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Best for Babies: Manhattan Toy Skwish Natural Rattle and Teether
This isn’t your traditional baby rattle In fact, this rather crazy looking contraption is a rattle and teether in one designed to get your baby’s attention and develop their motor skills. It’s made of undyed rubberwood, so there are no paints or dyes, and you don’t have to worry about potentially dangerous chemicals in plastic and other materials. It’s extra easy to grasp with lots of elastic bands, knobs and bars while balls rattle when they slide across the dowels. The coolest part of this toy, however, is in its name — Skwish, as it can be “skwished” down flat when you press down on it, before popping back into its original shape when released.
Babies will love to chew on it, but older kids will have fun rolling, rattling and skwishing it too. It makes a great gift for baby showers and other occasions when you want to give something a little different than traditional baby gear.
Best for Toddlers: Wooden Toys Stacking Train Blocks Pull Toy
All aboard! This stacking train block set is sure to deliver the fun and some learning to boot. It can be used as a pull toy (choo, choo!) to inspire adventures aplenty as they pull it through the house. It can also be used as a stacking toy to help teach colors, shapes and more. It comes with a train head, two carriages and 20 blocks in various shapes and colors that can be stacked on the train or off. They’re made of wood and brightly colored with non-toxic paint.
Recommended for ages 18 months to 6 years, it’s sturdy and designed for years of use.The price is right too, making it an affordable gift for the little conductor in your life.
Best Dollhouse: Crate & Barrel Brownstone Dollhouse Deluxe Set
There are dollhouses, and then there’s this amazing brownstone doll house set from Crate & Barrel that has us wanting to move in ASAP. It has major curb appeal with a front stoop and steps that look right off the streets of your favorite city. Inside is a designer's dream with six rooms, including beautifully appointed bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom.
To up the fun factor even more, there’s furniture and family that includes everyone from mom, dad, sister and brother to grandma and the pets. Made out of rubberwood and painted with water-based paint, this dollhouse is built for years of creative fun.
Recommended for ages three and up, it’s the stuff a little (or big) girl’s big-city dreams.
Best Blocks: Melissa & Doug Wooden Building Blocks Set
Blocks have been a staple in children’s play since the earliest days for a simple reason: Kids love them. This set from Melissa & Doug offers all the classic versatility of the toy but with the sturdy timelessness that wood provides. There are 200 pieces in this set for maximum building, stacking and knocking-down fun. They come in nine different shapes and four different colors (red, blue, yellow and green), so the sky's the limit when it comes to building options.
Not only do they inspire creative play and motor and spatial skills, but they can be used to teach shapes, colors, counting and more in a fun way.
Recommended for kids ages three to eight, the only limit to what they can do with these blocks is their imagination.
Best Wooden Ride-on Toy: Hape Scoot Around Ride On Wood Bike
Plastic and metal ride-on toys are all well and good, but we love this one that’s made of wood. Recommended for ages one to three, it’s driven by kid power. Their little legs get a workout as they push off the ground to make it go, so it’s great for keeping them active. Plus, it’s as cute as can be with its fresh, bright green (non-toxic) paint.
It’s great for outdoors, but can also be used indoors (don’t worry, it’s rubber wheels won’t scuff your floors) for days when going outside isn’t an inviting option. It’s also lightweight (just 5.6 pounds) so it’s easy to throw in your trunk to take to the park, grandma’s house or wherever you’re headed. Made of solid wood, it’s built to last for years of fun, zippy adventure.
Best Wooden Kitchen: Pottery Barn Kids Charlie Kitchen Collection
This wooden kitchen set is a recipe for fun! Instead of separate pieces, this set has all of the kitchen appliances needed to cook up their creations in one. Made from solid oak with fancy nickel hardware, it’s as sturdy as it is stylish.
It comes complete with a refrigerator, an oven with two burners and knobs that make realistic sounds.There’s also a sink with storage built in underneath to hold pots, pans and other kitchen essentials. It’s great for smaller spaces and measures 12" x 13" x 36". Recommended for ages three and up, little chefs will flip their lids for this set.
Best Puzzle: SainSmart Jr. Wooden Tetris Puzzle
Puzzling over what to get a kid for a gift? A puzzle is always a good choice, and this wooden brain teaser is sure to challenge them. It’s kind of like a non-electronic version of the classic Tetris video game. Instead of bleeping lights, though, this puzzle consists of 40 wooden pieces in five colors and a variety of shapes. The goal is to fit them together with no spaces to complete the puzzle. It sounds easier than it is though.
Designed for kids ages three to 10, it presents challenges a plenty as there’s more than one way to solve it. Just because they’ve solved it once, doesn’t mean they’ll solve it the next time. Made of beech wood and non-toxic paint, the puzzle is safe, sturdy and built to last for years of puzzling fun.
Best Tool Set: Melissa & Doug Wooden Project Solid Wood Workbench
Just like dad’s, this realistic-looking workbench and play building set will help kids get the job done. The job being fun, of course. The bench comes with five tools, including a hammer, saw, wrench, screwdriver and a working vice, as well as 55 wooden building pieces. Instructions are included to show kids how to transform those pieces into a robot, a vehicle and other cool items.
It stands about 20" high and is recommended for kids ages three to six. Made of solid pine, the bench is sturdy and can also be used for other activities including art projects, building Legos and playing games. A storage tray at the bottom of the bench holds projects and whatever else needs holding.
Best Rocking Horse: Hape Rock and Ride Kid's Wooden Rocking Horse
You can't get more classic than a wooden rocking horse. This one from the German company Hape has a simple design that won't be an eyesore when left out in the living room. It's recommended for children that are 10 months to three years old and gives them coordination skills as they learn to rock n' roll back and forth. The finish is non-toxic and child-safe so you feel comfortable knowing your little ones aren't around harmful materials.