You don’t need us to tell you about the latest Elmo toy or Hannah Montana guitar, so we work hard to point you towards toys and other playthings from small companies or independent artists that you might not know about yet. After a year of so many amazing entries, here are a few real standouts from 2009.

Kristen: The gorgeous wooden wagons (at top) from the mom and dad team behind Kaiku Design give “pimp my ride” an entirely new meaning.

Tyke Rider balance bike

Liz: The new-to-the-US wooden learning bike by TykeRider is so mind-blowingly awesome, only in part because they’ve made the first ever pink bike that doesn’t make me a little queasy.

Sprig Excavator - recycled wood toy

But I’m also in love with pretty much everything from Sprig Toys, whose recycled wood and reclaimed plastic toy trucks prove that amazing, classic toy design can be created with a conscience.

Cloth baby dolls by Blabla Kids

Kristen: My love for Blabla Kids grew even deeper this year when they introduced their line of classic baby dolls–no plastic heads anywhere to be found. Just some really great clothes to match.

Boys' dolls by Project Grabbag

Liz: It’s not easy finding a cool boy doll (let alone a cool non-white boy doll) so I love Project Grabbag’s custom dolls which will make a great handmade pal for any lucky kid.

Little Alouette wooden toys

Kristen: The adorable handmade wooden toys and teethers from Little Alouette have kept my youngest’s hands and teeth happily occupied all year long. And that’s no easy feat.

Woodours Bears

Cool Mom Picks Pick of the Year badge

Liz: The Woodours Activity Bears pretty much solve all your baby gift-giving dilemmas. Cute? Check. Educational? Check. Kids never want to put it down? Check check check.