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Buying “90% Child” Toys – Blocks Edition

I’m a staunch subscriber to the belief that the best toys are “90% child, 10% toy”, meaning that it’s lots of potential (not lots of bells and whistles) that makes the toy fun.  Instead of only being good for one specific type of use, these toys invite open-ended play which, consequently, encourages creativity.  That’s good for learning and development as well as keeping the kids stimulated longer and giving you a chance to get stuff done.


With the holiday gift-buying season on the horizon, I thought I’d roll out a new series highlighting some of the very best “90% child” toys.  Today, I’m starting with an all time favorite around our house – blocks.  The pieces pictured above are part of a large set my uncle lovingly made by hand for C.  Both of my kids love playing with them on a daily basis.


Obviously I’m a very lucky mama to have such a generous uncle but don’t despair if you don’t have a woodworker in your family – I’ve rounded up tons of lovely retail options for you.  From quintessentially classic to quirky and novel, each of these block sets are sure to entertain and stimulate the little ones in your home.



First up is an array of magnetic wooden block sets by Tegu.  These are at the very top of my wish list for C’s upcoming birthday.  Their magnetic construction ups the creativity factor with new possibilities while lowering the frustration factor that comes with falling block towers.   Plus, they now come in a variety of cool color schemes.  Clockwise left to right: Tegu Discovery Set – Tints – Magnetic Wooden Building Blocks, Tegu Original Set – Jungle – Magnetic Wooden Building Blocks, and the Tegu Original Set – Natural – Magnetic Wooden Building Blocks.



I also love this Tegu Travel Tote.  The magnetic blocks would be perfect for a long airplane or car ride and the carrying case is super stylish.



I haven’t had the opportunity to try out the multi-award winning Twig (72 Piece Set) in real life but the reading up I’ve done has me sold: Consisting of natural wood pieces of different shapes, sizes and colors… this is a building toy that really offers freedom of exploration and the ability for children to discover the-inside-and-the-out of designing… Beyond merely stacking, Twig’s brightly colored pieces slide into, between and next to one another, offering an experience that’s equal parts problem-solving, spatial arrangement and basic engineering.
Click through for lots more good stuff.

If you’re more of a purest at heart, you’ll want to check out Melissa & Doug’s 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks and the more colorful PlanToys 50 Construction Set.  I know of several quality preschools that have an entire room filled with blocks of this sort.  Melissa & Doug also has the very cool Architectural Unit Block Set.



Along the same lines (with a few more interesting block styles) are the PlanToys Plan Preschool Creative Blocks.


As well as these Haba Fantasy Blocks, perfect for the younger set.

Alphabet blocks are another total classic.  I like the pull cart that comes with the Melissa & Doug Classic ABC Block Cart as well as the updated look of this Uppercase and Lowercase Alphabet Blocks Set.


With these Edushape Floating Blocks the fun doesn’t have to stop just because it’s bath time.



And finally, no block roundup would be complete without the mention of everyone’s favorite, the mighty LEGO.  LEGO Duplo My First Set (5416) is a great introduction to that world.  And if you love the nostalgia factor but you’re not down with plastic, check out Green Toys My First Blocks.


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