Bead Toy Our bead toy came from IKEA for a whopping $7.99 and it has been worth every penny. Babies and toddlers just love sliding the beads around and I'm not joking when I say my big kids play with it too sometimes.
Plan Toys City My boys would probably say that this was one of their favorite Christmas gifts ever. They didn't get the entire Plan City for Christmas, but we gradually collected different pieces over a few Christmases and birthdays until the boys had the (modest) city that they have now. One of the most popular pieces is this parking garage. Another hit was the train station. The train tracks and roads connect perfectly with other wooden train tracks (like the ones from IKEA) so they are versatile. Matthew and Joshua use their Matchbox cars interchangeably with the small wooden Plan Toys cars.
Bilibo The Bilibo is one of the most interesting toys that I've ever seen. Talk about imaginative play... the Bilibo can be anything from a turtle shell or a step stool to a snow scooper or doll cradle. My kids love them and anyone who plays at our house usually asks about them. I had seen them somewhere and was intrigued, but it wasn't until I found one for $1 at a flea market that I finally bought one. Once we had one, we had to eventually get 5 more because everyone fought over the first one. My kids think the best way to use the Bilibo is to spin in it until they are so dizzy they can't stand up.
Wooden teethers & toys Babies really don't need many toys. Some of the few toys that I had for my babies were wooden teethers. These natural wood toys are chunky and easy to grasp and they are untreated so they are safe for little gums to chew on all day. I really love these handmade teethers and toys from Dad's Wooden Toys. They're made by a dad of twins, so I am a bit partial.
Dolls Most little girls love dolls, and my girls are no different. They love the soft Waldorf dolls that were made for them one Christmas. Their dolls have the same hair color and eye color as them and are really cute. My mom gave me the old doll cradles that she and my aunt played with as little girls and I painted them lavender for Leila and Sarah. Soft, sweet dolls and vintage cradles? Perfect combination.
Automoblox Matthew has very few interests in life, and cars is the main one for him. He received his first Automoblox car a few years ago and it was a huge hit. With a sturdy wooden body and parts that are interchangeable, Automoblox are a unique spin on the typical toy car or truck. My boys like to see who can make the longest car by putting several vehicle bodies together. These toys never get old.
Dollhouse and more dollhouses Until recently, my girls played with a vintage dollhouse that was given to us by a good friend. It was damaged during the move, and so Santa may bring a replacement. One of my favorite companies, Plan Toys, makes several different dollhouses that are really cool. Plan Toys is an incredible company and I love their toys. They use natural rubberwood that is free of pesticides, eco-friendly wood glue, plant-based inks and water-based dyes. The employees are paid fair wages and their manufacturing facility uses solar energy. What more could you ask for? Oh, yeah... their toys are made of wood and are sturdy enough to last through at least six children.
Play food- wool and wooden One of our other greatest gifts has been an abundance of play food and the ultimate play kitchen. Our play kitchen was pricey because it was one of those wooden ones made for use in a daycare or school, but any kitchen will do because children are very creative. I love the idea of making my own kitchen, like the plans here. Those kitchens are amazingly cute! To go with any play kitchen, you need pretend food. Our favorite foods are handmade wool ones and the wooden ones from (of course) Plan Toys.
Walker & Blocks For toddlers, one of our best gifts was the Plan Toys walker. It's wooden and sturdy for new walkers. My little boys are 2 now, but they still play with these daily. The walker came with a set of wonderful wooden blocks. Sure, these wooden blocks may seem boring compared to the plastic, shiny, sound-making blocks of today, but I can assure you that they are a huge hit. I have sat and watched Nathan and Ryan build towers and take blocks on pretend ferry boat rides. They never get tired of smashing down the big block house that their brother just made. Great stuff.
And there are some of the best toys for gift-giving, in my humble opinion. And nope, I didn't get paid to say that either.