha Monkey, Genna Giraffe, Payton Puppy and Mimi Mouse.  All available in three sizes: small, medium and large.
Delightfuls:
Delightfuls are bright in color and have fun wavy fur.  Whether you’re giving as a gift or snuggling up for an afternoon nap, Dixie Duck, Ferris Frog, Carly Cat, Duffy Dog or Bevin Bunny will be the perfect companion for anyone this spring.  All available in three sizes: small, medium and large.

Little Ones
And tiny but not forgotten we have Little Ones.  These six forest friends, Finn Fox, Olly Owl, Henry Hedgehog, Bitsy Bluebird, Baxter Beaver and Renny Rabbit are but perfect for giving or collecting.

For more springtime gift and toy ideas, visit our website or call our customer service team!  We’re happy to help you fully transition over to sunnier days and warmer weather shopping!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Celebrate Plant a Flower Day!

It may be too cold in your area to actually start your garden, but whether you're planting outside or inside using a pots - get going!

For most of us in the US, especially us in Minnesota, starting seeds indoors is a great option who wants to benefit from an early start.  Don't have pots?  Really anything will do with the proper care - yogurt cups, milk cartons and other household containers.  Be sure to clean all containers thoroughly to prevent disease from affecting seedlings.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get started:

1.  Decide on your flowers.  Visit a local garden center and choose the best flowers for your garden.  Check the tags that come with the flowers or seed packets to make sure the flower is right or you. 
  • Look for the complete growth size of the flower
  • Ask about native flowers before looking at all available varieties 
  • Check to see if the flower you are growing is an annual or a perennial.  Annuals bloom only once a year and must be replanted.  Perennials grow back every year without needing to be replanted
  • Read the tag for watering requirements
2.  Get good soil and mix in some fertilizer.  This will add a nice nutrient boost.  Avoid soil that is heavy with clay, sand or rocks, and that has a balanced pH near 7.  Plant flower seeds at least six inches deep in loose soil.  Nothing too packed!

3.  Then, read the plant's light preferences on the seed package.  Select a good location for your seeds to begin growing.  Flowers can't just grow anywhere.  Usually, an area that isn't in the direct sun, but doesn't have too much shade is perfect - a happy medium.

4.  Water your flowers regularly.  But not daily!  Just make sure the soil is always slightly moist.

5.  Weed the area as needed.

6.  Maintain flowers.  Remove deadheads on your flowers so that new ones can bloom.  Add support if the flowers are getting too tall.  And, consider relocating flowers to larger pots or areas outside if they get too big.

Let us know if you have any questions!  Happy planting! :)

Pssst... Want to give little ones the gift of spring?  Snuggle Pods are perfect.
{Snuggle Pods Two Peas in a Pod}