Toy Recommendations by Category

Finding fun, safe, made in USA toys was what started me on my mission almost 5 years ago now! I was shopping for my Son’s 1st B-day & picked up a Melissa & Doug toy after seeing them recommended over & over in the “crunchy” Mom groups I was in on Facebook. I saw that Made in China sticker & it just didn’t sit well with me. I was in a store FULL of Melissa & Doug stuff. I thought: there has got to be great toys made in the USA still, right? And the great news is YES THERE ARE! My Son is going to be turning 6 soon, my daughter is 3, and I can say that it has not been difficult at all to find plenty of fabulous made in USA options for every Holiday & celebration along the way. I wanted to break my Safe Toys Master List down a bit (found here: and share some of my specific favorites, including popular categories such as art, dollhouse & kitchen play.

A general note: My 2 all-time favorite toy vendors are Smiling Tree Toys (STT) & Pure Play Kids (PPK). As you’ll see below we own a lot of toys from them. They’re my 1st stop, and I often accomplish most of my toy shopping through them. My kids are starting to outgrow STT, I love that PPK has a shop by age function, ends at 6+. It helps narrow it down, as they have so much to choose from.

***NOTE: I purchased Pure Play Kids in 2018. I ditched the old website and created a new one, so all the links to Pure Play items no longer work. Until I get a chance to update those, please just come to my site and search by category or key word:

Personalization- My advice is to avoid it in general. One benefit to investing in great quality, made in the USA toys is that you can pass them along to other friends/family or sell when your family is done with them. I’ve not had any trouble recovering ½ of my cost on items I’ve sold after we’re done with them. But, if they have a name on them, that limits your market a lot, especially since a lot of us have pretty unique names for our kids. My kids both have a few personalized items, but generally I do avoid it.

I was going to organize my list by age, but it really varies so much by kid. What one 2 year old loves, the next 4 year old may love. I tend to buy things for my kids a bit earlier than they’re ready for it, but I’d rather have it for them sooner than later & they can grow into it (as long as it’s safe with no small parts). TAG Toys also has a shop by age function that goes up to 6, I don’t own much from them but they have a lot of fun stuff & I need to remember to check them out more! Of course Etsy has a TON of options too. I’ve just come around to shopping on Etsy recently. A separate project I’m working on is an Etsy favorites list that’ll I’ll be asking for recommendations from y’all for. With so many vendors available, it’s nice to have personal recommendations.

I wanted to share some of the toys I’ve grown to love. These are all things we own or if it’s something I’m aware of as it’s been a FAQ I’ve added it. This includes popular categories such as pull toys, etc, that we don’t necessarily own items in. If you’re looking for something in particular, never hesitate to ask, even if I don’t own it, I’m likely able to point you in the right direction as I’ve clicked around a lot in many of these sites.

Recommendations for babies:

Keepsake Block: (these make a great gift!)



Smiling Tree Toys:

Pure Play Kids:

Bannor Toys:


Giraffe Rattle from Smiling Tree Toys


Smiling Tree Toys:

Pure Play Kids:

Bannor Toys:

Natulo (organic fabric with pocket for ice) :

Silicone, Life Factory:


Cloth toys:

Organic ball:

Organic cotton snuggle star:

Stuffington Bear Factory:


Organic polar bear from Stuffington Bear Factory


Older Kids: I’m going to call this the 2-6 year old recommendations. These are things that we own/have owned to date.

Activity Cube we have this one from Anatex: It is not solid wood, the walls of the cube are plywood, but that doesn’t concern me. I consider this to be a safe & great option for this category. My daughter got this for her 2nd B-day & is still playing with it at 3.5. They have many different options, this is one of the cheapest ones, they get pricy. They state this, so I’d double check what you’re purchasing is made in the USA: We manufacture almost all of our items in the USA! Here’s their website:

Art & projects My kids are SO into fun projects & arts/crafts. Below are some of the things we enjoy:

Starter crayons: Eco-Kids:

Wee Can Too:

Paint: Earth Paints are our favorite- my kids love that they mix them up themselves:


Play Dough, Blue Egg Farmstore is our favorite:

Pure Play Kids: I’ll just link to their category for this, so much fun stuff. The Sand Art Kits are super fun!

These are a lot of fun, from Pure Play Kids:

Art easel: beka This is all I own from them, but they have many great items!


On the Beka Easel, we did get the big roll of paper with it when we received it as a gift for Christmas 2015 (pictured above). But I’ve not replaced it since we used it up, as I am as conservative as possible with paper usage. I’ve grown to love Crayola’s dry erase crayons & colored pencils instead of markers, they don’t stink. I believe both are made in Mexico. I’ve not found a better option for the dry erase category.

Colored Pencils:

Crayons:, also available in neon:

Chalk: My Mom, who bought the kids the Beka easel, gifted some large chalk sticks that came in a plastic holder kinda thing with the easel. They lasted a really long time  & I liked that they were big & fat as it made them easy to grip & they didn’t break right away like the small chalk can. But I’m not sure which brand they were, she likely got them at Wal-Mart, I’ve not seen them since. I’ve been meaning to buy more chalk from here:


Green Toys is a safe plastic option, in my opinion. It’s BPA, PVC & Phthalate-free. We have the submarine, tugboat, stacking cups, and watering can. Available through them here:

And on Amazon:

North Star has this wooden boat:



Board Games: Hasboro makes many games here, some may say with foreign & domestic parts. We played a ton of Candyland & have now graduated to Chutes & Ladders/

We own these 2 from Briarpatch:

Goodnight Moon matching-

I Spy Matching Game-

Doc McStuffins Operation Game (yes, it is annoying….):


BOOKS: We have a ridiculous amount of books, mainly I pick them up at garage sales. I LOVE the Lost my Name books, they are printed in the US although the company is based in the UK I believe. I’m not sure all their books are printed here though:

Little Golden books are still printed in WI! And a friend’s Uncle works for them & has gifted us a ton of them. Otherwise, we have a total hodge podge & they are all well loved!

Building Blocks:

Smiling Tree Toys:



Doll house: Here’s a photo album of what we have:

Furniture, TAG Toys:

We have this one from Elves & Angels, other options available through them as well:

Dolls, we have several from here. The family, the royal family, kindness elves, birthday month dolls. I LOVE everything she makes & had to cut myself off



We have this one & the Ziggy zaggy one from Pure Play Kids. I asked them why they didn’t have a boy doll & they did make one & name it after my son: Orion. But it was only available a short time & the lady who sewed them was no longer able to. Ziggy Zaggy & Flower Girl (as my kids have named them, are still available)


I let my Mom buy my daughter a Baby Alive doll for Christmas. Yes, I know… Her cousin has one & she really, really wanted one. All her other dolls are random grabs from garage sales, Good Will, etc. I was OK with her receiving this as a gift, and picked out some fun accessories to go along with it:

I got her this adorable doll carrier from Etsy:

And a Mama in the group made a set of 3 cloth diapers & a pack of cloth wipes for her doll (the disposable diapers used on Baby Alive’s drive me bonkers!). I do believe in moderation, and variety, and my kids are quite rough with their toys as many end up outdoors in the mud pit with them. So spending a couple hundred bucks on a Waldorf cloth doll just isn’t feasible for us.

Felt & magnetic boards:

Pure Play Kids: felt


We also have Pure Plays magnetic fishing set, and the extra fish & numbers:

Kitchen stuff:

If I were purchasing new I’d go with Elves & Angels:

I was so lucky to score this used set locally for only $200:


Wooden eggs:

We have several things from Green Toys: sandwich & pizza shop, just added the cupcake set for Christmas this year, the tea, dish & chef set as well! In the summer my kids set up an outdoor kitchen & I love how durable & washable Green Toys items are! Here’s a link to them directly:

All items available on Amazon too, and many have seen sales in their local TJ Maxx, etc. Here’s an Amazon link to get you started there:

We added some felt food this X-mas, and I will definitely be getting more from here. Etsy is FULL of felt kitchen food. As I mentioned above though, it is one area I don’t mind having some safe plastic in our otherwise all wooden kitchen set-up, as it is so durable. We have the breakfast platter so far:

We have oven mitts from here, I got my niece a personalized chef hat for her B-day, lots of cute & fun stuff including aprons:

For accessories they have a hodge podge. Some Green Toys as I listed above, an unused stainless fondue pot of mine, misc stainless whisks, etc.

Lacing toys-

Smiling Tree Toys:





Blue Egg Farmstore:

Marble run:

Tedco, I love the creativity this inspires, we play with this a lot!

Memory matching tiles:


Smiling Tree Toys Misc toys (we have several items, the moon balancer, camera, penguin bowling, wands, tops, lacing puzzle):

Bannor Toys Misc Toys:

Green Toys, we own many items from them:


Dressup- we have superhero capes & crowns from here:

Building logs- Roys toys, they come in different sets, here’s one:


Drums: Remo Djembe and Doumbek are manufactured in the US:

Xylophone, Smiling Tree (we have this):

Xylophone, Pure Play:

Ukulele, Pure Play Kids (we have this):

Palumba has a variety of items, I don’t own any but they have a LOT of cool stuff in general!

Piggy Banks- I got my kids both one from here, the same lady that makes the plug-in wax warmers I sell via the buying club. I don’t see any listed currently but you could write her to ask for one:

piggy bank.jpg

Someone in the group let me know they got their kids one from here, a vendor on my Safe Toys List that I’ve not shopped from yet:

Pounding table:


Pull/push toys:


Pure Play:

Pure Play:

Smiling Tree:

Puzzles- huge category of course! Puzzles are favorites in our house!

Smiling Tree now has name puzzles:

The Puzzle People:  (we have several, I LOVE them!)


Portrait Puzzles: (they make great gifts!)


Shape Sorter:

Smiling Tree Toys:

Train tracks: Bought for Son’s 3rd B-day, almost 6 now & both play with it often. I love that you can add on to. I’ve given add-on’s for recent B-days.

Maple Landmark:

It’s currently available cheaper via Pure Play Kids actually, and sometimes it’s on Amazon for cheaper:

Name train:



Summer fun:

Pure Play Kids has several great things for this category, we have their shell collecting bags, beach stamps, butterfly nets & bug house:

Green Toys sand castle set (very durable plastic!):

Green Toys Watering can:

Water Table: We have a Little Tikes one. It’s made in the USA of foreign & domestic parts. I know the accessories are definitely made in China, I did send one in to MisLead in a package of random things I sent her & it came back free of lead & other heavy metals which was good news. We improvised our own accessories, peg people & random things. My kids have enjoyed this a couple of summers now. Yes, it’s plastic but short of making something yourself, there aren’t many other viable options for this category. Step2 also has similar options.


Easter: This is an older note of mine with some good suggestions:


Easter 2016 consisted of:  Hand kites made by former page co-admin Jolene, wooden egg paint kit from Earth Paints (where we got our egg dye kit also), Easter matching tiles, and 2 other word/picture matching games from Bannor Toys, and they each got a personalized bunny wand from Bannor also, Repositionable Stickers from Pure Play Kids (made by Mrs. Grossman’s), foaming bath paints & scented play dough from Blue Egg Farmstore, Bunny teethers from Smiling Tree Toys (they each received their 1st Easter, now I make them part of their annual basket as I will the bunny wands). They got NO candy from me, we went to a fabulous egg hunt yesterday hosted by my friend who had 300 eggs for 15 kids to find, filled with almost exclusively organic candy. Fun, fun, and more fun!

Easter 2017: I did this X3 for my 2 kiddos & my niece: A hat from Urban Baby Bonnets, Sand Kits from ArtiSands (via Pure Play Kids), Surf Sweets jelly beans, Simply Gum, Poofy Organics lotion stick, bath bomb, lip balm, LuSa Organics bar soap, Blue Egg Farmstore slime, foaming scented soap, moldable soap.



Going forward, I will do my best to log what I get my kiddos for their Xth B-day, Easter, Christmas…

My Son’s 6th B-day: 3/14/17 

Imagine Childhood– a new to me company as of a couple months ago, this was my 1st order & I’m definitely happy with the items I picked out:

–A book written by the owners of the site: Imagine Childhood. It has a bunch of great ideas for outdoor projects:

–Maple Ring Toss Game. This is actually made by Beka (in MN, we have their art easel) but I had a 15% off coupon from this vendor for signing up for their newsletter, so added it to this order. We have had a lot of fun with this game. It’s basic yet fun & challenging, and compact to take camping, to a friend’s house, etc.

–A very simple yet fun toy, glider plane:

And finally, this is made in France, and when my Hubby saw my Son open it he said: you got him an Opinel! Yes, I got him his 1st knife. And yes they do make serious, quality knives, but this is definitely an age-appropriate, beginner knife:

Maple Landmark– I originally gifted him their town train set for his 3rd B-day, and have been adding on bits & pieces ever since. This year, in addition to adding some more bridges, arch support, puddle jumpers, I got the following items from them:

–Chinese Checkers in Maple. We received their regular checkers board as a gift for his 5th B-day. We’re still learning the ropes of the Chinese Checkers!

—Mental Aerobics:

–Made by me box set, he really enjoyed this:

Pure Play Kids–  I ordered several of these Sand Art kits which we just loooove. My Son got a new one for his B-day & I also got extras for the Easter baskets of my daugher, son & niece. These are so, so fun!

–Sand Art Kit:

–Mighty Mind brain puzzles, he loves puzzles, so do I:


Conclusion: Do we own some things made outside of the USA? Yes, we do. I mentioned the Baby Alive doll above. I’m not 100% hardcore on not allowing anything not made here into my house. For example, my Son really, really wanted some transformers for Christmas & I did buy him some, he loves them, and I’m fine with it. For the 1st few years, I absolutely recommend sticking with safe, minimal, wooden toys, and it’s easily doable. Now, at 6 I’m more lenient with what he plays with as it’s not going in his mouth. At 6 he’s really into mazes, connect dots, art projects, making stews & potions in his kitchen & transformers. I can say, when I look around my house, there are very few items not made in the USA, and that makes me very happy! I hope you’ve found this list helpful & I will continue to add to it as my kids grow!

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