Our favorite things

A very good friend asked me about the wood truck that I posted about recently.  She’s looking for some good toys made out of wood and other natural materials, and I was happy to tell her about it and some of our other favorite wood toys that we’ve bought or made for our 2 year old son, Widget.  It was so much fun putting the list together that I thought I’d share it with you, my blogging friends, too!

We love love love wooden and natural material toys.  We were just talking about that this weekend, actually, and we’re pretty happy with our toy choices.  We have only the one plastic singing toy, the set of letters for the fridge.  This set has been a proven success among our group of friends for teaching phonics, which none of us grew up with.  We also have balls and a basketball hoop, and the house and farm Fisher Price playsets for playing pretend, but we really try to keep the plastic to a minimum.

IKEA is a great source for wooden toys, although we’ve also bought our fair share from craft fairs, which we justify as supporting craftsmen who put effort into continuing the availability of wooden and old-fashioned toys.

Our favorite handmade or wooden toys are:
* large wooden truck with interlocking cars that fit on the flatbed.  We found ours at the Sugarloaf craft festival last year and bought from a local artisan;
* small wooden cars with multi-level racing track, much like they have at the Ithaca Sciencenter children’s museum and in this picture from WillowTreeToys;
* IKEA wooden train set;
* MULA tow truck from IKEA with the magnetic pieces;
* IKEA abacus;
* handturned wooden rhythm sticks, with a variety of surfaces so they make different sounds; they can also be used as drumsticks;
* hammer and peg bench toy;
* handmade wooden screw-in toy, for Andrew to practice turning screws;
* dangling dragon that bounces from the ceiling on a spring (a playdate favorite, but we have to keep replacing the spring!);
* Melissa and Doug instruments.  There’s a box of about 8 that come in a wooden box for about $20;
* Melissa and Doug play food.  We have the fruits and vegetables, but I just love all their sets.  They even have make-your-own pizzas!  These are totally not cheap, but they’re durable, so eBay would be a good choice.  I love anything Melissa and Doug.  They also make fantastic wood puzzles and a neat clock puzzle that Widget really likes;
* wooden play kitchen, which we keep in the kitchen;
* various little handheld racing cars and trucks, like these; and
* oversize wooden train table to be used for everything from pulling up to jumping off and a place to gather around for playdates.  It can accomodate 8 kids and their craft supplies at once!
* I wish we had a pretend baby bed, and I know my Dad would build us one, but Widget has really resisted playing with dolls, so it wouldn’t be used anyway.

We like the Thomas the Tank Engine sets and tables, but we chose to go with the simpler versions from IKEA and Target instead, for reasons of both simplicity and cost.  A word of warning, however.  Although both are labeled as Brio- and Thomas-compatible, they don’t interlock properly with Thomas or with each other, so if you get both sets, you’ll want to set them up in separate rooms, as we did.  Luckily, I don’t know a single toddler who would complain about having train sets in two rooms instead of one!  The IKEA train sets are very sturdy and soooooo much fun.  And at $12 for four cars and enough track to make a circular loop or a figure 8, they’re a bargain.

On the topic of toy storage, we couldn’t find exactly what we wanted, so we converted one of our tall bookcases from grad school into a combo toy and book storage unit for the playroom.  We flipped the bookcase on its side, permanently attached two shelves, and reattached the other three shelves horizontally, perpendicular to their original orientation.  Presto — a 5′ long bookcase perfect for books and toys in the playroom.  We’re making another for Widget’s “big boy room” when we move him out of the nursery and into his big boy bed this Fall.  We considered a forward-facing unit that displays the books so that Widget could choose his books more easily, but he has done very well with a regular spine-forward bookcase.  Every afternoon at naptime and every evening, Widget walks over to the bookcase to choose the books that we will read together.  He’s so funny about this — we have to choose 3 new books each time, from the shelf!  So after a few days, we have this giant stack of books on the bedside table that aren’t acceptable reading until they’re reshelved.  Unless they’re Seuss, of course! 

These are a few of our favorite natural and wood toys and solutions.  What are yours?


9 Responses to Our favorite things

  1. Damselfly says:

    Hey, great list! Thanks for the rec’s.

  2. MC Milker says:

    I have to agree with your thoughts on toys and toy solutions. I have a mix of toys…mostly wood and fabric, but plastic where there is no reasonable natural alternative. I just recently posted my DS’s Christmas Wish list and a list of my favorite sites for natural toys.


  3. […] I’ve gotten such great interest in my previous post about wooden toys that I thought I’d update it with some new picks, new sites, and some handmade toys that we love too.  Here it is, just in time for Cyber Monday, a big day for online holiday shopping.  I don’t vouch for any of these companies, as I’ve just discovered them myself, or been directed to them by my crunchy parent friends in NY, The Not Quite Crunchy Parent, and Mothering Magazine’s shopping guide.  Here’s another interesting take, at Tookie’s.  Many offer Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired toys, which are great! […]

  4. […] soon, we’ll all be playing with wooden toys and sticks […]

  5. […] since Widget was born, I have bought and advocated for the purchase of wooden and natural toys.  We buy responsibly, from small firms […]

  6. Wooden Toys says:

    I would also recommend Whittle Shortline Railroad wooden toys. Handmade in USA, very good quality.

  7. […] did pretty well, actually, compiling play materials and posts about natural materials and wooden toys, about splashing in the sink with bubbles and food coloring, about making our own […]

  8. Louisa says:

    good list! wondering if you have links of places that sell forward facing bookshelves as I really like the idea of them but can’t seem to find any. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Cheers!

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