It’s not unusual to find the front of the store populated with 2, 3, or 4 kids who are hard at work checking the toy selection. Their criteria: Is it fun? Does it make noise? Can I take it apart? Can it roll? Can I stand on it? Does another child want it? If the answer to one or more of these questions is a yes, then we know we’ve got a winner on our hands. Here are the top picks of our miniature toy testers extraordinaire (as categorized by Mamas who also crave cognitive, emotional, and physical development from a toy).
DIY Inspired Toys (For Your Future Cooper Union Graduate)
One of our favorite brands in the store is the French company, Janod. We love the toys not because they carry the prestige and je ne sais quois of Frenchness, but because they are truly aesthetically appealing, as well as multi-faceted toys that encourage imaginative play. The DIY series includes the DIY Truck and DIY Firetruck (each $35) , both of which lure toddlers directly into the store with their siren songs. They are truly gorgeous trucks, but beyond this, they feature wooden nuts, bolts, and screws which can be disassembled (and re-assembled) with the accompanying wooden screwdriver, hammer, and wrench. For a more serious builder, you can check out the DIY Tool Trolley. Many think this is a great toy for little boys, but let’s encourage our little girls to become future engineers too… There are multiple ways to build, piece together, and manipulate the pieces in this toy. Best of all, the cart rolls around, adding an additional element of play into the mix.
Musical Toys (For the Future Juillard Set)
Janod created authentic kid-sized Guitars ($40) and Ukelelees ($35) which are amazing for small motor development in addition to providing your little one the opportunity to rock out. (Yes, mostly I get to hear variations on the Elmo’s World Theme when I let my little one play this guitar… but everyone starts somewhere). Janod’s impeccable sense of taste is evident in the clean white palate of the guitars, which features bright and colorful dots that imbue the guitars with a sense of playful funkiness.
Imaginative Play (For your UnSchooler or Future Set Designer)
We adore the vintage appearance of Janod’s Story Express Far West Train Set ($79). The Far West Train runs around a wooden track populated by the Town Sheriff, cowboys, a stage coach, ponies and bulls, Indians, a teepee, and of course, mountain men (but not the Nouveau kind from Brooklyn). Wonderfully detailed and exceptionally well-crafted, we can’t wait to hear the imaginative sagas that will arise from a few hours of free play with this amazing toy.
We hope you’ll come check out these great items with your own little toy tester!
We think you’ll be glad you did.
Laurie Nicholson is co-owner of Raising Astoria