Lego Duplo My First Zoo (6136) Review

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Review:

My First Zoo is my son’s second favorite Lego Duplo set after his My First Train set. It includes a giraffe, tiger, elephant, polar bear, and fish, so it was also a big hit with my animal-loving seven year old daughter, and the two of them like to combine it with their Lego Duplo Green Building Plate and free bricks from a brick box to make more elaborate fences and exhibits.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Endangered Species Chocolate Review

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Endangered Species Chocolate is our family’s favorite brand of chocolate bar. The 72% dark chocolate series in particular is excellent: velvety smooth and richly flavored without being either overly bitter or excessively sweet.

I also appreciate the ethics of the company, which is what initially induced my mother to pick up our first bar years ago. The company donates 10% of net profits to wildlife conservation organizations such as the African Wildlife Foundation and The Xerces Society (a personal favorite, due to its excellent work in the under-appreciated field of insect conservation). Endangered Species Chocolate bars are also made using ethically sourced chocolate and other ingredients. They are Rainforest Alliance certified and many of their products contain USDA organic ingredients or sustainably-sourced palm oil. Endangered Species chocolate bars are also Kosher and gluten-free, and some bars are vegan.

My only complaint is that melting and resetting the bars ruins the texture of the chocolate to a greater degree than you find with cheaper chocolates like Hershey, so be extremely careful about leaving these bars in a hot car!

As a premium chocolate brand, Endangered Species Chocolate bars are pricey. I’ve seen it as high as $4 per bar! Fortunately, they seem to go on sale pretty frequently at 2 for $5 or a similar rate, and we stock up during the sales. You can also lower the price per bar by buying in bulk via Amazon or other retailers.

Here are our family’s favorite (and not so favorite) flavors:

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Lego Duplo Deluxe Train Set (10508)

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Review:

With 20 pieces of curved track, 5 pieces of straight track, a bridge, a working crane, and more, this was a great addition to our son’s first Duplo train set that substantially improved its play value (which was already more than enough to keep him happy for a couple hours a day). While his first set included just enough track to make a circle, this set allows him to build much larger and more diverse tracks, including much larger circles, ovals, figure eights, and more. It also has a different style engine, and different cars, including a coal car, which adds more variety to the train itself. He likes to give his Duplo zoo animals rides in the coal car.

My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Lego Duplo My First Train Set (10507)

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Review:

My siblings and I had a big bin of Lego Duplo train tracks when we were growing up and had a lot of fun with them, and they’re still one of my son’s favorite toys when he goes to visit his grandparents.

We decided to start his own collection with this set, which has a battery powered two car train and enough track to create a full circle. Although it doesn’t allow as much scope for creativity and engineering as some of the sets with more track, my son loves it and plays with it daily. He enjoys both setting up the circular track and just letting the train chug freestyle across the floor. Its engine can handle both hard floors and most carpeting, though more uneven surfaces cause it problems.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Endless Alphabet App Review

Endless Alphabet (AppStore Link) Endless Alphabet
Developer: Originator Inc.
Rated: 4+
Price: $8.99 Download from the App Store

Review:

This app gets great reviews, so I decided to give it a shot after noticing it on sale one day.

It is now my two year old son’s favorite app. I was amazed by how quickly he got the hang of matching the letters, and he laughs and laughs over the funny scenes designed to illustrate each word’s definition. After a couple months of playing this game several times a week, he has started to point out a few of the letters to me (O is his most consistent so far) in other contexts, such as when we’re reading bedtime stories together and I’m inclined to credit this app, as we haven’t yet begun to put a lot of emphasis on teaching him his letters while reading.

My 7 year old also enjoys the scenes, although the letter matching and most (possibly all) of the words are too easy for her.

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Sheep in a Jeep Board Book Review

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Review:

A favorite read-aloud book of both my kids thanks to its funny, rhyming text and cute illustrations.

My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Bear Snores On Board Book Review

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Review:

This was given to me as a gift when my daughter was a baby. It’s great fun to read aloud because of the rhyming cadence, repeated refrains, and onomatopoeia, plus the illustrations are adorable. A bedtime favorite in our house!

My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)

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Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes

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Review:

This is one of Amazon’s best reviewed baby toys for good reason. My son absolutely loved it as a baby and still loves it at two years old.

The songs are all classical tunes such as Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the William Tell Overture, etc. and the sound quality is pretty good and not too loud, so it doesn’t get annoying when baby plays it 38475727283492029348 times per day, as so many other musical toys for babies do. The toy is also sturdy and easy to grasp, yet light enough that it’s not too painful if (when) baby waves it around a little too enthusiastically and hits himself in the face. The flashing lights are pretty bright in the dark, which may be startling for some babies. The battery life is pretty long, but our son liked it so well we quickly switched to rechargeable batteries

My rating:4 Stars (4 / 5)

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Melissa and Doug Cutting Food

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Review:

We have several of the Melissa and Doug wooden food sets and this is probably the best. I wish I’d gotten it years ago. My sister’s mother-in-law (a former elementary teacher) gave it to my son (then 18 months old) to play with during a visit to their house and he loved it so much that we decided to buy one of our own. He got the hang of cutting the pieces almost immediately, though he still struggles a bit with putting them back together. I really think he’d entertain himself with this set for hours at a time if I didn’t get tired of helping him put them back together after awhile. My 7 year old daughter also likes it, but not as obsessively as her brother.

The pieces are sturdy and well made and have held up well to frequent play by an enthusiastic toddler. Highly recommended.

My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)

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