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Ergorapido Ion (EL1030A) Bagless Cordless Stick and Hand Vac

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Gilt Groupe KidKraft Pirate Deluxe Set

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This pirate ship deluxe set from KidKraft really is kind of arrr-some and totally puts the plastic stuff to shame.  It has 28 different parts and about 35 screws for assembly (took us about an hour, with kids “helping”) but the directions are straightforward, and the pieces build on each other so you kind of get excited about doing it as you go.  (Kind of.)

Unlike some playhouses, this Pirate Deluxe kit comes with 4 pirate figures, cannons, a treasure chest, a “gilded” throne and coffin, two sharks, palm trees, a rowboat and other accessories.  All pieces are of good quality.  The peg-legged Pirate (who our daughter dubbed “Sharkey”) doesn’t stand so well out of the box, but if you bend his upper body forward, you can get him reasonably stable.  Characters are scaled so as to fit with other KidKraft sets – we also have a pink princess castle sort of thing, so our kids now like to play Pirates and Princesses.

If you’re not yet a member of higher-end discount aggregator Gilt Groupe, by all means use our referral link so we get credit!  KidKraft items are on sale for a limited time starting today 8/3, with the Pirate Set going for $90 (sugg.retail $159.99) and “Aye!” it’s worth every penny.  If you miss the sale at Gilt, ToysR’Us carries it regularly online for $129.99.

E-Z Step Universal Stroller Wheeled Board

E-Z Step | Photo Credit:

We’ve talked a bit on GaGaGear about single-to-double convertible strollers (from BabyJogger and Bugaboo) – but if your toddlers are spaced so a double just isn’t practical, consider adding wheels off the back.  Several top manufacturers offer what’s termed a “strollerboard” or “buggy board” which can be snapped on to the back of the main stroller chassis to accommodate a standing rider. 

I finally unpacked mine today (Bugaboo Universal, attaching to my Bee) almost *a year* after purchasing it, and it was the perfect solution for a day at the Zoo with my two toddlers.  I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this earlier!

Before buying, consider the make and features of the single stroller supplying the ride.  Some models, like the E-Z Step, claim universal attachment for a wide variety of brands; others, like Bugaboo’s or UPPAbaby’s, are universal only within a brand.  While the branded boards tend to be more expensive, they were also designed with your stroller in mind (and will also look the part) – off-brand boards will always look (and possibly behave) more like an add-on.

Umbrella strollers may not be good candidates for a buggy board if the handles do not telescope – it could be incredibly awkward to push a heavier load from an already stooped posture, especially with a toddler sandwiched in between.  Strollers with two-handed push may also find themselves tripping over the board – it helps to have a single pushbar so you can walk off to the side if needed (especially with a single-wheel model like the Bugaboo).

Bugaboo Universal Wheeled Board with Bee | Amazon

Bugaboo Universal | Photo Credit:

Read reviews closely before making a purchase – a few off-brand models have suffered recurring customer complaints and disturbing breakages.  It seems as though safety is easiest to accomplish 1:1 with the brand – true universal models seem to rely on velcro-type fasteners to account for varying chassis width, whereas Bugaboo and UPPAbaby (for instance) designed specific attachments for a custom fit.

E-Z Step Universal Stroller Wheel Board – $59.95 on Amazon

UPPAbaby PiggyBack Ride Along Board – $89.15 on Amazon

Bugaboo Universal Wheeled Board -$100.00 on Amazon

Here’s an update – dare we say, product review – for Phil N’Teds Wriggle Wrapper: “The perfect solution for sitting, feeding & sleeping on the go!”

A while back, we posted about the beautiful unfulfilled promise of the Wriggle Wrapper, which had sat gathering moss while our little babies rolled gleefully along, stopping only to nosh in the infinitely superior Phil N’Teds MeToo.  After several noble attempts at proper use, we felt wasteful and downright ashamed at having gotten suckered into another $50 of gear we didn’t need.

Then – the baby turned 1, the toddler hit 2.5, and we all took off to co-op preschool together, working parent shift (with tag-a-long) one day a week.

The first few times, I just struggled & juggled with the baby – swapping deftly between the Ergo, a Pack N’Play (not popular), and furtive sideway glances to keep Mr. Increasingly Mobile in my sights.  This wasn’t working, so I deployed the MeToo – but with much more at stake (glue sticks – how delicious!) the little guy grew even more determined, finding a way out of MeToo’s safety straps and onto the table.

As it turns out, toddlers are pretty good at sounding the alarm – not out of concern of precious baby’s health or welfare, but because glue is “mine” and they’re not sharing.  Yet another rescue pop into the Ergo.

Phil & Teds Wriggle WrapperLater, physically exhausted and emotionally bereft, it hit me like a ton of mossy rocks: Wriggle Wrapper.  The perfect solution for sitting…on the go. (Their words.)  It would bind baby’s wiggly little bottom to a tiny preschool chair.  As though the chair were wearing the Ergo.  Sort of.  Well, at this point, anyone or anything else wearing the baby is welcome, and my back thanks you.

I brought Wriggle Wrapper to Co-op my very next shift and it worked like a dream.  The WW’s extra-wide velcro-buckle waistbelt/short is genius for sitting securely, since it immobilizes the hips – baby has no leverage to wiggle his legs into standing position.  Best of all, baby seems to love it.  I think the secure hold might actually feel comforting – like he feels wrapped, not bound.

The other parents were impressed – what’s that?  That’s brilliant! For the first time, I finished shift with energy to spare.  I’m a fan of baby-wearing, and still wore my 23-pounder for a good two hours out of five, but the Wriggle Wrapper gave me *my* mobility at key moments in the Co-op day.  I felt like Supermom.  No…I felt…normal!

So I’m updating the review, and giving WW high marks – at least for sitting and feeding!  Sleeping…remains to be seen.  But I’ve got to find a way to test it.  Because the $49.99 just got paid off (good luck hiring a nanny for that for five hours) – and now I’m curious.

We recently joined up with a neighborhood co-op playschool – a fantastic parent-run pre-preschool environment that’s equal parts daycare and playdate.  True to the prevailing ethos in our nouveau hippie urb, the standing rule is: No Characters Allowed.

While explaining the co-op’s policy on bringing in items for individual use or group share, our welcome committee gaily recounted the time when a donated box of Groovy Girls mysteriously appeared on site, only to be swiftly and equally mysteriously disappeared by a conscientious shift worker.  This was all described with a chuckle, and the admission that the girls in the group had been really excited about the dolls.  [I don’t know if they were really so bad] they confided, moving on to the next co-op rule with a shrug and a smile.

Which got me thinking.  Is there some hierarchy of Character that is simply understood amongst enlightened parents, or is the character ban really about something else?  What’s at the core of this objection, which I feel viscerally each time I change a princess pull-up?

I’m sure the lawyers of the Justice League could represent Superman and Spidey vs. Babar and Madeline and put them all in the same boat.  The prosecution rests on a tenuous central thesis – that commercial characters threaten a child’s capacity to imagine.  It’s Waldorf thinking taken to an extreme: if your child takes to Dora, Dolly dies.  Imagination only happens with wooden toys and faceless fairies.

(There’s another argument about protecting kids from predatory consumer culture, but we’ll just skip that for now.)

After some reflection, I don’t think we give kids enough credit in this scenario.  And we are a household with a similar ban, for similar reasons – just add the fact that most of these characters seem specifically designed to be exceptionally annoying to parents.

Some of the most physicaly and verbally capable, most outwardly imaginative, and enthusiastic toddlers I know have spent their days tickling Elmo, playing Power Rangers, and running around in character diapers (or Underoos®).  In a way, characters are just like people they meet – they have names, some elements of personality, and context.  I haven’t met many toddlers able to sit still enough to be spoonfed an entire character’s life story.  They take a nugget, and run with it.  Maybe not so bad after all.

Am I happy that the co-op restricts character-based content as a rule?  Sure – it means a quiet and consistent playspace with a high-end look to it and many excellent toys from the likes of Melissa & Doug and Plan Toys.

Am I opening the floodgates to mass commercial characters in my own home?  Not likely – I still prefer the company of Olivia and Pippi, “Broccoli Tiger” and “White Bunny.”  But if my kids want to imagine exploring with Dora, outside the diaper aisle, I won’t intervene.


In defense of characters and imagination, here’s a heart-warming story about a young Seattle boy taken on a superhero adventure by Make A Wish Foundation.

On the Princess Craze: What’s Wrong With Cinderella? from Peggy Orenstein of The New York Times (via excellent children’s lit blog

A gear blog with eco-sensibilities is something of a paradox.

After all, in the (few remaining) greenest parts of our Earth, the only baby gear you’ll see is a simple piece of cloth tied into a sling.  And this to raise children with legitimate life skills like hunting and building and cooking from scratch.  If the point is to raise a family who stands a chance post-Armageddon, perhaps the rest of us are barking up the wrong tree (before cutting it down)…?

Okay, we’ve said all that mainly to be provocative.  But today really isn’t the day to push product at GaGaGear, so we’ll push some ideas instead.

1.  Living with “less” really is most environmentally effective when it means “less stuff.”  Always choose quality over quantity when it comes to baby gear.  You’ll be surprised at how much you don’t need (*cough* wipes warmer), and the best gear often does more with less.

2.  Items of higher quality at purchase time (cleaned, and maintained throughout their use) will fetch the most at resale.  By springing for that $400 BOB stroller, and keeping it spiffy, you’re starting a cycle of reuse in your own family and with others that is both eco- and community-friendly.  That $20 umbrella stroller – destined for the landfill.

3.  The good thing about plastic is it’s easy to keep in good condition (breakage aside).  Before opening your wallet for all new wooden toys or “green” toys made from recycled plastic, open your mind to resale!  Yard sales, Craigslist, Ebay, and your local resale shops are excellent places to pick up the usual suspects in very good condition – activity tables, exersaucers, tea sets, learning toys…even potties, diaper pails, high chairs and booster seats.  Buy them, use them, clean them up, and take them back for store credit.

4.  Do maintain a degree of vigilance around material provenance and surface chemistry, especially for toys, clothes, and bedsheets.  This requires understanding the issues, reading labels carefully, and familiarizing yourself with caution cues (we’ll cover this in more depth for an upcoming post).  We believe children have a right to chew safely on all their toys, play and sleep in clothing free of pesticides and flame retardant.

5.  Radical homemaking doesn’t have to be so…radical.  Simply befriending and agreeing to swap/share with a few other families can significantly ease the modern family’s baby gear burden.  Start the hand-me-down habit early, and it’s liable to stick.  Buy around a common interest – active families can successfully share items used less frequently like trampolines, family-sized tents, hiking backpacks or bike carriers (unless needed for a commute).  Rental can also be an option – check with local stores or place an inquiry on Craigslist or a community bulletin board.

You’ll notice none of these ideas require deprivation or major sacrifice – just mindful consumption.  Earth Day reminds us that we live in an ecosystem in which “things” are continually created, destroyed, and renewed.  Our job as 21st century parents is to source products in a way that sustains a healthy life cycle, for our families, for our communities, and for our environment.

Sleep sacks and sleeping bags are sending traditional swaddles packing, and for good reason.  While nothing says snug like a tightly-executed baby burrito, those mummy wraps can be quick to unravel once baby starts rolling about.

Thanks to some very bright folks at HALO (“The Original Sleep Sack”), parents can stop losing sleep over loose sheets, instead zipping their little ones into clever baby sleeping bags that provide the warmth and ritual of a swaddle without sacrificing too much snugness.   Other companies are getting in on the idea now, and there are even folks making them in custom fabrics on Etsy.

Sleep sacks, bags, whatever you want to call them, are fantastic gifts for baby’s first year and just beyond.  Most retail between $20-$50 depending on fabric and brand.  Handmade items often fetch a bit more.  Search “baby sleep sack” on Amazon for a good round-up.

Here are a few favorites (click pics for links):

Organic Elephant Sack from SewnNatural on Etsy | Photo Credit: Etsy/SewnNatural

DwellStudio Sleep Sack in Sparrow Lilac | Photo Credit:

HALO SleepSack Wearable Blanket in Organic Cowboy | Photo Credit:

Aden + Anais Mod Bee Sleeping Bag

Aden + Anais - Mod About Baby - Bee Sleeping Bag | Photo Credit:

  • JHeff: I have read a good number of comments about most users of the boba not really ever using the foot rests. Looking at the videos I've seen, the back on
  • Mama GaGa: Oh, boo! Thanks for the manufacturing update - I will make note in the post. Cheers - MG
  • Cathy: I know this is a couple years old but I ran across this post and was so excited when you said the Boba was made in America - a big selling point for m

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