Toys That Go with the Grain

smoochy baby design!

It’s hard to compete with electric toys that go crash, bang, boom.

But too much time in front of plastic whirling playthings and your child’s imagination is likely to go bust.

Helen Gee, a woodworker and Daly City mom, took things (namely her tools) into her own hands and created Smoochy Baby Design, a toy company dedicated to pure and simple wooden toys.

Gee’s stackers, animals, and cars have no paint, finishes, or adornments, but they somehow pack in a ton of personality. Cleverly designed rolling dogs and wobbly walking owls rely on whimsical shapes and interesting wood grains (she uses several species to give each piece color and texture) to do the trick.

Best part: All sounds are provided by baby, including the giggles.

Available at etsy.com, $7-$49.

this week in san francisco!

On Santa’s Lap
Old Saint Nick drops by the Garden Court for the classic holiday afternoon tea.
Why: Mama gets her refined photos with Santa in a civilized setting.
When: Today, 2-3:30 p.m. (Also Dec. 18 & 20.)
Where: The Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery St., at Market St. R.S.V.P (recommended) to 415-546-5089. Adults and children, $40.

Chronicle Books Warehouse Sale
Save 80 percent off hundreds of titles at the semiannual sale.
Why: B Is for Baseball on the cheap, enough said.
When: Wed., Thurs. & Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: 680 Second St., at Brannan St. (415-537-4200).

The Snowman with the San Francisco Symphony
The animated tale of a boy and his icy friend with live accompaniment.
Why: A little taste of winter without the four-hour drive to Tahoe.
When: Sat., 7 p.m.
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., at Grove St. Tickets ($15-$57) at 415-864-6000.

Photo: Courtesy of Smoochy Baby Design

The Palace Hotel
2 New Montgomery St
@ Market St
San Francisco, CA 94105
680 2nd St
bt Brannan & Townsend Sts
San Francisco, CA 94107
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave
bt Grove & Hayes Sts
San Francisco, CA 94102