Walking the toy aisles of most big discount stores can make any parent feel dizzy, to use a polite word. Where are all the cool wooden toys? Where are the toys that inspire imagination? Why does it seem like every toy made for kids these days is some beeping, flashing, plastic monstrosity that isn’t built to hold a kid’s interest through the year? Well, not all…but lots of them.
So I’m always reassured when I find smaller toymakers doing really special things. Like my latest discovery, the innovative company Once Kids, which makes cool wooden toys that help our children get in touch with their inner artist, designer, or engineer. And they are truly wonderful.
Browsing the site, here are just a few of the wooden toys that got me excited for the next birthday, or other gift-giving holiday on the calendar.
My kids made a beeline for these paint-your-own wooden superhero toys. While you can can buy them pre-designed, like the green and pink ones above, I love the DIY kit that comes complete with a set of markers. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll have the best time choosing between intricate battle armor, a flowery shirt and leggings, or a soccer uniform. I also like that the body parts of these robotic-looking heroes are connected by elastic bands, so your kids’ creations can move around easily for creative play that lasts long after the outfits are designed.
I immediately fell in love with Once Kids’ Wanderlust city playsets, which are even more fun if you go the collectible route and start mixing and matching. Each set includes a dozen or so blocks inspired by city skylines like NYC, Paris, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, San Francisco. They look as amazing on a shelf as they are fun in a kid’s hands. I suggest you toss the pieces in with the rest of our ordinary blocks, and voila! — now your kids can make their own skyscrapers, bridges and city scenes. And no one really cares if the Golden Gate bridge connects the Statue of Liberty with the Eiffel Tower. (If only!)
And of course I can’t resist the Eco Bricks wooden toy sets, which are “universal construction bricks” (i.e., basically LEGOs, but not LEGOs) made from real cherry wood. As with the robots, your kids can paint or use markers on these wooden bricks to create any design they want — although I’d advise if you use paint you go light so that there are no globs or goops to get in the way of construction. Polka dotted dinosaurs and rainbow-colored race cars… that should keep my kids busy for a good long while.