Best Toys for Kids 2009, Part One

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) has just released its Best Toys for Kids list for 2009. These toys are chosen by ASTRA retailers (disclosure: we are members of this group) for provoking good, old-fashioned, make-it-up-yourself, belly-laughing play for children of all ages.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll examine the 2009 winners in all categories. We don’t always stock all the winners, but we certainly take a hard look at the items suggested by our fellow independent toy retailers across Canada and the USA, whose suggestions will often inspire us to bring in an item we might have overlooked.

Infant Play (0-12 Months)

The two winners in this category are Sophie Giraffe (Vulli SA) and Natural Skwish (Manhattan Toy).

Sophie has become a North American phenomenon only recently, despite having an almost 50-year history in Europe. The natural rubber infant toy has all the elements of a classic: a safe and simple design; delicate and attractive colouring that is nonetheless high-contrast so that very young infants are provided visual stimulation; a soft and touchable surface; and an amusing squeaker.

The safe, natural rubber composition means that Sophie is — and always has been — free of the banned phthalates that were sometimes found in plastic toys in the past. Chewing on Sophie is the perfect antidote for teething babies’ sore gums.

The Natural Skwish, from Manhattan Toy, is only the latest version of this beloved baby toy. The original Skwish was designed by a Canadian sculptor and inventor named Tom Flemons (you can check out his current projects here) who was, he says, inspired by the tensegrity structures of Buckminster Fuller. The Skwish is an intriguing construction of smooth rubber-tree wood, slide-y beads, and elastic cord that resembles nothing so much as a large molecular model. Compress it, and it pops back into shape. Turn it and admire its elegant symmetry. Roll it along the floor or teethe upon the smooth and non-toxic wooden parts.

Make no mistake — this is a toy that babies adore. Whether in the original primary-colours version, the soft pastel version, or in this newest incarnation, the Skwish is functional art: a modern classic. We have sold the Skwish since 1985, and we love it. Your baby will love it too.

We have the Natural Skwish in stock (CAD$19.99), and we are waiting for Sophie the Giraffe (also CAD$19.99) to arrive.


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