Why is it the Easter “Bunny” with Easter “Eggs” ?



Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping down the bunny trail,
Hippity… hoppity… Peter’s on his way !

The Easter Bunny is a delightful, magical part of childhood, almost as wonderful as Santa Claus.

But the tradition of an Easter “bunny” – or more accurately, a hare – bringing colorful, decorated eggs to children on Easter Sunday originated hundreds of years ago in medieval Europe.

In fact, the Easter Hare was first described more than 300 years ago, in a manuscript called “About Easter Eggs” published in Germany in 1682.


400 WILD HAREBut How Did it Start ?

Rabbits have been associated with spring and fertility since the first humans saw their frisky mating-season antics and prolific breeding ability.

In fact, it was originally believed rabbits could reproduce without mating – no surprise, considering some pregnant female hares can actually get pregnant again before giving birth to their first litter.


The Goddess of Spring

In northeastern Europe, in the days before Christianity, the Teutonic tribes there would hold feasts at the time of the Spring Equinox to honor “Eostre”, their goddess of spring and fertility – who was often symbolized by a rabbit.

In the same way as the early Christian church “merged'” the pagan Winter Solstice gatherings with it’s celebration of Christmas, the tradition of a gathering and feast to honor Eostre was adopted by the church to eventually become what we know as Easter today.

But here’s a twist…

400 MADONNA WITH BUNNYThe myth that bunnies could have babies without mating – in other words, that rabbits and hares could give birth yet still be “virgins”- led the early Christian church to associate rabbits with the Virgin Mary. That’s why you can find bunnies in medieval religious paintings !

We Can’t Waste the Eggs !

400 HARD BOILED EGGFrom ancient times, eggs were magical – they produced new life.

The egg’s special status in pagan mythology led the early Orthodox Christian church to order the faithful to abstain from eating eggs during the fasting period of Lent, leading up to Easter, when Christ would be re-born and ascend to Heaven.

Mind you, the only way to keep those eggs from spoiling during Lent was to hard-boil or roast them.

And – on Easter Sunday morning, when the Lent fast ended, those eggs were a delicious treat. It was only natural that people began decorating those special eggs, as they waited for Easter to arrive.

400 EASTER EGGSEventually, the church relaxed its rules, allowing the faithful to eat eggs again during Lent. But the delightful tradition of decorating “Easter” eggs continued.

What Do the Colors Mean ?

Many Christians in the Eastern Orthodox church still dye their Easter eggs red, to symbolize the blood of Christ.

Green is popular as the color of spring, and yellow is associated with wealth and prosperity.

The Art of Ukrainian Egg Decorating

The art of decorating Easter eggs with beautiful, intricate designs is a cultural tradition identified with the people of Ukraine, but it’s popular among families all across northeastern Europe.

400 PAINTING UKRAINIAN EGG400 UKRAINIAN EGGSThere are almost a dozen variations on the “pysanka”, or Ukrainian Egg.

It’s typically done by painting the design onto the egg using beeswax, then dipping the egg in dye, which only colors the un-waxed surface.

With many hours of intricate work, repeating the wax & dye process over and over, the results are incredible.


Our Easter Bunny

The idea of a hare that brought colorful eggs to children at Easter was carried across the Atlantic to North America by Protestant German families who settled alongside the Dutch in Pennsylvania. They called the magical rabbit “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws” – the “Easter Hare”.400 VINTAGE EASTER CARD

Among the striking similarities to Santa Claus, only “good” children would find Easter eggs in the nests they made in their caps and bonnets the night before Easter.

Eventually, the Easter caps and bonnets were exchanged for decorated baskets, and the colorful hard-boiled eggs were replaced by candy, treats and other Easter gifts.

Easter Fun Facts

400 CHOCOLATE BUNNIES3 out of 4 people eat the ears on their chocolate Easter Bunny first.

The first chocolate eggs were made in Europe in the early 1800’s.

Chocolate eggs are still among the most popular treats associated with Easter.Lots of jellybeans

Easter has the 2nd highest candy sales in the year. (Halloween is in top spot.)

Red is the most popular color for jelly beans.

333 LITTLE GIRL WITH BUNNY EARSThe largest Easter egg ever made was over 10 meters high (34 feet) and weighed almost 8 tons, or 16,000 lbs.

More than 500,000 eggs were hidden in the biggest Easter egg hunt ever held, which took place in Florida in 2007.400 AUSTRIAN EASTER CUCKOO BIRD

And not everyone in the world celebrates Easter with a Bunny. In some parts of the world, it’s the Easter Fox, and in Austria and Switzerland, the Easter Cuckoo Bird delivers the eggs and candy on Easter morning !


Celtic Knots, Mandalas & The Fifth Element



The Celtic Trinity Knot, or Triquetra, is one of the most common Celtic knots. “Triquetra” is from Latin and means “three-cornered.” There are many schools of thought when interpreting the meaning and symbolism of the Celtic Trinity Knot. But all of the various interpretations agree on one thing: it symbolizes the sublime or  perfect interconnection of its three parts.

Early Christians understood the three elements represented the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A more pagan school of thought recognizes the trinity knot as embodying the three sacred, inherent feminine powers: Mother, Crone, and Maiden. In more modern metaphysical or mystical thinking, the three points or corners identify mind, body and spirit.

Triquetra triquetra

With its mystical symbolism, the Triquetra is a perfect mandala for meditation. It stills the chattering mind as it draws our focus into the center of the triquetra. As our sense of balance grows, it opens our connection to the spiritual elements and the source of that power.



The spiral is prevalent throughout Celtic ruins and remains, and the symbol is found in other ancient cultures around the world. A powerful sign, it represents spiritual awareness and expansion of thought. Meditating on the spiral mandala helps us appreciate that we are more than our physical bodies, and we exist in more realms than this earth. As we delve deeper into the spiral, we find our awareness is ever growing and expanding, and our energy grows with it.  We are reminded to open ourselves to allow our positive energy to flow out to others and the world, making the universe a better place for all to live and grow.

Celtic Knotsceltic-knot

The Celtic Knot beckons us to fall into it for a glimpse into the inner workings of our lives. As we allow our minds to explore the endless, hypnotic flow of these mandalas, we see how our decisions have affected our lives, and the lives of those around us.
Celtic knots also help us visualize how our lives are interconnected with our ancestors. Allow your imagination to explore freely and this mandala will bring new spiritual insights.


Celtic Symbol Meanings: Four Aspects



– 4 Elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water

– 4 Directions: South, North, East, West

– 4 Seasons: Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall

– 4 Latin Gospels in the Book of Kells

– 4 Fire Festivals: Samhain, Beltane, Imbolc, Lughnasadh

– 4 Great Treasures of the Tuatha



But… What About the Fifth Element ?

Our spiritually intuitive Celtic ancestors grasped the concept of a more expansive essence unifying the common four elements. That’s where the fifth element makes its appearance.

The chart below explores the Celtic meanings and associations of the four elements, and how these are joined together by a fifth element. Together, all five create a balanced, unified power that can conceivably be tapped by the human mind.

Tapping into the balance of the five elements, who knows what level of awareness can be gained ? Druids hinted at an all-encompassing illumination when the five aspects of nature were perfectly balanced within human understanding.

Celtic meanings behind the five-fold concept could fill a book. The meanings and associations in our chart are found throughout Celtic legend, lore, poetry and history.


Say “Hi” to Lottie… the non-Barbie doll !



Hey ! It’s a doll just like me !!

Lottie dolls are a brilliant alternative to Barbie and Bratz.

These cute, poseable “non-Barbie” dolls are simply delightful – and delightfully simple.

Unlike the distorted body shapes of the Barbie and Bratz dolls, Lottie dolls look like real 9-year-old girls and have wonderful, realistic 9-year-old adventures.

And Lottie – literally – stands on her own two feet!

There’s No “Lottie Corvette” !

Responding to increasing demand from young parents for “non-Barbie” dolls, the concept behind Lottie dolls was developed over 18 months by a group of forward-thinking child development experts, parents, nutritionists and child psychologists in the UK.

More than 100 different “action points” were incorporated into Lottie dolls and accessories to empower children to be themselves, embrace individuality, enjoy their childhood and have meaningful and inspirational adventures.BRANKSEA FESTIVAL NON-BARBIE LOTTIE DOLL

Lottie doesn’t wear make-up or high heels. Instead, she promotes diversity, and exploring science, nature and different cultures.

Lottie has different skin, hair and eye colors.
School Days Lottie wears glasses.




Fossil Hunter Lottie is a budding geologist, and Stargazer Lottie is an amateur astronomer, with a telescope & tripod, solar system collector cards, and information about famous women astronomers.

And this is awesome: Stargazer Lottie was inspired by a real 6-year-old girl, and she’s the 1st doll to ever go into space !

Stargazer Lottie In Space


You’ll find an absolutely wonderful short video here about how Stargazer Lottie was inspired by little Abigail, and see her excitement as she watches Lottie’s amazing trip to the International Space Station with British astronaut Tim Peake in December 2015 !


Robot Girl Lottie
is based on real-life Canadian robotics expert Erin Kennedy, whose Robot Grrl
blog is an inspiration to young girls to explore the fascinating scientific worlds of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Even Pirate Queen Lottie is modelled after real-life Irish pirate Grace O’Malley, whose exploits in the 16th century made her “the most notorious woman on all the coasts of Ireland”!

“These sweet dolls encourage imaginative play, but also challenge negative body image concerns and premature sexualization, says Melissa Taylor of imaginationsoup.net.
Each doll has a diverse personality, just like the children that play with them. The Lottie dolls have mini-story sets on the packaging to stimulate imaginative play, as well as supplementary online content and competitions to further engage children into wider thought-processes surrounding their toys.FOSSIL HUNTER NON-BARBIE LOTTIE DOLL WITH ACCESSORIES

“For example, the Fossil Hunter doll comes with three fossil hunting tools, four ammonite fossils, collector cards, and a backpack. So cool!”

(See Melissa’s entire article here.)

Since they were introduced in 2012, Lottie Dolls have won more than twenty-one international toy awards, including the 2014 USA Family Choice Award, the 2015 UK “Loved by Parents” Award for Best Stimulative Toy for Ages 3 to 6, two Scholastic USA Gold Star Toy Awards, and an incredible six USA Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Toy Awards.


Here’s what Lucie Follett, the co-creator of Lottie, says about designing Lottie to be just the opposite of Barbie at www.lottie.com:

“The main issue was protecting childhood and to stop allowing our kids to grow old too soon. To address these issues, Lottie has been based on the scientific proportions of a 9-year-old child, with the exception of her head, which has been increased to accommodate hair play. She does not wear jewellery, makeup or high heels.”

Her clothes are vibrant in colour and have significant attention to detail. Lottie’s clothes are very much activity based, in line with those of a 9-year-old instead of an adult. She wears pretty dresses, as well as hard-wearing clothes for muddy, outdoors play. Lottie allows kids to be kids and enjoy their childhood, in all its facets.”

Lottie is a feisty character; she can stand on her own two feet, and whilst she occasionally makes mistakes, she learns from them. She is not perfect. Lottie loves adventure and the outdoors and uses her imagination. In many ways, she is inspired by the spirited female characters in books we loved as children: Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Jo in ‘Little Women’, Nancy Drew…”

(See Lucie Follett talk about creating Lottie to be a “non-Barbie” doll in a 5-minute YouTube video here.)

Lottie’s Motto: Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You.







Click Here to see our complete collection of Lottie Dolls .

Click Here for wonderful Outfits for Lottie and her friend, Finn.

Click Here for delightful Pets & Accessories for Lottie & Finn .


Awesome Toys for Every Age & Stage of Development

Coffee Maker Play Set

Kids love creative toys. It’s why we do what we do… we see the joy in the engagement and enthusiasm of the children who “play-test” the toys in our store.

Pink Princess Outside

The best developmental toys capture and hold a child’s attention, and encourage creativity and imagination.

We think they should be high quality, sturdy, safe… and fun!

We’re not alone.

This is from Early Childhood News:

The best toys actively engage children in many areas of development and can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the child’s interests, ability, and imagination. Young children are naturally curious and providing them with high-quality (which may not mean expensive) materials is important to the learning process. Toys that encourage children’s imagination help them know that the world is a diverse and wonderful place. While children may clamber for the “toy of the moment,” don’t let the hype sway your decision.”

Here are some tips for making smart choices when shopping for developmental toys for babies, and educational toys for toddlers, pre-schoolers and older children.

Under 1 Year Old

You ! You are the best developmental toy for your infant. Especially during the first 3 months, you – your face, your touch, your voice – are the best “toy” you can give your child !

In fact, one-on-one time is important for kids of all ages.

The Canadian Mental Health Association says spending time with parents and grandparents helps children develop healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling connected with other family members, and knowing their family history and heritage provides a strong foundation that encourages children and teens to explore the world and try new things.

JELLYCAT SQUARERattles, Bath Toys, Stuffed Animals. Sounds and textures are essential elements of sensory development. Toys like rattles and stuffed animals offer babies sensory response activities to help develop hand-eye coordination, and a first understanding of the spatial environment surrounding them. Even newborns enjoy exploring the feeling of new textures. Bath toys come with a bonus – babies love playing in water ! We love Jellycat stuffies.

Hand Puppets. Hand puppets are a delightful way to encourage interaction and communication in even very young children. Hand puppets can be “guides” to all sorts of learning adventures, and enhance the bonding process with parents and grandparents. Our  Nutbrown Hare Hand Puppet is one of the sweetest we’ve ever seen, especially as an add-on to the delightful Guess How Much I Love Youstorybook.

Cloth and “Board” Books. Choose books with simple images and bright colors… and remember, your interaction is more important than the book.

Sensory Shapes Blocks by Le Toy VanToddlers – 1 to 3 Years Old

Sorting and Nesting Toys, Buckets, Blocks, Stacking Rings, Shape Sorters, Pop-Up Toys, Simple Puzzles. These kinds of toys help kids learn to make choices, understand patterns, solve problems and develop competence and confidence. Simple toys that require learning new motor skills, sequence or color recognition or hand-eye coordination – for example: turning a jack-in-the-box handle, or putting things in a bucket and taking them out again – are a lot more fun for little ones than adults might think.
Here are a couple of our favorites toddler toys: Puff the Magic Dragon Jack-in-the-Box, Le Toy Van’s Sensory Shapes Blocks.

“People” Play Sets & Playing House Toys. Play sets with little “people” or dolls, animals, houses and cars expand toddler’s language and communication skills, and help them make sense of their world by imitating adult behavior.They encourage imaginative play,the development of fine motor skills and problem-solving… watch them “explain” to their dolls how it’s important to use the “potty”, or to “wait until supper is ready”.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND BK992We have a delightful and wide variety of “little people” play sets, with our Budkins by Le Toy Van highlights for the one to three year old age group. Designed specifically for imaginative play, they’re colorful, bendy and whimsical little dolls – schoolgirls and princesses, palace guards and pirates. We watch them consistently engaging toddlers in our toy store in developmental play that the little ones simply call “fun”. You’ll discover a good starting point for exploring our world of Budkins here.

tv296-blender-set-fruit--smooth (2)We also have one of the largest selections of “Pretend Play” play sets online in North America. Playing House… City… Farm & Equestrian… Builder’s Tools… Dinosaurs… Rainforest Wild Animals… start exploring here.

Pull-Toys & Push-Toys. Young children love to follow and imitate the adults and older children in their lives, and in doing so, they learn how the world works, and how they fit into it. Imitating and repeating reinforce new development pathways. But it’s equally important for young children to be “leader” and direct the action. In younger toddlers, that can truly be as simple and rewarding as pulling a responsive and functional – as opposed to decorative – pull-toy. BLOCKODILETowing it along, leading the way to new adventures… trying out what it’s like to be more “grown up”, with a faithful and non-judgmental pal literally following in his or her footsteps.

We think our Block-o-Dile (a crocodile made of blocks) is the world’s best pull-toy… you can see it and find out more here.

Musical Toys. Musical toys encourage creativity and artistic expression, and can help encourage a life-long love of music.

Little Cooperation DJ08555Simple Board and Card Games. At this age, children are beginning to learn what it means to take turns and play by the rules… important elements of successful social interaction. Simple , colorful interactive games – that don’t take too long to play – make it fun !

We have a wonderful selection of educational games for young children by Djeco of France, where developing brilliant and fun educational games has been at the heart of the company since it was founded in 1954 – games to develop observation, matching and memory, taking turns and strategy, language and social skills… you’ll find them all here.

Pre-Schoolers – 4 & 5 Years Old

FB MUSKETEER SHIELD BLUE SWORD 400 400SQUAREDress-Up Clothes and Toys for “Pretend Play”.
A knight or a pirate, a princess, a superhero or a fairy. When kids get into dress-up, their imaginations grow and blossom, and creativity is an essential part of the story-based play. Your little boy is now a scurvy pirate captain, ordering his brother to walk the plank. Your little girl is now a magical princess, making imaginary flowers bloom and turning fire-breathing dragons into frogs. It may look like just another precious childhood moment, but when your little one picks up a shield and sword or dons a superhero cape, they are developing in so many ways you can’t even imagine.

Crayon Turtle 1Crayons, Pencils, Paints, Modeling Clay and Other Art Supplies. Along with encouraging the development of fine motor skills, open-ended creative play – blank paper and crayons or paints, modelling clay, building blocks – encourages children to use their imaginations, inspiring creativity and self-confidence. We have delightful hand-crafted natural pine Crayon Holder Animals and Vehicles... with Crayola crayons… the best crayons in the world.

Books. Books are almost always excellent “gifts”, provided the vocabulary is age-appropriate, to encourage communication skills and promote imagination and literacy. We have a wonderful selection of well-loved storybooks, and books with matching stuffies from Jellycat here.

Puppets. Hand puppets are awesome for allowing children at this age to explore “characters” and use their imagination.

EVERGREEN HOUSE H171 SQUAREDolls & Dollhouses. The world of pretend play is very important for children in the early developmental years. It provides a chance for them to use their imaginations in reality-based settings, and they get to be “in charge”, to make their doll’s world work they way they’d like it to go. All the while, as they’re just being kids and having fun, they’re practicing and developing new social skills and reinforcing the values they’ve learned.

Our beautiful wooden dollhouses by Le Toy Van are among the best in the world, with lots of play space and sturdy, long-lasting construction. You’ll find them here: Dollhouse & Budkins.

“Non-Electric” Cars, Trucks, Tractors, Trains and Airplanes. Encourage imagination and creativity… let the kids provide the “power”.

Simple Puzzles. Choose puzzles with large pieces that are easy-to-fit-together… 9 to 64 piece puzzles are ideal, depending on the age, attention span and dexterity of the child.

5 to 8 Years Old

Kids are very curious at this age. They want to explore, invent, create and conquer! Choose toys and games that encourage creativity and help them use their imagination.

Choose dolls with simple clothes, not “fashion” dolls.

Our Lottie Dolls are designed to be wonderful role-models for children 3 to 9.

They have the physical proportions of real 9-year-old girls and boys, and real 9-year-old interests and adventures. Lottie doesn’t wear make-up or high heels, and there’s no Lottie Corvette.

Since they were introduced in 2012, Lottie Dolls have won more than 15 international toy awards, including the 2015 UK “Loved By Parents” Award as the Best Stimulative Toy for Ages 3 to 6, and Scholastic Parent and Child Gold Star Toy Awards in 2013 & 2014.

It’s a refreshing and enlightening world of wonderful, realistic dolls.. Find out more about Lottie here!

LION WARRIOR 38945 SQUAREAdventure or “Building” Toys. Children this age love to create imaginary worlds and take on different roles using “character” toys… without knowing it, developing their own personality and character along the way. At this age, children are learning about fair play, role modelling and leadership, and what better way to try out those ideas than as a brave Medieval Knight, a swashbuckling Pirate, or a magical Fairy Princess.

BRICTEKOur BRICTEK Building Blocks offer excellent open-ended play for this age group. BRICTEK blocks work perfectly with Lego, but at half the price.

Sets of “just blocks”, wheels, windows and doors, roof tiles and base plates are fantastic for creative play, instead of only letting kids make the toy that’s pictured on the box.


Puzzles & Books. Our experience is that children in this age group enjoy puzzles that have 100 to 250 pieces… tough enough to be a challenge, but not too difficult, so they make reasonably continuous progress. And books are always a good choice, for children of every age.

Simple Cameras & Magnifying Glasses. Simple scientific toys encourage children to explore the natural world around them and develop an interest in science and nature.

9 to 12 Years Old

This is when kids are truly developing their adult personalities. Fast-paced games are ideal, it’s a great age to introduce musical instruments, and more complicated and challenging puzzles. Children this age also love do-it-yourself activities that produce “real” results, and exploring sports of all kinds.

“Do-It-Yourself” Art, Craft, Jewelry and Model Kits. Good quality is essential in art and craft kits for children at this age. They want to know their hand-made crafts, models and jewelry will be good quality, gifts they’d be proud to give to their parents, siblings and friends.

Diaries, “BFF” Address Books, Journals. Preteens need to have ways to express themselves without fear of judgment or embarrassment, and diaries can be “best friends”.

Board Games, More Complex Puzzles. Strategy and concentration are better, complexity is challenging.


Sports Equipment. In the age of electronic games, social media and handheld devices, it’s more important than ever for parents and preteen role models to promote sports and outdoor physical activity. But, just like when children are very young, YOU are a key element, because adolescents pay a lot of attention to what their parents and siblings are doing, and will imitate the adults in their lives when it comes to outdoor physical activity. Especially their parents. Surprise!

“Chapter” Books. Books – can’t say it enough – are a good choice for every age!

All Ages > Beware of Toys that “Do Too Much”

For all ages, keep in mind that research has found toys that do “too much” don’t encourage children to use their imaginations. Stuffed animals that talk, sing, or prompt the child to press specific buttons essentially take charge of the play and actually limit a child’s imagination, when the child should be the one directing the action. A good guideline to remember is that simple toys allow younger children to be more creative and spontaneous, exploring their own ideas and creating imaginative “pretend play” scenarios.

And always… the best “toys” a kid can have are parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters !

Sadie and Ben in Store 600 x 400If you’d like to know more about the right kinds of VIDEO GAMES for children of different ages, check out our Video Game Gift Guide blog.
For more information on Age-Appropriate Toys:
> www.education.com/magazine/article/How_Dress_Shapes_Your_Child
> www.earlychildhoodnews.com
> www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-build-your-childs-self-esteem
> www.webmd.com/parenting/features/choosing-right-toys-for-right-age
Sources: Today’s Parent, Canadian Mental Health Association, National Network for Child Care, WebMD, Parents.com, Kid’s Health.org, Early Childhood News, Education.com

“Today’s Parent” Top Holiday Toys for 2016

Petitlou Forest Stacker by Le Toy Van

The Toy Factory Scores 4 Hits with “Today’s Parent” Top Holiday Toys for 2016 !




Today’s Parent magazine’s “Holiday 2016 Ultimate Toy Guide” is out.

We’re excited here at The Toy Factory.

We have 4 of the popular magazine’s top toys for Christmas 2016 !

“Real kids tested hundreds of toys to help pick our favorites of the year” says the November issue’s annual best toy guide.

It’s no surprise that two of our favorite toy-makers – Le Toy Van and Family Games America – each has two award-winning picks in this year’s favorites… they’ve both had best-sellers in our toy store for many years.

Forest Stacker in Box

In the Baby and Toddler age group (6 months to 3 years), we have 2 Award Winners:Forest Stacker by Le Toy Van

Our Forest Stacker features 9 cute “stackable” North American woodland animals, with a handy draw-string bag. There’s a brown bear, a red fox, a deer, squirrel, bunny, porcupine, mouse, turtle and bird… who can stack them highest before they tumble down ?

Sensory Shapes Blocks with Boy & GIrlOur Sensory Shapes Blocks are brilliant, and lots of fun as they stimulate young minds.

Each of the 9 wooden blocks presents a different sensation: shake for a jingling bell, look through the kaleidoscope, touch the fluffy fabric.



Sensory Shapes Blocks by Le Toy Van


Each block encourages colour and shape recognition, manual dexterity and hand eye co-ordination.

The multi-sensory set promotes curiosity and exploration, and understanding cause and effect.

And most of all, it’s endless fun for little ones – hands-on fun, exploring their newly developing senses by shaking… and feeling… and looking… and squeezing !

You can see more wonderful toys from Le Toy Van’s “Petitlou Collection” in our Infants and Toddlers pages on our website by clicking here.

In the Little Kid category (5 and up), our Fast Flip game was a Today’s Parent Best Toy Winner.Fast Flip Game by Blue Orange Games - Family Games America

Get ready to scramble for the match in this crazy fruit salad !

400-400-fast-flip-game-piecesMatch your fruits to a number, or your numbers to a fruit – you don’t know what match you’ll have to find next, but you need to be fast !

Whether you play with the tokens or with the cards alone, there’s lot of fast-flipping in this brain teasing match-up game.

Fast Flip is recommended for ages 7 and up, but we think bright 5 and 6 year olds can play, and it’s fun for older brotehrs and sister, and moms and dads too.

Our Best Toy Winner In the Big Kid category (8 and up): Dr. Eureka from Blue Orange Games.

400-400-doctor-eureka-fg03300The brilliant Dr. Eureka has important experiments for you to complete !

Pick a challenge card, 3 test tubes and 6 colorful balls to solve his 400-400-doctor-eureka-game-piecesscientific formula.

Carefully move your materials from tube to tube without dropping them, and position them as illustrated on the challenge card. Not so easy !

And this is fantastic Dr. Eureka can be played by 1 person as solitaire, or as a game with 2 to 4 players. That’s pretty cool, and great play value.

We’ve always believed in games that are both fun and educational.

Along with these four 2016 Holiday Winners from Today’s Parent, we have dozens more in our Pre-School and Family Games pages on our website… just click here to take a look !


Hands-On @ The Toy Factory Workshop: The Airplane


Hands On @ The Toy Factory Workshop: The Airplane.

Turning a block of white pine into an old-fashioned wooden toy airplane is a multi-step process in our workshop.

It starts, like all our wooden toys, with simple templates we’ve designed – in this case for the airplane body, wing, tail & propellor.

Step 1:

We trace the airplane body templates on blocks of 2″ pine. Then we cut them out with our bandsaw, and drill holes for windows and wheels. We cut the other parts – wings, tails and propellors – from pine and maple using our table saw and bandsaw.

Airplane Parts














Toymakers Tip: To keep costs down, we try to always make our toys in “bunches” – 6 or 10 or 12 at a time. That way, we only set up our jigs and tools once, but we use them several times before moving to the next step in the toymaking process. It saves time, which helps us keep our prices low and save money for our customers.

Step 2: Sanding. And more sanding.

Kathy is sanding an airplane body on one of our big 6″ x 48″ belt sanders. It takes strong wrists, dexterity and plenty of practice to hold, turn and manipulate the airplane, to make sure every surface, edge and corner is perfectly smooth.













Kathy will use two other specialized sanders and a unique grinder before all the airplane parts are ready – no rough surfaces, sharp edges or pointy corners.
Toymakers Tip: With most toys, we spend more time sanding than on any other step in the toy-making process. That’s because Smooth = Safe.













Step 3: Pegging the wings & tail. This step is the most old-fashioned & unique: No Plastic or Metal Parts Found Here.

We use wooden pegs, white glue and sturdy clamps to secure the wings, tails and propellors to our toy airplanes. That means using special jigs, and a multi-step drilling and pegging process.









To allow us to drill down into the wing for the pegs that will attach it to the airplane, we fit the body into a special jig. It lowers the airplane’s nose, which levels the upper wing surface for easy drilling.











With white glue between the wing and the airplane, Dan holds the two pieces together, and drills the holes for the pegs.









Next, with a drop of white glue in each hole first, the pegs are pushed into the holes through the wings. They’ll be tapped down tight with a little toymaking hammer to lock the wing onto the airplane body.














Here, the airplane is flipped over into another special jig for drilling and pegging the tail.












Step 4: It’s time to install the propellor, and there’s no wasting time. The airplane needs to get into its clamps quickly after the wing and tail pegs are put in, before the glue starts to dry.












Step 5: Into the clamps. In 30+ years of toymaking, Dan has developed a knack for holding the airplane in its special jigs – inside an adjustable C-clamp – while tightening the clamp with his other hand. It’s not as easy as it looks.




























Notice how the little jig under the airplane makes that bottom surface level with the top surface of the wing, so the clamp will work properly. It also protect the airplane from the clamp – we tighten our clamps with a lot of force when making our toys. In toymaking, jigs are very important. We have dozens of original jigs in our workshop, designed specifically for making our wooden toys.

The Final Step – Time to Dry

With wings and tails securely clamped, our airplanes will hang to dry for 24 hours in our workshop.

When we remove the clamps the next day, we give the wings and tails a quick sanding to smooth off the tops of the pegs. Then, we give the propellors a test spin, and our new Airplanes fly out to their landing strip in our store.













Hands On @ The Toy Factory Workshop is a special feature designed to give our customers an exclusive look inside our toymaking workshop… where we make our wooden toys the “old-fashioned” way: handcrafted one toy at a time, with care and attention. 

Shop for our Airplane – or to see all our Toy Factory Wooden Toys, please click here.

A Ferry Boat Set for A Prince !

We’re delighted to have been chosen by Prince Edward Island’s Lieutenant-Governor Frank Lewis and his wife Dorothy to make a Ferry Boat Set for His Royal Highness Prince George !

They’re sending a beautiful Island-made blanket to Princess Charlotte, born to Will & Kate on May 2nd. Our Ferry Boat Set is for her big brother, Prince George, who will turn two years old on July 22nd, so he won’t feel left out. Grandparents are smart, aren’t they ?

The Toy Factory - Ferry Boat Set for Prince George

Thank you Frank and Dorothy !

Kids Get The Winter Blues too…

Winter, Stress and Children

Are you tired of winter ? Feeling stressed ? You’re not alone !

Kids can suffer from the winter blues too. Even very young children experience stress. But kids don’t have the coping skills we’ve learned as adults.

Stress makes it more difficult for children to concentrate and to get along with others, which can lead to problems at school or day care. If stress is interfering with a child’s ability to focus or think, he or she may become anxious or afraid, using up energy on worrying that should be going into learning and playing.

Stress can also affect kids’ health. Research has found stress is a factor in 90% of illnesses.

Kid Stress

Beyond being cooped up indoors in stormy winter weather, which can be stressful for everyone in the family, what else can cause kids stress? Change is a big one, as it is for adults – moving to a different neighborhood, starting school or transferring to a new school, parents that are separating or newly divorced.

The death of a grandparent or a beloved pet can be more significant to a child that it might first appear, and serious illness or disability impacts all the members of a family.

Bullying is a big concern today too. Kids who are teased or bullied feel lonely and unloved.


How to Help

Children can learn simple, age-appropriate strategies to cope with stress, and as those skills develop, they feel more competent and resilient. Even if they might not be conscious of their increased confidence at first, they will notice it’s easier to relax, and to solve problems.

If you see signs of stress in a child, the most important thing you can do as a parent or grandparent is to spend time with them. Listen carefully when they talk to you, and try to understand and acknowledge how they’re feeling. Show them you love them with words and hugs, and do things with them – it will help them feel like they “belong” in the family.

Exercise is a great way to burn off stress, and wonderful “healthy” medicine if a child is having difficulty sleeping too. Make exercise a regular part of your family life. Get outside – go sledding, skiing, skating or snowshoeing.

Take a hike… or go swimming. Getting to swim in a steamy pool in the middle of winter is a real treat for a child, and a lot of fun for a family.

Participating in recreational activities together creates perfect opportunities to talk to kids, especially adolescents and teens, in a non-judgmental, non-threatening way. Share ideas, and talk about how you feel about things.

Communication is Key

If you think your kids are feeling stressed, ask them. If you see they’re upset, help them to calm down so they can think more clearly – a few deep breaths usually helps. Ask them how they feel, and why they think they feel that way.

Next, ask them how big the problem is, and listen carefully to what they say. Help them to consider different options, and let them choose what they want to do next, and what – if anything – they’d like you to do.

Give it a bit of time, and remember to follow up by asking how things are going, and if their choices are helping.

Tips for a Less Stressful Home

– Healthy food is important, especially a good breakfast.

– Allowing plenty of time to get ready, especially in the morning. Hurrying, and the tension that goes with it , are a terrible way to start a child’s day.

– Consistent homework and bedtime routines are helpful. Structure and learning self-discipline build feelings of security and responsibility in kids.

Predictability, especially at bedtime, helps kids relax, and getting plenty of sleep is a very important stress-buster.

Finally – as an adult – learning to manage your own stress will help your children as much as it helps you. Not only will it help your household run more smoothly, it will make solving problems easier, and give your kids a great example of the behaviors you’d like to encourage in them.

So, the next time a glass of milk flies off the table onto the floor… or they can’t find both of their boots… or the tears arrive for no apparent reason… take a deep breath, and remember stress is really just excitement wearing a worry wig!

(That’s true, actually. Well, not the “worry wig” part – at least, not literally. But research has found the physical feelings we experience from stress and anxiety – butterflies in the stomach, tense muscles, faster breathing and heartbeat, thoughts racing – are exactly the same feelings we get from excitement and celebration. The difference depends entirely on how we frame them in our minds, as bad, or good. Put another way – and this can be helpful to share with kids – feeling “scared” is no different than feeling “excited”, it just depends on whether you think the outcome will be bad or good…. so think positive!)

Sources: Canadian Mental Health Association & The Psychology Foundation of Canada. Photo Credits: blog.teamsnap.com, raiseyourresilience.com, littlemisswife.com, kids.lovetoknow.com, parachutecanada.org, pixgood.com, eatenlightened.com, pixshark.com



Canada’s Most Popular Toys

Playing with Mia Casa Dollhouse

The toy business in Canada is very big business !

And we’re not talking about video games. The electronic and mobile gaming industry is forecast to hit $2.4 Billion in sales all by itself in Canada by 2017.

We’re talking traditional toys, for younger kids: dolls and action figures, toys for dress-up play, puzzles and games, plush, construction toys… toys that we grew up with, toys our children and grandchildren still have lots of fun with today.

What’s all that traditional toy “fun” worth to our economy ?

In 2012, Traditional Toy Sales topped 1.8 Billion in Canada. Surprised ? If you thought video games out-sell traditional toys by a big margin, you’re wrong. In 2012, video and mobile game sales were just 25% higher than traditional toy sales. Which makes us say “Yay !!”

It’s not that we don’t like video games. Our 25-year-old son is a professional video game Environment Artist, working with one of the industry’s best studios, Ludia in Montreal.

We loved playing Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog with our kids when they were young, and there are some truly awesome and wonderful video games today. Our son helps make those magical worlds come to life !

PLAYING SOCCERBut it’s clear that active, imaginative “hands-on” play will always be a huge part of every child’s life. It’s natural… running, jumping and climbing… taking the doll that’s your best friend everywhere you go… on your knees in the grass in the backyard, building forts and acting out adventures with action figures…

Early childhood experts have known for years that play is an integral element of young children’s lives, and that the ability to play, both alone and with others, is a key indication of healthy development. Interactive play enhances children’s physical, social, emotional, and creative growth; play-based educational programs are engaging children in day-cares and kindergartens around the world.

But which toys do Canadian children – and parents, who mostly do the buying – like best ?

ARTS AND CRAFTSGames & Puzzles are #1 in Traditional Toy Sales in Canada, worth $235 million in 2012, which isn’t surprising when you think about the wide age range and different skill levels encompassed by “games and puzzles”. Arts & Crafts sits in 2nd place… traditional, “creative” play that also includes all ages and skill levels.

Model Vehicles are in 3rd place, with Dolls & Accessories and Action Figures & Accessories very close together in 4th and 5th, respectively. But… if you combine Dolls and Action Figures into a single category, it jumps up to 1st place, with annual sales hitting a whopping $280 million in 2012.

Dolls have been toys primarily enjoyed by girls for centuries, but Action Figures – traditionally toys for boys – are largely gender-neutral today, equally popular with girls and boys. Here at The Toy Factory, we stock more than 200 different “action figure” characters, including knights, pirates and fairy tale characters, as well as dozens of horses, farm animals and wild animals.

Here are the Top 10:

Traditional Toy Sales in Canada in 2012


(CAD $ Millions)

  1. Games & Puzzles ($235)
  2. Arts & Crafts ($198)
  3. Dolls & Accessories ($145)
  4. Action Figures & Accessories ($135)
  5. Pre-School Toys – for 3 to 4 year olds ($134)
  6. Construction Toys ($129)
  7. Scientific & Educational ($123)
  8. Dress-Up & Role Play ($101)
  9. Outdoor & Sports ($56)
  10. GIRL WITH DOLL AND FLOWERSInfant Toys – for 19 – 36 months ($55)

Clearly, there will always be a place for traditional toys in the lives of our children and grandchildren. And here at The Toy Factory, we believe carefully hand-crafting our sturdy wooden toys, and searching the world to discover the most wonderful new and old-fashioned toys is a very important job… because helping a child grow and learn through play is the beginning of a lifetime of creativity. We think more creativity and fun make our world a better place for everyone… kids and grown-ups !


Sources: “Traditional Toys and Games In Canada”- Euromonitor International, September 2013; “Let’s Play! Using Play-Based Curriculum to Support Children’s Learning” – earlychildhoodnews.com / Photo Credits: sandhillskids.com; readyforten.com; Adam Jones @ adamjones.freeservers.com; theguardian.com; Derrick Mealiffe – Wikipedia Creative Commons

Video Game Gift Guide

The video game world is literally a “world” – a unique, world-wide community expected to be worth over $91 Billion ($US) in video game sales by 2015.

That’s $91 BILLION. That’s a big world !

With hundreds of thousands of video games to choose as possible gifts for a child or grandchild, I’m going to try to simplify it for you…



There are essentially 6 “kinds” of video games – based on the way the game is played, and the goals and strategy of the player(s):

1ST PERSON “SHOOTER”: Just like it sounds, the main goal of the player is to kill as many enemies as possible. (1ST Person means you are playing the game as the key game character.)

ROLE-PLAYING GAMES (RPG’s): These are “questing” games where each player controls a single character in the game.

The sophisticated on-line collaborative RPG game “World of Warcraft” now has more than 7 million players world-wide.

“PLATFORMERS” or PLATFORM-BASED GAMES: These are the video game “standards”, like Nintendo’s Mario Brothers. They are played only on a specific game device platform and the typical goal of the game is to get from Point A to Point B, overcoming obstacles and gaining “coins” or “extra life” along the way.

STRATEGY GAMES: These are more complex games, where the player is basically “God”, controlling a whole army or host of characters, and endeavoring to beat the computer using more involved planning.

SPORTS GAMES: No surprises here – hockey, basketball, football, soccer, skateboarding – and then there are the sports “simulation” games for the Nintendo Wii game platform, where you swing controllers to imitate playing golf or tennis.

SOCIAL GAMES: These are the games you play on “social” media, like Facebook and mobile devices like Smart Phones, IPads and tablets. “Farmville” and “Angry Birds” are two very popular games in the Social Game category – which has 2 basic types:

“BUILDER” Social Games Facebook’s Farmville is a great example, where the player owns/controls a large number of game characters, and must assign tasks and create opportunities over time to “build” a world.

– “ARCADE” Social Games Angry Birds is a good example. These games typically involve shooting-gallery-style scenarios.



In general, most “platform” games are good for children – games like Mario.

A game called “Little Big Planet” has just coined the term “co-op-etition”, where players must cooperate by working together to get through levels of play, but whichever player has collected the most “coins” at the end of each level also gets rewarded.

Some parents will let even younger children play games like World of Warcraft, although it’s likely the children don’t really understand what they’re doing.

Puzzle games are also good choices for younger children. A great kid’s game should have a simple story line, fun characters, a low difficulty and colorful graphics.

In recent years, games like Mario have been adapting their difficulty levels to the “maturity” or age of the player. If a child repeatedly has trouble getting through one spot, the games will either show the child how to do it, or give them a button to click to do it for them.

The Social Games world is open to all ages, and has every imaginable level of sophistication and simplicity in hundreds of thousands of games.

Some Facebook games can be deceptively complex, appearing to be quite simple at first. Then the players discover they must expend a whole lot of time and “resources” to get anywhere worthwhile in the game.

Simple, fun mobile games like Angry Birds are enjoyed by everyone – even little kids love this shooting gallery game where you shoot birds at various targets.



1) Ask the kids which games they’d like to have, and what “kind” of games they like best… and which games their friends are playing.

2) Use sensible “parental” discretion. Grand Theft Auto looks amazing, but it’s a game where the players are car thieves, roaming around a city in speeding cars, trucks and hot rods, escaping police and cruising 18+ neighborhoods – this is not a good game choice for a 10 year old !

3) Pay attention to the game “Rating”. In general, the video game industry has done a very good job establishing age guidelines for video games.

The Video Game Ratings are:

C Early Childhood


E Everyone

E 10+ Everyone 10 years old and up.

T Teen

M Mature

AO Adults Only

You can get more details on each rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

If your child (or grandchild) is 13 or 14 and emotionally mature, it’s OK to get them “Mature” games – but you need to pay attention to what’s going on in their lives too, and recognize the kind of impact a game can have on a young person. For example, if your son or grandson wants to play Grand Theft Auto, and all of his friends are playing it, you don’t need to “ban” it and embarrass him. But you can talk to him about it, or better yet, play it with him, and discuss the issues it raises.

4) Don’t just buy whatever they want – and don’t use video games as a babysitter.

5) Ask. At video game specialty stores, everyone on staff will be very knowledgeable, but even at electronics and big box stores, you can usually find an 18 28 year old sales associate in the video game dept. who will be familiar with the most popular and newest games, and the various game and mobile platforms.

Last but not least –


The new WiiU game console (platform) features a touch screen tablet on the controllers to interact with the game, as well as interacting through the TV screen. Note: the new WiiU will also play old Wii games – but not vice-versa – the Wii won’t play new WiiU games.

The new Play Station 4 (PS4) and XBox One are launching this fall*. Both have amazing graphics and incredible realism. But they’re both basically just the next steps forward along the same paths, and good games are more than just breathtaking graphics – there’s story line and plot, character development, unusual twists and surprises.

(The new PS4 launches on Nov. 17, with XBox One on Nov. 25)

Insider tip: The new Play Station 4 (PS4) will have a large number of small “Indy” games designed for it – games designed by small teams at small studios. They can take much bigger chances and risk trying out new ideas in game development, because they don’t have huge amounts of money invested in their games. Which means some of the most interesting and fun new games are “Indy” games ! By comparison, the latest version of Grand Theft Auto was 5 years in development, employing more than 1,000 artists and programmers, and cost millions of dollars. Of course, when it launched earlier this year, it set a world all-time sales record, with sales of $800 Million in the first 24 hours.


Toy Factory Hot Tip:

A lovely little game called Pikmin for the Wii and WiiU is a wonderful game for children. You are a little astronaut, and you collect little plant-like creatures called “pikmin” to help rebuild your spaceship so you can go home. It has lots of exploring, and encourages “resource” and “time” management as you play – be back at your ship by the end of the day, for instance, or you lose !