The Holiday Wooden Toy Gift Guide

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.

Jen’s Pretty Pegs

It’s ridiculous how cute these peg dolls are. You can buy ready made peg people or have Jen custom make dolls to look like you. Exclamation point!

The Blockbuster Brands of Wooden Toys

Grapat – Made in Spain

Gluckskafer

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.

Happy Tree Store

You guessed it, they sell wooden trees. Different shapes and sizes and colors, pair them with wooden blocks, a cityscape or roadway, and the kids are good to go.

The Wood Pecker Factory, based in Romania, also sells a variety of wooden tree toys and wooden animals that have a striking resemblance to a certain German brand.

Myers Natural Rainbows

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

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.

outside everywhere

A made in the USA shop, outside everywhere features lots of different wooden animals. Some are highly detailed in painting while others are simplistic. You’ll find favorites for sure.

White Stork Wood


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.

Lapps Toys

Want a ball run that is made from wood AND made in the USA? Look towards Amish country and you’ll hit the spot.

Russian Nesting Dolls – ROSTOK Toys

Paint your own Russian Nesting Dolls. These are beautiful and are worth the price tag and the shipping. I have a couple sets and love them…now to just finish painting them!

Star and Moon Stacker – Timber Wolf Concepts

Teaching children how to balance, this stacker will delight little ones (2+ years old). Made in the USA wooden toys.

Wood Toy Car – Timber Wolf Concepts

From the same toymakers as the star stacker, these wooden cars are handmade and perfect for little roadways.

Weather Peg Dolls

There are several peg people artists on Etsy that make weather inspired dolls. My favorite designs are from Artistically Playful, Goodfaith Toys, Daniellasunflower, BettySkyla.

Daniella Sunflower
Goodfaith Toys
Betty Skyla Toys on Etsy
Artistically Playful weather gnomes on Etsy

Wooden Animals

wooden dinosaurs with magnets

wooden vegetables



More toys to be added to the list!

Hinduism, Swastikas, and Children

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.

My Pop of Color Indian Maternity Photo Shoot

I am excited to share with you my maternity part II photo shoot! We did the first maternity photo shoot two years ago at The Lighthouse at Glen Cove. It’s this secret historic house on the water in Benicia/Vallejo, California, right in the East Bay.

Because we are one part determined and one part crazy, we had a smash cake first birthday photo shoot at the SAME beautiful venue a year later. We wore the same clothes and had similar look to the first session.

And two years after the baby #1, wed planned and executed another photo shoot, for baby #2!
I have some amazing friends and wedding professional colleagues which most definitely helps. Together we put together an elegant and uncomplicated maternity session.

Let me tell you doing a three year time base photo shoot is crazy but absolutely worth it. I wrote about how to plan a time series of family photos successfully here if you want to know more.

Tami Weis of Fancy Fig Photography photographed us for the second year in a row. She is a San Francisco Marin county based wedding and family photographer – and oomph, dare I saw her photos are stunning.

When it comes yearly photo shoots, simple elegance is your best friend. For decor, Nicole at Lifted Balloons (based in Martinez, California) provided the happy and large bubble balloons with tassels. She matched the balloons to my lehenga outfit – magenta and navy blue. Her work is lovely and durable because the streamers today hang in my children’s room.


To glam up – because you’re a mom-to-be and deserve professional care love, I worked with my good friend Timsi Malhotra. She’s a professional wedding makeup artist and just is darling. So lovely, you want to just squeeze her.


We wanted the light and airy makeup look, but not overly traditional maternity style. That is Timsi to the T! She can give you ethereal look but still have the Indian desi glam.

For mehendi I worked with Sabreena at Ritual by Design in San Francisco. You cannot go wrong with her artistry.

I’m going to stop talking and let you fall in love with the photos. Be sure to see our photos from baby #1 and the smash cake. You’re going to love our same same outfits!

How I Ended Up Crying in the Middle of a Grocery Story Parking Lot

Last night turned into one of those nights that that you don’t believe could get worse but ends up getting worse.

I was called from daycare in the late afternoon because kiddo had a big accident. It all over the floor because it (the poop) leaked from his shorts. He was so beside himself that he ran into the bathroom crying. When I arrived, the mess from the floor was cleaned up but he was still in the bathroom – he wouldn’t let daycare mom touch him.

I got him partially cleaned and we came home and showered. Spirits improved and the three of us had a nice dinner of rice and dal (simple but tasty and nutritious). After dinner, kiddo was excited to go grocery shopping to get the rabbits’ food.

For a grocery store experience with two little ones, it was easy peasy. Kiddo snacked on green beans and an apple. Sister was smiling to everyone she met. No crying, yelling, or otherwise meltdowns we associate the grocery store and baby+toddler. The gods were on our side!

Hahaha, not so fast.

Once finished with shopping, we packed up baby into the car seat and then kiddo into his car seat. All of a sudden we heard “blurp blurp”. We looked over at sister, she had thrown up all over herself, the car seat, and the car. There was food everywhere.

In typical toddler style, my son says, “it’s a mess. my car is a mess! we need to clean this is.” Yes babe, we do. And no, I don’t know what’s wrong with sister.

Pulled baby and seat out of the car, then opened the trunk of the car. Kiddo climbed in and said, “me stay here. no car hit me.” Good idea.

There we were, cleaning baby’s car seat in the middle of the parking lot at the grocery store. She was on the ground with a nice coating today’s and yesterday’s food.

In typical parent style I didn’t have wipes, though we surprisingly had a roll of paper towels and an old bottle of water. Cleanup the old fashioned way. And the irony that the we were 100 feet from the doors of the grocery store wasn’t lost on me. The grocery store was this tantalizing night club you just couldn’t get access to.

In all the cleaning up, I was bummed out. I feel alone. Nobody stopped to help or speak to me. At least 30 people passed us by. One lady stopped by and handed me a box of tissues and said, “I’ve been there”, then walked off.

But in a parking lot full of people, I was alone with a 3 year old and puked up 8 month baby. Everyone was in their own world, perhaps staring at their grocery lists or looking at Instagram – too busy to stop by and say, “hey, let me help you mom.”

It was lonely. And depressing.

We pushed on, the three musketeers. I got baby cleaned up and back in the car seat. Kiddo was happy she was looking better. We went back to our usual banter of the color of cars. Slowly driving out of the parking lot, I hear “blurp blurp” again. I call out to kiddo and he says, “baby threw up again. no good baby.”

She vomited. Again.

Drove the car back into a parking space. Baby is giggling the whole time (puking is fun?!) and brother says, “no more throw up baby. Me is here, it’s okay. Me is here.” For all that he is, he is loving brother.

This time after pulling out the car seat and cleaning up even more vomit, I had tears. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I felt lonely that the world goes by and doesn’t look at you. Perhaps because I didn’t know why baby was throwing up again. Was she sick? Is the constipation making her vomit? Is she eating the wrong foods? Who knows.

I was somewhat lucky that my husband arrived to the local BART train station after the second vomit. He met us at the grocery store and took care of the rest of cleanup. Even though it was 45 minutes after vomiting first began, I wasn’t alone anymore.

If anything from this experience I learned that if you see a mother in need or looking upset, help her out. STOP. Go see what she needs, a couple minutes of your time would mean the world to her. It’s okay to put your phone away and look at the world.

Because you don’t want to end up crying in the parking lot of the grocery store.

3 Tips to Survive an International Trip with a Toddler and Newborn

That’s right folks, how do you survive traveling with a toddler and newborn across the world? You don’t.

Just kidding! You can travel with babies and toddlers but you need a few tips. And a lot of drinks. Hahaha.

#1 Think positively – This may sound like a bunch of juju, but you are going to make it to the destination. There maybe a lot of crying, screaming, and wondering why you choose to torture yourself, but you and the kids will reach the final destination and hotel in one piece. Take a deep breath and know you are embarking on an experience together – that is priceless.

#2 Entertain & Food
– Depending on the age of your kids, you can provide them with some entertainment. On long distance flights this may mean a lot of toys and creative ideas, short haul flights have it easy. Pack toys and books that your kids like and are light weight. Younger toddlers do well with magnets, stickers, washi tape, and lightweight books. Older toddlers can do sticker books, Duplos, dolls, cars and other imaginative play.

Pack snacks! Lots of good snacks. Don’t bring out the candy and junk food because the last thing you need is a hyperactive toddler. Pack Cheerios (puffs), small sandwich bites, non-juicy fresh fruit like bananas, blueberries, cut apples, rice crackers, cheese sticks, pouches, water bottle and milk.

#3 Give yourself a break – There will be meltdowns. You will cry, the children will cry, everyone will cry. It’s okay. Hang tight. Breathe (see tip #1!). Eat an extra chocolate for yourself. Have a drink. Don’t enforce all the rules you have at home, though please don’t be the parent who puts headphones on and ignores the kids. When you reach your destination, take a hot shower. You deserve it – love yourself.

I hate the cliche that “you can do it!” because traveling across the continent, the Pacific, the Atlantic on a plane with young ones is terrifying. All I can say is, you are not alone.