If you are at all like me, you are overwhelmed by the toy choices out there. I want the toys for my kids to be fun and safe but also educational. By “educational,” I’m not talking about specifically designed to teach you something, such as LeapFrog or vTech items. No offense to those products, but they are just not my thing. I don’t want the toys to talk to or think for my kids (and not just because noisy ones are annoying). The best toys are those that spark creativity. I also prefer wood toys to plastic ones, but I am by no means a purist in this regard. So here’s a little list of some of the items that have gotten a lot of play in my house. All links are to Amazon but most of these toys can be found in good, local toy stores.
Plan Toys Beehive — This teaches colors and fine motor skills. The little chopsticks/pincer tool is easy to use and those little bees are freakin’ adorable.
Krooom Eco-friendly Recyclable Reinforced Cardboard Dylan’s Firehouse Station — This cardboard fire station comes with a fire truck, fire fighters, and some street/construction signs. Warning: this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to assemble because the little plastic screws are turned with your fingers. Maybe I was doing it wrong and it was definitely worth it once assembled.
Haba Puzzle Stacking Game – Land of Dragons — The one pictured at left is actually a stacking game where the wooden blocks go onto wooden dowels. We have several sets of Haba wooden blocks, though, and they are all gorgeous; the Sevilla and Cordoba sets have funky architectural shapes like turrets, spires and domes.
Plan Toys Balancing Cactus and Plan Toys Stacking Tree — These are both high-quality wooden toys that require some skill. The cactus leaves have little pegs on the end and the point is to stack them in such a way as to balance it and not have it topple over. The tree is a little simpler; you can stack the layers any way you want and it still works.
Fisher-Price Miracles and Milestones Touch and Cuddle Hedgehog — This little guy is so precious and brightly colored, I think he’s heading straight for my own bed once my boys are done with him! Plus he makes a crackly noise that babies love.
International Playthings Lift Off Rocket — This is a quality toy that has held up under lots of play. It comes with a car, two astronauts, space dog, and an alien with a rock that he lives in. Playing with this rocket is like playing with a dollhouse, but one that’s socially acceptable for boys to play with (not that I personally care about socially acceptable, gender-specific toys).
Kidcraft Deluxe Let’s Play Kitchen — I did a lot of research before buying this one because there are a lot of crappy plastic kitchens out there. It’s made out of wood and comes in crisp primary colors. You need to assemble it yourself but it’s not too hard if you’re at all handy with these types of things. It’s pretty big and heavy, though, so I recommend assembling it in the spot where it’s going to live. Since it was a birthday present for my son, I assembled it in the garage beforehand and then moved it to the playroom after he went to bed. That was a pain and it definitely required two people. Two years later and both boys still play with it often. We also added several sets of play food to go with it: the Melissa and Doug Wooden Sandwich Making Set, Birthday Party Cake, and Pizza Party; the Smart Snacks Rainbow Color Cones (which seriously look like real ice cream!); and the Small World Living Toys Peel ‘N Play.
Learning Resources Alphabet Soup Sorters and 1 to 10 Counting Cans — These are SO GREAT. Each alphabet soup can contains cards with examples of things that start with that letter along with samples of the letter written uppercase and lowercase. The counting cans contain pieces of plastic food in the quantity on the can (ex: four pineapple rings in the “4” can). My boys have fun playing with these and matching the items and they don’t even realize they are learning something, to boot!
There are so many great toys out there, I could go on and on! I’ll stop here for today, but you can also check out my “Toys for the lil’ ones” board on Pinterest for more ideas.