Category Archives: Toys & Play

Beer Can Boards: Skateboards Made in America with Recycled Materials

When I was a kid I had a skateboard;  probably the first mode of wheeled transportation I actually owned. Made from pressed wood with a sandpaper surface so your feet wouldn’t slip, it featured the worlds most unforgiving, rock-solid wheels that never seemed to miss a pebble.

Skateboards and longboards have come a long way since those days, both in design and materials. For a company called Beercan Boards the secret to success is using recycled plastic and aluminum cans and making the boards here in America. This small company out of Douglas, GA is trying, in their own words to “take over the world, one skateboarder at a time and we have just gotten started.”

Owner Joel Rawlins was a once-promising skateboarder who, at the age of 15, had a run-in with a car that made him rethink his direction in life.As an adult,  he got into the automotive aftermarket and had success supplying components for classic cars, some of them showing-up in movies like The Fast and Furious. In 2012, the idea struck him that he could use the recyclable aluminum and plastics from his business to fabricate skateboards, and suddenly, he was sharing an old pastime with his kids. There was a lot of work required to design, prototype and refine the boards while trying to maintain his  Made-in-America goal, but the end result was definitely worth it.The great thing about these boards ( besides the cool graphics and the company’s goal to be eco-friendly) is that you can recycle your old board and get a new one for a reasonable fee. If you want a different look, the deck of the board can be swapped out and you have the option to purchase bearings for life.

I wish I was a teenager again!



We Supported Toys for Tots This Year With American-Made Toys

This year, don’t forget to support the programs that get toys into the hands of needy kids. There are lots of children who would really love to find something special under the tree this year.  We support the Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots, which was founded in 1991 and uses only 3% of donations on operating expenses, sending 97% to the kids. 

Disclosure: We’ll get a small commission if you buy these toys through the Wamart links in this post: Please do!As always, we’ve made a point to purchase items made in America for our donation to Toys for Tots. This weekend, we went to our local Walmart where we found the classic American building set, Lincoln Logs, along with a K’nex “Thrill Ride” set, Crayola Crayons and “My Very Own Tool Bench” from American Plastics Toys Inc.

It really didn’t take us a long time to find these Made-in-USA items, just a little determination and legwork around the toy department. Our local firehouse is a drop-off point and we’ll be heading there tomorrow.

Just a word of advice, if you want to participate, do it soon since collections are usually over by mid December. Leave your toy unwrapped – they need to see the toy to get it to the right kid!. 

The best part: taking a moment on Christmas morning to think about what these gifts might mean to a young person in your community.


Paul and Kathy

How We Combined Giving Tuesday and Made-in-USA

Today is “Giving Tuesday,” a time to hit the pause button on frantic shopping and do something good for someone else. We decided to combine our Giving Tuesday efforts with our Made-in-USA efforts by purchasing American-made items for our local Toys for Tots campaign.

Since 1995, Toys for Tots has been an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve. Over its life span, the program has distributed over 512 million toys to over 237 million children.

learningexpressWe also threw in a bit of Shop-local Saturday by going to a store in Morristown, New Jersey, called The Teaching Room, which is also a Learning Express franchisee. Unfortunately, neither of their websites has a reliable way to search for Made in USA merchandise.greentoys1We picked up some items from Green Toys, including the Scooper on the left…greentoys2…and a helicopter boat.thinkingputtyWe also picked up a couple of packages of Thinking Putty.BoardsThere were a few other Made-in-USA items to choose from, including Spooner BoardsTinkerToysTinkertoys,LincolnLogs…and Lincoln Logs.

Hope you observe Giving Tuesday in your community!


Every Kid Deserves an American-Made Wagon

imageWhen I was a kid back In Connecticut, my friends and I used our wagons all the time to haul our stashes from one place to another. amish-made-berlin-sport-wagon-large-tires-goats-and-chickens_1Whether we were moving rocks to build a fort or wood to construct a bike ramp, the classic red wagon was a part of our everyday lives. Tip it over and it became the perfect screen for a snowball fight, take it down a hill and it was your shiny sports car, install the slats and it was the best pick-up truck in the neighborhood.imageEven though electronic games now dominate playtime, children still need to get fresh air and exercise. You can help your kids, your grandkids, your nieces and nephews – any kid – to get motivated for outdoor play by giving them some of the great items we had, like those much-loved wagons.imageI like the Berlin line of traditional American-made wood wagons offered by Pinecraft. With names like PeeWee, Loadmaster and Bigfoot (which has a 200 pound capacity so even I could go for a spin), there’s a size for every kid. And with a variety of wheel choices for normal to rough terrain, and lots of great colors, there are more ways to personalize a wagon than we ever dreamed possible.imageThe manufacturer gets points for coming up with a no-tip steering mechanism. Do you remember how you would be screaming down what seemed like a monster hill and the slightest turn of the handle would have you and everything in the wagon dumped on the grass or worse, on the pavement? This new design means your kids can -hopefully- have the fun with fewer trips home for Band-Aids.

ManufacturingTo see a video on the manufacturing process, go here.
618031_deluxe-ride--relax-wagon-with-umbrella_xlargeThere are other manufacturers to consider too. Little Tykes makes some cute plastic wagons that might be right for your family, like this Deluxe Ride & Relax® Wagon and several other styles. step2wagonsAnother plastic wagon-maker is Step2, which also carries a variety of wagons.41XA8RRDRRLAnd also Dirt King, which makes a pull-wagon in several colors.imageJust thinking back to those simple, fun times makes me smile. Those were the days! Whatever you choose, I hope that you and your kids have half as much fun as I did.



Update: 15 Forts, Castles, Dollhouses and Play Houses Made in USA

Disclosure: If you buy through our links, we may get a small commission. Please do!
Today, both boys and girls enjoy the imaginative play that goes along with forts, dollhouses, castles and other structures. Here are some nice examples, from whimsical to ultra-modern, made right here in the USA.Pinecraft1
The stunning Amish-made playhouses  at Pinecraft range from humble to Holy McMansion!

4126_classic-castle_xlargeThe Classic Castle from Little Tikes is big enough for your child – and friends.TikestownAnd how about this Endless Adventures® Tikes Town™ Playhouse, also from Little Tikes?1888toys

I don’t think the manufacturer of the Castle Play Activity Center and Puppet Theater had to work too hard to get these child models to pose for this picture. This awesome structure is custom-built to withstand classroom-level wear and tear.TrueHouseFor the modernist, there’s the TrueModern Playhouse, made in the USA of  birch plywood and non-toxic clear and painted finishes.

catalogv1_bilderhoosBilderhoos building sets let your kids design their own structures!

I think I would have been delirious with glee if I had gotten this set of play stands and canopy as a kid to replace that blanket that I used to stretch across the space between the bed and the wall.
And now for the doll-sizes houses and forts:      Camden Rose Three Story Cherry Wood Dollhouse
With the Greenleaf Brookwood Dollhouse Kit, you can have the fun of building the structure with your child instead of just taking it out of the box.
Regards, Kathy