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: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/made-in-usa-2/toy-list/) 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. PURE PLAY KIDS HAS GENEROUSLY EXTENDED THEIR 15% OFF COUPON CODE TO THIS GROUP FOR ANOTHER YEAR: ECO2017 FOR 15% OFF YOUR ORDER TOTAL!

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! https://store.tagtoys.com/age-c5.aspx. 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!)

STT: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/decor-accessories/blocks

Rattles:

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/rattles

Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Bannor Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/rattles

girafferattle

Giraffe Rattle from Smiling Tree Toys

Teethers-

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/search?type=product&q=teethers

Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Bannor Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/teethers

Natulo (organic fabric with pocket for ice) : http://www.natulo.com/Natulo-Natural-Teething/Natulo-Ice-Teether-Organic

Silicone, Life Factory: http://amzn.to/2rysSWm

natuloteethers

Cloth toys:

Organic ball: http://www.pureplaykids.com/colorful-organic-baby-ball/

Organic cotton snuggle star: http://www.pureplaykids.com/organic-cotton-stuffed-star-USA/

Stuffington Bear Factory: http://www.stuffingtonbear.com/

stuffington

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: http://amzn.to/2iUKxPB. 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: http://anatex.com/

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

Starter crayons:

Eco-Kids: http://shop.ecokidsusa.com/product/eco-crayons

Wee Can Too: https://weecantooart.com/product/natural-and-organic-veggie-crayons/

Paint: Earth Paints are our favorite- my kids love that they mix them up themselves: http://www.naturalearthpaint.com/

earthpaints

Play Dough, Blue Egg Farmstore is our favorite: http://www.blueeggfarmstore.com/product-page/becef3cc-5cdc-6ace-1a59-b1d09e53df00

Pure Play Kids: I’ll just link to their category for this, so much fun stuff. The Sand Art Kits are super fun! http://www.pureplaykids.com/arts-crafts/

These are a lot of fun, from Pure Play Kids: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wax-fun-sticks-5-pack/

Art easel: beka http://www.bekainc.com/buy/01102-01110/bekas-deluxe-childs-easel This is all I own from them, but they have many great items!

beka

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: http://amzn.to/2iJuyUc

Crayons: http://amzn.to/2jodLaX, also available in neon: http://amzn.to/2jzEIuy

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: https://www.palumba.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=chalk

BATH:

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: http://www.greentoys.com/green-toys-bath-and-water

And on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2iJGYf7

North Star has this wooden boat: http://www.northstartoys.com/products/busy-boat

Ducky: http://shop.celebriducks.com/category_s/37.htm

1002-2t

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- http://amzn.to/2iX6DVY

I Spy Matching Game- http://amzn.to/1Gqar3F

Doc McStuffins Operation Game (yes, it is annoying….): http://amzn.to/1F50oUp

ispy&operation.jpg

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: https://www.lostmy.name/

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: http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/block-sets

Bannor: https://bannortoys.com/collections/wooden-blocks

Bricks: http://amzn.to/2iJLz0L

Doll house: Here’s a photo album of what we have: https://www.facebook.com/397517646930548/photos/?tab=album&album_id=868582543157387

Furniture, TAG Toys: https://store.tagtoys.com/dollhouse-furniture-set-p58.aspx

We have this one from Elves & Angels, other options available through them as well: http://elvesandangels.com/collections/dollhouses/products/new-natural-wooden-our-maine-dollhouse-by-elves-and-angels

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 https://www.wildflowertoys.com/

wildflowerdollslineup

DOLLS:

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)http://www.pureplaykids.com/handmade-organic-doll-happy-hexagons/

oriondoll

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: https://www.etsy.com/listing/475582576/little-mama-baby-doll-carrier-doll?ref=hp_rv

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 http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Magnetic: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

We also have Pure Plays magnetic fishing set, and the extra fish & numbers: http://www.pureplaykids.com/magnetic-wooden-fishing-rod-with-5-magnetic-fish/

Kitchen stuff:

If I were purchasing new I’d go with Elves & Angels: http://elvesandangels.com/collections/wooden-kitchens

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

woodenkitchen

Wooden eggs: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-toy-play-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: http://www.greentoys.com/green-toys-kitchen-play

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: http://amzn.to/2iJzVD3

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: https://www.etsy.com/people/KidsKitchenKreations

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: http://growingcooks.com/

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: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/wooden-lacing-tracing-toy-set

Holgate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Lacing-Products_c_12.html

TAG: https://store.tagtoys.com/lace-and-learn-p90.aspx

lacingpuzzle

Make-up:

Blue Egg Farmstore: http://www.blueeggfarmstore.com/play

Marble run:

Tedco, I love the creativity this inspires, we play with this a lot! http://amzn.to/2ims4Pa

Memory matching tiles:

http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/memory-matching-tile-game

https://bannortoys.com/search?q=memory

Misc:

Smiling Tree Toys Misc toys (we have several items, the moon balancer, camera, penguin bowling, wands, tops, lacing puzzle): http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/toys

Bannor Toys Misc Toys: https://bannortoys.com/collections/wooden-toys

Green Toys, we own many items from them:

greentoys

Dressup- we have superhero capes & crowns from here: http://www.pureplaykids.com/search.php?mode=search&page=1

Building logs- Roys toys, they come in different sets, here’s one: http://amzn.to/2ihb1O2

Music:

Drums: Remo Djembe and Doumbek are manufactured in the US: http://www.remo.com/portal/products/5/505/remokids.html

Xylophone, Smiling Tree (we have this): http://smilingtreetoys.com/collections/toys/products/wooden-xylophone

Xylophone, Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/metal-wood-xylophone-for-kids/

Ukulele, Pure Play Kids (we have this): http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-ukulele-for-kids/

Palumba has a variety of items, I don’t own any but they have a LOT of cool stuff in general! https://www.palumba.com/books-music/music-instruments/instruments.html

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: http://www.dcstoneware.com/

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: http://www.wildapples.com/piggybanks.htm

Pounding table:

Holgate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Classic-Bingo-Bed_p_41.html

Pull/push toys:

Hogate: http://www.holgatetoy.com/Ducking-Duck_p_171.html

Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/spinning-blocks-wooden-pull-toy/

Pure Play: http://www.pureplaykids.com/wooden-mower-vacuum-push-toy-rainbow/

Smiling Tree: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/animal-puzzle-pull-toy

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

Smiling Tree now has name puzzles: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/wooden-name-puzzle

The Puzzle People: http://www.puzzlepeople.com/  (we have several, I LOVE them!)

turtlepuzzlepeople

Portrait Puzzles: https://www.portraitpuzzles.com/home.php (they make great gifts!)

TAG: https://store.tagtoys.com/i-can-spell-alphabet-puzzle-p87.aspx

Shape Sorter:

Smiling Tree Toys: http://smilingtreetoys.com/products/shape-sorter

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: https://www.maplelandmark.com/detail.lasso?sku=11240

It’s currently available cheaper via Pure Play Kids actually, and sometimes it’s on Amazon for cheaper: http://www.pureplaykids.com/complete-train-track-and-town/

Name train: https://www.maplelandmark.com/nametrains/brightcolornames.lasso

traintracks

___________________________________________________________________

Summer fun:

Pure Play Kids has several great things for this category, we have their shell collecting bags, beach stamps, butterfly nets & bug house: http://www.pureplaykids.com/all-outdoor-fun/

Green Toys sand castle set (very durable plastic!): http://amzn.to/2icvBzd

Green Toys Watering can: http://amzn.to/2hRty0q

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. http://amzn.to/2iJRdjk

________________________________________________________________

Easter: This is an older note of mine with some good suggestions: https://ecofriendlymamausa.com/2013/03/05/made-in-usa-easter-basket-ideas/

easter16

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.

17904169_10155240335504297_1419753483184788747_n

__________________________________________________________________

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: https://imaginechildhood.com/products/our-book-imagine-childhood?variant=5201618820

–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. https://imaginechildhood.com/products/natural-maple-ring-toss-game?variant=5201530500

–A very simple yet fun toy, glider plane: https://imaginechildhood.com/products/jetfire-glider-twin-pack?variant=5201431492

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: https://imaginechildhood.com/products/my-first-opinel-no7-scouts-folding-knife?variant=27121841928

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! https://www.maplelandmark.com/detail.lasso?sku=50303

—Mental Aerobics: https://www.maplelandmark.com/detail.lasso?sku=50220

–Made by me box set, he really enjoyed this: https://www.maplelandmark.com/detail.lasso?sku=78250

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: http://www.pureplaykids.com/sand-art-kit-fantasy-shapes/

–Mighty Mind brain puzzles, he loves puzzles, so do I: http://www.pureplaykids.com/mighty-minds-brain-teaser-puzzles/

________________________________________________________________________________

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!

%d bloggers like this: