Juniorbeads: a new way to show Valentine’s Day <3

Whitman's SamplerEvery year for Valentine’s Day, my parents gave me a Whitman’s Sampler.

Some context: we weren’t in today’s golden age of chocolate like today, where we have easy access to dark chocolate salted caramel for goodness sakes…

I’d spend hours enjoying that box of chocolates, or at least most of it (I had no use for the cherry cordial, coconut, other nuts, or white chocolate). I’d spend countless minutes with a knife carefully dissecting each piece to figure out what was inside. Sure, I could have looked at the legend but where was the fun in that?

Now that I think about it, I actually consumed very few chocolates. Maybe it was the excitement of the box itself and knowing it was a special gift reserved for Valentine’s Day that made it so awesome?

When I grew older it was flowers or a simple piece of jewelry. I still remember the joy of getting something small to commemorate a day devoted to love.

JuniorBeadsWhich is why I love JuniorBeads so much. I’m already a huge fan of Chewbeads, those lovely necklace and bracelets for new moms. As you can probably guess by the name, Chewbeads are made for moms with teething babies (they are made from the same material as pacifiers and bottle nipples and can be thrown in the dishwasher for quick and easy cleaning). They are awesomely effective at giving mom AND baby a little relief. Remember the mom that used to be able to have a conversation while holding her baby? She’s back!

Juniorbeads are the next step up – for little girls. They are simple, elegant, and like chew beads, made from 100-percent silicon (the same stuff used in pacifiers and bottle nipples) that is BPA- and lead-free.

Each piece is designed to stand up to kid-style wear and tear, and still look good after a cleaning. Try saying that about your average strand of beads. Anyone else tired of finding remnants of more their children’s necklaces on the floor of their car, lining various drawers of their house and in their purse?

Me too!

And lest you fear, their style complements any outfit, from everyday clothes, to a birthday party dress, to dress up for kids age 3 – 8. For an older girl I’d layer on a few to get the “pre Coco Channel” look.

I’m guessing that if Juniorbeads around when I was a kid, I might have ditched the Whitman’s and had a lot more fun enhancing my favorite outfit – just like these gals. And if you miss Valentine’s Day, don’t worry – this still makes the perfect birthday gift, “just because” gift, or “your favorite aunt / uncle is in town” gift.

Juniorbeads and Chewbeads come in various colors and price ranges from $18 – $42. They can be found at www.nevermissgift.com

Cristina Sierra_14








Afraid your kids will grow up soft? Here’s a toy that will help.

Rube Goldberg ImageI’m  convinced  Rube Goldberg machines and toys that mimic them are game changers. They teach kids about perseverance, reacting to unexpected outcomes, and pivoting to achieve a goal – whether it’s turning a light on, tripping a mousetrap, or launching a flying pig (more on that, below).

You’ve probably seen a Rube Goldberg machine – an over-engineered machine with tons of parts, designed to perform a simple task in a complex way. And they usually involve a chain reaction. (Thank you, Wikipedia).

What’s the point of  complexity? (You may ask) When was the last time you did something you really had to think through and that took several iterations? How about your kids? I’ll be honest– mine, not so much. Even when my child has the chance to face a challenge, there’s almost never time to work through it vs the time we need to get through the day. For many years I’ve been VERY guilty of tackling a lot of stuff on her behalf.

Suddenly I was slapped with a scary glimpse of my future. It was a quiet morning: my daughter traipsed into her (private) bathroom, climbed into the shower after running the water a few minutes and screamed bloody murder BECAUSE THE WATER TOOK LONGER TO WARM UP AND IT WAS COLD.

The sound abruptly woke me out of an awesome sleep and simultaneously jolted me into a harsh reality: my kid has it easy. My kid is SOFT. I had a sudden vision of her years down the road at college complaining how her hot water hadn’t come on fast enough while her dorm mates looked on in disgust or worse, AGREED .

Immediately I set out to unravel  years of damage I’d done (hoping it would take no more than 45 minutes or less). After we tackled a few chores around the house, I decided it might be time for a lesson that was less boring – for me. What? Have you ever watched a 7-year-old sweep, or vacuum? Sure, they can DO it but….yeesh was it dull.

A mental challenge seemed in order: something to develop creativity and intuition. Or at the very least, ensure that the kid took a moment before taking stepping in the shower. And waking me up.

As someone in the toy business, I see a lot of pretty cool contraptions and here are my top 3 picks. A quick note – most toys in this category are for kids age 6 and up. They involve relatively sophisticated concepts, manual dexterity, extreme patience, and small pieces. They can be awesome for kids that can sit and focus on a task and like to do something more than once, experimenting with variations.


Pick #1: The Wacky & Wild Contraption Lab The word “contraption” drew me to this toy, and it didn’t let me down. I first saw it at a Toy Fair where it was on a list of top toy finalists. It captured best toy awards from Creative Child Magazine, Good housekeeping, and the Association of Specialty Toy Resellers in 2012 and 2013. Designed for kids 8 and up, I watched a 13-year-old play with it for 25 minutes. Seeing no end in sight, I finally interrupted him to find out what had him hooked.

“There are so many things I could do to change things around – and each tool .”

Did I mention that one of the tasks a kid can set up is launching a flying pig?

Goldiblox-and-Spinning-MachinePick #2: Goldiblox & The Spinning Machine Even though it’s marketed as a toy for girls, it’s a fun toy for both sexes. I’ve played with it and the concepts are pretty clever. Also, it’s got interesting characters and a story that explores construction in a way that is appealing to kids (not just girls, all kids). There are axels, cranks, wheels, and washers. While it may not appear super sophisticated, it’s a great start to educate kids about building tools. Do you realize how little the average kid knows about that stuff? Here’s a challenge: Try showing a kid 8 or younger a can opener and asking them what they think it does.

My 7 year old found Goldiblox challenging and I know a few 9 year olds who had fun playing with it.

Q-Ba-Maze-2.0Pick #3: Q Ba Maze Warning, this gets controversial (for hardcore engineering types – if that’s not you, it doesn’t). A marble run like Q Ba Maze is not TECHNICALLY a Rube Goldberg machine; it doesn’t have a variety of components and it isn’t constructed to achieve a specific goal (no mouse trapped, light bulb lit, pig launched), so let’s call it the entry point into Rube Goldberg machines.

Because it does share some aspects of Rube Goldberg machines. You can use Q Ba Maze to build different structures and with each change the marble’s path will be radically altered. It’s much easier to build than most Rube Goldberg machines so kids can start as young as 5 with simple structures (even 4 if they are just watching the marble go through the maze).

What toys have you found to make kids smarter? I bet it wasn’t an iPad!

Or was it? Let me know!

Cristina Sierra_14






3 Valentine’s Day gifts that show kids the LOVE

3 Valentine’s Day gifts that show kids the LOVE
3 Valentine’s Day gifts that show kids the LOVE
3 Valentine’s Day gifts that show kids the LOVE
3 Valentine’s Day gifts that show kids the LOVE
As Valentine’s Day looms, my mind shifts to all the candy and small plastic items my kid will get on Valentine’s Day. You know what – there’s nothing REALLY wrong with it and I see why it’s so common but where’s the love in that stuff?  Maybe it’s a good time for  unique (and fat free) gift options that will mark the day for that special child, niece, nephew, or godchild in your life, eh? I came up with a list of toys that can help develop a passion (of cooking, chemistry, or the fun of MAKING candy vs just buying it), show their love, or be the object of love.
Here 3 simple ideas I love to help kids of different age ranges develop or demonstrate feel the love.
Candy-Chemistry1. Candy Chemistry - The perfect kit for tween (10 and older) who can be described as ‘innovative / creative’ to explore chemistry as they cook up candies and chocolates! This yummy science kit allows kids to perform 25 sweet experiments and learn the importance of physical science principles related to cooking.Trust me, this gift rocks and will help bring out a love of cooking and provide a way for your favorite tween to share some love with his / her friends and family.
Candy-Flowers-Baby2. Corolle Candy Flowers: Shouldn’t children show their love on Valentine’s Day? Of course! So we present an enchanting first doll for newborns and up. This adorable baby is soft and light, dressed in plush velour pajamas. Designed by a team in the Loire Valley, France these dolls look and feel as real as possible with faces inspired by real children. This particular gal has an ultra-plush body that is made for hugging and cuddling and easy for tiny fingers to grasp and explore.
In short, everything about this baby says “love”.
ApplePark-TM003-A3. This sweet Picnic Pal by ApplePark will become your child, girlfriend, or even admin or co-worker’s best buddy! This line of plush animals are made for snuggling or playing – with their soft 100% organic cotton bodies, silk noses and naturally hypoallergenic filling. Since they are made with with eco-friendly materials and methods like 100% organic cotton, eyes that are hand sewn, and heirloom quality craftsmanship, they will be a loving companion for years to come.
Incidentally, they come packaged in a gorgeous round box that is to.die.for.
What do you think – are toys a good idea on Valentine’s Day or is it just getting too commercial altogether?
I’d love to hear what you think…
Cristina Sierra_14