If you like me, you’ll love these…

First is a very fun site called “Let The Children Play.” It’s a blog by a pre-school teacher in a play based pre school. She has lots of great ideas for outdoor play spaces and other things for kids to do.

Second is an article about outdoor kindergartens that made me wistful. I’d be happy for an outdoor camp in my area. So happy in fact, I keep getting the urge to start my own on a very small scale.

Third is from Zen Habits, one of my very favorite blogs, about doing the hard things.

Fourthly, we have an article from Life Learning Magazine about Audacious Learning.

That’s all for now. What have you guys been reading?

Rattle Giveaway Winner

Laura won the rattle. Congratulations, Laura.


I’ll be at the La Leche League conference in Jamesburg, NJ this weekend selling toys. So I’ve been busy the past week trying to prepare. Yesterday I made tool sets. 


Today I’m going to work on diggers and rattles, and finish up the train sets that I made on Saturday.



Last time I sold out of diggers and dump trucks, so I want to make sure I have enough this show. Well, I’d better get to it! Don’t forget that train coupon code (TRAINS) runs out on Saturday. 


New Train Set

I have been wanted to sell my own train set for YEARS. I actually did sell a set at craft shows when I was first starting out, but it didn’t work very well, and it didn’t look very nice. Finally I figured out how to make the train set in a way that I was pleased with. 

No plastic pieces. The train wheels and axels are wooden.

No painting. The trains get all their colors for the variety of woods that I use.

Magnetic coupling. This way the trains can be used with all the trains you already have (or all the trains that your relatives will give you later). 

Holes for people. You know I love my peg people. Somehow everything seems like more fun when people are involved. I drilled holes in Caleb’s trains (Melissa and Doug, Whittle Trains) years ago at his request. He likes to use his trains with his town, Sun House, and all his other wee people things. 

Without further ado, here they are:




Each car is around 3 inches long. They are all finished with my homemade beeswax polish. And the full set has eight different cars.

You can purchase the entire set of cars (8) or a set of 4 cars. You can also purchase each car individually. (click the links to go to my site for purchasing-the links will open in a new window)

Caleb has claimed my practice set, so I’ll be giving away a coupon code instead. Use the coupon code TRAINS to get ten percent off an order that includes one of my new trains. This only lasts one week, so snap it up quick. These trains would look really cute in a basket Easter morning, maybe with a chocolate bunny?


New Toys, Giveaway, and Giveaway Winner

In all it’s glory, the lumber truck is ready to sell.


Tiffany won my practice truck. 

But this is old news. I told you about this truck weeks ago. I have real new toys, and I am VERY excited about them!

Today, I will introduce the first two new toys:

Wooden Rattles


There are 2 different styles, and 3 variations of this style.


I know I should be modest, but I am just in love with the simplicity of this rattle. It’s so beautiful and smooth; it’s really all about showing off the wood. This rattle is available in 3 different woods: cherry (pictured), walnut, and maple (seen below).


Sunday morning after I did my keys, I just had this rush of creative energy, and I just HAD to make something new. My shop is not about reinventing the wheel. I believe in classic timeless toys. Like my keys, babies love keys, all I did was make them natural and beautiful. 

That’s why I’m excited about this rattle. It’s a classic baby toy, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind to make a proper rattle for years. And here it is. 

The other style of rattle is about the contrast of different types of wood.



It’s made from walnut and cherry woods-my two all time favorite types of wood. I use non-toxic elmer’s wood glue to secure the pieces, and then sand the whole thing until is shines. 

Both rattles are about 4.5 inches long, and about 1 inch square at the ends. They would make a lovely addition to a baby shower gift.

And of course, I have a free one for you. It doesn’t rattle quite as loudly as the ones I’ll be selling do, because I made the cavity inside larger in the later models, but it’s just as soft and beautiful and fun.


And for the first ten purchasers of the rattle who ask for it, I’ll be throwing in a free, personalized wooden teething ring.

Leave a comment below if you’d like to win my practice rattle. 

Tomorrow I’ll be back with another new toy, one that has been in the works for years. I’m super excited about it, but I’m waiting on some hardware to come in the mail… 




It’s not as bad as you think

I have this bad habit of talking myself out of things. It’s the afternoon, and it’s time to go to the gym. At the gym, we play basketball/tag/keep away/etc. in the gym, I run on the treadmill, and then we go swimming. But for some reason, at 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon it all seems like SO much work.

Every morning, I am scheduled to start work shortly after I get up in the morning. I’m supposed to go down to the basement and make toys before Caleb wakes up. But somehow, some mornings, going down to the cold, dusty basement seems horrible. I’d much rather stay up stairs surfing the web, reading blogs and articles until Caleb wakes up and I miss my window.

And last night I just couldn’t face doing the dinner dishes. The lasagna pan was just too stuck on, and it just seemed like an endless night of doing dishes. So I didn’t do them. And of course this morning, they seemed worse, and plus I had work to do. So I didn’t do them until after dinner tonight.

And you know what? It only took me about 10 minutes to do last night’s dishes and tonight’s dishes (and our lunch dishes). And it was kind of pleasant: the warm water, the dirty dishes becoming clean, my shiny sink at the end.

And after skipping the gym 2 days in a row, I made myself go this afternoon, and it was (of course) good fun–as it always is.

And this morning, I did my pushups and went straight down to the basement. I cut ten sets of keys, drilled, and dremeled them. Then I got started on the owls that I’ve been putting off for weeks. I cut 19 of them, and then started sanding them. And then the creative juices were flowing, and I decided to make NEW TOYS (more on that tomorrow, when I have pictures).

So why do I have this problem??

It’s not as bad as I think. And you know what? The things you are putting off, aren’t as bad as you think either.

So shut the laptop, put your phone down, and go hang up the laundry or do the dishes or sweep the floor. Go for a run. Do some pushups. You’ll be glad you did.

Because, it’s really not as bad as you think.



Spring Equinox

This post is a few days late, I suppose. On Thursday, I wanted to do a little something special for the Vernal Equinox. Nothing fancy, just an acknowledgement that the days of light were on their way. I saw this cute little craft on the Magic Onions blog, and I knew it was perfect.

Eggshell Candles

Literally we made candles with real egg shells as the vessels. I used eggs to make my desserts, and I remembered not to destroy three of them. My friend gave us these eggs, so they were even special eggs.

Caleb helped me cut the wicks and stand them up, and then I pored the wax into the shells (and made a bit of a mess as I was poring right out of a pot).

While the beeswax was cooling and hardening into candles, we took a hike up our little mountain. I was on the lookout for signs of life, but the only thing I found was some scrubby bush with teeny tiny buds, so I picked that for our table.





I used play dough to stabilize the eggs. They are really lovely when they’re lit. I’ll definitely make more of them this spring when these run out of wax.

What are your favorite spring crafts?


Excellent Article-The Overprotected Kid plus “adventure” yard Plan

There is an awesome article in the Atlantic called “The Overprotected Kid.” It’s in the same vein as Lenore Skenazy’s book Free-Range Kids (which, I love). And it preaches a message that I think cannot be overemphasized in today’s culture.

The author starts by describing an adventure playground in Wales where kids build stuff and start fires and play in the creek, and it made me LONG for a decent playground near me. Heck, I’d settle for a park that actually had children at it.

But the description made me determined that this summer, I want our yard to be an adventure playground for my son and the only 3 kids that ever leave their home in our neighborhood.

My plan:

1. SAND and water

I finally feel like I have enough money to do a sand box the way I think sand boxes should be: by the dump truck load. Since we have no natural water on our property (and sand and water go together like a glove on a hand), I’ll put a baby pool or some other type of tub (if I can find something stronger and better than said baby pool) next to the sand.


2. Tools and Wood

Somehow my little handsaw got lost or stolen, so I’m going to replace that (which worked better even for me than a full-size saw much less for Caleb’s little hands) and add a sharp hatchet to the mix together with various hammers and a collection of nails.

I’ll also keep a supply of my scraps handy where the kids can get to them and use them. And I want to do better with collected trashed wood and pallets to have more wood he can use.

3. Rope Swing

For a while, there was a grape vine hanging down from our one big tree that the kids could swing on, but being a vine, it dried out and broke. I want to get a good rope hung up with some knots to stand on and swing.

4. Buckets, shovels, and the like

I recommend a short wooden handled metal shovel. This has a pointed digging tip, and it is shorter than a regular shovel, but it is NOT a “kids” shovel. Those things are cheap and will barely see you through a summer. You can find these short handled real shovels at any major retailer.

Buckets should also be tough, with sturdy handles. Those beach buckets aren’t going to cut it. Keep an eye out for empty containers too.



Of course, we also live on a wooden little mountain that the kids can hike and play on as well. And there are the dirt piles on the street above ours that the town workers use for filling in holes and whatnot.

Let me know of other things that you think would be great for our “adventure” yard, and I’ll post updates on our progress.



Happy Birthday to Me, Presents for You

Today is my 30th birthday, and I must say, I’m pretty excited about it.

I celebrated by working all day. My mother came to visit me, so she took my son out for most of the day, and left me to work. Everyone had fun, and I worked on some new trucks.

I guess that’s a sign that I’m in love with my job. When given the choice of doing anything I want (in town) for my birthday, I chose making toys.

My vocation is one reason why THIRTY doesn’t scare me. I’m very happy where I am, doing what I’m doing. And it seems like a marvelous thing to have lived 30 years.

If you think about aging as one day closer to death, you will be miserable that you are a decade older. But I was just thinking how lucky we humans are to live so long. Thirty isn’t even scratching the surface. Most mammals get less than 20 years.

Yes, there is a tinge of regret that I may never have another child, but I feel that I lucked out getting one to begin with, so any more would be icing on the cake anyway.

Last month, as I was trying to get back in shape (still trying), my knees were bothering me, and I felt OLD all of the sudden. But with some more work, I’m feeling good again, and I have determined to never sacrifice my physical fitness for my job again. I’d much rather be a little bit poorer with a strong healthy body, than a little richer with weak joints and muscles and a weak heart.

In my twenties, I learned a lot about what was really important, and I’m definitely a happier, more whole person going out of them than I was coming into them.

Anyway, the finished models aren’t quite done yet, but the test model was made a few weeks ago. Caleb has enough trucks, so I’m giving this one away to you!

Big Lumber Truck





This truck is for serious hauling. It can carry enough blocks or lincoln logs for a small house! And of course, I had to make it with holes for people to drive the truck, because trucks are just more fun with people.

The Big Lumber Truck is 4.5 inches wide and 12 inches long. It fits people that are 7/8th’s of an inch in diameter.

I’ll post more pictures later of the version that I will be selling, but for now, post a comment below about why you like wooden toys, and you’ll be entered to win this truck.




Spring into Exercising

Remember all that crap I said in the fall about how I wasn’t going to get caught up with work and stop exercising until January? Well, it was crap. I didn’t do a thing for months besides work and eat too many tortilla chips (and not even the baked ones) and Christmas candy.

And I’m paying the price for that now to the tune of 10 or so extra pounds, and hard work to get back in shape. But we’re settling into our post-Christmas routine: work and play indoors in the morning, eat lunch, putter, and go to the gym in the afternoons for shooting hoops, running on the treadmill, and swimming in the pool.

And let me tell you how good it feels to start moving again. It feels almost as good as it’s going to feel come spring to not have to drip my faucet every night to keep the pipes from freezing.

We’ve also instituted a time for calisthenics in the morning. After we’ve been sitting on the floor getting stiff from an hour of game (or lego) playing, we get up and do some jumping jacks and crunches and pushups. Caleb is taking gymnastics, so even he comes up with some new exercises that he does in class.

Did you lose your workout time over the holidays/cold weather? What are you doing to get in shape? What are your tricks for motivating yourself?

Dump Truck Giveaway Winner

Last week, I announced that I am giving away the very first Dump Truck that I made.


I just picked the winner at pickatrandom.com, and it’s Lindsay!

So if you are Lindsay, just send your full name and address to me at mamadethem@gmail.com, and I will send you your new dump truck. Enjoy!

Next week I’ll be giving away another new truck, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out what it is, but just to give you a hint, it’s big. :)

I found myself at the beginning of this year starting to feel bored making the same things over and over again. I still enjoyed the work, but I wanted to mix it up.

So I’m trying new things, making new toys, learning different ways of cutting. I got a few scroll sawing magazines, and discovered an entirely new way of cutting on a scroll saw. It is so simple, yet it blew me away, and it was exactly what I was looking for to make my own chess set.

I’m planning on buying a router and playing around with that tool as well, which I don’t have much experience with so far. There will be boxes in my future. I’m thinking of personalized hardwood pencil boxes…what do you think?

I have big plans for this year, and I’ll be doing a giveaway for each new item I make.

So stay tuned!