Kids + Toys (Educational + Fun) = Future Innovators

Category Archives: Made in USA

Alternative easter basket ideasWe love chocolate eggs and jelly beans but we don’t love seeing our kids sugar out.  Here are some alternative Easter Basket ideas that celebrate spring and a return of the sun and warmer weather. Any of these will be a hit in an Easter basket! And, you can still have candy!

But first, a little science lesson for your young one:

 

For Babies and Preschoolers:

Begin Again Ducky PushAroundsDucky & Car Push-Toys

PushArounds are great for developing balance and fine motor skill development through play. Babies and toddlers love to push and pull these bright stained rolling eco-friendly toys. Shaped from a single piece of earth friendly Rubberwood, this whimsical toy is a delight to hold and play with. Choose either (or both) the yellow Ducky or green Car.

  • Push toys help develop balance and fine motor skills.
  • Rubber wheel rims help protect your floors.
  • Made from eco-friendly materials: Natural Rubber and Rubberwood colored with water-based stains.

Caterpillar “Flapsi” Rattle

Your baby will love Haba’s Flapsi Rattle! It’s a wooden clutching toy makes a click-clack sound when shaken to stimulate baby’s senses.  Made in Germany from Beech wood.  Ages 6 months +.

 

Outside Activities

Egg Chalk

egg-shaped Sidewalk chalkKids love sidewalk chalk and they’ll love this egg-shaped chalk.  It feels good to draw with and looks neat, too!

  • Great outdoor activity to express creativity and imagination
  • Create fun driveway and sidewalk games like Hopscotch, Tic-Tac-Toe and Four Square
  • Colored, non-toxic chalk comes in a 4-pack is shaped like an egg and is environmentally safe
  • Recommended for children 3-years of age and older

 

Super Skip Jump RopeJump Rope

Our “Super Skip Rope” measures 15 feet long – big enough for 3 jumpers!  This is a high quality jump rope (not like those plastic jump ropes that don’t really work.)  Package includes skip rope history, techniques and skip rope rhymes. Colors are assorted. If there’s fewer of you one end can be tied to a door handle or a fence post. Made in USA. For ages 5 and older.

Tedco Sun Art Paper KitSun Art Paper

Make unique and beautiful sun art prints.  All you need is sunshine, water, natural or everyday items & your creativity! Just five easy steps:

  • Select items and create composition,
  • Layout items on paper and cover with reusable acrylic sheet,
  • Expose to sunlight until Sun Art Paper turns light blue,
  • Remove Sun Art Paper and rinse with water, and
  • Let Sun Art Paper dry.

Includes 15 sheets 5″ x 7″ paper and reusable acrylic sheet. Made in USA.

Bug Catcher BoxBug Viewer Box

Spring means the return of bugs & other critters! If your little scientist likes to catch bugs, they’ll love this bug viewer box!  It’s bug friendly: you catch them, view them and then set them free. The Eye Spy bug viewer isn’t just for bugs, though. Your scientist can get a closer look at all sorts of small things like flowers, coins, leaves, stamps and more.

Each container has a magnifying lid with air holes to keep bugs alive while you size them up with the measuring grid on the bottom.  This is one of the highest quality bug boxes you’ll find.  Ages 5+

Ein-o Science Egg Guard kitEgg Guard Science Kit

Egg-dying time is the perfect time to experiment with the scientific properties of eggs.  Investigate how strong an eggshell is. Build shock-resistant egg-protecting devices.

 

Fun kit includes 8 egg protecting contraptions (parachute drop, egg dive, egg flight, super shell, tricky crush, balloon cushion, spine shield and straw cell). Kids will enjoy the action while they learn about physics, gravity and more. Illustrated guide included. Ages 8-14.

Is the Easter Bunny coming to your house?

Photo credit: cyanocorax / Foter / CC BY-SA


10 best toys for babies & toddlers Children learn through play and, as parents, we want to make sure that they have the very best toys and environment for learning.  We don’t care for “hot” toys or fleeting fads.  We look for high quality, well-made toys that will have staying power for your child. There are so many options so we’ve put together our Very Best Toys guides to help you choose the very best for your child.

Our 10 Very Best Toys for Babies & Toddlers

We love natural materials like wood which is a sensory treat for your child.   It looks great, feels great, sounds great when rattled, stacked and knocked over and sometimes even smells great! As long as it is natural or colored with non-toxic stains/paints, it will be safe for your little one to chew or suck on.  It’s not an accident that all of our picks are either made in the USA or in Germany!

Rattles & Clutching Toys

At this age, rattles and clutching toys help improve grasping skills and eye-hand coordination.

1.  Our Haba clutching toys such as the adorable Flapsi Rattle and the Magica clutching toy are made in Germany of sustainable wood and non-toxic water-based stains.  My Very Own Rattle is a classic rattle made in Vermont of a single piece of maple.  Generations of parents have chosen this as their favorite.

Wooden Blocks

Educators and child development experts agree that if you are going to get one toy for your child it should be a wooden block set.  It’s the perfect open-ended, creative activity for kids of any age – it also helps with spatial, eye-hand and motor skills.  It promotes problem-solving, social and verbal skills and is a great way to learn architectural and engineering principles.  Kids can create, share and tell stories using wooden blocks.  Here are our favorites:

2. Haba Patience Blocks & Discovery Blocks  (ages 1+)

When is a block not a block?  When it has bells, mirrors, rattling balls and buttons!  Each set comes with six colored wooden blocks.  The Patience Blocks have wooden balls and track behind a plexiglass window and the Discovery Blocks have cubes with a bell, kaleidoscope lens, push button, mirror, yellow lens, and rattling ball. These first stacking toys encourage sensory observation and fine motor skills.

3. Haba Baby’s First Blocks  (ages 6 months+)

The perfect first set of simple blocks for your baby!   These 12 simple cubes are in 6 basic colors that your child can hold and stack.  Blocks are a wonderful way for your baby to develop fine motor skills and learn about stacking and cause and effect.   Use them to teach colors and matching.  Like these other Haba toys, they are made in Germany of beechwood from sustainably grown forests. The blocks are colored with non-toxic water-based stains.

4.  Alphabet Blocks from Uncle Goose (ages 24 months+)

Uncle Goose’s  28-piece English Wooden Alphabet Block Set is patterned after blocks from the turn-of-the-century and printed in the safest inks available.  Each block features a unique animal picture, a number or math symbol, and four upper case letters (two embossed), for a total of four complete alphabets.The blocks are made of basswood that is sustainably grown in the USA.

5. Haba Fantasy Blocks  (ages 1-5)

This is one of the most beautiful block sets that I’ve ever seen. This unique 26-piece block set adds a new twist to block play with vivid colors, patterns and designs. The Fantasy Block set includes different shapes and features – including staircases, roof tops, hidden bells, holograms – even the sun!  Great for stacking, building and story-telling. Winner of Dr. Toy’s Best Classic Toy Award  Made in Germany of sustainably-grown beechwood and colored with non-toxic water-based stains. Some blocks are embellished with high quality acrylic or foil.

6. Haba Stick Together Blocks (Ages 1+)

These are one of the most popular block sets.  The colorful blocks have pegs on top and recesses on bottom so stacked blocks stay in place. Great for eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. Perfect for the young architect in your household. 13 pieces. Made in Germany.

Building Toys

7. Haba My First Ball Track (Ages 18 months+)

We’re big fans of ball track and marble runs and this is a great introduction to the world of ball track for your toddler. Get an early start on developing spatial sense, fine motor skills and patience.  The colorful connecting blocks come with pivots that easily lock into place on the bottom of the ball track pieces. This makes constructing easy and keeps the track in place even if your little one bumps against it!  Your child will love the ding of the bell on the finishing block and the special effects ball that glitters, rings or rattles when it rolls.  As you child gets older, this set will nicely complement any of Haba’s ball track sets. Made in Germany. Ages 1-1/2 – 5.

8. Lighthouse Stacking Toy (Ages 1+)

Stacking toys are a staple of childhood. Haba’s Lighthouse Stacking Game stacks easily and is stable as the pieces have lugs on the top and sockets on the bottom.  Your child will have hours of fun stacking the blocks in different order.  Made in Germany of beechwood and non-toxic water-based stains.

9. Haba Noah’s Ark Building Block Set (Ages 3+)

This HABA Noah’s Ark wooden block set has unlimited play value. Your child can act out the story of Noah and the Flood, of course. Or – how about settlers in a new land, or an expedition searching for rare animals? Made in Germany.  Recipient of Dr. Toy Best Classic Toy award and Spiel Gut Toy award.

10. Roy Toy 250-piece Deluxe Log Cabin Building Set  (Ages 3+)

These are the original log cabin logs and they’re still made in the USA!  This deluxe set is made of 100% pine from Maine.  The wooden pieces even smell great!   The set comes with enough parts to build many structures:  farmhouse, forts, barn with silo & corral, treehouse, and any structure that young minds and hands can devise. I love that the set comes in a large, sturdy canvas bag with rope tie.

Any of these are great toys for your child.  What are your favorites?

 

 

 


Tornado TubeI’ve been talking about science toys and science experiments lately (see my posts on the Heron’s Fountain and Kaleidoscope) and wanted to share some tips on how to use the Tornado Tube.  This is about the least expensive science toy out there, it’s fun and you can use it to demonstrate a really important scientific principle.  The littlest ones will be amazed and older kids can use it as a launching pad to learn more about vortex action.  We’ve even had colleges use the Tornado Tube. It’s a great educational toy and it’s made in the USA!

What the Tornado Tube Does

tornado and tornado tubeYour Tornado Tube demonstrates a vortex action.  Examples of vortexes are tornadoes, whirlpools, waterspouts – really any similar fluid motion that happens when liquid or air drops through an opening. You can see it in the bathtub as the water drains, too.

How to Make the Tornado

tornado tubeYou’ll need:

  • 2 empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles
  • water
  • a Tornado Tube
  • food coloring (optional)
  • glitter (optional)
  • a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap (optional)

Ready, set, go!

  • Partially fill (2/3 full) one of the 2-liter plastic soda bottles with water.
  • Add food coloring, glitter, soap or whatever you want.
  • Screw the bottles into opposite ends of the connector tube.
  • Tip the bottle so that the full bottle is on top.  Give the end of the full bottle a swirling rotational movement until you get the vortex going.

Call it a tornado if you’re a meteorologist, or a whirlpool if you’re into oceanography.

The science behind the Tornado Tube

The inventors of the Tornado Tube describe it this way:

The action is the concentration of kinetic energy (motion).   In the atmosphere, wind shear and thermals are the source of the energy which produces the vortex.  In liquids, such as water, the potential energy (mass) is converted to kinetic energy as it descends, pulled by gravity through an opening. A small initial rotation about the opening becomes more violent (higher rotational velocity) as the molecules come closer to the center. The resulting outward force tends to keep the liquid out of the exact center, maintaining a “hole” in the remaining liquid.

What vortexes in nature have you seen?

 

Photo credit: Foter / Public domain


Fountain Connection Heron's FountainWhat’s a Heron’s Fountain? It dates back to ancient Greece and it’s a great water science project for kids.  Heron of Alexandria (ca 62 AD) was an inventor, mathematician and physicist who invented what looks like a magic trick.  It’s fun and an opportunity for kids to learn about gravity, air compression and vacuums.  A great end-of-summer project and, as we get ready to go back to school, a great science fair project.

How does the Heron’s Fountain work?

You know what gravity is, right?  You would think that water draining from a top bottle into a bottom bottle would just flow down and stay put.  This experiment defies that logic (which is why it seems like a magic trick.)  Essentially, a Heron’s Fountain uses compressed air to lift water to a point higher than the origin. This action is the same thing that moves water in fish tank filters and some types of coffee percolators.

How do you make a Heron’s Fountain?

Connect two bottles together with a plastic tube (with strategically placed holes) in each Tedco Fountain Connection Heron's Fountainbottle. We’ve got the Fountain Connection (made in USA!) which has done all the drilling for you.  Fill one of the bottles with water.  When you turn it over, gravity pulls the water from the upper bottle into the bottom bottle and compresses the air in the bottom bottle.  As the water leaves the upper bottle, it decreases the air pressure of that bottle and causes a partial vacuum.  Then water is forced from the lower bottle, up the fountain tube and into the upper bottle, taking the place of the draining water.  Voila!  A fountain!

What do you need?

  • 2 clean, clear plastic 2-liter bottles.  The labels and bottom plastic mount (if it’s on) should be removed so you can see better but just make sure you have a stable base.  Hint: I’ve heard that you can easily remove the labels and plastic mount with a hair dryer.
  • The Fountain Connection – this includes the clear plastic tubes that you’ll need to make the experiment work.
  • Water (or experiment with different liquids!)
  • Food coloring (optional)

(Note: you can make a fountain connector and find and cut tubing yourself.  The cap requires precise drilling to make sure you have an airtight seal and the correct holes in the tubing.)

More Heron’s Fountain science experiments

  • What happens if you add color (red erupting volcano anyone?)
  • What about blending colors?  Red in bottom, blue in top?
  • What happens if you use fluids other than water?
  • What happens if you vary the amount of fluid in the bottle?
  • What if you change the length of the tubes?  (If you do cut them down, don’t cut on the end with the holes!)
  • Try the vacuum and compression experiments illustrated on the back of the Fountain Connection package.

Tedco Tornado Tube ScienceAnother fun activity is to create a swirling tornado with the Tornado Tube (also made in the USA).  It also uses 2 plastic bottles.  This is a fun, hands-on demonstration of vortex action (think, tornadoes, whirlpools, water spouts.)

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite experiments?


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

Engineer’s Cap Our son wouldn’t take off his engineer’s cap when he was little.  Every boy & girl needs one to run their railroad!  100% cotton. Available in Adult or Children’s size. Blue/white stripes or pink/white stripes.  $9.99

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

Made in USA Light Crystal PrismLight 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

Eni Keychain Puzzle

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 

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

Sidewinder spinning top Sidewinder Top
This is a great top for beginners!  It’s easier to throw than the wooden top because it comes with a Power Spinner cord that makes it fool proof to spin.  The Sidewinder is a fixed nylon point Spin Top.  Measures 2″ diam x 3.25″ long. Includes fixed plastic point and Power-Spinner for easy launches. Made in USA. Top colors may vary.

Flying Stick Toy

 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 & mental 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.

 

 

Q-Bitz – This is a fun brainteaser puzzle. We left it out on our kitchen table and our 12- & 13-year olds played with it. The goal is to duplicate the pattern on the puzzle card with the 16 wooden cubes. Q-bitz Solo can be played alone or used to add a player in a Q-bitz game. Three different ways to play including recreating the pattern from memory! Add a timer to see who can complete each puzzle the fastest. Includes wooden tray, 16 wooden cubes, 20 puzzle cards, instructions and is packed in a small tin box for easy storage. Ages 8+  $9.99.

Yomega Brain yo-yo Yomega “Brain” Yo-Yo –  This is the yo-yo that revolutionized yo-yo play. When you throw it down, it sleeps and then remembers to come back up.  Patented centrigual clutch allows super-fast free spin, followed by automatic return.  Ideal for beginners. Includes 5 extra strings.  Colors vary. Ages 7 to adult. $9.99

Wooden Throwing Top

 Wooden Throwing Top – This is a classic, natural wooden throwing top with a safe replaceable fixed plastic point.  Includes 60″ string and wooden “button”.  It’s a bit more challenging to throw that the Sidewinder above but is a really satisfying spin once you master it. Made in USA.  $7.99. Save 10% when you buy 3 or more.

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

 

 


Wooden train sets are a great way to celebrate Christmas with your child and to create an annual tradition.   I remember when we got our first wooden trains and track for our son.  It was the first taste of what was to become many years of fun in our house. Over the years we added more track and more train cars.

Santa Train package

Why wooden train sets for kids? 

In addition to being fun and inspiring a life-long love of trains (my husband is a big rail fan!), playing with wooden trains is an open-ended, imaginative form of play that helps children develop:

  • hand-eye coordination
  • problem solving skills
  • verbal skills
  • fine motor skills
  • independent play and collaborative play skills

To help you introduce the joy of wooden trains to your child this Christmas, we’ve put together a great Wooden Toy Train package that is specially priced for the holidays at $59.99.  This saves you 20% off list if items were purchased separately.  Our trains, track and whistle are made in Vermont out of sustainably grown wood so you can be sure that your child is playing with a quality, well-made and safe toy.

The Santa Train Package includes:

The Santa Train Set

Wooden Trains for KidsThe Santa Train Set includes four cars and features Santa as the engineer on his own magical train.   Mrs. Claus is baking goodies in the bakery car and there is a caboose full of Elves make last-minute toys in their mobile workshop. The Reindeer get a day off, riding in their own railroad car.  The set of 4 cars is wrapped on a piece of straight track. Made in Vermont USA by Maple Landmark. $24.99

Add the Santa Train to your collection of other train cars – these are compatible with most other wooden trains including Brio and Thomas The Tank Engine.

Oval Wooden Track Set

Wooden train track oval

This track set measures 17” x 33” when built. Set includes 8 curved sections and 4 8” straight sections. Made in Vermont, USA by Maple Landmark. Lists at $34.99.  Our regular price is $29.99.

You can’t have too much track!  These track pieces are compatible with Thomas, Brio and other wooden track systems.

Wooden Train Whistle

wooden train whistle made in USAThis 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 by Maple Landmark  Ages 5 & up.  $5.99

Engineers cap

 

 

This is a traditional engineer’s cap – great for working on the railroad.  Our son wore his round the clock! 100% cotton. Available in Adult or Children’s size. Choose from the traditional blue stripe or the pink stripe cap.  Caps have an adjustable strap to fit a range of head sizes. Imported. $9.99

Why not start (or continue) a family tradition of playing with wooden trains!

 


This Christmas, before you buy toys, consider this:  What makes a good kid’s toy?  In a nutshell, one that your children will want to play with over and over again and that you can feel good about.  How to tell if it’s a good toy?  We’ve rounded up the best advice out there!

what makes a good kids toy

Quality

Uncle Goose Blocks & Wagon

Uncle Goose Blocks & Wagon

Great craftsmanship means the toys will last forever.  Think about the wooden trains or blocks that you had as a kid. You might even still have them!  Even years after you purchased them, parts will still fit together nicely and won’t warp.  If they are quality toys, they won’t break and won’t harm your child.  Perhaps not coincidentally, some of the best and safest toys out there are made in the USA or Europe, are made from environmentally friendly materials and are classic toys – no batteries or cheap plastic parts that will break.

What are some quality toy brands?  We like Haba, Uncle Goose, Maple Landmark, Mindware, Artterro, Guidecraft, Citiblocs, BeginAgain, Roy Toy, among others.

Safety

Is the toy safe?  Is it age appropriate?  If you need help figuring out what toy is appropriate by age, check out this toy guide from NAEYC.  Keep little ones away from small parts. Make sure that your toys are lead-free.  Toys that were made years ago may have been manufactured with lead paint. You can get a lead paint test kit just to be sure.

You won’t have any problems with natural wooden toys like these from Haba.  Any fabric toys need to be labeled as flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Art materials should be non-toxic. Look for water-based stains and dyes.  Sign up to receive product recalls with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

What are they made of?

  • Plastic is easy to clean, but it can break.
  • Wood lasts forever and can be wiped down.
  • Wooden toys are aesthetically pleasing to many senses:  visual and tactile (sometimes they even smell good like Roy Toy’s log cabin pine building sets!).
  • Batteries die – usually when you most need them!  Plus, battery-powered toys aren’t recommended for kids younger than 8 years.
  • Are the materials environmentally or socially-responsible?
  • Where are the toys made? Look for wooden toys made from sustainably-grown trees.

Simplicity

The best toys are simple, classic and nurture open-ended play.   Some of these you can buy; others are lying around the house or outside.  Think: wooden blocks, boxes, twigs, clothes or fabric to play dress-up, art materials.  You can get wooden unit blocks from Guidecraft or plank blocks from CitiblocsWooden train sets are always great. Kids of all ages can play with these.

Fun Factor & Play Value

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff.

  • Does the toy promote creative thinking, skill development, or a new concept?
  • Can you play with the toy in different ways?
  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?
  • Will your child want to play with it over and over again?
  • Is it easy for kids to figure out and/or are there clear directions on the packaging so you can help them, if needed?

Parent’s Choice Foundation also has a nice list of things to look for in a good toy.

We’re biased at Turner Toys & Hobbies because we specialize in great toys that your children will love to play with over and over again.  Toys that are high quality, safe, well-made, basic, educational and fun!

What do you think makes a good toy?

 


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!

 

 

 


Made in USA Toy SaleTo honor American workers this Labor Day, we’re offering one of our best sales ever:

20% off Made in USA toys

I noticed that some big toy makers and toy stores are having sales this weekend but I noticed that they didn’t mention anything about American-made products.  Then it dawned on me – it’s because they don’t sell anything that’s made in USA!

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According to the US Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

So let’s celebrate the wonderful craftsmanship of US toymakers!   Use code LABORDAY at checkout. Choose from among:

 

Sale through September 3rd. We carry other fine made in USA toys and furniture but are unable to include them in this sale.  Sale excludes Vermont Dory, Mountain Boy Sleds, Little Colorado Furniture.

Remember that when you buy American made toys you are supporting your neighbors and contributing to a strong US economy!

Please check out these groups support Made in USA:

Made in USA Challenge

Buy Direct USA

For more information on the value of buying made in USA, please read my earlier posts:  Toys Made in USA, Made in America Toys – At What Price? and Made in USA Still Matters according to Businessweek.

Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


best preschool toys for homeschoolers

School starts next week in Vermont.  Has your family already gone “back to school”? The learning never stops for homeschoolers but this is a good time to revisit the best preschool toys for your home classroom (or any classroom!).   Here are some of my favorite learning toys for preschoolers.

What are the best preschool toys for homeschoolers?

At this age, children are learning their alphabet, reading, strengthening fine motor and other skills and problem solving.  They are learning through play.  Guided but open-ended play are a must.  PBS Kids has a great grade-by-grade learning guide.  Here’s the one for Preschool.

  • Blocks – alphabet and unit.  So critical to a host of learning skills – especially spatial skills. A recent study showed how spatial skills are a great indicator of how creative or innovative a child will be later in life – more so than math or verbal skills.
  • Puzzles – any are great for multiple types of learning (fine motor, visual, spatial, cognitive) and can supplement other areas of learning such as reading and math.  Pattern & memory games are all great options at this age.

    Maisy Harvest toddler wooden puzzle

    Maisy Harvest Wooden Puzzle

  • Manipulative toys are more than just fine motor toys. They can be used for color & shape recognition, math, story telling & more.
  • Art materials – any drawing, painting, or other art activity!  Having the appropriate materials and area in your home is key to your organization and sanity!
  • Play Kitchens & other furniture  Children like to imitate the work of the adults around them.  Wooden play kitchens and furniture nurture this.

Alphabet & Unit Blocks Uncle Goose Classic Alphabet Blocks

With block play, the learning possibilities are endless.  Our Uncle Goose alphabet blocks are made in the USA and even come in different languages!   English, Greek, Chinese, Korean and Arabic.  A great way to practice spelling and even learn a new language!  Guidecraft unit blocks are perfect in the home and classroom and come in sets of 34, 53 and 110 wooden blocks.

Imaginets, Pattern Play & Color Stix from Mindware

Imaginets are an award-winning toy that lets your child play with colorful wooden magnetic blocks on a magnetic board that doubles as a dry-erase board so your child can incorporate the blocks into drawings. Pattern Play‘s colorful wooden blocks introduce kids to sorting, symmetry, matching and spatial relationships. Last year, I met the designer of Mindware’s Color Stix.  It was amazing to hear the concept behind the game (matching same colors along the “stix”) but the game can be used in open-ended play: stacking, building, sorting.  It’s fun to see what sculptures kids build!

Alphabet Puzzles & Number Puzzles

math puzzle toy for preschoolers

Wooden Numeric Puzzle

A fun way to learn your alphabet and numbers! Our wooden puzzles are high quality and will last for many years of enjoyment and multiple children.   Butterfly Alphabet PuzzleAnimal Alphabet Parade Puzzle, and the Dinosaur Alphabet Puzzle teach letters, shapes and colors.  The Number Snail Wooden Puzzle and the Wooden Numeric Puzzle teach numbers, counting, colors and shapes.

Memory and Teach & Play Tile Games

Maple Landmark preschool Memory Tile Matching Game

Memory Tile Matching Game

 Vermont’s Maple Landmark has beautiful wooden Memory and Teach & Play tile games.  The wooden tiles (made from birch) teach recognition, classification, grouping, sorting and matching.  Choose from among the following themes: the environment, animals & vegetables, or buildings & vehicles.  More made in the USA toys!

Manipulative Toys

Lots of great lacing, sorting & stacking toys to strengthen fine motor skills- I just posted about lacing toys in More Toys for Preschool Fine Motor Skills and sorting and stacking toys in Best Toys To Build Children’s Fine Motor Abilities.

Picture Book Puzzles

Goodnight Moon preschool puzzle

Goodnight Moon puzzle

Puzzles that depict favorite book characters can create a great opportunity to read, recite, rhyme and play!  Our favorites include characters from Eric Carle & Maisy & Goodnight Moon.  See my post on all of our great storybook puzzles.  Our wooden Maisy puzzles are made in the USA!

Art Activities

Any art activity encourages creativity, problem solving, eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.  Give your artist a dedicated space to create their art.  It keeps them – and you! – organized and lets them know that you take their art seriously. When our kids were young, we had both a standing easel and a child-sized art table with stool which gave our children a sense of ownership and responsibility.   Both the easel and the table and stool will last your children many years (probably through 3rd grade or longer.) The table features a large 24″ square work surface of dry-erase marker board, big pencil tray, safe wooden paper cutter bar, paper roll holder.  The easel features a dry-erase & magnetic whiteboard on one side, green chalkboard on the other side, 2 paint trays, center storage tray, hanging paper holder, and paper cutter.  Both the easel and table are made in the USA!   Don’t forget paper refills!

Play Kitchens & Furniture

 Yes – your children are watching you!  This is part of their development and learning opportunities abound in the kitchen.  Play kitchens are indispensable and I think are the #1 piece of play furniture.  If you have room in your kitchen, put your play kitchen in a corner so they can work  along side of you.  Or, have them safely reach the counter to help you with a KinDer-Perch.  The KinDer-Perch also doubles as a sturdy play unit (think fort).  Children love chores and it gives them a real sense of accomplishment.  

There are zillions of great toys out there and it can be hard to choose.  Just focus on the basics and invest in quality materials. 

What kinds of toys are your preschoolers playing with at school and at home?



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