Toys for All Ages

Toy Guide
Toys for All Ages

It’s a little scary out there in Toyland these days what with lead paint, those little gamma hydroxybutyrate-laced dots and a never ending parade of plastic licensed characters that seem to have proliferated in every possible variation.

We heard your pleas (and we read your emails), so we’ve got a savvy toy guide for you today. All available online, all battery-free and most environmentally-sensitive and minimalist (which promotes more open-ended, imaginative play), these classic and soon to be classic toys are sure to be a hit for both parents and tots.

For the Under 3 Set
The all-natural, fair-trade Wool Felt Vegetable Set ($34.95) makes a great addition to the play kitchen. Made by artisans in Nepal, you’ll get a carrot, tomato, cauliflower, green onions, corn and eggplant. Babies love to chew on the carrot.

For a better stuffed animal (kids really do like getting them as gifts), try the quirky French-designed (so stylish!) Deglingos. They’re machine-washable (major bonus) and their funky patchwork look makes them the hippest plush animals around.

Baby have a Haba? If not, get started with one of their rattles or clappers such as the Klapperwurm. Made from wood and painted with non-toxic, water-based paints, Haba Wooden Toys is committed to manufacturing on an ecologically beneficial basis and the toys are guaranteed for life.

For Ages 3-6
Encourage the joy of experimentation with the Starter Ball Track Set ($78), made from solid, natural, untreated beech wood, the perfect marble run for beginners. Little builders will enjoy setting up the various ramps and blocks to make a run for the marble, dropping down from one level to the next and setting off a domino reaction at the end.

And for a lead-free train set that is also environmentally friendly (they plant three trees for every one that they use in manufacturing the durable, hardwood trains), the Maxim series interface well with other fine wooden train toys (but are more economical, we’ve found) so you can add to that collection. (And did we say lead-free?)

For 6 and Up
Simple, single-sized, lightweight rectangular blocks (made of pine from renewable French forests), the Kapla Block system ($59.95) encourages children to think ‘outside the box’ (you know, the one with the action figure emblazoned all over it) and build an endless number of designs. You don’t need to tell them they are also being introduced to the basics of geometry and physics too. Why spoil the fun?

Gobblet JuniorGet game with Gobblet Junior, the strategy game that plays like Tic-Tac-Toe except you can gobble up your opponent’s pieces and move yours around the board. Line up three pieces and win in this easy-to-learn, fun family game of strategy for 2 players.

Another great family game we love (that happens to teach math at the same time) is 4-Way Countdown. Combining math skills with the luck of the roll, the first to flip over all 10 keys wins.

For that crafty girl (and we’re not talking about how she comes up with excuses not to clean her room), the Fairies Petal People by Klutz Books ($16.95) is a lovely activity book sure to keep her busy for hours creating little fairy dolls with poseable bodies and petal-perfect dresses. And if moms needs to get involved, it’s one of the few craft sets we’ve found for which we can actually understand the directions!

It can be hard enough for Santa just getting everything ticked off the list—never mind worrying about the dangers of toys. We hope this helps you fill your bag this year.

P.S. For more gift ideas, you can look forward to our annual Top 5 under $25 this Thursday.

Tested by Alexandra F. (age 7), and Michael H. (age 8)
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First published 2007.12.04

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