Things I Have Learned

by Sherri Caldwell

As an outspoken Mom with 9+ years hard-won experience and many more opinions, I get a lot of questions about toys. For example:

1) What are kids playing with these days?
2) What should I buy for so-and-so's birthday party/baby shower/etc?
3) What does Zach/Haleigh/Tiger like?
4) What do you think about the latest toy fad/craze/concern?

With three children (ages 8, 5, and 2), we have a house full of toys, cupboards full of games and puzzles, a drawer full of computer game disks, and a garage full of sports and outdoor play equipment. As far as toys go, we've pretty much been there, done that...of course I have opinions!

First of all, we don't go for the latest fad or the must-have toy every year--if I have to camp overnight, stand in a long line or catfight another Mom for the last one they have at the store...we're not getting it! The periodic toy crazes (Cabbage Patch Dolls, Tickle-Me Elmo Dolls, etc.) are ridiculous--pure marketing manipulation on the part of companies that will then mass-produce the item and have it on super-clearance a month later. Don't fall for the pressure--from your kids or the commercials or news stories!

Other Guidelines:

  1. Toys should be simple and require more imagination than batteries.
  2. Not too many parts, but enough to make it interesting.
  3. Sturdy, easy-to-clean (dishwasher-safe is ideal!).
  4. If it makes noise, it better be something I can stand to hear 1,003 times, have volume control or a headphone jack.
  5. Manufacturer guarantee to repair or replace--for life.
    (There is only one toy company I know that makes that guarantee!)

Birthday gifts:

  1. Try to find something unique and different, preferably educational and fun, that the child will really love.
  2. Stay away from violent, gender-specific or character-themed toys (with the exception of Barbie, who is always a sure-winner with the girls, age 4 - 7).
  3. Go with age-appropriate gifts, but generally buy the next age up.

Important Tip for New Moms:

When your child loves a certain toy at a friend's house or on a playdate, don't rush out and buy the same thing to have at your house! I did this so many times with my first child, Zach, and what always happened: the minute we'd get it home, get it free from the packaging, batteried-up and ready to play...he completely lost interest. That wonderful, terrific, absolutely-fascinating whatever immediately becomes just another toy in your clutter that never gets played with.

Okay, I do have one exception--that's why it's a 'tip' and not a RULE!

Several years ago, when Zach was about 3 ½, on a trip to Seattle to visit friends and family, we were staying with friends who had three children. We were guest-rooming in the family room, and among all the toys and games, Zach found this marble raceway/construction toy that he absolutely fell in love with--he was obsessed with this toy the entire visit. Actually, everyone had a great time with it because it was interesting and challenging to set up a pathway, using tubes and various tracks, and then watch the marbles go all the way down, through spinners and click-clacks and curves--engineering and architecture at its finest. It was a cool toy. It was a Discovery Toys Super™ MarbleWorks® Raceway Construction Set--our first experience with Discovery Toys.

As soon as we got back home to Atlanta (after a difficult parting from the MarbleWorks in Seattle), I had to track down a Discovery Toys sales rep to purchase this amazing toy. Of course, they had similar toys at the store, but they were not the same quality, and that makes a big difference. That MarbleWorks set has truly been the exception to every rule, as far as a toy that has held up through three children and friends, and lasted in its appeal for the whole family. In fact, it's set up in my living room today--Tiger, my youngest, spends hours with the thing, endless fascination, and marbles all over the floor, but it's worth it!

That was the extent of our first brush with Discovery Toys, more than five years ago, until I was invited to a Discovery Toys party at my neighbor's house last year. The best thing was when I told the Discovery Toys sales rep my story about the MarbleWorks, and I told her the kids had finally managed to break a few of the pieces, she told me about the *lifetime* guarantee on the products and got those pieces replaced within a few days--for a toy that I had purchased, and we had played heavily with, five years ago! I didn't even have a receipt! I was very impressed all over again, and proceeded to warm my charge card purchasing Discovery Toys for Christmas and Birthday presents for all of my favorite kids.

The Quick Scoop on Discovery Toys:

  1. Most popular educational toys in the world for 25 years.
  2. Toys, games, books and software for kids from birth thru middle school.
  3. Nonviolent toys for positive play--not the latest quick buck fad.
  4. Meet every single one of my stringent toy guidelines.
  5. Every child should have at least one Discovery Toy!
That was my second positive encounter with Discovery Toys, until I received an email from the same salesperson (follow-up service!) two weeks ago, telling me about a half-price sale on a special toy she thought we would enjoy...I ordered two! I forwarded the email to a couple of my friends...and talked to Lisa about a good toy I could donate for an upcoming auction at Tiger's preschool...I remember all of that...and somehow, one thing led to another...

So now I'm an Educational Consultant with Discovery Toys--how did this happen?! I am way too busy already! I have three children, two dogs, a husband working two jobs; I volunteer at the school once a week; I'm doing the whole Rebel Housewife thing ( - we're writing a book! There are only three weeks of school left until the kids are home for the summer!

She got me with: "Discovery Toys offers a terrific fund-raising opportunity for schools--you should check it out."

Oh. Really? Well, that's cool...I'd love to be able to donate fabulous, educational toys, games, books and software to the schools. In fact, in two years, our school district is opening a brand-new Kindergarten Annex to ease overcrowding in our elementary school. We are going to need all kinds of resources to fund and supply the new facility--where Tiger will be attending.

And I can earn a bunch of free toys to keep my kids busy during the long summer ahead? I can recommend toys and products that I love every once in awhile in my weekly Rebel Housewife Reviews...and get paid for it?! I can help other Moms find a way to stay at home with their kids and enjoy a fun, rewarding team business playing with toys and hosting play dates and Girl's Nights Out? Summer survival parties? Have my own online toy store? Basically, fit in earning some extra money and having a lot of fun while doing all the things I'm already doing...hmmm...

But wait a minute--why wouldn't I just go down to Target or Toys R Us to buy toys?

  1. Retailers can't offer the same high-quality products or lifetime guarantee.
  2. Have you ever tried getting help, much less advice or follow-up service at Target or Toys R Us? Do they know and love you and your kids enough to be able to recommend toys that are just right for you?
  3. Would you rather support Target (and I love Target!), or support Moms staying home with their kids (I love that more) and being able to earn an income at the same time?

I could go on and on (you know I can!)...but that's enough for this week! Be sure to check out this week's Rebel Cooks! and Rebel Reviews! at

Visit the toystore! -

© 2003 Sherri L. Caldwell and The Rebel Housewife, LLC.
All rights reserved.

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