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Category Archives: Wooden Toys & Blocks

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?

 

 

 


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!

 

 

 


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!

 


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.

Puzzles

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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