March 29th, 2010

Calico Corners

Calico Critters-families of miniature rabbits, cats, pigs and other animals who live in a magical town called Cloverleaf Corners—are ridiculously cute. They’re small, they sport sweet smiles, have movable arms and legs, and wear teensy outfits that can be taken off and on (and removable clothes, if you have a little girl, means the toy will garner lots of play time).

In addition to the animal families, of course, you can buy houses, a school, a townhome, rooms and rooms of furniture, cars, baby carriages, books, plush toys and more.

My daughter, Belle, has a handful of families and a few small accessories. She likes them fine. They’re well-made. They’re darling. They encourage imaginative play.

But their smallness, to inexperienced fingers, can be frustrating. Trying to tie and untie some of the garb is like attempting thoracic surgery on an ant. You need the nimblest of digits. Preferably, very precise medical tweezers.

Also? Calico Critters are expensive. One small Critter family costs about $20. You’ll shell out around $155 for the Deluxe Village Dollhouse and $50 for the Cozy Cottage Starter Set.

Many of the accessories that come in the sets are undeniably choking hazards for kids under three. And the Critters Carrying Case is made of fairly flimsy cardboard and doesn’t boast the functionality you might think (we use a Sterilite container to hold our Critters paraphernalia and it works fine.)

The cons, though, are all trumped by the Critters’ cuteness and durability. Calico Critters are adorable and they still look good after a few years of moderate play. They make great toys to request for birthdays. I know my relatives love a direct, “How about getting her the Norwood Mouse Family?” when they ask what my daughter would like.

If you’re in the mood to splurge a little on your kid, these one- to four-inch pipsqueaks are a nice way to do it.

Recommended Age: 36 months to 4 years
My recommended age: 3 to 7 years

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This Weeks Tip

Great tip for night-time potty training: Make the bed with two sets of sheets (and/or two mattress pads), so if one gets wet in the middle of the night, just rip off a layer and get back to bed!