2020 will certainly go down in the books as the year that set the world on fire. In every way possible. For a while, we even thought the toy world would be left unscathed. That’s not happening either.
Between Covid-19, raw material supply issues, and extreme demand, Grimm’s Wooden Toys (Spiel und Holz) is under immense pressure to try to keep up with demand. Unfortunately, it’s not working out. Restock alerts for Grimms often sell out within a day, and popular items like the Large Stepped Pyramid and the 1001 Nights set sell out within minutes. It’s crazy!
And here you are lovely reader, gearing up for holiday shopping. But Grimm’s sells out in minutes and you’re left to wonder which block sets to buy.
I picked 5 block sets alternatives to purchase. These blocks are just as fabulous as Grimm’s, and just as versatile in open ended play.
Bauspiel Grid Blocks – I call these the waffle blocks. And these waffle blocks are SO MUCH FUN. I haven’t seen any other brand on the market remotely as neat as these blocks. Modern Rascals has them for $237 (with a 10% coupon, you can get them for $213.70 USD.
Bauspiel Color Street – Glitter Glitter. Right, need I say more? These blocks are a lot of fun to build with, AND they glitter! Made of alder wood (used for wand making in Harry Potter too), the Color Street blocks have a lovely smell and rich color. Available: pre-sale Modern Rascals for $226.
Gluckskafer Rainbow Building Slats – If you want “flat” pieces that range in short to long lengths, the slats provide variety in color and sizing.
Skandico Castle Blocks – Bright and cheery, this Russia based company makes block sets in a variety of styles and tray sizes. One of my favorite is the castle blocks set. Coming in a set of organic shapes and classic rectangles, you can get a little bit of everything with it. Available: Danny & Luca $176.
Uncle Goose Blocks – Any blocks you choose from UG will be a winner. Made in the USA, Uncle Goose makes blocks in many languages (from English to Hebrew to French) and interests (bugs, moon phases, women, and more). Fun to build with and learn. Available: Modern Rascals, prices vary.
For more inspiration on building with these blocks, check out my Instagram. And if you have a favorite block set that I haven’t listed, drop a comment below.
If you are new to open ended play and open ended toys, the possibilities of what to buy are overwhelming. Googling and reading, and reading some more what to buy, what not to buy, and oh my it’s just a lot!
It’s alright! I got your back. I wrote this article to help succinctly pare down those massive lists into something you can digest. And purchase. For several of the options I list, I also have toys that are more affordable.
First, two questions for you:
Are you buying open ended toys to replace the toys you have? Are you buying open ended toys to complement what you already own?
Let’s talk about question 1. Are you buying open ended toys to replace what you have? Answering this question involves knowing what your children already own. Let’s start with an inventory. Go and inventory all the toys that your kids own. I’ll give you a moment (or a few days) to make an inventory. A written list is best. Now, besides each toy, mark the following: – Is it plastic? – Does it have batteries and make lots of sounds? – Is it a push button toy (I.e. you press a button and the toy does the playing)? – Does the toy annoy you? – Does your kid like the toy (do they play with it)? – Do you think the toy has play value for your child?
Now, you want to decide what you want to keep from this list. I recommend keeping toys that your kid loves AND do not annoy you. Some of the toys you keep maybe closed ended, like a puzzle, and that is OKAY!
Other toys you may choose to keep are plastic. There is nothing wrong with plastic stacking bowls. They offer the same function and play value as a set of wooden stacking bowls. You don’t need to replace them. Repeat with me, it’s OKAY THAT I HAVE TOYS THAT ARE NOT WOOD.
Once you have inventoried and questioned the play value of all the toys you have, place the giveaway toys in a pile. Sell them, donate them, put them in a Buy Nothing group – I encourage you to avoid the landfill. You can use the lists below to help you finalize whether to keep or giveaway toys.
I divided the lists below by age groups. This is not meant to be orthodox but loose guidelines. Some children may not use a toy for months, while others start using immediately. Some children may have development delays which means the toys may not be used by them for some time. And that’s okay too! Give them time.
The list offers a few different brands at different price points. I encourage to buy what you think your children will love along with a price point best suited to you. The options are left to right most expensive to least expensive.
Last thing, this article took 10 hours to write and pull the links. Some of the links below are affiliate – I may a little money should you choose to purchase through that link (any product). It comes at no cost to you, so please consider buying through the links. And consider following me on Instagram. My eternal appreciation to you.
Open Ended Toys for 2-3 Years Old Connectix Tiles | Magnatiles | Picassa Tiles Duplo More advanced puzzles – Melissa and Doug | Small dolls + few furniture pieces – Plan Toys (here, here, here, and here)| Hape (here, and here) | Tender Leaf Toys (here, and here) Trains – Brio | Haba Animals and trees – Ostheimer (US/Canada) | Holztiger (US/Canada) | Predan | Dadakacraft | Schleich | Safari Ltd Push Toys Bucket and shovel – Green Toys | Fiskars at Amazon | Home Depot Nesting boxes – Grimm’s | Plan Toys | Melissa and Doug Art supplies – crayons, paper, stickers, scissors (supervised! For the older ones), play dough Peg dolls – Grimms (US/Canada), Grapat (US/Canada), Dixie and Bee, Jen’s Pretty Pegs Music toys – Plan Toys | Natural Baby Company selection
Bonus: 10 Cylinders (more Montessori but can last years) 100 board (Montessori but a basic counting device that lasts years) Extra block sets Grimms (US/Canada) | Bauspiel | Raduga Grez | Ocamora Indoor climbing – Large Pikler and ramp | Wobbel board Build your own fort – Nugget
This post contains affiliate (referral links). By clicking on a link and purchasing an item, you help support a mirco blogger at no cost to you. Thank you for your continued support.
Did your first order of Grimms arrive? Were you giddy with excitement to share this wonderful open ended toy with a child? Or yourself?
And then you opened the package and …
The nesting bowls smell! The rainbow is asymmetric. The blocks are moldy. Someone DREW with a black crayon!
Simultaneously you are in tears and a state of rage. Your hard earned money from the “highly recommended” toy company sent you a reject.
How could Grimms Spiel und Holz have so many mistakes in their wooden toys? You own other wooden toys and none of them have marks and kinks in them. What are all these blemishes and issues on the rainbow?
The Grimms rainbow are different from other brands because they hand make all their toys. And their style of work is a bit more on the rougher edge than perfectly sanded and smooth.
For example, the Grimms rainbows they are carved from a single piece of wood. And that piece of wood is 7cm thick. For comparison, Myers rainbows are comprised of three of wood glued together, and Raduga Grez rainbows are thinner. Ocamora rainbows are most similar to Grimms, but as they are a much smaller company (who also have had supply issues and have plenty of imperfections), I cannot make a educated guess as to their line of wooden toys.
The type of wood used for the Grimms rainbow is lime wood or also known as linden. This wood is soft and easy to work with – it’s perfect for carving, instrument making, and shields (if you lived back in the Middle Ages). Lime woods alsogets plenty of knots, occasional dents, and a bit of over/under enthusiastic sanding.
Before firing off an email to the shop you purchased from, read these seven reasons why the Grimms wooden toys might be alright after all.
Rainbow is asymmetric – If you bought a rainbow of any size, you will immediately notice that the arches do not look even. In fact, the rainbow may not even stand flat on a table. Don’t fear yet, this is because of tight plastic wrapping around the rainbow (we’ll save the plastic lecture for Grimms to another day). Once you remove the plastic, the wood will expand slightly as well as settle into place.
Knots in the wood – Totally natural and common. Some knots are a few inches large and others are tiny.
Black spots – Black spots are not uncommon on wood, they are imperfections in the wood caused by mineral deposits. It is not mold.
Natural wood pieces smell funny – The natural building boards, rainbows, nesting bowls, and bridges are oiled. The strongest smell is linseed oil. To diminish the smell, you can unwrap the toys and leave outside and air them out. Over time the smell will decrease – it can take a couple months.
Rainbow stacks in one direction – The rainbows are cut by hand and slight variations in the thickness of the arch occurs. Sometimes this means the rainbow stacks “one way” and not both. If you see gaps between the arches, flip one around and then it will fit snugly.
Black stripes – Does it look like someone took a black crayon and drew across the toy. This black stripe is known as the pith tube. It’s natural and nothing to be alarmed about. Admittedly, it can look annoying but it’s another beauty of the type wood used.
Sanding is wonky – At Grimms, they hand sand all the toys and puzzles. The rainbows are all sanded on the edges. This is one way to know you have a genuine rainbow, but it also makes it easier for children to hold. Unfortunately, the sanding on the arches can be uneven, sometimes wonky. And this imperfect sanding can drive you crazy. It’s driven me crazy too; and sometimes it’s terrible to the point that you might need it replaced – it’s very much a personal decision.
Color transfer – Color transfers happens during play – it’s inevitable. But when your toys arrive with lots of color transfer, is this normal? Yes and no. Grimms products that arrive in mesh bags (geo blocks, tree blocks, roofs and pillars) can have transfer. A few dings are to be expected. A lot of color transfer, where maybe half or more of the pieces have color marks are a cause for concern.
Paint is incomplete – Some of the pieces may look like it wasn’t painted. There are some instances where the painting was forgotten (a big oops) or it was a shoddy job (the roofs and pillars were notorious for a poor paint job in the corners). Most of the time however, the paint, didn’t stick because of the wood itself. Different types woods and different parts of the wood absorb dye differently. Even on a same piece it may look like the paint isn’t even. See the image for an example.
Now that we have seen some examples of imperfections, what are issues that warrant a return?
Consider the following:
Is that damage significant enough that play will be impaired? Cracks can causes issues down the line. A deep crack for example, can become worse and can even break the rainbow. However, a small dent is a cosmetic flaw. It could be caused in transit or while still manufactured. A large dent would warrant you contacting the seller.
Is it worth exchanging ? Knowing that Grimms rainbows are imperfect, do you want to exchange the rainbow knowing another could have imperfections? If you return, do you have a game plan for which other rainbow to purchase? Ocamora (Spain), Raduga Grez (Russia), Myers (US)?
Does the imperfection bother you needlessly? If yes, then contact the seller and return. If you think that imperfections will drive you crazy considering the price paid, then return. There is nothing worse than being upset over something. Kindly remember that most of the shops selling Grimms are small businesses – they work tirelessly to keep their businesses alive, a little kindness during the return process can go a long way.
Is a piece not painted? On very rare occasions, a piece isn’t stained correctly. This should be returned.
Do you see chips and splinters? This isn’t normal. Contact your seller.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether the rainbow is perfect or not. But I do hope you consider the above before making a return and decide if what you have is an imperfection or an issue. There’s a small business owner on the other end of your email
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s that time of the year to shop for the loved ones, and little people, in your life. To help support small businesses, I have put together my favorite products from Etsy and other small retailers (though a few are from Amazon for sheer convenience).
As I am part of several wooden toy and open ended play groups, these products come highly recommended.
This Christmas gift guide is ALL about wooden toys. It’s difficult to shop at, and find, businesses that foster a more environmentally friendly, sustainable method of production. Most of the toys listed below are made in Germany, Poland, Russia, and Thailand by small businesses.
This list *isn’t* about the big box manufacturers, it’s about the small, family grown companies that want the toys to last generations.
Skip the beeping and batteries, the branding, the fast fashion and return to the simplicity and elegance of wooden toys.
Share this list with your friends and families needing advice on what to buy for Christmas.
Also check out the Montessori toys & development small business list (coming soon) and the desi/South Asian toy and book lists (coming soon).
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate. It doesn’t cost a penny to you to click and shop, but I get a small commission by purchasing through the links below. This help fuels my sleep-deprived mom of 3 self with caffeine, fruit, and nuts.
Please note that some of these sellers are overseas so shipping times may vary. Also be sure to communicate with the seller if you want a custom order or need rush shipping.
Grimms – Made with love, and by hand in Germany, Grimms wooden toys is by far the powerhouse of the wooden toy world. Loved by children in endless open ended building of ball runs, peg people, and whatever landscapes a wooden block can bring, the Grimms toys are loved.
I own only a few Grimm’s toys, but expansion is on my horizon. The toys have a higher price point, but if you want quality, know the source of the materials, handmade items, then they are worth every penny.
We LOVE the large rainbow, 1001 nights, building boards, and semi circles. I plan to buy the stepped roofs, large stepped pyramid, moon houses.
Ostheimer – Made in Germany by hand, the gorgeous wooden animals and people are treasured in households across the globe. There’s something magical about holding a handmade wooden animal.
Holztiger – Also a German company making wooden toys by hand, Holztiger is a household name. Available at a more economical price point than Ostheimer, Holztiger animals are uniquely special.
Tegu – Tegu opens the world of wooden builds through magnetic play. Each wood piece have magnets on the ends and can connect with each other. Safe for one year olds and up, Tegu toys hit the stride with 3-6 year olds. While they are on the pricy side, they have good resale value and can be used for years. Like Lego, the Tegu block sets can be combined and built to make massive creations or pocket sizes bits.
Plan Toys – Made in Thailand, these wooden toys are made from rubberwood, a renewable resource.
These rainbows are SO popular that as soon as they appear for sale on Etsy, people snap them up. These toys are made in the USA and are oh so gorgeous. Like Grimm’s rainbows and Ocamora rainbows, Myers have a special place in people’s hearts.
Skandico Toys is a Russian toy shop with a focus on blocks and puzzles. Their colors are from Germany and the wood is lime wood, a popular tree used for block making. They have several block sets so they worth investing if you want to keep the same color scheme.
An up and coming woodworking shop from Russia, their whale, penguins, and ducks have phenomenal detail. Some of their products are one faced painted, so may disappoint if you want them painted on all sides.
I love being an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). Why? Because our children today have SO many more options to blend their mixed heritages and learn about them in creative ways than we ever did.
30 years ago I never had cool matching cards or puzzles or even beautiful hard bound books to learn about India, Hindi, Gujarati and religion. If you are Generation Xennial, you know what I am talking about.
This generation is the South Asian renaissance. Our immigrant parents have firmly planted themselves into the diasporas, the children (us) have grown up as American and Desi, and now our children live multicultural lives on all levels.
Today I’m super excited to introduce you to indigrow, a small business publishing company based in Singapore serving the global community.
They have created their first collection of learning and play materials for children 0-5. Each of their products ties into the A to Z alphabet yet in different ways. There is a book, a memory match game, on the go flash cards, and a floor puzzle.
Indigrow was sweet and sent me their launch collection to play with. Our children loved them!
The puzzle was the most popular with my 3.5 year old. We did it once together and then he did it on his own. There is a mini poster of the puzzle in completion and it *really* helped us know how to place the pieces (yay!).
Little missy, who is 1.5 years old, was crazy over the matching card coins. I like how they are round instead square, it’s something unusual and fun to hold. I will admit Little Missy did not get the concept of matching but she love looking at the watercolor drawings and asking, “what’s dis? what’s dis? what’s dis”… “OHHHHHHH”
What I love about indigrow’s products are the paper quality, drawings, and diversity. The drawings are watercolor style yet so detailed and exquisite. The card stock for the matching coins and puzzle pieces are thick and heavy – perfect for little, destructive hands!
And, the alphabet takes inspiration from ALL over India, not just the well known cities and things. I even learned about different areas of India, like Nagaland.
Did you know the outfit above is traditional to the Nagas? Me either. I ended up doing some fascinating reading on the state, which was enlightening. Turns out, we adults have plenty to learn from A to Z too!
Thank you indigrow for growing our curiosity and knowledge. Visit Indigrow on Instagram and their website. Shipping is easy and they send anywhere in the world.
It’s a symbol that we find daily in our lives as Hindus, Jains, and even secular Indians. Thousands of years old, spanning cultures and continents, the swastika has been a symbol of goodness, wishing evil away, and inviting the good spirits.
The irony then, one of our most auspicious and defining symbols as a Hindu was STOLEN, PILLAGED, and RAPED by a group of people bent on waging total war to eradicate an entire religion, groups of people, and anyone in their way.
I don’t remember when I first learned about the swastika, but I remember when I mentioned in grade school that it was a holy symbol, I was a called “Nazi”, an anti-Semite, and was nearly outcasted by classmates. It was the 1990s when the first generation of Indians in America were growing and attending public schools and learning to balance their lives as American Desis.
For a community of people that stays relativity out of the limelight in the US, and being known as doctors and engineers, we were on the front lines. We were targeted, we were screamed at and we were confused. How could an entire country not even know that while the swastika was used by the Nazis, it is also the defining symbol of Hinduism? As it turned out, Americans possessed zero education on world religions, let alone poor education on the geographic location of India itself.
My son is only three years old and his religious awareness is limited because both my husband and I are secular. However, we have a toran on our door where swastikas can be found, occasionally attend temple, and read books on the Hindu gods (cute stories) that all have the swastika. He hasn’t asked me yet, but when he does, what do I say? When he does he become old enough to learn of the evils in the world that stole our precious symbol and attempted to destroy another civilization at the same time?
It’s all rhetorical right now, but I would love to hear your thoughts on how you educated your children on the swastika and how they can effectively deal with ignorance and anger around them.
Finding toys for your one year old is a daunting task. Their personality is just blooming and you don’t quite know what their likes and dislikes; although clearly from their tantrums, they HAVE opinions.
With two children in tow and speaking to a lot of moms, here are my favorite toys. They are non battery operated (except for the piano) and foster creativity, innovation and independent play.
Cheer’s to baby’s first birthday and hoping they love these gifts!
PS: These are affiliate links. I may make a small commission (that doesn’t affect your cost) that keeps this site alive. Thank you! <3
Nothing beats pounding the daylights out of something. And you know your young toddler will go nuts for beating something – legitimately!
Several brands make push carts and strollers. Pick the one that fits your budget. On the easy wallet side, there is IKEA (though the cart itself is small) and Brio. For wood based strollers/prams, there is Moover ($177) and HABA ($149), both on the more expensive side.
You should also stop a Home Goods store and see what is in store in the toy section. I found several wooden push carts/prams for under $50; what a steal!
If you have space for a small Yamama type keyboard, go for it. We have the Fisher Price Baby Grand Piano – it is absolutely silly but a LOT of fun. The music it plays isn’t annoying and you can flip the switch to play pre-recorded music or music notes. For something a bit more mature and more minimalist, the Melissa and Doug 25 key set is nice.
There, I said it. Find the tupperware or yogurt containers that you don’t want anymore and create a space in YOUR kitchen for them. This is the key, you need to sacrifice a cupboard to your toddler. They feel they get to be part of the kitchen while you get to interact with them. It’s a win win. I store unloved tupperware, a few old pans and spatulas we don’t use anymore in our shelf space.
Again, it doesn’t take much to entertain a young toddler. They are on their feet for the *first time ever* and using those feet mean exploring! We have several dressers in the house (ALWAYS bolt them to the wall) and we keep two drawers available for the little one. Each drawer is in a dresser in a different room. This provides ample opportunity to move things from drawer to another, while working on gross and fine motor skills (opening, closing, picking up, walking, placing/throwing items).
I think my baby spent three months walking back and forth between the rooms just opening and closing the drawers. Be sure to keep an eye for safety reasons (climbing in) and for when your phone disappears (true story).
This unassuming rainbow wood stacking blocks is magical. At first, we didn’t know what to do with it. Soon, we figured out how to stack them, mix them with other toys, and create art pieces. Made in Germany of solid wood, this is a present that will last years.
Montessori Infant Coin Box
This teaches a baby about object permanence. Your little one is well on the way of understanding object permanence, this coin box helps reinforce that idea. If you want to be very budget friendly, grab a shoe box, cut a hole and use a few blocks. Baby will go nuts! If you are feeling inspired by Montessori education, check out my post on Montessori toys for 0-4 years old.
Dropping a ball and watching it go down tracks doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, unless you are a baby, then it is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER. When looking for ball runs, make sure you find one that is age appropriate for age 1+. Most ball runs are in fact marble runs, and they are not safe for babies. My favorite ball runs that are for one year and up (but please double check before buying) are the Hape Derby Track, HABA build your ball run, Battat – Pound & Roll tower, and the Hape Switchback Racer (age: 18 months+).
On the pricey side, magna tiles are awesome. Build in three dimension with triangles, rectangles, square, and trapezoids. A classic STEM/STEAM toy, your toddler, and their friends, will love these. For a budget friendly version, you can buy the off-brand tiles.
Large and easy for small hands, the Melissa and Doug knob puzzles are a great way to get your little one started on the world of puzzles. Teach them about matching, animals, and shapes. My kids got into them around 15 months even though they were introduced them at 10 months, it was mostly throwing at that age.