These toys aren’t easy to find on the shelves at the big box stores or even in the chain toy stores. But they will entertain and educate at the same time. Take a look and go have some fun!
1. Automoblox. Terrific little cars and trucks with small parts (not the series for the toddler that puts things in his mouth) but so much fun with great designs and styles that big brothers and daddies will want in on the action. Not your grandpa’s toy cars. A low-slung transparent roof, spoilers, and those sleek sport tires. Your older toddler will not have any awareness that he is developing the two-handed coordination and hand/finger control he is going to need for handwriting.
2. Slice-A-Riffic Velcro Foods. Wooden velcro foods have gotten a lot of shelf space, but I often prefer this easier-to-clean plastic series. They are lighter for children with special needs who struggle with the wooden ones, and if they are thrown in anger they won’t break windows, flat-screens, or foreheads. Even though younger toddlers are just going to pull them apart, this toy will be fun for a long time. Eventually they learn to cut with the plastic knife, match and pretend to cook. Develops terrific hand strength and two-handed control all the way along those years. Make up wild and weird food combos as well as matching both sides of a food. A serving of eggplant-watermelon, anyone?
3. Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse. This series used to be common in big box stores, but they seem to be phasing it out. A dollhouse, dolls and furniture that can be really played with but allows rough toddler action. Detailed but not delicate designs. Solid construction, so sturdy that even a toddler won’t tear off limbs or cabinet doors easily. The baby dolls are small enough to be a choking hazard, so think twice if your toddler would try putting one in her mouth. Buy just the parents and the larger kids if that is your issue. Many of the tiny accessories are attached permanently to allow fun play but prevent choking or pieces being lost the moment the box is open. This series is loved by children well into early elementary years. You get a lot of longevity out of this house. Suggestion: buy this second-hand on e-bay or Craigslist for good value. The dolls can all be sanitized and the pieces with fabric can be disassembled to wash them well.