This cute interactive peek-a-boo elephant was everyone's favorite gift at my baby shower — my 16-month-old daughter still plays with it
Not many toys endure appropriate from birth through toddlerhood. Most of the toys my 16-month-old had as an infant are already packed away. Baby Gund's Flappy the Elephant animated stuffed toy was a baby shower gift that was a hit then and is still one of my daughter's favorite toys. The enduring interactive toy sings and plays peek-a-boo, but it's also incredibly soft and cuddly.
Everyone thinks of the staple baby shower gifts when a new baby is about to enter the world: diapers, wipes, blankets, pacifiers, toys, books, stuffed animals, tiny clothes, and the like. I was so fortunate to receive more than enough beautiful gifts at my baby shower when I was pregnant with my daughter. But now that she is 16 months old, most of those gifts have already been used and packed away. We received all the typical gifts and then some, but it was one stuffed animal toy that stood out as everyone's favorite gift. Guests at the shower couldn't stop gushing over how cute Flappy the Elephant is, and over a year later, my daughter still loves playing with the toy. What exactly is Flappy the Elephant?
Flappy the Elephant is a stuffed animal that can also sing and play with your child. It has two different modes that can be activated by squeezing either foot. The "sing" foot plays "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" while Flappy's ears flap back and forth. The song runs for about a minute. Pressing the "play" foot makes Flappy play peek-a-boo by covering his eyes with his ears. Young kids easily learn how to activate the toy and each game of peek-a-boo lasts about 30 seconds — this was one of the first toys my daughter learned how to work. The elephant is the size of a standard stuffed animal, standing 12 inches high and weighing a little under a pound. It comes ready to go with three AA batteries, and the battery compartment is fully covered by a soft flap of fabric. You'll also find an on/off switch beside the battery compartment. What makes Flappy stand out Many interactive toys that talk or sing aren't completely soft or they have bright lights, but Flappy is completely soft and cuddly, making it a great option for kids who want to snuggle up with the toy. What really makes it stand out though is the cuteness factor. The voice of the elephant is sweet and cheery (not creepy) sounding, and it says "hello baby" before starting the game of peek-a-boo, so children will think the elephant is talking directly to them. Something about the voice in this toy really appeals to kids. Flappy is a great plush animal for newborns through young children. When my daughter was an infant, she enjoyed simply watching Flappy sing and talk. Now that she is a toddler, she likes to interact with him and play peek-a-boo. The simplicity is exactly what young kids need — it's just enough to entertain them, but not enough to overstimulate them or do all the work of play for them. Many of the toys, clothes, and baby accessories we received as gifts when my daughter was born are already packed away because my daughter has outgrown them. Flappy the Elephant is one of the toys that is still going strong, and I expect it to for quite some time. I can see my daughter playing with Flappy well through her toddler years; I think she might outgrow it when she's around 4 years old. The ears seem somewhat delicate, but my daughter has grabbed and pulled them, and so far, they've stood up to her handling. Flappy also sits up really well; some toys and stuffed animals easily topple over, but Flappy stays exactly where he is supposed to. The cons The volume can't be adjusted. Though I don't find that Flappy is particularly loud, this could be a downside if you're looking for a toy that has a mute function. The bottom line
It doesn't get much cuter than this toy. Baby Gund kept it simple and didn't try to add in too many features. Often I find that toys like this try too hard to teach shapes, colors, and numbers, and in doing so they lose something along the way. Babies and kids learn through repetition, which is why they love to do the same thing over and over and over again. With Flappy, they can easily play the game and song on repeat without needing help from a parent. If you want to bring a gift to a baby shower that will not only delight the new baby when they arrive but will also be the talk of the shower, Flappy the Elephant is the gift you're looking for. You could even pair Flappy with this soft sensory book that follows along with his dialogue. Flappy obviously isn't just for baby showers, either. If you're looking for a soft, comforting, and fun toy for your child, Flappy is sure to delight.
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BarkBox is arguably the most popular pet subscription box — I tried it and can see why dogs and their owners love it
BarkBox is a subscription box filled with dog toys and treats. Since 2012, the popular...BarkBox is a subscription box filled with dog toys and treats. Since 2012, the popular boxes have been shipped to more than 2 million dogs. Prices range from $22 to $29 per month, and each box includes exclusive toys, all-natural treats, and a chew. I tested it with my dog Archie who will chew on or play with just about anything, so I'm not surprised he loved the BarkBox toys so much. I'm pleased with their quality and durability. Table of ContentsFrom groceries and prepared meals to clothing and beauty products, there is a monthly subscription service for everything — including dog toys. When it comes to monthly pet product subscriptions, there are several options to choose from. There are Petco's PupBox, Bullymake, and RescueBox for dogs, and boxes for our feline friends from Cat Lady Box and KitNipBox, to name a few. Add to that fresh food delivery services like The Farmer's Dog, NomNomNow, PetPlate, Ollie, and Spot & Tango. And then there is arguably the most popular: BarkBox. Since its inception, it's delivered boxes to more than 2 million dogs and partnered with stores like Target to bring their most popular toys to nonsubscribers. I decided to test the service with my dog Archie who loves to play with and chew on almost everything. How does BarkBox work? To keep it simple, BarkBox sends you a box of toys, treats, and accessories once a month. Not only does BarkBox offer monthly deliveries of toys and treats, but each box has a unique theme. One month your dog might receive a collection of holiday-themed treats and toys while the next month his BarkBox might send him on a journey through Chewrassic Bark. Each box contains two innovative toys, two bags of all-natural treats, a chew, and a specially curated item from the month's themed collection. Every toy is designed by in-house industrial designers, made for the way dogs play and approved by the company's own test dogs. To sign up, all you have to do is create an online profile, answering questions about your dog's size and dietary preferences. You can also choose from the standard BarkBox filled with plush toys or the Super Chewer Box filled with fluff-free tough toys. From there, you can choose a one-month subscription ($29), six months ($25/box), or 12 months ($22/box). The entire subscription process takes less than five minutes. Testing the BarkBox To write my review, Archie and I received two BarkBoxes with assorted toys, treats, and chews from the Bark Slope Street Fair collection. Here's what we received: Fresh Fair Treats, Lamb Gyro Recipe Fresh Fair Treats, Duck Shish Kabob Recipe Fresh Fair Treats, Chicken & Fish Taco Recipe New York City Central Pork Pizza Treats Plato Pet Treats Thinkers Chew, Salmon Recipe (2) Max's Maine Lobster Roll (Plush Toy) Gideon the Pigeon (Plush Toy) Bebe the Burrito (Plush Toy) Lickton Iced Tea (Spiky Core Toy) Shuck n' Chuck Corn Cob (Super Chewer Toy) The All-Powerful Pupsicle (Super Chewer Toy) Buns of Steel Hotdog (Super Chewer Toy) From the moment I started opening the BarkBox, Archie was intrigued — the noise of the packing paper alone sent him into an excited frenzy. The first thing I grabbed out of the box was Max's Main Lobster Roll, one of the plush toys. I gave the toy a good squeeze and Archie's ears perked up and his head tilted to the side. I waved the toy around a couple of times then offered it to him. He immediately grabbed it out of my hand, ran down the hall into the bedroom, and started chewing. Archie loves a good plush toy, especially if there's a squeaker involved. But what he really loved about Max's Maine Lobster Roll was the crinkle noise it made. Several other toys in the collection made similar noises, and he seemed to prefer them above the hard Super Chewer toys. He gobbled up the treats (which was a little surprising since he's been picky about treats in the past) and he made quick work of the chews as well. I'm now writing this several weeks after receiving Archie's BarkBox. My bedroom floor is currently covered in tufts of stuffing ripped out of several plush toys I'd received as gifts. Archie's beloved stuffed lamb and puppy are no more, but his BarkBox plush toys are still around (though he did manage to get the squeaker out of Gideon the Pigeon and chewed that to shreds). Needless to say, I think he's a fan of BarkBox and so am I. What's the verdict? Archie will chew on or play with just about anything, so I'm not surprised he loved the BarkBox so much. I am, however, pleased with the quality and durability of the toys. Even the plush toys from the regular BarkBox stood up well, and I'm convinced the Super Chewer toys will last forever. Archie loves chews, so those are long gone already. I'm not sure that I need two bags of treats every month, though. One final thing I found interesting is that BarkBox is very allergy-friendly. Every BarkBox is free from corn, wheat, and soy, which greatly reduces the risk for triggering allergies and food sensitivities. There are also options for dogs that are allergic to chicken, beef, and turkey — you simply have to call BarkBox or use their live chat feature, and they'll send you an allergy-friendly box. To wrap up, here's an overview of the pros and cons for BarkBox: The pros Everything is of the highest quality, including all-natural dog treats and innovative toys. Each box is tailored to fit your dog's size, and options are available for dogs with allergies. You can reorder certain items or purchase items from other collections online. There is a money-back guarantee if your dog doesn't like every item in the box. BarkBox donates 5% of their profits go toward supporting organizations that provide free or low-cost vet care through spay and neuter programs. Discounted prices are available for buying multiple months and for multiple dogs. The cons Subscription automatically renews; you'll be charged and sent another box if you don't cancel. Some of the plush toys may not be ideal for heavy chewers and the stuffing could be a choking hazard — there is also access to the squeaker inside if your dog rips open the toy. The rubberized toys that come in the Super Chewer box are heavy and somewhat awkward. All in all, I was very pleased with my BarkBox experience and I think it's safe to say that Archie is too. Join the conversation about this story »
I bought this classic activity cube for my 9-month-old daughter — she still loves playing with it more than 5 months later
I don't usually let my daughter play with the germ-covered toys in doctors' waiting rooms,...I don't usually let my daughter play with the germ-covered toys in doctors' waiting rooms, so I bought a popular waiting room toy for her to play with at home. I love that the Battat Wooden Activity Cube will grow with my daughter. We started using it when she was 9 months old, and she's 14 months now. The play cube has a colorful farm theme with a manipulative farm scene on top and animal-themed activities on each side. It keeps her entertained while teaching her how to count, hand-eye coordination, and more. I can see her playing with it for years to come. Quick! Close your eyes and picture a doctor's or dentist's office waiting room. What do you see? Chairs, a receptionist, other patients, maybe a fish tank? I bet you also see one of those toys with the beads that you can slide across a loopy wire. My poor daughter Ellie never gets to play with those toys in the doctor's office waiting room. Call me a germaphobe, but I don't want her touching toys in a room that sick kids cycle through all day long. Lucky for her, this waiting room staple has now become a staple in our home as well. Enter the Battat Wooden Activity Cube. These toys are so stereotypical of waiting rooms that it almost seems weird to have in your home, but hear me out. Read more: My daughter loves playing with these toy kits that encourage brain development in babies and toddlers The activity cube has lots of colors, beads, and manipulative activities that keep kids entertained while also helping them develop new skills I love a toy that can grow with your kids, and this one definitely does. There are a lot of interesting animals and colors for babies to look at during tummy time, activities on all four sides for crawlers, and counting beads and moveable figurines on the top for walkers. It's beautifully made and has much more than loopy wires with beads. The four sides feature colorful doors that open and close, animal-printed blocks to spin, painted cylinders to mix and match, and wooden chips to drop. The learning opportunities with this toy are almost endless: Counting Categorizing Identifying colors Developing hand-eye coordination Naming animals and making their sounds Refining fine motor skills by moving beads, animals, opening and closing doors, spinning blocks, and more Imaginative play with the farm scene Learning about gravity and cause and effect Every time Ellie goes through a new developmental stage, she seems to rediscover this toy, and at only 14 months old, there is still so much more for her to learn. The company recommends this toy for kids ages 12 months and up, but I bought it for Ellie when she was about 9 months old, and she loved it then too. Read more: The best fine motor toys for toddlers It's a sturdy wooden cube that kids can use to pull themselves up, though you should keep an eye on your babies in case they fall The activity block is quite sturdy but lightweight. When Ellie was learning to stand and walk, she would use it to pull herself up, and it never toppled over. The four corners are beveled so there are no sharp edges, but the wood is still solid and would definitely hurt if your baby fell on it. I still kept an eye on her, so definitely stay close by your baby if they're in that development stage. The cube works great for toy rotation too. I try to switch out what toys Ellie has available to play with every so often to keep her interested in them longer. Since this cube has so many activities on each side, I keep this cube in a corner and rotate which sides face the walls every couple of days to keep things fresh. A similar but less expensive option is the Melissa & Doug First Bead Maze, which would be a good choice if you're only interested in the bead part of an activity cube. With suction cups to keep it in place, you could move the ToyerBee Bead Maze from the floor to higher surfaces like a side table as your baby grows into a toddler. The amount of time Ellie spends playing with her activity cube speaks for itself. Overall, I'd recommend this colorful toy to anyone looking for a product that supports learning through playtime for babies and toddlers. Join the conversation about this story »
This Melissa & Doug wooden toy chest is the toy box I didn't know I needed — it's sturdy, safe for tiny fingers, and looks great
A toy box is a must to keep kids' spaces organized, especially if you don't...A toy box is a must to keep kids' spaces organized, especially if you don't have a designated playroom. The Melissa & Doug Wooden Toy Chest holds 8.25 cubic feet of toys, so a lot of my daughter's toys fit inside, and it keeps our living room looking at least somewhat organized. Little fingers won't get pinched with a lid that stays open on its own and a small gap between the lid and the chest. Much like our favorite Melissa & Doug toys, the box is high-quality and well-designed. Last Christmas, my daughter was almost 6 months old, and when my dad asked if it would be a good idea to get her a toy box for Christmas, I honestly wasn't sure. She hadn't accumulated too many toys at that point, but I knew that her toy collection would only grow, so I said yes. Now a year and an overflowing toy box later, I realize that it was one of the best Christmas gifts she could have gotten. Toy boxes help kids keep their play space organized so they aren't so overwhelmed with all of their play options. The toy box I didn't know I needed My dad ended up buying her the Melissa & Doug Wooden Toy Chest in espresso. It's also available in honey and white, so there is a color to match most decor. The toy box measures 33 inches long, 24 inches high (including the decorative bar at the top), and 19 inches deep. It provides 8.25 cubic feet of space inside for toys, and it weighs 25 pounds. Assembly was painless and took less than an hour. The decorative bar across the top in the back makes it look more like a piece of furniture and less like a plain box. Since I don't have a playroom in my house, the subtle decorative touches look great in my living room. The weight of this toy box is perfect because it's light enough for me to easily pick it up by the handles on the sides without being so light that my daughter can tip it over. She's also not able to push it around, so it stays exactly where I want it to be. Parents might be afraid to choose the white toy box for their kids because well, kids. No matter what color you choose though, the finish is smooth and extremely easy to clean and wipe down both inside and outside the box. I'm impressed by the durability and safety features The best thing about this toy box is that it's so incredibly sturdy and well made. My daughter has it packed full of toys, and there are no signs of the bottom giving way. The real test of its durability is my 95-pound German shepherd who has jumped onto the box on more than one occasion. Aside from a few scratches from his nails, you would never know he even touched it. Not only is it durable, but the lid of the toy box has a safety hinge so it doesn't slam shut or pinch little fingers. Some toy box lids need to be held open, propped open, or they only stay open once they reach a certain height. This lid stays open on its own even if it's only opened an inch. It even has an extra protective measure of a gap between the lid and the box in the front so even if someone does slam the lid shut while little fingers are holding onto the box, they won't get hurt. Be careful: The toy box looks a lot like a seat, but the lid is not meant to bear weight The only real complaint I have about this toy box is that it looks so much like a piece of furniture that belongs in our living room that visitors often mistake it for a bench. It's strong enough to hold my 23-pound daughter when she climbs on top of it, although that is obviously not recommended. Toddlers will be toddlers, though. According to the instructions, it is not supposed to be used as a seat, so officially, no weight on top of the box is safe. Nobody that has sat on it has ever broken it, but it's frustrating to always tell guests they can't sit on it. The bottom line Melissa & Doug makes quality kids' products, and they did it again with this wooden toy chest. A toy box isn't just something that a kid will play with for a few months before it gets forgotten and eventually donated or thrown away. It will be a staple in your home for as long as your kids play with toys. I've only had this toy box for about a year, but it still looks and functions just as well as it did on the day I got it. I wasn't so sure about receiving it as a first Christmas present for my daughter at first, but if I had known what I know now, I would have put this toy box at the top of her Christmas list. Join the conversation about this story »