gift guide : toys

I’ve always chosen to buy quality over quantity when it comes to toys. In my opinion, children are more likely to play when presented with a small collection of beautiful toys as opposed to a room full of loud and bright plastic. When it came time to compile this list I considered the toys that have transcended time, age and gender; the toys that I have never once regretted buying.

This year I’ve grouped the toys into categories – everything from dolls and cars to puzzles and products that will help your child gain new skills. Hopefully you’re inspired!

If you’re unsure how much to buy, I always recommend following the golden rule of:

something I want, something I need, something to wear, something to read

1. Play Kitchen : a forever gift that will inspire hours of creative play, this two-way kitchen (stovetop on one side, sink on the other) is one of the most beautiful on the market. Kitchen play is intriguing to watch and frankly, children never tire of it. They mimic, create, imagine and gain practical kitchen skills. A range of accessories are available – enamel cooking set, dustpan and brush, stainless steel kettle, floral saucepans – and are wonderful gifts to “add on” over the years. We have the Moulin Roty stove which is still going strong five years after we first bought it and Plan Toys and Le Toy Van offer smaller and more economical options. And if the kitchen needs to turn into a cafe? A cash register is a good idea.

2. Tea Set : if you don’t want to go for the entire kitchen set-up know that a quality tea set is, quite simply, just as good. I really love the wooden set from Plan Toys (find the original design here and the new design here) but Poet recently received a melamine set which is pretty, delicate and perfect for sipping tea with the pinky finger raised (I appreciate that it comes in a storage container, too).

3. Balance Bike : Poet received the Wishbone Balance Bike* for her third birthday. Made by a small NZ company, this heirloom bike is three-in-one and will grow with your child – from toddler to age six or seven. You can accesorise with a personal name plate, seat cover, stickers and handlebars. If you’re after a great helmet, you can’t go wrong with Nutcase.

4. Scooter : we love Globber – the scooters that grow with your child. Practical and joyful, scooters are light and easy to fit in the car (or on public transport) so taking them to the park, the esplanade or the local skate park is easy. The recently released 4-in-1 is a great option for little ones and I highly recommend the MyFreeUp for pre-schoolers and the MyToo for older kids.

5. Stacking Toys : construct and play with the stacking rainbow (a favourite in our house that just yesterday was played with by the eight-year-old, the four-year-old and the baby). Each arch easily becomes a bowl for a toy skateboard, a bridge, a river, a seesaw, a tunnel, a road, a cubbyhouse….endless play options. Stacking toys really are the most useful things you can get your children because they easily lead to many different play opportunities. There’s a brilliant range of stacking and building toys over here that are bound to encourage colour recognition and shape awareness and inspire endless imaginings. And if you want something bigger to inspire fabulous play, the wooden treehouse is a beautiful option.

6. Lego : you can’t go past duplo and lego – those colourful blocks are fun, yes, but they also provide fabulous opportunity to develop fine motor skills, patience and problem solving ability. Percy is already playing with our duplo sets and Poet is just starting to gravitate towards the Lego…she’ll sit with Che and watch him build and then give it a go by herself. As for the bag in the picture up there? It’s a Brikbag and it’s every parent’s lego dream come true. Basically the lego stays on the fabric and once it’s time to pack up you just pull the string and voila – tidy and contained!

7. Shape Sorter : I picked up a classic Tupperware Shape-O when Che was a baby and over the past few weeks Percy has played with it every day. It’s lasted eight years and it’s showing no signs of wear or tear. If you’re after a wooden version try this or this.

8. Critters : sometimes the best toys are the smallest and the simplest. Honestly, children get so much joy from these Click Critterz pull-back toys* that have interchangeable parts and can race around the house. It’s the little things.

9. Puzzles : I’ve always been a fan and I add a few to our collection every year. My picks this year? The Green Start Wooden Puzzles* and Peg Puzzles for 12m+ / Giant Floor Puzzles*, Animals of the World, Children of the Forest for 3+ / Paris Street, Giant Dragon and Magic Forest for 4+ / and for older children: Abracadabra, Poetic Boat and the Circular History Jigsaw that is a timeline of historical events (it’s going under our tree for a history-mad-eight-year-old).

10. Wooden Toys for Babies + Toddlers : stacking bowls are essential and the classic push-and-pull-along toys never grow old. My favourite pics are the helicopter, duck, caterpillaryacht and busy bus.

11. Dress-ups + Role Play : a whole box of dress-ups isn’t necessary but a few items to spark imaginative play make for wonderful gifts. Poet is getting this doctor’s kit for Christmas as her visit to hospital sparked many questions and our rainbow set of WittleBird Wings have been loved for years. If you’re after specific dress-ups you can’t go past the range available from Sarah’s Silks – unicorn, dragon, knight, mermaid, wizard!

12. Learning New Skills : granted, this requires much patience on your behalf but think of knitting, sewing, origami and woodworking as the next step on from painting and drawing. Consider Lacing Cards and a Knitting Spool as the first steps to sewing and knitting. And then….wooden knitting needles, a handmade sewing machine (!) and a sophisticated Needlecraft Kit. For flower lovers consider a mini flower press*, a full-size press or a sunprint kit. For those who love to create with paper, these paper glasses are quirky* and the Origami Masters Bugs Book* is wondrous. And for the child who wants to build with real tools, this wooden kit and this chainsaw are heirlooms! Finally, the rainbow ladder is great for tree play and the Budding Gardener Range* is ideal for little green thumbs.

13. Classic Push-Along Toys : Poet was gifted a toy pram for her first birthday and it’s been used almost every day since. Yes, it carries teddies and dolls but it’s also a great storage option when soft toys aren’t being played with (it basically doubles as a cradle). This mini pram is gorgeous if you’re concerned about space, this wooden one is bound to be in the family for generations and this, this and this are perfect, too (good luck making that decision).

14. Dolls : A quality doll is a lifelong friend. The mulitcultural range of Miniland Dolls are anatomically correct and the perfect gift for boys and girls expecting a sibling. Steiner Dolls are also a beautiful choice (we have this one, his name is Louie) and peg dolls (we have the monochrome family) are great for play…especially in conjunction with stacking toys.

15. Automobiles : Cars, trucks, trains and planes are a must-have in your to collections and the options are endless. We love these click-clack toys* as well as the range from Green Toys (the submarine is the best beach toy), the airport, basket cable car and fire engine.

16. Animals : a small collection of animals can easily turn a few blocks in a farm, a zoo or a wildlife park. We have a range of brands including Animalz*, Ostheimer and Schleich.

*if you purchase via the affiliate links I receive a small commission.

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Showing 10 comments
  • Benedicte Lechrist

    Perfect perfect perfect post!!!! right on time as I was starting to scroll the internet for xmas ideas. We moved into a studio kinda space, no room for clutter especially with baby #2 on the way…I have just given away 5 big trash bags of clothes (mostly mine!) and un-needed goodies, it feels good and your mantra is my mantra : quality over quantity. I totally trust your choices! Thank you Jodi 🙂

  • Lanie L

    this is wonderful! thanks for the great ideas! i think i am going to buy my boys a cute kitchen (i am set now with your recommendations!) because they insist on making me cups of coffee with a little wooden tea set i bought not long ago. great thing is is that family are asking what to get them and anything complementary for the kitchen will mean they will be set. thanks also for the links, there are a few online toy websites i haven't been to, a whole heap of mothers along with myself will be grateful that you took the time to make this detailed gift guide 🙂

  • Margaret

    Great ideas for timeless toys, many many moons ago I made a lego bag from a well used round table cloth, I rehemmed the edge and threaded a thin cord through….. lots
    Of room to play and a quick tidy up.
    My family had great fun with the Tupperware shapo, sometimes the adults and older kids would have timed races to get all the shapes in, so they do last for many years. The shapes were also used for play dough cutters ,washing up play and stacking games.

  • Unknown

    so many sponsored posts and advertorial links these days. I understand the need for such a change but can't help but feel disappointed and nostalgic for the good old "che and fidel" days…

    • kelly louise

      I have been reading this blog for over 5 years now, and it has always been a favourite. I have a lot of respect for the care that Jodi puts into this space, and it has provided me with endless ideas, joy, inspiration and occasionally – links to products that serve me and family well. As a creative and a Yoga teacher, I'm quick to jump to the defense of someone trying to receive something of a financial return for their efforts. Balancing income and authenticity is not easy, and is something we should support in those whose work we admire.

    • Suze

      Thumbs down to those who think they should partake in something lovely, while the creator gets no recompense whatsoever. I do not understand this attitude!

    • Jodi

      Unknown, it's ok to be nostalgic but times change, my life is very busy and I can't invest my precious time into this space unless it's going to support me and my family financially. So many of my readers appreciate the links I share and I wholeheartedly believe that I do it in the most authentic way possible.

      You have obviously been reading this space for a long time and enjoyed what I have shared. Do you think it's fair that I don't receive something in return for all my work?

  • lindsey clare

    Excellent list with heaps of ideas that I would actually buy for the little ones in my life! Thanks Jodi.

  • Cecília

    My husband has that same tupperware shape sorter, it's over 30 years old. Our son now plays with it! Definitely worth the investment 🙂 And thank you for the inspiration, always welcome!

  • Erin

    This is actually really helpful! I know two pregnant people at the moment so this is very handy x

    Erin |

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