A few years back I made a big push to change the kind of toys and books we brought into our home. It wasn’t easy then, and it hasn’t always been since, but it has made such a difference in our daly routines. We have very few plastic toys in our home. I have cancer and a chemistry degree and I can tell you there’s some pretty gnarly kinds of plastics, and those tend to be the ones used in inexpensive toys. Are there exceptions? Sure! But there aren’t loads. When I made the push toward wood, intentional, thoughtful, and heirloom quality toys and books I found a few stores I just fell in love with.
These little shops (some have grown quite a bit in the last year!), are where I go for inspiration. Many of our toys, like our dollhouse and our wooden block collection, are thrifted. It is important to me to not be wasteful and to teach that to my children. We also make many of our toys or “gather” them. We have lots of nature objects, an entire box my daughter calls her “science experiments” and then a pretty impressive rock collection. As we’ve started to trim our Christmas tradition down to to a quality over quantity situation, I’ve found the gifts both my children and I found beautiful have been the ones we play with and read again and again. While we certainly don’t buy all our toys from just these shops, these are the places I tell my friends about.
One of the first shops I fell in love with. We’ve purchased a few products and with each purchase Odin Parker donates meals to the less fortunate. One, that’s awesome. Two, it’s a tax write-off. (OK that is probably not true, you should ask your accountant. My accountant is called TurboTax, so what do I know?) What I do know is that they have some of the most darling toys around. You’ll see some of the same brands at each store but it always seems like Odin Parker has the new stuff no one else does. It is usually my first stop when I’m shopping for bespoke toys and gifts.
My FAVORITE store for semi-educational toys. They also carry the Big Stuffed brand which I am obsessed with but will never buy, because I’m convinced I can sew those giant octopi myself. (This may or may not be true.) What I especially love is that they are the makers of the weather board my kids both adore! Moon Picnic’s My Weather Station is played with everyday in our home. While I check the weather on my phone or computer, the kids grab the board and rush to the window to create their forecast. They even come back to the board to update it during the day if it rains.
Fair warning I want to live in the Olli Ella world. I want all the clothes, the dolls, the baskets. The brand was started by two sisters Olivia and Chloe and everything they do is basically magic. From what I can stalk on Instagram, Chloe is hilarious and gorgeous at the same time and she has the sort of hair I wish would catch on everywhere.
This shop is based in New York City and what originally drew me to them (besides the $5 shipping) was their large variety and selection of toys. They’ve got pretty much all the brands you are looking for and the ones you didn’t know you needed. They’ve also got some very cute clothes but since my kids took their first breathe and grew out of those sizes, we’ve not shopped them. Their selection within brands for things like Grimm’s is limited, but they make up for it by carrying so many great toy makers.
This is where we get our Grimm’s. They have the best prices and selection on Grimm’s products. Grapat and Fagus items also live here. If all these stores had a Grandpa it would be The Wooden Wagon, in like the best way.
If you are Waldorfing it, then this is your spot. They have free shipping over $99 and it’s not hard to get there with their selections of Ostheimer and Grimm’s. They also have the cutest birthday ring accessories I’ve seen.
Obviously, for books I’d point you to my store first, but many of the above shops carry lovely books as well. It is a big adjustment to thinking of quality toys and books as investments, but that is what they are. Play is the art of learning in childhood. When you purchase with intent and purpose the gifts can be well-loved and then handed down. You’re not just teaching your children to respect themselves and their possessions but to value craftsmanship, art, and sustainability. All good lessons, if you ask me.
Liza Dora's picture books celebrate the magic and wonder of childhood in everyday lessons. Championing kindness, bravery, and compassion—there's something for any and every one.
Great for birthdays, baby showers, and early readers.