Dr. Jennie's Favorite Toddler Toys

Ok ladies and germs, I have a friend named Jennie. Along with being an awesome lady and mom, she has a PhD in toys.  No, its really not that simple, but I couldn't think of a better person to give suggestions about toys.  Everyone,  meet Jennie!

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As Christmastime approaches, I am often asked to share some of my top toy picks. I wanted to focus on toddler toys because it can be a tough age group to buy for. I remember when my son turned one he had outgrown most of his baby toys, but I struggled finding anything that wasn’t labeled for 3 years+ (which is because by law, anything with small pieces requires this label). Over the last few years I have found some great toys that I love for this age group, as well as a few new ones at Toy Fair this year to add to my list. I hope your little ones love these toys as much as mine did… 

1.  Uncle Goose Blocks  (construction play)

Uncle Goose puts a unique twist on a classic toy! Their beautifully crafted Uncle Goose Blocks come in 17 different languages and fun designs (my favorites are the Antic Ant and Bug ABC blocks). They even sell replacement blocks so you don’t have to worry if a block gets lost or is mistaken as a chew toy by your dog! (2 years+) Sets range from MSRP $12-$100

2.  Folkmanis Hand Puppets (imaginative play)

Spark your child’s imagination with Folkmanis Hand Puppet . Not only do their puppets encourage open-ended, creative play, they are a fun way for your child to learn about animals. With such a wide selection of life-like puppets (they even have a scallop puppet) you are sure to find one your child will love! (Safety tested for all ages, recommended age 3 years+) MSRP $9.99-$59.99

3.  Wishbone Bike (active play)

This Wishbone 3 in 1 Bike converts from a run-trike, to a low balance bike, to one of the tallest balance bikes on the market allowing it to grow with your child from ages 1-5. Not only does its longevity makes it eco-friendly, it has 60% post-consumer recycled plastic wheels and is made from sustainably managed woods – even the box is recycled and printed with non-toxic inks (and as a special bonus, the inside of the box has fun cut-outs for children to play with)! (1-5 years) MSRP $229.00  I am a huge fan of balance bikes, as none of my kids needed training wheels.

4.  Green Toys Submarine (water play)

This colorful Green Toys Submarine has an easy to grip handle and wide spout to scoop and pour water making it perfect for splashing around in the tub (it is also great for rinsing your little one’s hair)! The cabin can be opened for easy cleaning, and it is made from 100% recycled plastic milk containers and is PVC, BPA, and Phthalate-free! (6 months+) MSRP $14.99.  We have this one and my kids love it!

5.  Janod Chunky Puzzles (puzzle play)

Think a puzzle can only be played with in one way - by putting the pieces together? Think again! With a little imagination (courtesy of your little one), Janod’s beautiful lift-out puzzles can be used for role-play as well. Your child can pretend play with the pieces on their own, or take turns with you acting out one of the Janod Chunky Puzzle pieces and guessing what the other person is pretending to be. (1 year+) MSRP $14.99

6. .Weefab Weerol (all-in-one play)

You have probably gathered by now that I LOVE toys that do more than one thing! Not only do they have more play value, they cut down on toy clutter. The Weefab Weerol reconfigures so you can build multiple toys. With one kit, you can build a walker, ride-on and wheel barrow—and when you add the rocknrol accessory you can also build a glider and a rocker. If that wasn’t enough, a second weerol kit can be added to build a train and a shopping cart. With so many options, the weerol grows with your child and is well worth the investment. Made with renewable wood and water-based paints and finishes.  (18 months - 6 years) MSRP weerol $79.99, weerol + rocknrol $199.98, weerol x 2 $149.98, weerol x 2 + rocknrol $189.97

7.  Attatoy Mixmates (creative play)

These colorful Attatoy Mixmates wooden blocks are one of my favorites from Toy Fair this year! Children can mix, stack, and play with the blocks to create any character they choose. Made from hardwood and durable inks, these blocks are as beautiful as they are fun (I have to admit, I bought a set for myself). With Animals, Boys & Girls, Careers, and Monsters & Superheros sets to choose from, the story possibilities are endless!
(18 months+) MSRP $14.99

8.  pipSquigz (on-the-go play)

Another favorite from this year’s Toy Fair,Fat Brain Toys PipSquigz will keep your toddler busy in the stroller, highchair, bathtub—anywhere! The three textured super-suction toys can be tugged, pushed, shaken, pulled, and stuck together. Made with silicon, they are BPA-free and easy to clean (you can even stick them in the dishwasher)! Their small size and versatility makes them the perfect toy to throw in your diaper bag for on-the-go play. (6 months+) MSRP $19.95

Jennie Ito, Ph.D.
Founder of The Play Kitchen, Dr. Jennie Ito, is a play and toy consultant and a mother of two playful children. She has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, with a specialization in children’s play and cognitive development. She began her career with a fellowship in Museum Evaluation and Museum Education at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. She later worked as a content expert for the Association of Children’s Museum’s Playing for Keeps Play Initiative, providing play resources to parents and museum professionals. After taking some time off to be at home with her two young children, Dr. Ito started her own play and toy consultancy and is currently working on several projects in the Bay Area.

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