Quality Toys

The holidays are getting nearer and shopping for children’s toys is a top priority for most parents. A recent visit to a popular toy store left me saddened and surprised by the lack of quality, open-ended materials for children.

Being a preschool teacher, I’m always on the look out for sturdy, open-ended toys that will:

1) engage children in play;
2) help them to use their creativity;
3) help them to use their imaginations;
4) and help them to use critical thinking. 

Toys these days seem to buzz and light up giving a child nothing to really imagine or work for themselves. Too many of these types of toys can make a child bored and quickly ready for the next toy to entertain them. Dr. David Elkind, a professor of child development and author of numerous books on children’s development and play, discusses the change in current toys, “There has been a quality change as well. The majority of toys are now made of plastic. These playthings generally lack the warmth of wood, the texture of natural fabrics such as cotton or wool, or the solidarity of metal... All of these changes have impacted the personal and social skills, attitudes, and values children acquire from play (p.15).” 

As preschool teachers and child care providers we must advocate for better toys and help parents to make better choices when choosing toys for their children. We want our children to use materials respectfully and with great curiosity so that their play serves the ultimate purpose of learning and developing specific skills. With all of this in mind, I have put together a list of many different websites where one can find quality toys, handmade toys and overall, toys that open up a child’s imagination.

With all of this in mind, I have put together a list of many different websites where one can find quality toys, handmade toys and overall, toys that open up a child’s imagination. 


  • www.novanatural.com  - this website has natural toys and crafts for babies up to kindergarten. They also carry Waldorf toys. 
  • www.threesisterstoys.com - This website carries toys for babies up to school age. They have been featured in many magazines and blogs for carrying great natural, wooden and classic toys.
  • www.thenaturestore.com -this company carries some great science products for children, animal and dinosaur replicas, science puzzles, binoculars and much more. 
  • www.plantoys.com - this is a wonderful company whose toys I have recently seen in commercial stores as well. They are a green company and provide an array of wooden toys from vehicles to dollhouses.
  • www.greentoys.com - This is a San Franciscan company focusing on making green, sustainable toys for young children. 
  • www.environments.com - this store sells mostly to large centers but in my opinion has the better quality toys and materials than the other larger child care catalogs. 

I do a lot of shopping for my classroom on Etsy.com.  I know I am getting truely handmade products, I can buy American made products from people who really care about the importance of children’s play. Some of my favorite shops on etsy are:

  • littlesaplingtoys- modern, organic and wooden toys for very young children
  • monkeysontheroof- they make fantastic tree blocks (which I think should be in every home and classroom)
  • asummerafternoon- wooden toys and wooden crayon holders
  • foreverandafters- some really great wooden play furniture
  • thepurpletangerine- has hand dyed playsilks (a must for any classroom and home)
  • mamamadethem - wonderful wooden play things. Great for story telling or group times.

Hint: copy and paste the store names into the search box in the right hand corner of the Etsy.com website.


Summer Langille, M.A, Early Childhood Education Specializing 0-8 Years

Summer has been working with children for almost 15 years. The oldest of four she’s always seen herself as a caregiver. She started off caring for children as a nanny for many years. She received her undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University and has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education specializing in birth to age eight from Long Beach State. She’s worked with infants all the way up to elementary aged children in center-based care, private school care, home-based care, back-up care and afterschool care. She was a lead teacher for an infant program and more recently a two year old/preschool program. She even had a brief stint as a brownie girl scout troop leader. She’s passionate about quality care for children and thinks the environment plays a large role in how a child learns effectively. She loves art, blocks, music, fairy gardens and picture books and wants all caregivers of children to know how important their job is to the children they care for. Summer is currently home with her baby, navigating this new role as Mama. She blogs about her family at www.summerplayshouse.com.