11 Fab [And Cheap!] Kids’ Gift Picks from IKEA

10 Fab Gift Picks from IKEA

Got an IKEA nearby? Good for you, because that means you’ve got access to some REALLY great toy deals. Take a look!

See more.

A few of these items are available online, but shipping may get ya. Find your nearest IKEA store here.

Train Sets: 6 Top Picks for 2013 [Plus Buy-It-Now Prices]

Preschoolers are fascinated by trains. In poll after poll, readers have told me that train sets and train tables are toys that hold their kids’ interest for years, with the peak ages of interest being about two to four.

Here’s a rundown of six popular train sets and tables. I’ve linked to the items at Amazon so that you can learn more and read reviews.

Screen shot 2013-11-05 at 4.02.55 PMThomas the Train TrackMaster Castle Quest Set:  Currently Amazon’s best selling train set, the Castle Quest set comes with Thomas engine, cargo cars, King’s Crown and track set and is compatible with other Thomas sets. List price: $59.99 Buy-it-now price: $47Currently $41.45 at Amazon.

Baby Cheapskate's 6 Top Train Set Picks for 2013KidKraft Ride Around Train Set and Table: KidKraft is known for well-built wooden toys. This wide train table comes with two built in storage bins and 100 pieces. List price: $149.99 Buy-it-now price: $125. Currently $119.99 at Amazon.

Baby Cheapskate's 6 Top Train Set Picks for 2013Step2 Deluxe Canyon Road Train & Track Table: What’s great about this table is that it has a lid. When the train isn’t in play, your kids can use the table for coloring, building with blocks, etc. Another great feature for mess-weary parents is that the tracks are molded into the table and can’t be lost or scattered about. On the other hand, because the tracks are molded into place, you can’t change the track layout. Includes three-piece train set. Made in USA. List price: $99.99. Buy-it-now price: $70 Currently $79.97 at Amazon.

Baby Cheapskate's 6 Top Train Set Picks for 2013Thomas & Friends: Take-n-Play The Great Quarry Climb: Folds for storage. Inspired by the DVD “Blue Mountain Mystery.” No batteries required. List price: $39.99. Buy-it now price: $25. Currently $35.25 at Amazon.

Baby Cheapskate's 6 Top Train Set Picks for 2013Plan Toys Road and Rail Deluxe Train Set:  This set is made from chemical free, sustainable rubber wood, and its paints have been tested for safety. Includes three cars, 18 track pieces, 6 road pieces, traffic light, train signal, train station, two people, and a few trees. Table not included. List price: $90.99. Buy-it-now price: $56. Currently $59.98 at Amazon.

Baby Cheapskate's 6 Top Train Set Picks for 2013Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway Set. This set comes with 100 pieces and 30 accessories including  six-piece freight train with cargo, a four-piece passenger train, and a three-piece flatbed truck with cargo. At less than $30 Melissa and Doug’s Basic train set is a more affordable choice if you’re on a tight budget. Tracks in both sets are compatible with other wooden sets. List price: $129.99. Buy-it-now price: $70. Currently $86.49 at Amazon.

Two more money savers: Toys R Us’ budget-saving Imaginarium sets are also worth checking out. The Imaginarium City Train Set is $34.99, for example. If you have an IKEA nearby, don’t miss their 20-pc. LILLABO basic train set. It’s only $9.99!


Updated: “Buy it Now’ Prices for 50 Top Toys [Part 1 - Little Kids]

"Buy it Now' Prices for 50 Top Toys [Part 1 - Little Kids]We’ve talked about which toys have proven track records. Now it’s time to figure out the “Buy Price” for the toys on the lists.

Typically, you can expect toys to go to about 40% off list price around the holidays. Not all of them will, though. Some will only go as low as about 20% off, and the hottest and newest toys may be in such high demand that they don’t go on sale much at all.

Tracking past sales and price histories allow us to estimate the price a smart shopper should pay for these toys. Could the price go lower? Sure. Whether you wait to see if it does depends on your tolerance for risk.

So here we go, starting with toys for the littlest kids. I’ll be breaking the post into two parts due the the amount of info I’ll be dishing up. The links go to Amazon so that you can learn more and read reviews.

Note: The first price is the list price and the second is the recommended “buy-it-now” price. These “Buy It Now” prices are what I consider “very good” prices on the item. They’re the best sale prices you can expect to find fairly regularly, based on records of previous sales. Don’t confuse these with the “lowest price ever” price. You can beat this price if you happen onto a unusually great sale.

Think any of these “Buy” prices are out of line? Let me know!

Next: “Buy it Now’ Prices for 50 Top Toys [Part 2 - Bigger Kids]

See all the Toys That Get Played with Lists

More Buy-it-Now prices:

17 Great Toys Made in the USA

It seemed fitting to update this post in honor of Independence Day.

A few parents asked me to create a “Made in the USA” version of the Toys that get Played With lists. It took a while, but I’m really happy with how the list, which is aimed primarily at kids 3 and up, came out.

All of the toys on the list are easy to find and receive good ratings from shoppers. I’ve linked to them at Amazon.

I was surprised to learn that some of the well-known toys on the list below, Like K’Nex and Wikki Stix were made here. Explore other toys by the brands below, too, since chances are they’re made in the USA as well. Enjoy!

Dado Cubes and other Dado toys (ages 3 and up)

My Very Own Cottage and other My Very Own House toys (ages 3 and up)

Labyrinth Balance Board (ages 3 and up). I kinda want one of these for myself.

Find It Games (ages 5 and up) Great for car travel.

UNO Card Game (ages 7 and up)

Green Toys Dump Truck and other Green Toys brand toys. Made from recycled milk jugs. (12 mo. and up)

SunArt Paper (6 and up) Art project meets science experiment. Great toy for summer.

Classic LOG Cabin Playset in Canister 140 Pcs (ages 3 and up)

K’Nex Value Tub 400 pcs (ages 6 and up)

Wikki Stix Activity Set (ages 3 and up)

Hohner 6 Piece Rhythm Instrument Set (ages 3 and up)

Adorable Kinders Rag Doll (ages 3 and up)

Step 2 Build & Store Block & Activity Table (ages 3 and up)

Step 2 Little Helper’s Shopping Cart (ages 2 and up)

Aerobie Pro Flying Ring (12 and up)

Clementine Art Natural Paint – 6 Color Pack (ages 3 and up)

Slinky (5 and up): $6.74

Know of any I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Top Toys Keeping Cool at the Pool

When we moved into our house, one of the things I was most excited about is that we have a kid-friendly public pool within easy walking distance. We’ve gone every day since it opened on Saturday.

Enjoy this list of top pool toys for tots and young swimmers. I’ve left off larger toys and floaties, since public pools generally don’t allow them.

For Tots

For Older Kids who can Swim (usually 5 and up)

  • Intex Dive Balls and Swimways Torpedo Bandits are popular choices. Kids swim to the bottom to retrieve them.
  • Splash Bombs are squishy balls that don’t hurt if they smack you in the head. You can pick them up at Walmart and other stores.
  • My local pool allows squirt guns, although I really wish they wouldn’t. Kids love them, though, and these foam-wrapped Max Liquidator Eliminators even float.
  • And although they’re not really toys, my son’s goggles keep him entertained for hours. We like the Aqua Sphere ones because they’re easier on the eye sockets than the Speedo kind.

Related: Make a Splash, Save Cash with Reusable Swim Diapers


Parents Choice Announces 2013 Toy Award Winners

The 2013 Parents’ Choice Toy Awards were just announced!

The Parents’ Choice Foundation‘s award winning toys are chosen by a panel of educators, scientists, performing artists, librarians, parents–even kids. Awards committees look for products that “entertain and teach with flair, stimulate imagination and inspire creativity”.” Judges are interested in how a product helps a child grow: socially, intellectually, emotionally, ethically, physically.”

The following toys for kids under five are a sampling of the toys that won Gold, Silver or “Recommended” awards this year from the Parents Choice Foundation. You can see the entire list and learn more about the toys here.

If you’re taken aback by the prices on some of these toys, remember that you can expect to find most of them 25% off or more at some point–especially around the holidays.


  • PlanToys Gears & Puzzles Deluxe: ages 2 and up. This one looks fun! (view at Amazon)
  • Wee Alphas You-Things Blocks: ages 3 and up
  • Folkmanis Alpaca Puppet: ages 3 and up (view at Amazon)


  • Manhattan Toy Motor Works Vehicles and Accessories: ages 3 and up
  • HaPe City Parking Garage: ages 3 and up (view at Amazon)
  • Young Scientist Clubs Clifford Science Kits: ages 3 and up (view at Amazon)


  • Chicco Charlie Sky Rider: ages 1 and up
  • HaPe Scoot Around: ages 1 and up (view at Amazon)
  • Adora PlayTime Babies: ages 1 and up (view at Amazon)
  • Chicco Animal Cottage Wood Sorter: ages 1 and up
  • STRIDER ST No-Pedal Balance Bike: ages 18 mos. to 5 years (view at Amazon)
  • Learning Resources Hide n Go Moo: ages 2 to 4 (view at Amazon)
  • Fisher Price Sit ‘n Munch Storage Bench: ages 3 to 5 (view at Amazon)
  • InnoTab 2S Wi-Fi Learning App Tablet: ages 3 to 9 (view at Amazon)
  • HaPe Master Builder Set: ages 3 and up (view at Amazon)
How do these toys look to you? Any good ones?


Updated: Top Trikes Under $100 [Plus Buy-It-Now Prices]

A child’s first trike. What a fun milestone! With all the models on the market, you may need a little guidance about which one to buy.

First, what features should you consider? Push bars allow you to push and steer the tricycle for younger kids who can’t do it on their own. They cut down on frustration–both for you and your tot.

You’ll also want to consider other features, like whether the pedals can serve as footrests when the parent bar is in, whether the child can steer while you’re pushing, whether you can adjust seat and/or handlebar height as the child grows, and weight limits for the trike. Additionally, if the trike rides low to the ground, it may be less likely to tip.

Here’s a comparison of seven top selling trikes under $100 on the market that feature parent push bars. I’ve listed Buy-It-Now prices (i.e. very good sale prices), too. I’ve also listed a few specs on each trike below. Click through and find out more about each tricycle at the product description on Amazon. You can also read reviews there.

If you’re new to my Buy-It-Now price lists, here’s what you need to know: “Buy It Now” (BIN) prices are what I consider “very good” prices on the item. They’re the best sale prices you can expect to find fairly regularly, based on records of previous sales. Don’t confuse these with the “lowest price ever” price. You may be able to beat this price if you happen onto a unusually great sale.

Fisher-Price Rock Roll and Ride Trike: List price: $60  | Buy-It-Now price: $42

  • 18 months to 5 years
  • rocking toy for smallest users
  • base converts to (removable) push handle

Schwinn Roadster 12″ Tricycle: List price: $99.99| Buy-it-Now price: $69 |

  • 2 to 5 years
  • low center of gravity
  • steel frame
  • air tires

Fisher Price Grow With Me Trike:  List price: $37.99| Buy-it-Now price: $28.13

  • 24 months to 5 years
  • two-position adjustable seat
  • easy-grip handlebars and slip-resistant pedals

Radio Flyer Steer & Stroll Deluxe Trike: List price: $79.99 | Buy-it-Now price:  $55

  • 2-5 years (50 lbs.)
  • removable push handle
  • adjustable front seat
  • covered storage bin

Schwinn Easy Steer Trike: List price: $99.99 | Buy-it-Now price: $59

  • 20 months and up
  • removable push handle
  • 5-point harness
  • wide tires
  • Rear plastic bin, front basket, and removable canopy

Radio Flyer Classic 10″ with Push Handle: List price: $89.99| Buy-it-Now price: $50

  • 2-4 years (42 lbs.)
  • removable 3-position push handle
  • steel frame
  • rubber tires

Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Trike: List price: $60| Buy-it-Now price: $99.97

  • 9 months to 5 years
  • converts from a stroller to a steering trike, learning-to-ride-trike, to a classic trike
  • steel frame
  • adjustable seat
  • removable wrap around safety bars with cupholder and snack tray, and 3-point harness

If you’re still on the fence, check out the tricycle action at local parks and playgrounds and talk to parents about what they like and don’t like about the models they chose.

How about you? Do you have any of these tricycles? What do you love or hate about them?


Which Balance Bike is Best? [8 Top Bikes Plus Buy-It-Now Prices]

Whether you call them balance bikes, walking bikes or running bikes, the idea is the same–kids learn balance while riding these pedal-less bikes and thus learn how to ride a “big kid bike” more easily. Kids can use them as soon as they can walk and are big enough to sit on the seat and still have their feet reach the floor. We went the training wheels route with my son, and I soooo wish we had done the balance bike instead. I really think he would have learned to ride a two-wheeler more quickly.

There are a dozen or so models out there in wood, metal and plastic. Which is are best for you, and how much should you pay? I’ve updated this rundown of eight top models with links to the bikes at Amazon (so you can learn more) and Buy-It-Now prices.

Do pay attention to the seat height when you buy. Kids should be able to sit astride the bike and touch the ground on both sides. The seat should be about an inch less than the stride. The lightest bikes are easier to handle for smaller kids, but generally have lower weight limits. Weight limit may not be as important as you think. The primary age of use is about two to four years.

Wooden Bikes

Note: Steering is limited on this style of bike, however that can be a good thing because they can’t turn abruptly (which often leads to falls).

The Skuut Active balance bikes have a generous weight limit of 75 lbs. They feature spokeless rubber wheels and an adjustable saddle. List price: $100 | Buy-It-Now price: $60. 

Top-selling Smart Gear classic balance bikes offer spokeless rubber wheels, an adjustable saddle and a built in carry handle. 60 lb. weight limit. List price: $90 | Buy-It-Now price: $63.

Metal Bikes

The lightweight Strider ST-3 is the bestselling kids’ bike on Amazon, earning 4.5/5 stars from 127 buyers. It features and can hold kids up to 60 lbs. Great for the youngest riders. the ST-3  features adjustable seats and handlebars, a footrest, optional hand brakes and foam tires. A longer seat post is available for bigger kids. Available in eight colors.List price: $110 – $120 | Buy-it-Now price: $75.

Kazam bikes have a footrest built into the frame. They feature quick-release adjustable seats and inflatable tires with steel spokes. Weight limit; 75 lbs. Comes in five colors. List price: $110 | Buy-It-Now price: $95.

Glide Bikes Mini Glider Balance Bike: Features a high weight limit, hand brake, foot pegs, airless tires and “mountain bike geometry.” For kids 2 to 5 and up to 100 lbs. List price : $112 | Buy-It-Now price: $90.

Trikke Bikee Balance Bike:  This 7 lb. bike has been on the market for less than a year. It holds kids up to 60 lbs and features airless tires and a footrest.  List price : $70 | Buy-It-Now price: $65.


The popular YBike is a fat little plastic balance bike that’s also a good choice for kids up to three years old. It has two back wheels for added stability and comes in four colors. #4 seller in kids’ bikes on Amazon. List price: $90 | Buy-It-Now price: $59.

PlaSmart’s PlasmaBike. This unique-looking newcomer on the balance bike scene is made by the folks who make PlasmaCar. Its wide wheels help with balance. This lightweight bike is for kids 18 months and up and up to 55 lbs. List price: $80 | Buy-it-Now price: $57.

Want to see the bikes in action? You’ll find lots of balance bike video reviews on YouTube. Just do a quick search to find them.

Note: “Buy It Now” prices are what I consider “very good” prices on the item. They’re the best sale prices you can expect to find fairly regularly, based on records of previous sales. Don’t confuse these with the current sale price or “lowest price ever” price (through they may be the same). You may be able to beat this price if you happen onto a unusually great deal.

Do you have any of these? What do you think? How did your child like a balance bike?


Updated: Buy-It-Now Prices for 15 Popular Ride On Toys and Wagons

Here’s a list of my Buy It Now (BIN) prices for 15 of the most popular, highest rated ride-on toys and wagons for toddlers and small children, freshly updated and expanded for 2013.

The BIN prices are in bold, and I’ve linked to the item at Amazon so that you can learn more. Use these prices to help you decide when to pull the trigger on a purchase and when to wait.

Note: Since these are heavy items, for the most part, you may be able to find them in-store cheaper. Just be sure your car is big enough to handle the boxes!

If you’re new to my Buy-It-Now price lists, here’s what you need to know: “Buy It Now” prices are what I consider “very good” prices on the item. They’re the best sale prices you can expect to find fairly regularly, based on records of previous sales. Don’t confuse these with the “lowest price ever” price. You may be able to beat this price if you happen onto a unusually great deal.

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe 30th Anniversary Edition: List price: $59.99 | BIN price $41 (30% off)

Fisher-Price Rock, Roll ‘n Ride Trike XL: List price: $74.99 | BIN price: $55 (27% off)

Schwinn Easy Steer Tricycle in Red/White: List price: $99.99 | BIN price: $59 (41% off)

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Stride-to-Ride Puppy: List price: $49.99 | BIN price: $40 (20% off)

Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug: List price: $70 | BIN price: $45 (36% off)

Step2 Push Around Buggy in red: List price: $49.99 | BIN price: $39.97 (20% off)

Radio Flyer Scoot-About: List price: $59.99 | BIN price: $39 (35% off)

Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Trike Red: List price $101 | BIN price: $95 (38% off)

Radio Flyer Big Flyer: List price: $92.99 | BIN price: $50 (46% off)

Razor A2 Kick Scooter: List price; $54.99 | BIN price: $30 (45% off)

Power Wheels Disney/Pixar Toy Story 3 Lil’ Quad: List price: $102.99 | BIN price: $70 (32% off)

PlasmaCar: List price: $69.95 | BIN price: $45 (36% off)

Radio Flyer Pathfinder Wagon, Red: List price: $119.99 | BIN price: $72 (40% off)

Radio Flyer All-Terrain Steel and Wood Wagon: List price: $178.49 | BIN price: $138 (23% off)

Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon: List price: $199.99 | BIN price: $150 (25% off)



2013 Toy of the Year Winners [What Do You Think?]

The Toy Industry Association announced the  2013 Toy of the Year (TOTY) Winners a few days ago.

For these awards, toy companies nominate hundreds of new products, and a staff of nearly 50 “high-stature experts representing retail buyers; journalists, bloggers and toy industry media spokespersons; academics and inventors/designers” chooses the winners.

Here are the winners from a few of the eleven categories along with a couple of notable finalists from each:

  • Infant/Toddler Toy of the Year: Tranquil Turtle by Cloud b ($37.25 to $40.21 at Amazon). Notable finalists: Vtech Alphabet Activity Cube ($39.99 at Amazon). LEGO Duplo Creative Sorter ($14.50 at Amazon)
  • Preschool Toy of the Year: Doc McStuffins “Time For Your Check-Up” Doll ($39.99 at ToysRUs). Notable finalists: Chuggington Die-Cast Railway Wilson and the Wild Ride Deluxe Action Playset ($32.71 at Amazon). Disney Princess Songs Palace by Little People ($38.94 at Walmart)
  • “Girl” Toy of the Year: LEGO Friends ($6.90 and up at Amazon). Notable finalists: Monster High High School ($62.89 at Amazon). Doc McStuffins “Time For Your Check-Up” Doll ($39.99 at ToysRUs).
  • “Boy” Toy of the Year: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shellraiser ($34.99 at Amazon). Notable finalists: HEXBUG Warriors Battling Robots Battle Stadium ($29.99 at Amazon). LEGO Ninjago ($9.97 and up at Amazon).
  • Activity Toy of the Year: LEGO Friends ($6.90 and up at Amazon). Notable finalists: Symphony in B. by Battat ($49.99 at Target). LiteBrix by Cra-z-Art ($21.06 and up at Amazon).
  • Educational Toy of the Year: LeapPad2 ($99 at Walmart). Notable finalists: Innotab2 ($79 at Target). Roll & Play by ThinkFun Inc ($15.70 at Amazon).
  • Outdoor Toy of the Year: The Original Big Wheel ($49.99 at Target). 
  • Notable finalists: YBIKE Explorer ($164.16 at Amazon). RazorFlashRider 360 ($77 at Walmart)

You can see all of the award winners and finalists here.

What do you think? Which of these toys looks the most (or least) promising to you?

For “winning” toys selected by kids, check out BC’s Toys that Get Played With Lists.