One of the hot gifts for the upcoming year among the natural/green toys enthusiasts is the Pile of People Puzzle. I have been seeing variations of this basic theme everywhere.
They are wooden puzzle pieces in the shape of little men and these particlar fellas hail from Down to Earth Toys which specializes in natural toys. I have seen natural finishes (like above) and dark wood ones with varnish. These particular ones are made from reclaimed wood and are rubbed with mineral oil. They also have numbers on them to give them an educational bent as well. There are 18 of these little men with numbers carved on their chests. They are high quality too and will not break easily. Gotta love solid wood ya know?
My little guy needs to work on his motor skills and his numbers too so this is a fun toy for him. Plus what boy doesn’t LOVE to build? Perhaps it is due to his delays but he is only just now starting to play pretend with toys so these guys talk to each other while they practice their piling skills, and that is always fun to watch. In addition to stacking them you can also use them like you would dominoes or turn them number side down and play memory with them. A burlap sack comes with them so that they can be stored when not in play.
These are an excellent and simple toy for children and they are really opened ended too. If you love wood toys and minimalist toys then these are a winner.
Much thanks to Down to Earth Toys for sending them our way for review!
Just had to share this awesome sale. Our fave board game Wildcraft is on sale for 50% off right now. Read my complete review to learn more about why we love this game!
Christmas is around the corner. Many of you are probably already making your lists and doing your shopping. Some may want to do a handmade holiday or a second hand holiday, others will use their dollars to “vote” for products/companies they like… we do a combination of all that usually. One thing I am VERY big on though is educational toys for special occasions like holidays and birthdays. I love toys that engage my kids and make them use their noggins. The best toys IMO either exercise their bodies or exercise their brains. Here are my top picks for educational toys when gifting children. Many of these are perfect or homeschool too!
Inchimals – These adorable wooden blocks double as rulers that help children understand measurements. What can you learn from a rabbit that is exactly four inches tall? These lovely tools are thoughtfully designed. You get 12 Inchimals in the set which measure 1′ in height (the tiny ladybug) to 12′ high (the towering giraffe). With precise inch segments, correct numbers, and dot equivalent on ends of blocks, and cute animals – this learning toy will engage as it teaches Ideal for children of various age ranges.
Animalogic – It’s a toy, a game, and a puzzle. It also won toy of the year honors in 2009. This puzzle/game that will have your children working their brains overtime to solve these wonderfully smart safari stumpers! Lions, hippos, giraffes and camels are all waiting to get to the other side of the river. The animals know they may only cross the river bridge one at a time and they must travel in the proper order to safely arrive at the other side. With sixty puzzles and five levels of difficulty (beginner to advanced), these logic puzzles have players solving the correct sequence to remove the sixteen wooden animals from the game board.
The Soda Bug Can – It’s a science project and a REALLY cool build it yourself toy. It also teaches about recycling in a practical and understandable way. What boy wouldn’t be thrilled with this?? This unique robotics project uses a recycled soda can that you provide and transforms it into a robotic bug toy. A vibration sensation, Robug emits sound and moves across the floor as soon as you switch it on. The kit includes a motor casing, toy motor, body plate, body rims, battery casing, four large screws with bolts, small screws, plastic terminal caps, wire legs and wings, detailed instructions with fun facts. I think I know one thing my ten year will be getting for Christmas this year! Also check out the Hexbug.
The SpellMaster – We have had this toy for a couple years now. Basically it is a platform for developing sequential memory skills, increasing memory span, improving letter recognition, and spelling simple to complex words. Kids also find it fun… trust me. Read my full review here.
The Money Set by Melissa and Doug – Okay I swore we have enough Melissa and Doug sets but I saw this and had to add it to my own list.. even if the coins probably are plastic. It seems downright perfect for helping kids to learn to count money and it can double as a toy when you aren’t using it for educational purposes. They can use it to play store, farmer’s market, lemonade stand, bank robbery, whatever… It is a great way to introduce your child to the concept of money and basic math skills. Parents can get involved and make up fun learning games to teach addition, subtraction, interest rates, counting back change and much more.
Coliseum Blocks by Haba – I LOVE these! We love history, architecture, and travel so this is a three for one deal! In classic Haba style, you can recreate the splendor of the Roman Coliseum! This block set allows you freedom in feats of architecture and engineering with unique pieces of the highest quality beech wood. These blocks sets by Haba would be an awesome way to teach geography in a fun way that kids will remember. Other sets include an Egyptian Pyramid, a Mayan Temple, and Ancient Greece.
Passport to Culture – This makes a great “family” gift and it is a GREAT way to teach about geography, history, and different cultures. And what kids don’t love to play board games? We love RISK as much as the next family but when we want more education and less violence then this is a good game to have. Passport to Culture is the unique, exciting multi-cultural board game where players circle the globe, uncovering mysteries of our amazing world. Test your knowledge of world cultures from Andorra to Zimbabwe. Challenge your CQ (Cultural Intelligence) with fascinating, fun-filled questions about people and places, food and drink, world treasures, greeting and gestures, pivotal historical events, customs and traditions. What you don’t know, you learn…
WWII Spotter Cards – A deck of cards makes a great gift, especially when you are a family that likes to play games. These cards are pretty cool because they are educational as well. Each card has the usual suit of course but also 3 different views with the name of friendly and enemy aircraft used in WWII. My oldest is a WWII history and military buff and would be over the moon for these. Another cool set my kids would like? These famous pirate cards. I think I want some of those myself.
Number Bean Bags – Great for smaller kiddos but also for older ones who are learning to spell the numbers and not just identify them… a great toy for many ages ranges. Each bean bag is embroidered with a number (1 to 20) on one side and its number word on the other. Even numbers are in blue and odd numbers are in red for easy identification. The bean bags come in a handy cloth storage bag with a “tip sheet” of beginning math activities for large and small groups, from number identification and counting to simple addition and subtraction. They also have shapes bean bags and alphabet bean bags.
Isn’t learning always better when you make it a game? And isn’t the gift of learning the best gift you can get or give?
Lately, my little guy has gotten into the habit of watching a bit too much TV now that the weather has turned cold. Since I am not big on making rules that will only empower the object in question (TV) I decided to bring a small table into our family room and give him alternative things to do. So far it is working like a charm! This coupled with morning hikes in the woods near our home is going to be a great way to keep him active and engaged before he goes to his afternoon therapy sessions.
This week he has been playing with Tegu Magnetic Wood Blocks. They are a bit easier for him to manage than our Citi Blocks or our Marble Run and yet they are still fun enough to engage my oldest boy too. My little guy likes them because the magnets help him to build structures and not have them fall over. He can easily spend an hour or two making different versions of “dinosaur homes” or houses for his moonstones (moms crystals). They definitely support open-ended and unscripted play, which is the best kind.
The wood is sustainably harvested making this an eco friendly toy as well. They have no lead, no plastic, and they are finished with a water-based lacquer. You get long planks, short, planks, and cubes and they are all magnetic so you can build structures that defy gravity. The discovery set has 26 blocks, which is perfect for my 4 year old. A bit more would be ideal for my older son though, and they do have bigger sets and add-on sets. The cost is prohibitive IMO though. A 52 piece Tegu Set costs $100. They are very high quality and the company behind the product seems solid so I think they are worth it but perhaps a bit unrealistic for the average green family. I think we will be more likely to stick with Citi Blocks or second hand blocks we find locally even if this set is very lovely.
Dominoes. Simple, fun, open ended, fast clean up, and very easy on the wallet, especially if you buy them up at auctions like me. ;)