Every since my little guy grew old enough to really appreciate his toys, I have had to restrain my every impulse not to purchase all the items in the Melissa and Doug collection. While they're not all made in America or by old European men who sit at ancient wooden desks and hand pain each toy with careful precision (yes, somehow this is the image I've conjured into my head), the majority of M & D's stuff is solid wood. There is very little plastic, and not much in the way of batteries and bells and whistles. Almost all of the toys would provide interest for a child for many years, and the fact that they're well-made means they hold up well. I'll be the first to admit that they're not the cheapest toys on the block, but for my money I'm so happy that A has a modest collection of toys that encourage his intellectual development and foster creativity, without lots of cool sounds and special features. Don't get me wrong-there are great benefits to some of those toys, and when I get around to writing a new "toddler essentials" post, I'll probably even include some of them. I just like the idea of toys that make him "work a little harder", so to speak. Here are some of our favorites:
Deluxe Pound and Roll Tower. We've had the tower since before A turned 1, and he's always had fun with it. When he was really little, he liked the feel of the balls and hearing them clatter down into the tower (which we had to orchestrate). Now, he's a total pro, calling the balls out by color and asking for his "hammer."
Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks. We haven't had these blocks very long, but I imagine we'll be playing with them for quite some time. There are gorgeous, brightly colored pictures of different animals on every side of each block, and A likes to identify them before toppling the tower I've built for him. So far, he's not so keen on actually building towers, only throwing mine down. A little warning here: the blocks, being made of wood, do not have baby-friendly softened edges. They're HARD. If your toddler is really rambunctious, as mine can be, you have to keep a close eye on them while they're playing so as to avoid bumps and bruises.
Stamp and Sort Mailbox. We purchased the mailbox for A at Christmas, and it was BY FAR the most popular gift of the holidays. It contains six solid wooden "letters" of varying thicknesses, which can be inserted into the matching slots of the mailbox. There have been a few occasions wherein A has given into his toddler frustration of not selecting the proper slot for each letter, but for the most part, he loves it. He likes to tell me that he's sending mail to his cousin L.
Vehicles. There are lots of great vehicles in the collection, perfect for little toddler hands pushing around the floor all day long. We love the garbage truck, and this cargo carrier has been a huge hit with A.
Puzzles. Oh, the puzzles! There are veritable mountains to choose from, and because they're fairly affordable, it's hard for me to keep from buying a new one every time we stop at our favorite toy store. I've managed to rein myself in, however, and kept A's collection to a manageable 7-8 puzzles, neatly stored in a wire M & D puzzle rack, of course. The one pictured is a big favorite these days. A likes to dump the puzzle out and "pretend" to fit a piece into every single slot on the board, saying "Not that one!" until he finds the right slot, announcing "That's better." Love that kid :)