The child amidst his baubles is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force…
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is my niece Eva. She is so freaking cute, I can’t pick just two photos to include in this post. Enjoy the onslaught of adorable.
When picking out toys as gifts, for my kids or someone else’s, I like to look for the following:
- educational value combined with play value
- hardiness combined with longevity (is the toy going to become boring in no time flat?)
- the eco factor: made with non-toxic materials by a company with sustainable practices
- general loveliness/ aesthetic value
It’s rare that I’ll find something that fits all five points, but the catalog over at PlanToys hits the mark time and again.
Lots of my favorites toys for our kids have been PlanToys. Cass still breaks out the Unit Blocks from time to time:
We loved the water blocks. These are nice and chunky and big and seemingly unbreakable, not to mention mesmerizing for little kids and tired parents alike. Stack one on top of the other and you’ve got a handy dandy lesson in primary and secondary colors.
The Miracle Pounding toy was a favorite. Basically, you feed a ball into one end, and one pops out the other. Great for developing motor skills, and pretty sitting on a shelf.
One year each kid got a Moving Mouse in their stocking. These are the sorts of toys you pull back and then they race away; these suckers were fast and darted around like real mice. They were a lot of fun.
The Sort & Count teaches hands-on math skills.
(We’ve never owned this one, but I have to ask: how cute is this shopping cart?)
That’s just the beginning. PlanToys has train sets, dollhouses, cars, cities, “cuttable” play food, rattles, walking toys, musical instruments, mobiles and more.
PlanToys are made from environmentally friendly materials:
- organic rubberwood
- non-toxic non-formaldehyde glue
- waterbased dye and soy & waterbased ink (no lead paint concerns here!)
- recycled and recyclables.
They’re also simple and open-ended, lending educational value recognized by Parents’ Choice Award and the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award.
Are these toys a little more expensive? Yes. But each one I linked to above (aside from the shopping cart) I myself bought and my kids played with. For a loooooong time. And by that I mean,
- each kid would stay engaged with the toy for a good amount of time each time they played with it.
- The toy remained entertaining for a good span of time in that child’s life.
- AND, I bought them when Jake was little— they survived being passed down through all three of my kids and went on to be passed down to another child.
That’s what I call value.
As a for-example of longevity: I got to give Eva the new Sorting Board to try.
She took it to her little table like any good Montessori child and got down to business.
Eva’s just a few months past her 2nd birthday, but she has pretty decent fine motor skills for that age. She spent a fair amount of time playing with this right out of the box without getting frustrated.
In any case, most kids will start by grabbing the pieces from the top and flat handedly forcing the pieces onto the pegs; as they grow more adept they’ll hold with just two fingers on one side and place onto the pegs that way.
As the child masters one skill, you can take the toy away for a few weeks and then reintroduce with a new skill objective. So after figuring out the two finger hold, you could bring it back and ask for the pieces to be put on in order by color; first the reds, then the blues and so on.
After that, you can ask for the shapes. Circle, triangle… then ask by the number of sides. Put all the shapes with four sides on first…
And after that, you can use the shapes as tracing elements. Trace around the shapes and color them in. Master that, and then you can trace the outer shape and the small inner circle and color different colors.
Go check out PlanToys and buy some for the kid in your life. They’re awesome, plain and simple.
Disclosure: I received a Sorting Board for review purposes, but I’ve purchased many a PlanToy with my own cash money. All opinions are wholly my own and backed by nearly a decade of playing with this company’s product— long before I knew about or cared about their eco factor.