Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Looking for fun, affordable stocking stuffers for kids? Here are 20 of my favorites – all under $10 each.  I’ve noticed that several of the toys on this stocking stuffer list are classic toys. Even if you didn’t play with them when you were a kid, you can enjoy playing with them with your children or grandchildren.

affordable stocking stuffers for kidsStocking Stuffers for Toddlers

Here are some fun, affordable stocking stuffers for younger kids.  Some they can play with on their own; others might need a little parental help.

wooden train whistle made in USAWooden Train Whistle – Choo Choo!  This train whistle has 4-tones and sounds like the real thing. Made from unfinished pine and high quality birch plywood. Measures 8-1/4″ long by 1-1/2″ square. Decorated with chart showing what 11 different whistle sounds mean (long, long, short, long is the sound for train approaching a crossing.) Made in Vermont USA. Ages 5+  $5.99

Ryan's room shoe lace manipulative toy for preschoolersOne-Two Tie Your Shoe Lacing Toy – This lacing toy helps children practice lacing and tying their shoes. Builds hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Wooden shoe measures 4″ long and includes lace. (Shoe colors may vary from image.) From Ryan’s Room. Ages 3+  $4.99



Maple Landmark Made By Me Truck preschool toyMade By Me – A great first woodworking assembly project!  Kids can assemble their own Truck, Train, or VW Bug and then color, paint or decorate them.  The individual sets come with smooth-sanded unfinished pine pieces and wooden wheels and axles.  All you need is some glue, a hammer, paints, crayons, stickers or whatever else you might want to use for decoration. A great Grandparent & Me activity! Made By Me’s have received Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products Award and Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Creative Toys Awards. Made in the USA. Ages 3+ $3.99

old fashioned spinning top preschool toyOld Fashioned Spinning Top  A table-top wooden toy spinning top with spinning bracket and string. A safe indoor toy that even a 3-year-old can operate with help from Mom or Dad. Ages 3+ $8.99


Stocking Stuffers for Ages 5-7

Lots of these classic toys will also be enjoyed by kids older that 7 years.

Marbles – our cool marbles come in a “vintage” metal box and are even made in the USA!  48 marbles & 2 shooter marbles plus a handbook to learn about different marble games. Made in USA $9.99

Dominos – Another classic game.  Dominos can be used in many ways (math games or racing dominos, for example.) Take it to the next level and learn how to play block, draw, Maltese cross, Sebastopol, Bergen, Montana and Texas 42. Comes in a “vintage” metal box and includes a full set of 28 double six dominos and a twenty page handbook covering history, technique and game rules. Made in USA. $9.99

Jacob’s Ladder – I never had one of these growing up and didn’t “get” it until I read the instructions.  So much fun!  This can be played by younger kids, but even 8 & 9 year-olds love watching the wooden pieces cascade as if by magic.  You can also do magic tricks with the Jacob’s Ladder. I have seen cheap Jacob’s Ladders but this is the real deal with quality wooden pieces.  Made in the USA. $8.99

Jacks – This traditional jacks set comes with 5 gold and 5 silver jacks a ball and a cloth storage bag.  Also comes with rules but you can make up your own, too.  $4.99

Whirly Toy – Did you have one when you were a kid?  This one has lights inside the wheel so the fun can continue after dark. It’s quite hypnotic and I – and other adults – have spent lots of time playing with these! Wheel is magnetic and tracks along the metal rod while spinning (and lighting up).  I’ve seen lots of cheap imitations but this is a sturdy, well-made toy.  Comes with battery. Ages 5+ $9.99

Slinky Collector’s Edition – Who hasn’t had a Slinky? The Slinky is still made in Pennsylvania with the original equipment that Richard James created. The Slinky has changed little in over 50 years and is loads of fun.  Great for coordination development, learning about gravity, balance and more. Made in the USA. Ages 5+ $7.99

Light Crystal Prism – A great science toy that’s fun to look at! Natural sunlight is refracted through the prism into the full spectrum of colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Made of polished glass; must be handled with care. Made in USA. Ages 6+ $8.99

Firefly Hand-Launched Helicopter Toy –  This toy is so much fun.  We played with this a lot at home this summer (see my post about it).  Works like a sling shot that you point up in the air.  Helicopters down and has a LED light.  Ages  5+   $3.99

Eni Puzzle – A great “fidget” puzzle toy with lots of possible solutions and great for spatial relation skills.  The “Keychain” size comes in two colors schemes: pastels and hot/bold colors.   Ages 5+  Keychain is $6.99

Pommawonga Ring Toss Toy – Toss the tethered wooden rings in the air and see how many you can catch on the wooden stick. Once you’ve caught all the rings see if you can catch the square – but don’t lose the rings in the process. This is a great way for kids to develop their hand to eye coordination.  From Ryan’s Room. Ages 6+  $8.99

Wooden Throwing Top – This is a classic, natural wooden throwing top with a safe replaceable fixed plastic point.  Includes 60″ string and wooden “button”. Made in USA.  Ages 7+  $7.99. Save 10% when you buy 3 or more.

Wooden Flying Sticks –  This Flying Stick is an aerodynamically sophisticated version of the old folk-toy stick helicopter. The pitch of the 7 inch rotor can be be changed by wetting and bending. It takes a little practice to get a good flight. Insider Tip: Wait until wood is dry before flying, or it will be too heavy.  Ages 7+  Sold in 16 packs only. A 16-pack is $16.99 but I included it on my list because each flying stick comes out to just over $1.

Stocking Stuffers for Ages 8+

Kids 8 and older will enjoy any of the toys on the ages 5-7 list, but here are a few that might need a little more physical dexterity.

Maple Landmark Soma Cube Puzzle

Soma Cube Puzzle – This is a classic three dimensional puzzle consisting of seven unique shapes which can only be assembled into a cube one way. Cube measures 2-1/8″ and is made of maple hardwood finished with a clear urethane finish. Made in USA. Ages 8+ $9.99.



Saturn throwing top from SpainSaturn Throwing Top –  The Saturn throwing top or spinning top is imported from Trompos Space in Spain. Unclip the lid to store the included string and button. Internal weight can be raised or lowered to control vibration. Fixed point is more durable for long lasting fun but top still can do advanced tricks. Ages 8+ $8.99

Skip Rope Jump Rope Made in USA  Super Skipping Rope – This jump rope is long enough for 2 or 3 to jump at once. Rope is 15 feet long with wood beads to use as handles. Package includes skip rope history, techniques and skip rope rhymes. Colors are assorted. Can be used by 1 person if one end is tied to a door or a fence (or held by someone else). Made in USA. $9.99

Guillows G36 Catapult GliderCatapult Balsa Glider –  This rubber-launched balsa glider has 12″ wingspan and piggy-backed “Space Shuttle”. Wing and stabilizer position can be adjusted so you can experiment with different settings.  Assembly and flying requires careful reading of instructions, some dexterity & skill.   Made in USA. Ages 8+ $3.99 Save 10% when you buy 5 or more.

Visit Turner Toys & Hobbies to see other affordable toys!  Have a Merry Christmas!




10_15boygiftSomeone just asked me about good gifts for 10-15 year old boys.   I thought it might be helpful to think about it in terms of their personalities. 

Here are three types of boys I know:

Creator  (C)

  • Likes finding solutions for different kinds of “problems.” A Rube Goldberg type.  Learns, experiments, builds.  Might like blocks, mazes, marble runs or planes and rockets that they can design or tweak for different performance effects.

Sprinter (S)

  • Doesn’t necessarily want to devote a lot of time to an activity – maybe 10 minutes here and there.  Short bursts of concentration but likes to practice things over and over to master a skill.  Might like brainteasers, yo-yos, tops or ready-to-fly rockets and planes.

Tinkerer (T)

  • Likes to use his hands to build things, tweaks them to improve performance.  Can spend lots of time (hours, days) on a project.  Might like advanced rocket and balsa airplane kits that require precision cutting, glueing and painting.  Might like 3D puzzles or puzzles that require a lot of patience.

Here are 6 types of gifts for 10-15 year old boys who are Creators, Sprinters & Tinkerers

1.  Brainteaser Puzzles  (S)

The most jaded tween or teen likes brainteasers.  This is great for kids who want to fiddle with something for a short while and come back to it later – or fiddle with it all day. Here are four popular puzzles:



  • Mini Eni Puzzle – a great hand-held one-piece puzzle that kids can take with them, attach it to their backpacks.  Great for fidget toy.
  • Logiq Tower    – this wooden puzzle has more than 22,000 possible solutions.
  • Soma Cube –  wooden cube puzzle with only 1 solution

2. Rockets  (C) (S) (T)

I can’t tell you how many dads we meet who practically get misty-eyed when they see that we carry Estes rockets.  Their love of rocketry started when they were kids.  If your family hasn’t tried rockets, maybe this is the time – a father-son activity?

Estes 1403 Riptide Model Rocket

Riptide RTF Rocket

Sprinters (or novices) need a ready-to-fly, or RTF, rocket that requires almost no assembly with a launch set like the Riptide. (S)

Estes High Flier Model Rocket

Estes High Flier High Altitude Model Rocket

Creators and Tinkerers will like anything E2X & beyond (though start with the easier levels if your child is a novice).  The High Flier Model Rocket Kit  is a Level 1 skill level and flies up to 1500 feet.  It needs some assembly and painting and a launch set if you don’t have it. (C) (T)

For more information about rockets, please see my earlier posts:  Unplug your kids! and Model Rockets.  Feel free to call or email us if you’d like specific guidance.

3.  Building Toys (C)

The creator will take the basic units of these sets, add in stunts and then create all kinds of amazing contraptions or layouts that would make Rube Goldberg proud. Check out the videos!

Crazy Wall Coaster

I talked about this in my Kid Inventor post.  The Wall Coaster is basically a marble run that you attach to a wall and reposition as you experiment.  Also comes with stunt sets that make it that much more fun:

Q-Ba-Maze Big Box Set

Interlocking plastic cubes make this a 3D maze and marble run – physics & art in one set.  There are three types of cubes: hole in the center, one to the side, or two to the side.  Experiment with how the marbles run through the maze.  Use multiple marbles at once.  Only made more fun with stunt add-ons like vortexes, tubes, pivot trampoline & more:

4.  Flying toys  (C) (S) (T)

Is the boy is into planes and flight?  There are all kinds of planes and kits that will appeal to Creators, Sprinters and Tinkerers.



  • The Guillows Airplane Design Studio lets you design and build your own airplanes, biplanes, gliders. Comes with enough supplies to build 4 motorplanes and 4 gliders. (C) (T)

There are lots of other ready-to-fly planes that will appeal to both Sprinters & Tinkerers.  These are all rubber-powered (not radio-controlled) and many require little assembly but can be tweaked for enhanced performance.  (S) (T)



  • The P-51 Mustang requires minimal assembly and is rubber-launched. It loops, dives and flies great.  Can be tweaked for different flight patterns. (S)
  • The G36 Catapult Glider has 12″ wingspan and piggy-backed “Space Shuttle”. Great for learning basics of catapault launched gliding. Wing and stabilizer position can be adjusted so you can experiment with different settings. Assembly and flying requires careful reading of instructions, some dexterity & skill. (T)

Balsa airplane kits will appeal to Tinkerers. They require patience and dexterity, to.o

  • The Cadet Model Airplane Kit  Recommended age 10+. Build-time: 4 hours. Requires use of simple tools such as Exacto knife, pliers and artist’s brush. One of the first teaching designs when created in the 1940’s, this is the simplest model using stick-and-tissue construction. (T)
  • The Balsa Model Spitfire is recommended for ages 12+  Wingspan: 27″.  Rubber powered but can be converted to gas power. Requires a lot of attention to detail & patience! (T)

I’m partial to Ornithopters because I think they’re really cool.  They’re mechanical devices that fly by flapping their wings.



5.  2D & 3D puzzles (T)



Check out our Gift Guide to Puzzles – it includes puzzles for older kids.  Ravensburger’s 3D series of famous landmarks is fun – and take several hours to build.  Try the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben or the Empire State Building.  Or, try a 1500 or 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle or something devilish like the Krypt 654 piece Blank Puzzle. No image – just a uniform slate gray surface which includes a circular design.

6.  Tops & Yo-Yos (S)

Tops and yo-yos are classic toys and are great for kids who want to do something with their hands, master skills and reach for the next skill level.

For beginners, you can’t go wrong with the Wooden Throwing Top or the Trompos Saturn Top.

For more advanced throwers, try the Blizzard.  It spins smoothly on carpet, pavement, palm of the hand, or other rough surface. 

Why not pair a yo-yo with the Yomega Mania DVD?

The Yomega Brain is great for beginners.  The Yomega Raider is for more advanced users.

Hope this helps you think about what your Creator, Sprinter or Tinkerer might like.  You can always email or call us if you’d like help sorting out some of these choices.


unplugkidscoverThe #1 thing I hear is: “I can’t get my child off the screen.”  Unplug your kid with these 8 screen-free toys and activities that they’ll love enough to put down that electronic device!  For some of these, all you have to do is leave them out on a table; others require some supervision – a great way for you to play with your child!

1.  Gyrobot

A robot that can walk a tight rope!  The Gyrobot – Science of Gyroscopes Kit makes learning about the importance and power of gyroscopes fun.  Includes a  24-page educational booklet. Winner of Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Toys of 2013.  Requires 3 AAA batteries (not included). Ages 8+  Take a look at the video!


2.  Rockets

You definitely can’t leave these lying around but who doesn’t think rockets are cool?  Many kids develop a life-long passion for rockets so now is the time to nurture that passion.

We carry Estes model rockets that come in all skill levels.  If you don’t have a launch set and controller, you should get a rocket package that includes them because it’s more cost-effective.

Estes 1403 Riptide Model RocketFor absolute beginners, look for “RTF” ready-to-fly rockets.  The Riptide Model Rocket Launch Set RTF is a good choice for beginners.  All you do is add engines, recovery wadding, batteries for the launch controller and you are ready to go!  This rocket can fly up to 675 feet depending on the engine you use.  The rocket, parachute, and controller are reusable.  You will need to get some parts separately (see link for full description).

See our earlier post for more rocket flying tipsThe youngest recommended age is 10 years with adult supervision.

3.  Science Kits

Science Wiz Physics We carry the award-winning Science Wiz science kits.  The Physics Science Kit is a great way to develop a basic understanding of the laws of motion, weight, force, mass, velocity and acceleration. A 40-page science book, materials and illustrated step by step instructions let children play and learn by themselves.  24 different activities including launching a bottle rocket, performing tricks with inertia, measuring mass and spinning water upside down. The Physics Science Kit has won awards from Creative Child Magazine and Dr.Toy Best Toy and Best Vacation Toy. Ages 8+

Other Science Wiz Kits: choose from Chemistry, Inventions, Light Science, Electricity, Energy, Crystals and Capacitor Car.  Some kits may require supervision.

We also have party-sized kits that will engage and entertain 5-6 children:  Bottle Rocket Party Kit and the Crazy Chemistry Party Kit.

4. Marble Ball Track 

Marble ball track is a great open-ended, classic toy that lets children build and experiment – a great toy for future engineers.  Start with the basic Haba Wooden Ball Track set and then add on accessories so your child can expand the creative possibilities.  Kids as young as three can play with basic sets but older kids can really bring out their inner Rube Goldberg.  Watch what they can create. The sets are made of sustainably grown hardwood and are manufactured in Germany.  These will be around for your grandchildren!  My husband still has his! Ages 3+

Two of the HABA add-ons that I like are:

5. Q-Ba-Maze

Q-Ba-Maze Q-Ba-Maze differs from traditional ball track in that it’s a 3D maze that is also a ball run.  Colorful plastic cubes interlock to form a marble run.  Arrange the cubes in an animal, geometric or any other design you can imagine. Marbles travel through the maze following a different course each time – the configurations of the cubes are almost unlimited!

The colored cubes add a different visual dimension that wood doesn’t have.  A great way to teach kids about probability, gravity, symmetry, physics and art.  Q-Ba-Maze also has add-on stunts: the Bounce Stunt Set  and the Zoom Stunt Set. Ages 6 -14

6.  Citiblocs

Your child probably isn’t playing with the chunky building blocks of his childhood but s/he’ll love creating all kinds of sculptures with Citiblocs – plank blocks that come in different colors. You can use then as building blocks and/or dominos.  Look at the video below to see an AMAZING Citiblocs creation!

I leave a few bags of these on my coffee table and kids and adults are drawn to them. They come in Cool Colors (blues & greens), Hot Colors (red, orange, yellow, pink) and Natural wood. Made of sustainable New Zealand pine.

One of Time Magazine’s “15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses” and recipient of numerous awards.  No snaps, magnets or glues needed with these blocks – just imagination & gravity!  


7.  Brainteaser puzzles

I have seen middle school kids drop everything to play with brainteaser puzzles.  In the 6th grade, my son was obsessed with Maple Landmark’s Mental Aerobics – it was the first and the last thing he did each day.  The puzzle is a tangram with 102 possible solutions and is made of Vermont hardwood.   It has won several awards and has been recommended by the National Association for Gifted Children. Ages 8+

Eni Brainteaser PuzzleAnother popular puzzle is the Eni Puzzle.  Middle-schoolers love them but kids as young as 5 will have fun with them, too – as will adults!   This puzzle is a perfect travel companion as it requires no batteries, notepads, pens, pencils or electrical outlets. Great for developing hand to eye coordination, simple problem solving skills and spatial relationships.

The Eni is a great stocking stuffer or goody bag gift!  There are two sizes:

  • The Mini Eni Puzzle  offers lots of solutions as each column has 8 pieces by 8 colors.  Comes in black/white or bold hot colors.
  • The Keychain Eni Puzzle is obviously smaller with 4 pieces by 4 colors.  You can attach it to a backpack or computer bag.  Comes in pastels or bold hot colors.

8. Paper Airplanes & the PowerUp

 Power Up Airplane conversion kitYou’re thinking: “My child is so over paper airplanes.”  Not when your child sees the 12 really sophisticated designs and hot graphics in the Whitewings Hotshots Paper Airplane book.  Your child can make planes that fly far and straight & can be tweaked for maximum performance. Ages 4+

Triple the fun when your child adds the PowerUp to his paper airplane.  It’s the world’s first electric-powered paper airplane! Make a paper airplane that flies well, clip on the PowerUp Power Kit and your creation can fly for 30 seconds or more after a 20 second charge with the included charger. Ages 8+

How hard is it to unplug your child?   I bet that any one of these will do the trick!


Puzzles are a great gift for the holidays.   My dad would always give us puzzles for Christmas. He didn’t make it easy for us – he would give us the puzzle in a plastic bag and hide the box so we wouldn’t know what the puzzle image was.  You wouldn’t do that to your child, would you?


You know all the developmental benefits of puzzle play –  children develop shape and color recognition, develop fine motor skills and critical visual and spatial skills – so start children playing with puzzles when they are young!

It’s hard to choose a favorite puzzle out of so many great ones.  See Turner Toys’ puzzles for toddlers and puzzles for older kids and adults to get an idea of how many great puzzles there are.

Puzzles for Kids from Toddlers to Teens


1. Block puzzles

Kids Puzzle Forest Friends Block Puzzle Mudpuppy’s Forest Friends Block Puzzle features parent and baby animals. Puzzle images are owls, raccoons, deer, foxes, brown bears and squirrels. Each block puzzle includes 9 2″ cubes that form 6 different puzzle pictures or can be used as stacking blocks.  They come in a sturdy box with a sliding drawer for storage!

Puzzle backing contains 90% recycled paper and packaging contains 70% recycled paper. Printed with non-toxic soy based inks. Ages 3 and up. $14.99  Winner iParenting Excellent Product Award and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award.

2. Jumbo Puzzles

Dinosaur Jumbo Puzzle MudpuppyYour child’s first jigsaw puzzle!!  Jumbo puzzles are floor puzzles with large pieces for little hands.  Who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  The Dinosaur Jumbo Puzzle from Mudpuppy features a colorful prehistoric landscape populated by dinosaurs great and small. A great way to spend some together time with your child!  

25 piece puzzle measures 22 inches square when completed. Puzzle greyboard contains 90% recycled paper. Printed with non toxic soy based inks. Packaged in sturdy reusable box with a rope handle. Ages 2 and up.  $14.99

3.  Board Puzzles

Maple Landmark Maisy Wooden PuzzleThese puzzles are made of sturdy hardwood so they’ll stand up to years of play.  I can’t decide which one is my favorite but since it’s the holiday season, here’s Maisy’s Presents.  Maisy and her friend Tallulah spread holiday cheer delivering presents to their friends. Based on the picture book series created by British author & illustrator Lucy Cousins. 20-pc Wooden Puzzle. Made in USA.  Ages 3 & up. $19.99

4. Shaped Wooden Puzzles

BeginAgain Butterfly Wooden Alphabet Puzzle for kidsI‘ve included a separate entry for wooden puzzles like this Wooden Butterfly Alphabet Puzzle. This is one of a series of chunky wooden puzzles from BeginAgain that are beautiful to the touch and beautiful to look at – heirloom quality puzzles.  This Butterfly puzzle teaches capital letters, colors, problem solving and improve your child’s fine motor skills. There are capital letters on one side and lower case letters on the other.  The color stains are child safe and the puzzles are made from rubberwood, an environmentally friendly hardwood. Puzzle measures 18″ x 5″ x 1″. For ages 3 +  $31.99

5. Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are classic puzzles and there are great options for kids, tweens, teens & adults.  Puzzles are a great way to create “together” time where kids and parents work on a project together.


Mudpuppy Horses 42 piece puzzle for kidsThe 42-piece Horses puzzle from Mudpuppy has been one of our most popular jigsaw puzzles. The puzzle forms a 16″ square when completed and comes in a sturdy 5″ cube box with a colorful rope handle. Puzzle backing contains 90% recycled paper and packaging contains 70% recycled paper. Printed with non-toxic soy based inks. Ages 3 and up. $11.99


Children 5-8

Around the World Kids PuzzleI like the Around the World Puzzle because it’s a great way to talk about geography and different cultures. The 63 Piece Puzzle forms a 18″ x 14″ puzzle when completed and comes in a sturdy 6″ high x 5″ diameter canister with a colorful rope handle.   Puzzle backing contains 90% recycled paper and packaging contains 70% recycled paper. Printed with non-toxic soy based inks. Ages 6 and up.  Winner of iParenting Excellent Product Award. $14.99

Children 8+

Ravensburger Friendly Frog Puzzle for kids I love the Friendly Frogs puzzle from Ravensburger because of its amazing graphics.  I used to work at the Rainforest Alliance and frogs are a big part of the rainforest ecosystem. Completed puzzle measures 19.5″ x 14.25″.  Ravensburger is the premier puzzlemaker and you can be assured of great quality. Ages 9+ $13.49

Tweens-Teens (and Adults!)

6. 3D Puzzles

Great for kids 8+!  Adults, too!  I spent 3 1/2 hours building Big Ben – and loved every moment. I’ve seen middle-school kids get together and spend 2 hours working together to build it. There’s a reason that the Ravensburger 3D landmark puzzles are popular.

Ravensburger Eiffel Tower 3D puzzleMy favorite is the Eiffel Tower 3D puzzleIt has 216 pieces and stands 17.3 inches when built. Hinged plastic pieces form the corners making the finished puzzle quite sturdy – no glue is required for assembly. Ages 8 and up.  Winner of the National Parenting Publications Award (Gold) & Parents’ Choice Award. $26.99




Ravensburger ball globe puzzle

Globe Puzzle Ball 270-piece

 Another favorite for children 10-15 years: the Children’s Globe Puzzle Ball.  It’s a great geography tool. This  270-piece comes with a stand and forms a smooth ball when completed.  No glue needed. $25.99

7. Brainteaser Puzzles

This is a broad category that includes tangrams and 3-D brainteasers like the Eni Puzzle and Logiq Tower.   The Mini Eni Puzzle is featured in the Schwarzenegger & Stallone movie, “Escape Plan”  but you don’t have to be big and brawny to enjoy it!

 Eni Brainteaser Puzzle The Mini Eni Puzzle offers endless solutions as each column has 8 pieces by 8 colors. This puzzle is a perfect travel companion as it requires no batteries, notepads, pens, pencils or electrical outlets. Great for developing hand to eye coordination, simple problem solving skills and spatial relationships. Ages 5 and up. $13.99

Hope this Holiday Guide to puzzles for kids has given you some ideas.  Best wishes for a Happy Holiday season!




The holidays are fast approaching and that means visits from grandchildren!  Many grandparents wonder how they can keep their grandchildren happy and engage with them in ways that don’t include electronics – or a lot of noise!  I always appreciated that my mother-in-law kept toys around for my kids;  toys that survived 2 generations still held appeal for my little ones.   The great thing is that the grandchildren know that you have special toys waiting for them.

7 best toys for grandchildrenWhat are the best toys to have around?  Hint:  you probably played with them when you were a kid!

You don’t need many toys to entertain your grandchildren but you should have:

  • Toys that kids can play with on their own or with very little supervision while you prepare holiday meals, and,
  • Toys that you and your grandchildren can enjoy together

Think about toys that are age-appropriate, safe and high quality.  Quality costs a little more but the toys will be around for a very long time and will be played with by several sets of grandchildren!

Here are 7 must-have toys you should have at home for when your grandchildren visit.

Alphabet Blocks

Uncle Goose Blocks & Wagon

Uncle Goose Blocks & Wagon

For the younger set (2+), look for quality and safe alphabet blocks that children can stack, sort and learn their letters and words.   We love Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks because they are heirloom quality, use safe non-toxic inks and are made in Michigan out of sustainable wood.

Wooden Building Blocks

Wooden blocks are classic toys great for all ages and great learning tools (see my post on Wooden Blocks – Kid Play or Learning?).   Building blocks come in many forms:

  • Basic unit blocks: classic blocks of made of hardwood that won’t warp.  Stack them, create cities – the sky is the limit!
  • Plank blocks from Citiblocs:  again the creative possibilities are endless.  These come in natural and hot and cool colors to add variety to projects.  You can store them in their own cotton sacks.  These appeal to all ages – adults play with them, too!

Specialty blocks for the preschool set:  Fit Together Blocks for kids 1+ that have pegs and recesses so that the blocks stay stacked and Fantasy Blocks a twist on traditional blocks with different colors, patterns and effects.  Story book blocks like Noah’s Ark block set can be a fun way to engage with your grandchild as you share a story.

Marble Track & Specialty Domino Sets

I’m particularly fond of ball track and anything you can experiment with to see cause and effect.   My husband still has his wooden ball track from when he was a kid.  Proof that wooden toys last forever!!  Haba makes a great Ball Track set that can be supplemented with different add-ons like a musical sound effect staircase and the cascade.  You can even get a Ball Track set for preschoolers that will complement the regular ball track when your child is older.

I’m including Haba’s Domino sets here because they hold the same Rube Goldbergian possibilities.  They’re like a combination of marble tracks and racing dominos.  The Domino Basic Building Pack has the wooden domino pieces, along with gears, bells, and other special effects.  To see a video, see my earlier post on why this is the Coolest Domino Set. Ever!  The Wooden Domino Race Set comes with more than 200 dominos, plus some animal dominos and special effects like a bell and a staircase.

Toy made in the USA Roy Toy Log Cabin Toy Set

Roy Toy Log Cabin set

Log Cabin Building Sets

Log Cabin building sets are iconic – especially around the holidays.  We prefer the  Log Cabin Building sets from Roy Toy because they are the only log cabin set still made in the USA!  They have been made in the same family for generations.  What a great value to pass on to your grandchildren. These are made of light-weight sustainably grown Maine pine – no plastic!   Choose from sets made with non-toxic stains and dyes or all-natural (undyed) pieces.  All can be stored in fabric bags or the storage cylinders they come in.


Another classic! Start kids young with age-appropriate puzzles and introduce more complex puzzles as they get older.  Create a holiday puzzle tradition!

For toddlers and preschoolers, look for wooden puzzles like the award-winning Dinosaur Alphabet Puzzle, wooden story book puzzles like the Maisy series from Maple Landmark or block puzzles like Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar set.  (See earlier posts on Kids Puzzles and Classic Story Book Puzzles).







As they get a bit older, they’re ready for regular jigsaw puzzles. Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles are a favorite with the preschool set!

Mudpuppy makes award-winning puzzles (42-, 63- and 100-pieces) for children with themes like monsters, tea parties and dinosaurs – they come in great storage boxes, too!   Ravensburger makes timeless jigsaw puzzles for all ages including adults!  Puzzles range from 24 to 3000 pieces and 3D puzzles like the award-winning 3D Eiffel Tower puzzle.

Wooden Trains

Wooden Trains – another timeless toy.  Look for well-made wooden track that is compatible with different trains like Thomas and Brio.  Wooden track that is made in USA is recommended.  Maple Landmark’s track is made in Vermont from sustainably-grown wood.   Quality is important to make sure that the pieces still fit together over time.  You can store track pieces in a plastic bin and you are all set!

Classic Toys

Why not introduce your grandchildren to classic toys like a Jacob’s Ladder, marbles and jacks, Slinkys and balsa airplanes.

Have you noticed a theme here?   The best toys to have around for grandchildren visits are classic and traditional toys.  They appeal to generation after generation and, if they are quality-made, they last for ages.  These toys will entertain all children.  Plus, you can get down on the floor and play with them!!

What toys do your grandchildren love to play with when they visit you?






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