Grimms 1001 Nights Puzzle: Know Which Pieces Fit

If you own more than one Grimms Spiel und Holz block set, chances are you have come across the problem of knowing WHICH blocks go in WHICH sets.

Even I don’t remember, and neither do the kids. If you do want to put the set together with the original pieces, here’s my quick guide on the 1001 Nights Building Set.

There are 50 blocks in the set. Here are the types of blocks:

If you’re on the fence of purchasing a 1001, check out my video reviewing it.


5 Etsy Products of the Week – American Women Owned Businesses

This week I am featuring five products from female small business owners. They are all based in the US. They are all awesome.

Custom Peg doll – Need a peg doll to match your kid’s room? Or their favorite character? Jen is your gal. Her peg dolls are exquisite and the details are mind blowing.

Stacking hearts set by Sensory Play – $40 – This set of 6 wooden hearts are made from cherry and rainbow poplar. You don’t see many woodworkers using rainbow poplar so I find it to be real treat. Also, owner Magda is wonderful and based in the US. She also has a great Montessori and Waldorf wood toys.

Unicorns from Cranberry Creek Forest – If there is one wooden toy Cranberry Creek Forest is known for is its unicorn collection. Choose from a varieties of manes, these unicorns are more feminine looking than the well known Ostheimer Unicorn.

Narwhal from Cranberry Creek Forest – I’ve not seen anyone else making narwhals. And what’s not to love about the unicorn of the sea? Watch the BBC documentary (the one on the Arctic and Antarctic) and have your narwhals break the ice too!

Hundred Board from Mirus Toys – A gold standard in Montessori math and beyond, the hundred board is your go to for all things math. Order the wooden balls or wool balls with it (add-on in the menu) and help your children visualize AND love numbers. Plus you are supporting a brown woman business based in Washington state!

Custom Birthday Ring from Moth and Moonstone- Can’t find the birthday ring you want? Ask Katy and she will paint you an exquisite custom piece.

Hope you discovered some new businesses and get sucked into their gorgeous collections like I have!

As always, there are referral links above. I earn a small commission if you purchase something through that link. I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart.


Montessori 3 Letter CVC Words {FREE Printable}

Kids home on that never-ending staycation?

This is a fun way to learn three letter words, the Montessori way. I made 50 (or more, I cannot remember) three letter CVC words. Then you take the individual letter and match them to the word.

More advanced children can use the a,e,i,o,u chart and make three letter words of their own.

I will caution that you should give your children this activity if they are already into learning letters and words. Don’t give this to kids who don’t have any interest. Best age group is 4-7 years old, basically kindergartners.

Things you can do:

Match words to physical objects. Fox to a wooden toy fox, Pen to a pen, etc.

Group words by sounds. Cat, hat, mat. Ram, fan, dam. You can do this for younger children while older kids can hunt for the words.

Find similar letter. If you group by sounds, you will find a common vowel. What is it? What other words have that vowel?

What you need:

Printer – color printed is needed. You want kids to learn the difference between consonants and vowels.

Laminator – It’s a bit of an investment but SO GOOD TO HAVE! I own the Scotch laminator but people also rave about the Amazon one. Either way, be sure to buy laminating sheets (will work with both brands).

Download the FREE printables:

Feel free to share the link with friends. Feeling extra sweet? Send a dollar to cover my chai costs (at home of course) in Venmo. It’s silly to say but I need to say it: please do not upload the pdfs to your own site, sell them, commercialize them.

Stay at home, stay safe! Remember you don’t have to home school overnight. Keep your kids’ brain occupied and you’re doing more than enough as a parent.


Indian Printable Coloring Pages {FREE}

Trying to figure out how to entertain the kids for 10 minutes while you try to have conference call? I don’t know either.

But I do have these lovely printables I made. They’re Indian’y with Indian secular motifs and famous places like the Taj Mahal and Lotus Temple.

They will keep the kiddos entertained while we are in lockdown/stay at home from the coronavirus.

Here are three that I have done so far. And check out my coloring page for Holi (did anyone even get to celebrate in 2020?!).


Feel free to share the link with friends. Feeling extra sweet? Send a dollar to cover my chai costs (at home of course) in Venmo. It’s silly to say but I need to say it: please do not upload the pdfs to your own site, sell them, commercialize them.

Also check out the Montessori 3 letter CVC word packet.

Stay safe and shelter in place!

$25 & Under Toy Gift Guide for 4-5 Year Olds

Now that our kiddo is invited to birthday parties, I have been trying to figure out what toys to buy.

Quality toys that won’t get dumped or fall apart.

I’ve made a list of easy to find toys on Amazon and Natural Baby Co (plus if you need a free shipping code, use this), but also a few bespoke/DIY toys.

The toys are under $25 while the book gift sets are $20-50. There is everything from Green Toys and Legos to Holztiger to small dolls.

Gift Sets

Art caddy – Box of Crayola markers, crayons (my kid loves Jumbo crayons), drawing pencils, stickers, stamps and a notebook. Sometimes I will also add glue, modeling clay, and scissors. Put them in a Sterilite storage box (or a tiered drawer from Sterilite) and parents can be happy the collection is contained. I buy all these things during the school supply sale and stock it for when needed. #winning (Also, this reads like a promo for Crayola but it totally isn’t meant to be! It’s what I love and is solid quality for little children)

Play-doh caddy – Make your own play dough (so it doesn’t smell like the store brand) and color it any way you want. Add glitter even. Or a couple drops of essential oil so it smells delicious. Pack the dough in a container with a rolling pin, couple cookie cutters and you’ve giving a kiddo plenty of open play magic time.

Toys

Plan Toys Fruit & Veggie Set – Classic play food that kids can “cut”. Also a favorite are the soft toy foods from IKEA and their metal pots and pans.

Grimm’s Large Convertible Car

Grimm’s Mini Rainbow – At 10.5 cm (about 5 inches), the Grimm’s wooden mini rainbow will delight the rainbow and fantasy dreamers out there. It’s perfect for decoration when not in use and great for small world play. Doll houses, barns, race tracks can all use a dash of colors.

Fairyshadow Pocket Mama Doll – Four years old is the sweet ago when children get into dolls and small world play. Made in California, these 4in mama dolls with tiny babies come in three skin tones and handmade love. Fairyshadow comes in many different styles and sizes for your little one to love.

Fagus mini cars

PlanToys Meadow Ring Toss

Plan City Car Transporter

Green Toys Parking Garage

Green Toys Rocket with 2 Astronauts

Green Toys Car Carrier Vehicle Set – A car that carries cars. Enough said.

LEGO City Heavy Cargo Transport – There is also a nice little truck loader set; it’s perfect for a friend getting started with Lego building and can use a simpler set (less than 100 pieces).

Green Toys Wagon Outdoor

Melissa & Doug Service Station – A parking garage with cars and a ramp. You get the picture.

Green Toys Dump Truck – In red and yellow or pink and purple. This is one heck-of-an outdoor truck toy. Schools use them, museums use them, everyone should have a GT dump truck.

Tegu Magnetic Racer – Looking for something more than Lego and Magnatiles? Introducing Tegu. Handmade in Honduras, Tegu blocks are magnetized and empower kids for lots of open ended play and building. The racer is a fun way to get started.


Snap Circuits Jr. – Introduce your children to circuitry and electricity with the Snap Circuits Junior set.

Lego Duplo Town – Truck and Digger. Also a favorite is the submarine set – a winner for bath time AND has a female person of color figure. Win for racial diversity.

Green Toys Boat and Helicopter – Another bath time win: a boat AND a helicopter. And if you haven’t noticed, I really love Green Toys.

For even more toys, from Boon and Plan Toys bath time to Melissa and Doug puzzles and Tegu travel sets, see my list below.

For extra bonus: Book & an Animal Gift Sets

Giraffe and a half + Holztiger Giraffe – Give Shel Siverstein and a wooden animal giraffe.

Little Blue Truck + Grimms Pull Along Truck

Uni the Unicorn +

Best Shops to Buy Paint Your Own Wooden Toys

Sometimes you want wooden toys to be in your own color scheme. Or you want them cheaper than the major brands. Or you want to go crazy with the limited time of raising that you decide painting 100 little mushrooms is a *good idea*.

I’ve been there and back. Painting your own wooden toys take time and effort. What paints to use, what sealants to use, and where to buy from.

I put together this list of Etsy sellers who make their own wooden toys. You can purchase them unfinished, sand them, paint them, and seal them to your own color scheme.

I choose only small businesses because 1. support small business!, 2. skips out on “made in we don’t know where” products. All the products listed are made by artisans themselves. Some are in the US, a couple in the UK, and a few in Russia.

If you have a photo you’d like to share of your wooden creation, please contact me and I’d be happy to post it here.

Disclosure: The links to purchase these toys at Etsy are affiliate. I make a tiny amount of commission for each sale made through the links below. It costs you nothing but helps me cover my costs to continue writing and maintaining this site. Thank you for the support!

Orlando Wooden Toys – Recommended products: 9 piece wood semicircle, 12 piece wooden rainbows (disappears from stock quickly!), 6 piece Wooden Wave Stacker Toy. Plus, plenty of super cute teethers. Buy them unfinished if you want to paint them.

Clickity Clack – SO MANY PRETTY THINGS. They come unfinished so you may need to sand some items. All my peg dolls are from here and oh my, the baby bumble bees are the cutest.

I went through each peg doll listing and pulled their dimensions. This should help you when building your collection. Below is a photo I took of all the Clickity Clack people I own. They #1, #4, #5, #2, and #10.

No. 1 Large Angel/Woman peg dolls measuring 3-1/2 inches tall and 1-1/2 inches wide.

No. 4 Tall Man Peg Dolls measuring 3 9/16 inches tall.

#5 Large Boy Peg Doll is 2-5/16 inches tall with a 7/8 inch base

The #8 Small Boy Peg Doll is 1-11/16 inches tall and 5/8 inches wide.

#11 Hard Hat Guy/Helmet Head Peg Dolls – 2-1/8 inches tall with a ¾ inch base and a 1-1/16 diameter hat.

#2 Small Angel/Girl – 2 inches tall and 7/8 inches wide

No. 6 Little Woman peg dolls measuring 2 -1/4 inches tall and 3/4 inches wide. They have a flat bottom.

#3 Girl with Skirt Peg Dolls measuring 2 inches tall with a 5/8 inch diameter base.

#7 Little Tots Peg Doll is 1-3/16 inches tall and 5/8 inches wide.

#10 Bumble bee/baby – 1-3/16 tall like the Little Tots, but has a curved body that is 5/8 inch at the widest point. They have a flat bottom only 3/8 inch wide. Chocking hazard! One of the kids favorite peg people.

They also sell vehicles that match to the sizes of the people (READ the listing properly!). Go crazy, the prices are great and they are made in the USA.

Cedar Oaks– They make wine racks but they also make peg dolls. Sizes are pretty standard and below are the sizes currently for sale. Of course confirm with the owner in case you need the peg doll to fit something specific.

Dads – 2-3/8″ tall x 7/8″ wide
Moms – 2-1/4″ tall x 3/4″ wide
Girls – 2″ tall x 7/8″ wide
Boys – 1-11/16″ tall x 5/8″ wide
Babies – 1-1/8″ tall x 5/8″ wide

ROSTOKToys – The prices are amazing. I have the sorting bowls with mushrooms, rattle, lacing vegetable beads, and nesting dolls. The shipping will cost a lot as with most of the other shops, but I love the quality. Made in Russia by a family, all the products are popular with the kiddos.

I Used to be a Tree – The name of the store is adorable. I haven’t shopped here personally, but I am eyeing the wooden acorns and kokeshi dolls. Who wouldn’t fall in love with the roundness?!

Kokeshi doll sizes: 1 Large – 4″ Tall
1 Medium – 3 1/4″ Tall
1 Small – 2 1/2″ Tall
1 Teeny – 2 1/8: Tall
1 Tiny – 1 1/2″ Tall

Crafty Wool Felt – The owner has a beautiful collection of felt products. Felt balls and sheets and ready made pieces – it’s all eye candy. She also has a small collection of wooden items: people, trees, spools, beads, snowmen.

House Mountain Natural – Delightful wooden food, eco friendly baby gift sets, and paint your own wood pieces, Ross has a lovely collection.

Bob Hudson Wood Crafts – Need wooden animals? Why yes, you do. Bob makes lots of wooden animals and wooden Christmas pieces. Based in Connecticut, it’s another made in the USA toy.

Have a shop I should include or photos to share? Let me know!

The Christmas Gift Guide for Newborns to 1 Year Olds

Can I tell you a secret? A secret you can share with a new mom. In fact, promise me you’ll share this with another mom.

You don’t need fancy toys to entertain a baby.

Say it again with me, YOU DON’T NEED FANCY TOYS TO ENTERTAIN A BABY!

First of all, newborns only care about three things: milk (from your boob or a bottle), snuggling and cuddling with a warm body, and having their diaper changed. When it comes to entertainment, newborns love being outside, they love looking at trees and leaves, and they love looking at faces. Guess what, all these things are free!

Now, here’s when life gets tricky. Babies evoke ALL THE FEELS in us. Utter happiness, misery, sleeplessness, joy, pain, you name it. We also all want what’s best for our babies, so we tend to over shop. Families too.

My list here is a combination of things you can find at home and simply elegant toys. They are not battery operated, they are not over-colored willy nilly junk, these are toys that benefit their development without overwhelming them (and you).

A word of warning. A lot of Amazon listed toys today come from unbranded/off brand companies from China. They’re Chinese companies selling plastic and wood toys at a fraction of the price. Do your research. Amazon does not check compliance for meeting toy safety standards for the US or the EU (in the same they don’t check for copyright infringement and fake books)

Make sure you, family, and friends understand the need to purchase quality, well known brands (more on popular brands coming soon in a post) because of counterfeiting, evasion of toy safety standards, and in some cases, poor human rights records.

If you want an easy list of good retailers, check out my Cyber Monday list supporting small businesses.

Now on to the good stuff! The 0-12 month period for a baby

Tupperware, pots and pans, wooden spoons, kitchen utensils – Notice something here? They’re all things you can find in the kitchen! Look no further than your cabinets to entertain a crawling/sitting baby.

Teething? No problem. Give them a wooden spoon or a silicon straw.

Want to make noise? Fill a tupperware with dry beans and seal it shut with tape (avoid the choking hazard). Give them a few pots and a few wood spoons and let them bang on them. They will probably bang on your cabinets, the floor, you, and themselves, but guess what? You can teach them about density and materials composition? “Ohhh, I see you found the tile floor. How does the wooden spoon sound when you bang on it? Your kiddo won’t answer btw, but probably giggle. “Look at that! A metal spoon on a metal pot, that’s pretty loud!”

Want to teach them colors and food? Grab a bunch of different dry beans and pastas and put them in containers. Seal them with tape and hand them to baby. You can talk about colors, sizes, shapes, whatever you want.

Now for toys you can buy. These are developmentally appropriate, foster thinking and curiously, and lack the flashy beeps and bops of traditional battery operated toys.

LOVEVERY Play Subscription – Go on autopilot with this nice collection of curated toys for newborns to two years old. Easy for family to pitch in and you get just a few toys every month. Some of the toys are inspired by Montesorri ideas (like the Imbucare box, circles), others are Waldorf inspired (e.g. blocks).

Grimms Pebbles – Are they rocks? Are they plastic? No, they’re wood! Light and soft, the Grimms pebbles are fun for stacking, matching colors, and even a little chewing. As your baby gets older, the pebbles can be used in imaginary play as grass, water, sand, and whatever your child conjures.

Jellycat Tails books – I never knew the magic of crinkle books until I was gifted the Jellycat tails books. Rainbow tails, farm tails, jungle tails, the series is a hoot. Babies love the books to chew on, crush with their fingers, and throw. The whole series is fun, so pick one you like.

Plan Toys Baby Key Rattle – Just like the plastic counterpart from popular brands, this sweet wood key rattle is perfect for teething babies. And babies who want throw stuff (which, by the way, are all babies). Good for 4 months old and up.

Stacking bowls and boxes – Stacking blocks, stacking bowls, stacking cubes, stacking cups, stacking pacifiers, you name it and a toddler will stack it. I love the black and white Grimms stacking bowls and nesting cubes. Yes, they are pricey, but they will last several years. They are durable and are multi-functional. Babies, toddlers, and even young children love stacking filling containers and moving them around.

Pounding toy – $12.99 on amazon – What better way to bash stuff than to give your young toddler a toy that *can* be bashed! The Melissa and Doug pounding toy is great for those little hands. Good for babies 10 months+, this toy hits its stride with 15 months and up. Make sure to supervise baby so they don’t pound their fingers (or remove the ‘hammer’ and let them use their hands to press the pegs in).

Manhattan Toy Skwish – $13.99-$16.99 depending on color on Amazon – My baby received the Skwish when he was 10 months old. He didn’t really know what to do with it except throw it around. By 12 months old, he loved it! Throwing it, squishing it, stretching it; this was clearly a hit! Having never seen one in my life until then, I eventually ended up three Skwishes (other parent friends getting rid of them). Again, super fun. E

Even when my toddler was 3 years he would play with it. I’d tell him to step on it and stretch it as if he were angry – win on the expressing feelings front!

Teethers – Not just a gift, but to also protect your insanity once baby begins teething and chewing on everything like a wild golden retriever. Freezing teethers can be frozen – your kiddo will have a love/hate relationship but they are worth it because they will last a few years as your little one goes teething nuts. Then they are jelly like keys, wood teethers, silicon based beads, the famous Sophie la Giraffe for babies to chew on. You will want 4-5 of teething items because they get lost easily and your baby will go in phases of what they love. Have them on hand now.

Toothbrush + Toothpaste – You probably can’t believe it, but by the time your newborn becomes a one year old, they will sprout some of teethy fangs. Create good habits with daily brushing. At this time you need a teeny tiny bit of fluoride free toothpaste ( Jill and Jack toothpaste creates eco friendly packaging and products) and a soft toothbrush. You can use a finger toothbrush, a bamboo toothbrush, or a silicon toothbrush. Whatever works for you and baby.

Bonus: for a luxury item, the LOVEVERY play gym.

As always, babies must be supervised when playing.

Small Business Black Friday & Cyber Monday Deals

It’s here! Black Friday sales are here! And so are some great deals from small businesses. These are all the ones I know, if you have a company I should, comment below or instagram me @bindisandbottles.

As always, many of the links below are affiliate. This means I make a tiny commission if you buy something through the link. It costs you nothing but helps pay my hosting bills and to keep writing. Thank you for the support!

Danny & Luca – 20% off over $100 purchase. Few items left, subscriptions are sold out though. There will be a restock in a week or two.

Oompa Toys – No sitewide sale but some products are on sale. They have Grimms, HABA, Petit Collage, Wee Gallery. Use my referral code to get $10 off a $50 or more purchase.

Lollipop Sky – Grimms blocks, the dwarf village, pink pebbles, stacking boxes, fire and earth, and large rainbow are available.There are also some Holztiger and Ostheimer left too. Be sure to use my referral code and sign up for the newsletter to get a coupon code.

Dearest Diapers – 20% off with DDBFSALE20, some exclusions. Grapat bowls and nins still in stock, Glückskäfer, Grimms, car seats and lots of other brands.

Meenal Patel Studio – 15% off eligible orders, free shipping on most products. I love Meenal’s illustrations and books. An Indian American, her stories resonate with children of color and anyone who loves a good story.

Orlando Wooden Toys – Etsy – Free shipping on all purchases. Sale currently on, date ending unknown. Know for their elements stackers, rainbow stackers, and vehicles. Can come finished or unfinished.

Mirus Toys – Free shipping – last day for US orders is Dec 2nd for Christmas delivery; International guarantee deadline passed. The prettiest Montessori and Waldorf perpetual calendars you’ve seen.

Happy Tree Store – 20% off wooden toys AND free shipping. Trees, rainbows and lovely open ended wood toys from Russia is hot. Be sure to confirm ship out date to arrive to you by Christmas.

TheWoodPeckerFactory – 10-15% off, free shipping on most products. Great collection of wooden animals.

Wooden Caterpillar – 10-20% off and free shipping on most. German toy shop on Etsy. They have a massive collection of wooden animals. Particular favorites are the animal sets and trees.

Heir Loom Kids USA – Made in the USA wooden toys. They have a few classic Montessori toys: the stackers and shape puzzles along with custom name puzzles, and push toys.

Your Little Doves – Current 20% off sitewide with code SHOPSMALL (exclusions apply). Special Black Friday products will be 50% off (cannot be stacked with sitewide code). Also, you can use my discount code for $10 off (ymmv)

Studio Yali on etsy – Indian goddess peg people! Looking to add diversity and a little mythology to your wooden toy collection? Studio Yali has divine goddesses like Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. You can also buy peg dolls wearing different Indian outfits.

Jens Pretty Pegs – Free shipping for most purchases. Jen’s hand-painted pegs are TO DIE FOR. Seriously, if you want beautiful peg people, go to her.

The Natural Baby Co – 15% OFF STOREWIDE* Fri., Nov. 29TH(12:01 AM ET) Through Mon., Dec. 2 (11:59 PM ET). *Excludes Jellycat, Grimms, Veer, Lilly & River, Wobble. GroVia 20% Off. Sale Category 50% Off. Referral code here should give you free shipping. Gluckskafer, Ostheimer, and more.

Rose & Rex – Sale over. My referral code with give you 15% off. They have WaytoPlay (though check pricing), Gluckskafer, and Grapat.

LOVEVERY – Sale over but plenty of things around!

Sanskar Teaching – Needing to learn Gujarati? Or freshen up? Enjoy 50% all week on the long and short classes. Use code HALF

Dyper – Not toy related, but diapers! Not any old diapers, bamboo diapers that are compostable. They can go in a home compost or be sent off for composting. (I’m not sure if they can be used in the city compost bin. Still, a way more environmentally friendly than any other company.

Why and Whale – 15% off sitewide with BLACKFRIDAY.

I also want to mention Nest.ca as a lovely store too. They aren’t doing Black Friday sales per se, but they have fantastic service and great prices.

That’s all for now! Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for supporting me!

/Preeti


http://i.refs.cc/7livserj?smile_ref=eyJzbWlsZV9zb3VyY2UiOiJzbWlsZV91aSIsInNtaWxlX21lZGl1bSI6IiIsInNtaWxlX2NhbXBhaWduIjoicmVmZXJyYWxfcHJvZ3JhbSIsInNtaWxlX2N1c3RvbWVyX2lkIjozODcwMzYyODl9

$50 & Under Gifts for 3-5 Year Olds {Christmas Gift Guide!}

It’s that time of year! The stores are full of toys and kids are full of imagination from toy catalogs to what’s a la mode.

Here’s the deal, you know, and I know, that the majority of toys advertised on TV, in the catalogs, and by other kids, are junk. Noisy, small pieces, gimmicky, things that have no value after a couple weeks of play. Does these toys delight little kids? Absolutely. Are they really a good idea? No, not really.

If you need to send family or friends Christmas ideas that aren’t character branded, Disney slathered, Marvel Comics pumped, then I have a list for you. All the toys are under $50, they’re great quality, and they will last your kids years, not days. Please bear in mind that while some of these toys don’t look exciting to *you*, does not mean they won’t be beautifully loved for years to come.

Sometimes the best toys are the most simple and elegant ones.

Grab the link and share!

Disclosure: Most of these toys are my or my child’s favorites. The links to purchase these toys at Amazon or Natural Baby Co are affiliate. I make a tiny amount of commission for each sale made through the links below. It costs you nothing but helps me cover my costs to continue writing and maintaining this site. Thank you for the support!

Play Kitchen – Of all the toy play kitchens on the market, the best by far is from IKEA. It is elegant, aesthetically pleasing, and mostly wood (a couple pieces are plastic. There are no stickers and crazy colors, the IKEA toy kitchen is a calming place to play.

To fill that kitchen, you need some basic items. Goodwill or the thrift store is great for buying real objects: utensils, little plates, and kitchen knick-knacks. For something more specialty, Plan Toys has a sweet tea set made from wood. It’s gender neutral and perfect for all ages and genders. Hape also makes lots of wooden fruits and veggies and tea sets.

Whatever you choose to buy for the play kitchen, be intentional in purchasing non-gender conforming colors. The days of pink cups are over. Girls AND boys play with tea sets and dolls, so please don’t be the person limiting your child’s interests.

Bruder dump truck – $49.99 on Amazon – Bruder is my go-to toy truck company. While you can get them on Amazon and at some specialty toy stores, the best place to score a Bruder truck is at the Home Goods store. They are well made, a mix between plastic parts and metal parts, and many of the models are still made in Germany.

Snap Circuits – $20.99 on sale at Amazon – Get your child involved in electrical engineering with Snap Circuits. Good for kids 4 years and up (5 years is recommended on the box), this junior will pique your little ones interest in building and engineering.

Sneaky, Snacky, Squirrel Game – A collaborative board game, little kids will love the sneak squirrel. More for aged 4+.

Adopt an Orphan – Managed by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the adopt an orphan allows you to contribute to caring for an orphaned elephant, giraffe, or rhino. Through the $50 adoption, you’ll get a certificate, access to updates, and special photos. Teach your children about the importance of saving our wildlife for future generations.

Corolle dolls – My friend introduced me to these dolls as a birthday present present for my 1 year old. It became a hit. My toddler son fell in love too that we had to purchase one for him as well.

Our favorite Corolle are the ones with the weighted bean body. Bonus for being washing machine safe (trust me, they will eventually go to the bubble bath). The company still lacks in having a diverse line-up of different skin toned dolls, but there are a couple at least.

Petit Collage magnetic sets – Going to a restaurant? At the doctor’s office? Need to entertain kids in a mess free, noise free way? These magnetic tins are the best! I like the veterinarian play hospital, funny faces, tree house sets.

Marble runs – The Hape Quadrilla marble run is a feast. The basic set is under $30. With fun add-ons and expansions, the set isn’t cheap, but it’s a great gift from family members for large builds by several children. As a bonus, The Wall Street Journal calls the marble run a STEM coding toy.


Green Toys Car Transporter – $24.99 on Amazon – What makes this plastic toy so great you ask? Well, it’s 100% recycled plastic. And it’s darn good quality. Green Toys is another one of my personal favorite brands and what toddler/young child doesn’t love a car carrier? For an alternative, check out the Melissa and Doug racecar carrier set.

Brio train sets – Trains, trains, more trains. Brio is a Swedish company famous for their train sets. You may have even grown up with them. Either way, trains are still awesome. Get started with a few small sets and build from through secondhand shopping (FB marketplace) and off-brands (okay, I said it). You can also add on with specialty pieces like the Brio bridges, off-brand level stacking (to create multi-level train tracks), cool trains, and switches.

At this point you are probably thinking, “oh no, Thomas the Train, please no no no!” I’m with you on that. I despise the Thomas the Train tv show and I absolutely despise the overpriced trains. Solution? Buy those secondhand. FB marketplace is a treasure trove of other parents dumping their kids Thomas the Train tracks.

Unit blocks – $52.49 on Amazon – The essential building blocks for every child. The natural colored blocks allow children to create cityscapes, farms, oceans, castles, houses, wherever their imagination takes them. For the $50 budget, Melissa and Doug is sure bet, the Bajo Manhattan Skyline (though I’d use it more as supplement, $49.95)as is the 40 piece set from Plan Toys. If your budget has lots of room, you can look to Grimms Large Stepped Pyramid ($199). Fora fun add-on, check out Uncle Goose blocks. These made in the USA blocks (yes! MADE IN USA!) range from beautiful alphabet blocks to planets and moon phases to dinosaurs and ocean blocks.

A word of caution if you are looking on Amazon for unit blocks. There are a lot of off-brand, Chinese companies selling unit block sets. You need to thoroughly check that all the pieces are *not* a chocking hazard. In addition, you should vet the paint and wood used by those companies. Frankly, I don’t trust them, and Amazon reviews won’t help in terms of consumer safety.

Ostheimer wooden animals and figures – $7.95-$25.95 prices vary on style from Natural Baby Company Co – These German handmade animals are a mark of beauty. They are durable, beautifully painted, and if taken care of will last your to your grandchildren’s generation. These wooden animals are not cheap in comparison to plastic stuff, they are an investment for birthdays and holidays each year. You can buy a few at a time or ask each family member to purchase a couple pieces – the collection will grow quickly thanks to a loving family.

If Ostheimer isn’t quite your thing, check out Holztiger, also wooden animals made in Germany. They come in a bit better price point and are just as loved. Perhaps my favorite are the subscription boxes from Danny and Luca. The website shop is run by a mom and she curates these gorgeous Holztiger sets. If you subscribe to a 3 or 6 month box, you’ll be paying $8-9 per piece, a substantial discount over retail.

When you’re starting a wooden animal collection, start by theme. If the kids love farm animals, put farm animals on their wish list. If they love the ocean, fill their gift list with ocean animals.

Duplo – Seriously, can you ever go wrong with Lego Duplo? The building possibilities are endless, there are loads of animals and cars, and so many specialty pieces, your little ones will be busy for hours. As a bonus against Legos, you won’t vacuuming Duplo or stepping on them like spikes in the house! I recommend using Facebook Marketplace to buy loads of mixed up Duplos at rock bottom prices. A grocery bag full of Duplos would cost $20-40. These mixed bags will give you lots of pieces to go build crazy. For specialty sets, buy the boxed Duplo. Some of my favorite are the, Truck excavator, fire station (set 10903), baby animals, and submarine set.

Extra credit for Lego being one of the few major toy manufacturers catering to women. Female truck drivers, female doctors, female people of color scuba divers, the company is making big strides forward.

Tegu tram set – $49.99 on Natural Baby Co – Anything Tegu really is super fun.

Melissa & Doug Wood Barn – $39.99 on Amazon – Includes 7 animals, this is a great starter barn set for any creative mind. As your child grows, you can add on more animals, Schleich is great, and wood blocks to create a farm world. Make sure not to buy the *latches* barn; it’s just a barn with a lot of latches!

Magnatiles – Build with magnets! Similar to Tegu, Magnatiles allow you build. Compared to Tegu, Magnatiles are plastic based, build larger systems, yet are trickier in forming complex designs. You could also buy Picasso Tiles, which are a lot cheaper.

Art Supplies – price varies at Amazon &Target – Art supplies of any sort are loved by little ones. Notebooks, crayons, markets, stickers, glue, this is not just a refresh of your kiddo’s book bag, it’s a way for your child to have private space to think and express themselves. Art is therapeutic and developmentally important. Classic Crayola crayons and markets are always a win.

Cuddle + Kind – $52 on Natural Baby Co – These stuffed toys are the cutest! Made in Peru by hand, each purchase provides 10 meals to children in need. You can get the 13” for $52 or the 20” doll for $72. Yes, they are pricey, but they are not made in China and they are not cheap quality. You get what you pay for.

Hope you enjoy this non-mainstream list of toys for your little ones to enjoy this holiday season. Your kids will love you and so will your bank account.