PRACTICAL VIEW : Toys for Parents, Travelers and Eyeglass Wearers

Musical place mats for babies, an unparalleled travel manual, holders for eyeglasses and several handy household products are new this spring.

Music to Eat By: Coming in mid-April are Musical Meals place mats to entertain infants in highchairs. They’re made of washable vinyl and aren’t loud enough to drive parents crazy. Babies start the music by pushing a microchip enclosed in an unopenable pouch. Introduced by Amy Kallman Epstein, who brought out the Read a Mat series of children’s place mats 10 years ago, Musical Meals mats come with one of four songs: “London Bridge,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Old MacDonald” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Each measures 8.5 x 13.5 inches and includes colorful drawings. Suggested retail is $6.50.

Musical Meals and Epstein’s new Color a Mats, which come with crayons and a carrying case for about $5, will be available nationwide in selected toy, gift, book, linen and children’s stores, or by calling Straight Edge at (800) READMAT.

Small Book, Big Tips: “The Authoritative Six Ounce Travel Encyclopedia” is a lengthy title for a little vinyl-covered manual that’s the best on the market.


The encyclopedia offers 144 pages of tips on trip planning, packing, home arrangements, first aid, travel with children and pets, and safety, as well as tables of temperatures in 223 U.S. and foreign cities, money units, time differences and electricity in 149 countries.

There are also metric-conversion tables, maps, world air miles, international road signs, and telephone tips and area codes. The Picture Language section has 236 drawings to help a traveler find items ranging from a Band-Aid to a beauty shop without speaking the language.

Travel Encyclopedia ($12.95) is available nationwide in bookstores, library shops, luggage and gift stores.

In the Los Angeles area, you can find it at Sport Chalet, Rand McNally Map and Travel stores, Vroman’s in Pasadena, UCLA Bookstore and the downtown Los Angeles Public Library store. Or order by sending $12.95 plus $1.50 shipping and handling to Ready-Set-Go!, Box 6415, Shawnee Mission, Kan. 66206.

Gripping Stuff: Wearers of eyeglasses who have been looking for those great little Wedgees glasses retainers available five years ago need search no more. They have been reintroduced as Grippers, similar wedge-shaped sleeves that fit over each arm of the earpieces to keep glasses from slipping off.

The soft neoprene sleeves also cushion pressure. Grippers ($3.95 a pair, including shipping and handling) can be ordered from Grippers, 1623 Glorietta Blvd., Coronado, Calif. 92118; (619) 435-5675. They come in black or brown.

Bag Deal: The Bag Bag is a simple solution to an annoying kitchen problem: where to store plastic shopping bags. This 8-by-16-inch duffel allows you to store up to 60 bags and dispenses them one at a time. Made of non-shrinking unbleached cotton, Bag Bag hangs on a doorknob or a hook.

The Bag Bag (suggested retail from $2.99 to $4.99) is available locally at Gelson’s stores, Crown Hardware stores in Orange County or Farmers Market at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.


It is also sold through several catalogues, among them Brookstone, (800) 926-7000; Sears Shop at Home, (800) 438-8858, and Colonial Garden Kitchens, (800) 245-3399. Or order it ($3 plus $1 shipping) from the Bag Bag Corp. by calling (800) 847-8447.

No-Scratchers: 3M Co. has recently introduced Scotch-Brite Never Scratch Wool Soap Pads that will scour delicate kitchen surfaces and equipment--stove tops, microwaves, non-stick cookware and glasses--without scratching.

And kudos to 3M from the environment. The pads, which look like steel wool, are made from recycled plastic beverage bottles and include biodegradable phosphorous-free detergent. Even the packaging is made of recycled paper.

Look for Never Scratch Wool Soap Pads in Los Angeles at Lucky, Ralphs, Vons and Food 4 Less grocery stores. If you can’t find them, call 3M’s consumer hot line, (800) 362-4356. They retail at 75 cents for a package of four, and $1.25 for eight.


Cleaning Made Simple: Nevr-Dull, a specially treated cloth, simplifies cleaning and shining of aluminum, brass, chrome, copper, gold, pewter, silver and steel.

Developed as a chrome cleaner by Eagle One, a Carlsbad manufacturer of auto-care products, Nevr-Dull can be used in your home, car or boat. Just tear off a small wad of the cloth, rub slowly over the metal surface and buff with a dry cloth.

Nevr-Dull ($3.99 for a five-ounce can) is available nationwide at automotive stores. Locally, you can find it at Pep Boys and Chief Auto Parts.

New and Useful runs the first Thursday of each month.