This is a blog written primarily by Suzie Evans, stay at home mum to two little girls and owner of Toys and Games Ireland
Today is Earth Day where we are all encouraged to look at ways we can be a little greener and kinder to our world.
As a business, I try to honour what we have been given stewardship of by:
- recycling boxes that come with toys to me. I do this by packaging orders in them and covering up any labelling so children don’t know what’s in the box when it arrives.
- recycling all the packaging that comes in orders to me, back into orders going out.
- dispatching in cardboard instead of plastic, where possible
- not buying any plastic bubble wrap but protecting the contents of orders using brown paper or cardboard (or bubble wrap that has been sent in orders to me)
- using paper tape instead of plastic tape on boxes that don’t have plastic tape already on them
- offering sustainable toy options on my website
If you want to make a conscious effort to only buy toys that are made with the earth in mind, check out these brands:
GOKI donates a new forest every year to Germany’s least wooded federal state. More than 400,000 trees have been planted by them since 2004. GOKI toys are all made from wood from sustainable European forests. They have set an ambitious and unique goal of eliminating the four plastics (PVC, PU, ABS and PS) from all their toys by 2020 (I haven’t heard if they have succeeded) and replacing them with environmentally friendly alternatives.
- Egmont Toys
In all their import and export activities, Egmont Toys try to limit their impact on the environment as much as possible. They avoid air transport, they try to work with full containers, the orders are packed in recycled carton, for pallet shipments, they work with recycled euro pallets and they recycle themselves all excess carton they have. On top of being members of the recycling organisations FOST + and VALIPAC, right from the start when they are designing a new product, wherever possible they choose materials with the smallest impact on the environment. The majority of their team of collaborators cycle to work. And their newest project is to install a big sun panel on their roof, in order to be self sufficient in electricity.
Small Foot are committed to using the renewable resource of wood and avoiding plastic when possible. More and more of their toys come with the FSC mark.
Living Nature is a soft toy company that are passionate about developing more environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways to create soft toy animals. I don’t stock very many of them as the demand isn’t there yet but as people buy what I’ve got, I plan to increase my range. They use recycled post-consumer PET plastic when creating their toys. This plastic comes from used drinks bottles and other food containers.
- SES Creative
The goal at SES is to reduce their carbon footprint every year. They are making their entire business operations CO₂-neutral by purchasing and managing European forests. They offset their full CO₂ consumption and supply 100% CO₂-neutral toys.
- Best Year Toys
This is the toy brand that I get my soft toy dinosaurs from. All the materials to make these toys are ethically sourced and the cotton used in the cotton ones is organic cotton.
- Pebble Baby Rattles
These crocheted rattles are just gorgeous. Pebble toys was initially conceived to combat poverty and to provide jobs in rural Bangladesh so that people did not have to move to Dhaka to get jobs. Providing flexible jobs in the villages has meant that parents stay with their children and play a role in the life of their village. Many of Pebble’s rural production centres are set up in conjunction with NGOs to provide an alternative to over farming/fishing in specific areas. Pebble set up rural production centres in the area offering flexible work and paid employment to people, whilst the NGOs created programmes to protect the land and allow for regeneration. The availability of paid work has meant that the people do not have to raise cash crops, they can cultivate only what they need to eat and then make additional cash through working with Pebble.
I know there is always room for improvement for most toy companies, my own included. That is why, today, I’m going to look into the possibility of sourcing clean, cardboard packing boxes from companies that dispose of them. If you know any businesses in North County Wicklow who have boxes that could be re-used, please get in touch with me and hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be able to add that to my list of efforts to make a small difference.
Happy Earth Day,
With the weather improving, it’s time to encourage our children to go outdoors again and with very little investiment, you can have them playing the way you did, when you were a child. How many of the toys below spark memories of your childhood?
A Kite – €8
I remember flying kites as a child. I even remember attempting to make a kite with sticks and a brown paper bag! The pocket kites that I stock are one of my best selling toys. They don’t have poles, so they aren’t easily broken and they are nice and small/light making them easy to bring on days out to the beach or park. They come in little draw-string storage bags.
A Bag with Gardening Tools – €24.50
This heavy duty child’s gardening bag comes with 6 wooden/metal gardening tools and a plastic watering can that doubles as a spray bottle for watering the plants/vegetable your child grows.
Chalks – from €2.25
A Return-Ball – €3.99
“Game Time” return balls are tennis balls that have an elastic thread attached to them. The other end of the thread is attached to a wrist band. The aim is that instead of having to have a second person to catch the ball and throw it back, the elastic does the job and your child can learn to throw and catch on their own.
Skipping Ropes starting from €3.99
Whether you are looking for a one person skipping rope, a longer version for several kids to play together with, or a French skipping rope, you’ll find them on my website. I have 3 types of single wooden handle skipping ropes. The first is with a plain wooden handle but with various coloured ropes to choose from, the second has pink handles with flowers on it and the third have handles designed like bees.
A Flying Ring – €1.99
You can’t go wrong with one of these flying rings. Again, they are perfect for bringing on a day trip to the beach or a park.
A Compass – €2.60
Teach your child how to navigate with one of these cool little compasses.
A Magnifying Glass or Bug Viewer – starting from €3
These little toys will help your child see small details on plants and insects.
A Torch – starting from €2.50
A Flower Press – €9
Press your own flowers and then make some pictures and cards with them. These flower presses make lovely gifts.
Well, how many did you have as a child? I had 3 but would have loved at least six of them!
Let’s face it, most kids love chocolate but a lot of parents don’t want their kids to eat copious amounts of it.
Let’s also face it, that when you give young children Easter Eggs, there’s a good chance they will be eaten slying in the evening by parents!
So, if you are a parent, aunt, uncle, godparent, grandparent, neighbour or friend, maybe it’s worth considering giving the children in your lives some non-chocolate Easter eggs this Easter. Before you completely rule it out, check out these cool, alternative eggs which children love.
These are eggs you put into a bowl of water and over a period of about 48 hours, the shell will start to crack as a plastic animal grows inside. Usually there’s great excitement as your child waits and watches for their egg to hatch so they can see what animal they have. Once the animal is fully grown, it will have emerged from the shell and can be played with. I stock these with various animals and they also vary in price and size but all are similar enough to the size of a real hen egg. You can check them out here:
- Dinosaur Hatch Eggs
- Chick Hatching Eggs
- Farm Animal Hatching Eggs
- Sea-life Hatching Eggs
- Unicorn Hatching Eggs
These clear plastic eggs come with slime and a dinosaur toy inside them. Again, they are the size of a regular hen egg and there’s a different dinosaur with each colour slime so if you want different dinosaurs order different coloured slime eggs.
These look like the real thing and are great for pranking parents and friends. Throw one or drop one just to get a reaction.
Finally, for younger children, there’s the option of giving them some wooden play food eggs. These come in eggs boxes of 4 and can be split open to reveal the white and yolk. Then closed again (they are velcro) for the next time your child wants to serve up eggs.
So, whether your child is lactose intolerant or you just don’t want to serve up an extra portion of chocolate this Easter, you can see that there’s lots of alternative eggs to choose from.
Have a happy Easter,
Well, although December has only started and I feel like I’ve been in the throws of Christmas rush and season for at least a month! Anyone else? Along with the increase in orders, comes a lot more e-mails with the same questions, which I’m going to attempt to answer here and direct people to.
- When will you stop taking orders for Christmas?
I plan on keeping my shop open until 12 noon on Wednesday 16th December. I’m fairly confident that orders placed up to this point will arrive on time for Christmas, but of course, if you can, shop earlier to avoid the stress of wondering if your toy will arrive on time.
2. How can I place an order for delivery in Ireland if I live outside Ireland?
My website is set up to only dispatch orders to the 26 counties in the republic. Since it is a website package, it’s hard to change the format and one of the faults is that it presumes you have to have a billing address in the 26 counties if you want to buy from my shop. It forgets that people outside of Ireland might want to buy for relatives in Ireland. The only way around this is by putting an Irish billing address and it really will accept any address (even if it’s not linked with the billing address on the card)
3. Can I get toys delivered to Northern Ireland?
Yes, but again, you need to work around the website system which only has the 26 counties in the drop down address box. So, fill in your full address with the Northern Irish county in the first couple of address boxes, then randomly select an county and write a note to me at the checkout or send me an e-mail to tell me to delete the drop down county selected, when submitting the address to GLS.
4. What if I accidently selected ‘Collection from Newtownmountkennedy’ as my delivery option?
This happens regularly as the default delivery option is ‘Collection’, so if you miss this section at the checkout, you won’t be charged the delivery fee and your order will stay here until you collect it. I usually pick up on this and send an e-mail to you asking if you did it by accident and if you’d like to pay for delivery. I’ll send you one of two links to pay for delivery. If your order was over €35, you can pay the subsidised delivery of €2.50 here and if your order is less than €35, you can pay the lesser subsidised delivery of €5 here.
5. How long will it take before my order is dispatched?
I try to make sure that all orders get dispatched within 1 working day of arriving with me. In order for this to happen, it means I need to limit the number of orders that come in, as I work alone. On busy days, I close my shop between 12 midnight and 12 noon. When this happens, there is a banner up to notify you that the checkouts are closed so you can’t complete a purchase but you can still browse my website. There are two things that can stop your order from being dispatched the next day. The first is if you choose ‘collection’ by accident (so make sure you don’t!) and the second is if you don’t supply an eircode for delivery. In these cases, I have to contact you and wait for your reply which means your order can’t be dispatched.
6. How long does it take for the couriers to deliver orders?
I use GLS and I have to say, they are amazing. Despite the huge increase in orders during level 5 restrictions and shops being closed, the couriers were still making sure that most orders got delivered within 3 working days and a lot of orders still got delivered within 1 working day. If you haven’t received your order within 4 working days of placing it with me, please contact me immediately and I will look into it and see what the delay is.
7. What if my tracking says ‘Delivered’ and I haven’t received my order?
If this happens, contact me immediately. Unlike other years where we can see who signed for an order, GLS are using contactless delivery which means they aren’t asking for signatures. Depending on the courier, some will ask your name and put it into the system. You will get an email once your order is delivered. If you were home when it was apparently delivered, check outside your door or ask anyone else who was home if they received it. If the answer is no, then contact me immediately and I’ll arrange for the courier to call back to where they left the order to get it and bring it to the correct address. This really only works if I’m contacted within 24 hours of ‘Delivery’. After that, it becomes really hard for a driver to remember what house they might have left your order at.
8. What if my order arrives damaged or incomplete?
This rarely happens but at this time of year when I’m super busy and the couriers are rushed off their feet, it’s easy to make a mistake or drop a box. If this is the case, take a photo of the box/damage and send it to me by e-mail (Suzie@toysandgames.ie) and I’ll look after you.
9. What if I’m not sure my order went through?
If in doubt, send me an e-mail and ask. If your order has been processed, you will get an automated e-mail telling you what you have purchased. Within one working day, you will receive a second e-mail, this one is a personal one letting you know that your order is packed. GLS will follow up on this with an e-mail with a tracking code. If you don’t receive these, contact me and I’ll look into it for you.
10. Where can I collect the order from?
If you live near Newtownmountkennedy and want to collect it, there’s an option at the checkout to do this. Once I’ve packed your order (within one working day of receiving your order), I will e-mail you the collection address and we arrange a time that suits us both for you to collect it from me. Don’t try and collect your order before you receive an e-mail from me with the address and confirmation that your order is ready for collection, please.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for shopping with me and supporting my small business over the past 12 months.
Not much is what most people would answer to this question! Maybe a cup of tea or coffee, depending on where you buy it. Or a bag of crisps and a small chocolate bar. Let’s face it, €2 doesn’t go very far any more and yet, it’s what a lot of children get for their pocket money. Now, with school back and teachers and parents looking for small rewards to give to children and Christmas drawing closer (Santa always stocks up on lots of these for stocking fillers), I thought it was about time, I showed off some of the toys you can buy on my website for just €2 (or less!)
Blackboard Chalks (€1)
A Finger Monster (€1.50)
- A Net of Marbles (€1.50)
- 10 Glow Sticks (€1.50)
- A packet of crayons (€1.50)
A pack of Playing Cards (€1.99)
- A Flying Ring (€1.99)
- A Yoyo (€2)
- A Paper Sword (€2)
- Some Stationary from the GoGoPo range (€2 each)
Alternatively, if you have several children, you could buy toys that contain several items and split them over the children. This can be particularly handy for party bags. These could include:
- Ninja Wall Climbers (€2.75 for 4)
- Bouncy Balls (€2.99 for 8)
- Djeco Stickers (€3.49 for 4 sheets of stickers – approx 40 stickers per sheet and available in loads of different themes)
To see my full range of ‘Pocket Money Toys’ click here. Don’t forget that if you spend €35 or more, delivery is subsidised to €2.50, so it’s worth stocking up on a few bits at once!
Enjoy shopping and thanks for supporting small Irish businesses like mine,
It was a horribly wet day on Friday so when the girls came home from school, I suggested that we make a light garland using a kit that I stock on my website. The girls were both up for it so we got to business. I’ll explain how we did it, with some photos and a video and then I’ll tell you what we liked, disliked and some tips if you buy a kit yourself to do.
The kit comes with 8 small balloons, 4 long lengths of different coloured embroidery threads, a short string of fairy lights, a bottle of PVA glue, some wooden skewers and some step by step visual instructions. It was supposed to have a balloon pump but our box didn’t have one.
- Blow up the balloons
- Cut the embroidery threads to about 5m. You now have 8 strings of thread, one for each balloon.
- Pour the PVA glue into a bowl and add half the amount of water. Then mix them together.
- Dip your first string into the glue and wind it around the balloon to make a web. Then go onto the next balloon and do the same.
- Stick the skewer through the balloon (above the knot so that you don’t deflate the balloon) and suspend them (I used glasses to suspend them) so they don’t stick to worktops or each other. Leave to dry for at least 12 hours
- Use the skewer to burst the balloons (they won’t automatically deflate as they are attached to the dried out thread)
- Gently prize the balloon from the thread using the skewer, making sure that you don’t push the threads in and affect the shape. (I’m sorry, some devices aren’t showing the whole screen for this you tube video but it’s worth watching from a computer screen as it shows how you have to prize the balloon from the threads)
- Push the little bulbs into one of the gaps in your balls and secure with thread.
- Add batteries and hey presto – you have a lovely light garland!
What I didn’t like:
- There was no balloon pump. These balloons aren’t regular balloons and they are much harder to blow up.
- That the instructions were only visual ones. I’d like to have been able to read what to do as often I found the pictures hard to figure out!
- It ended up being extremely messy – glue all over our hands and counter!
- It was very hard to guess what size the balloons were supposed to be blown to. We blew ours too big and then ran out of embroidery thread and glue. Thankfully we had extra of both in our craft box so we could continue without much stress.
What I liked:
- That is was difficult enough that my girls needed my help. It’s good to have a craft that challenges them. It was nice to work on something fun together, even if they did bail on me once it got really messy!
- That this craft took longer than 10 minutes. If a craft can be done quickly I often feel cheated that I’ve paid for it and it took no time at all to do. This craft took about an hour and a half to do. Then you had to wait 12 hours to dry and then it took about another hour to get the balloons out and the lights in.
- The end result! It looks great and works perfectly. It’s really pretty
- If you have a balloon pump, take it out to help you blow up the balloons. You won’t regret a trip to the attic!
- Cut the strings of thread into 2.5m and use two on each balloon. Working with gluey 5m of thread can be very messy and knotty!
- Have all the strings de-tangled from each other and lay them out flat on a table before you get your hands gluey. Otherwise, you’ll have to repeatedly wash your hands after every balloon.
- Err on the side of caution and make the balloons quite small so you have enough glue and thread to complete the project. I think they probably should be blown up to about the size of a ping pong ball. (a tennis ball is too big – we learnt this from experience!)
- If you have extra glue and thread at home, have them ready. These work best if the web only has small holes in it and depending on the size of your balloons, you might discover half way through that you need more than what the kit supplies.
- This kit is probably ideal for children aged 12+. I did it with my 9 and 10 year olds and they both lost interest half way through as it was super messy and they didn’t want to get messy! I think adult help is definitely needed, especially during the inserting the bulbs stage.
- Have 2 AA batteries ready so you can try it out as soon as you’ve completed it.
I hope this gives a fair assessment of the Make your own Light Garland Kit. Already there’s a request here that we make another one, so I think that speaks for itself! The kit costs €20 and is available for sale here
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you purchase one and have more to add from your experience, let me know and I can add it in.
I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my little toy shop has won the ‘Online Toy Store of the Year in the Republic of Ireland 2020’ by the Prestige Awards. It was shortlisted with 8 other online toy shops and today, I found out that we won!
I had a request recently for toy suggestions for a nine year old boy’s birthday so I thought I’d share the request and my reply, in case it helps other people choose toys. But, before I get started, I want to say sorry for not having blogged in so long. Once lockdown hit, business exploded! The big toy shops were all forced to close and it drove people to shops which were run from home by one person. It was wonderful and crazy at the same time but I prioritised dispatching and keeping my shelves filled and things like blogging became less of a priority. Now, things are starting to return to normal (and with the kids returning to school in just over 2 weeks), I’m hoping to get back to blogging once a week again. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who supported my business over the past 5 months and I hope that many of my new customers will become regulars and business will continue to grow.
So, here’s the e-mail, I recieved:
Hi Suzie. Wondering what you might have for 9 year old boy – he’s interested in football but books also – He has 2 younger brothers so an active house !! As in delicate toys wouldn’t last !
I saw a great ball on uk website that counts as you do ‘tricks ‘ or do you have kites or old fashioned ‘jacks’ ( the game of metal pieces .. With small ball) … or any suggestions welcome please !! I need it for this week Thank you . A”
And here’s my reply (with added links and images)
Thanks for checking in.
That ball sounds amazing. I don’t stock it but I have something a little bit similar. It’s called Return Ball and it’s like a tennis ball that’s attached to your wrist with a piece of elastic. You throw the ball and it comes back. It’s great for learning catching.
My kites are my best selling toy since lockdown.
This Football in a Tin set is a game of finger football where you have miniature boots for your fingers to wear and a small ball and goal.
I don’t have Jacks on it’s own, but it comes in this fab box that has over 50 games.
I wrote a blog before lockdown with toy ideas for children that like science toys his age. You might get some inspiration there.
Last year I wrote this blog with travel toys for his age group
Finally, you can find all the toys that I think are suitable for 9 year olds here
Thanks again. If you want to it to arrive by Friday, try and order it by noon on Wednesday just to give it an extra day to make sure it arrives on time. Also, don’t forget the eircode. The number 1 reason why orders are delayed in arriving with customers is that the eircode hasn’t been supplied! One last thing – I’ve changed my checkout slightly so now people can choose to collect their order from me. This is the default option so you need to change it to ‘delivery’ if you want it delivered.
Thanks for coming back, I hope you can find something suitable
Back in January, I started a series of blogs about STEM toys and then things got very busy here as I prioritized buying in new stock for 2020 (If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you have been getting sneak previews of lots of these) and then midterm came. I’m finally getting around to finish off this series with a blog on STEM toys for older children.
Just in case you missed my last blogs or you have forgotten exactly what STEM toys are, here’s a reminder.
And here’s the links to the blogs I’ve already written:
So, today, I’m going to highlight some educational toys that focus on developing science, technology, engineering and maths skills for children aged 10+. Many of these will be enjoyed by adults too. I stock quite a lot of these types of toys but I can’t feature them all here. Instead, I’ve picked out 15 and if you’d like to see more, you can click through at the bottom of this blog!
If your child loves learning about space, the galaxy and also loves sensory toys and making things like slime, then this science kit would be a perfect learning toy for them. The booklet enclosed, is detailed and full of interesting facts while the experiments are a fun way of learning how these scientific facts work.
This is a fun learning activity for older boys and girls. Using a finger torch and the instructions, your child can learn how to pass messages to their friends using morse code. It’s a clever kit and it costs only €2.50!
3. A Compass
Some people are just wired to enjoy figuring out things – whether it’s how something is made, a maths problem or how to calculate how to get somewhere. These compasses are perfect for kids like this. Give them a map and a compass and they’ll have hours of fun!
If sending secret messages and deciphering codes is something your child enjoys then this kit is right up their street. Inside are two code wheels, two notebooks, and two pencils. Your child can send a secret message that only their friend with the same code wheel will be able to read!
This science kit will teach your child all about how the weather works and it has some fun science experiments that will help illustrate this.
These wooden cubes are perfect fidget and travel toys for older kids. Each cube is made up of 27 smaller cubes, attached to each other with elastic string. Once unraveled the challenge is to be able to form them back into the larger cube shape.
Using the art of origami, this kit will teach you how to fold the beautiful paper to make 24 small paper boxes.
By the time your child reaches this age, they should be responsible enough to have putty and not destroy the house with it. Putty Peeps is great for creative kids and kids who love sensory toys. Mould the putty into shapes and characters over and over. There’s hours of fun to be had from one small tub. The added scientific benefit from this version is that it’s magnetic so your child can use the magnet to pull and lift the putty. The final benefit is that it’s also currently reduced by 25%!
Learn all about how crystals are formed and even grow your own crystal with this fun little science kit.
These fun puzzles center around seven wooden shapes. The aim is to be able to form the images on the cards using all of the seven shapes correctly.
Sudoku is a maths game where you need to place each number in a box so that the numbers 1-9 are in a row, a column and a square. This wooden version can be used over and over by just taking out the numbers and starting again.
This science kit will teach you how to make your own lie detector and use it so you know when someone is lying or telling the truth!
13. Tractor in a Tin
This metal construction kit has all the pieces and the tools to build your very own model tractor. Perfect for minds that love engineering.
This microscope will allow your child to see details in small items.
This gift box has 4 metal puzzles designed with this age group in mind.
As much as I would love to feature all my STEM toys for children aged 10 and older here, it’s not possible. However, if you haven’t found what you are looking for, check out my pages that feature toys for each age group here.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. You might be surprized to know that all these toys cost less than €20 and half of them cost less than €10. Buying good, educational toys doesn’t have to burst the bank and you are investing not only in entertaining your child but also in their home education through play.
Enjoy the rest of your week,
It’s midterm and we have set our family a challenge to raise enough money to pay for a toilet to be built for a school in Uganda. Something that is seen as an absolute necessity in Ireland is a luxury for many children around the world! To make the situation even sadder, our family spends about the same amount on toilet paper every year as it costs to build a toilet for a family who don’t have one. We live in such an unfair world.
So, this week, we have decided to run a couple of fundraising events to raise the amount needed for a school in Uganda to build a toilet. It costs approx €275. And, the good news is that you can help at no expense to yourself!. Simply purchase from me this Wednesday (19th February), Thursday (20th February) or Friday (21st February) and 10% of the value of your order will be donated towards our toilet
We are purchasing our toilet through an organisation called Toilet Twinning (www.toilettwinning.org) where you can purchase a toilet block for a school or a refugee camp for £240 or a toilet for a family for just £60. When you decide what you want to buy, you can choose from a selection of countries you want it to be built in. You can also ‘twin’ it with a toilet back here in Ireland! A couple of weeks after you have paid, you get a photo of the toilet which you can hang with pride in your bathroom.
As a mother of girls, it hits me hard that girls are disadvantaged in other countries purely because they are female and there is no toilet in their school. Education is a key to beating poverty, as is health and hygiene. By supplying a toilet, we can help change all these for the better.
So, if you’d like to help us pay for a school toilet block, simply make a purchase from my website, and I will donate 10% of the value of your order towards our fundraising efforts. It won’t cost you anything extra. Why not stock up on a few birthday presents or buy that toy you have been meaning to purchase for weeks. If you place an order of €50, I will donate €5. If you place an order worth €20, I will donate €2. It doesn’t matter how big or small the order!
Thanks. I’ll keep you posted on how our efforts go.
Enjoy the midterm,