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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?




Wooden Block Play

As parents and owners of Turner Toys, we’re big believers that children learn through play.  As schools face more pressure to have kids  “learn to the test,” many are pushing academic pressures down through the grades to even the kindergarten and preschool level.  With more time needed for academics, play is getting pushed out of the classroom.  Some schools (and parents) are quick to think of playing with blocks as just a toddler activity without any connection to learning.

As often happens, old things become new again.  Last year,  The New York Times’  Kyle Spencer wrote about about the renewed interest in blocks in With Blocks, Educators Go Back to Basics.   Blocks have never gone out of fashion in progressive schools, but now traditional – even academically-rigid – schools are expressing interest in the value of blocks to today’s educational approaches.

Benefits of Block Play

Why blocks?  In addition to being fun, several scientific studies have established links between children’s block play and later success in math, language acquisition, science, spatial skills, and more.  The New York Times’ article specifically mentions two academic studies:

Citiblocs A 2001 study demonstrated how more sophisticated preschool block play could result in higher math grades and test scores.

A 2007 study  showed the connection between block play and better language acquisition skills.

We found a Temple University 2011 study that demonstrated when children play with blocks they strengthen spatial skills and concepts that are critical in math and science but, perhaps more importantly, in everyday life.  How well do pack your suitcase or park your car?  The answer might show how much you played with blocks when you were a kid!

Turner Toys carries lines of wooden building and unit blocks from Haba, Guidecraft & Citiblocs.

Citiblocs has created a list of just some of the benefits of block play: Playing with giant wooden blocks

  • They learn to create buildings and other structures, and to design imaginary things based on their own ideas.
  • They develop social relationships with other children, which can be a valuable opportunity when groups of children are sharing. 
  • Children expand their language abilities as they are able to articulate about size, shape, colors, comparisons and other aspects of building.
  • Children learn and practice math skills by grouping, adding, subtracting, matching and sequencing.
  • Children experience science and physics when experimenting with gravity, weight, balance, and stability.
  • Children are stimulated and develop skills and imagination including cause and effect, problem solving, classification skills, and critical thinking.
  • Children gain a sense of achievement when they construct with blocks, building sets, construction toys, and model kits.
  • They build strength in their fingers and hands, and improve their eye-hand coordination.
Citiblocs creation

Citiblocs creation

The fascination of playing with blocks doesn’t seem to end at any particular age (though it seems to take a hiatus as kids get older.)  My wife is a violin teacher and we’ve put out some bags of Citiblocs to amuse students who are waiting for their lessons.  Not only do we see the kids’ creations, we’ve noticed that their parents are really into them!  She’ll frequently hear the clatter of the blocks during lessons and the students will want to see what their parents did.

What are your experiences with block play?  Are you a teacher using a block center? Any further ideas on how kids benefit from playing with blocks?  Let us know so we can share your ideas!

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