2014 Holiday/Christmas Gift Guide: Best toys made in the USA
There are so many reasons to shop American this year: not only does it support the companies that employ your neighbors and enrich your community, but it’s eco-friendly! Less shipping means less fuel used, which means less emissions. And of course, these terrific companies make innovative, beautifully designed products that your kids will love.
Gamewright Scrambled States of America Game, $17.99; ages 8 and up
Geography class was never all that much fun, but only because it apparently never occurred to the educators of our childhood that turning it into a game is so effective. (Don’t believe me? Try this addictive quiz game that teaches you the geography of Africa. I spent something like an hour trying to beat my fastest time the first time I played this!)
Scrambled States of America makes learning geography even more compelling by turning it into a competition: each player has five face-up state cards, and needs to identify the state that goes with a clue card first. When all the states are claimed, the player with the most states in their pile wins. Plus, you don’t need to already know everything about the states in order to play or to have fun! All you need to know is how to read, so while it’s suggested for ages 8 and up, this game is perfectly suitable for younger kids with sharp reading skills.
Green Toys Ferry Boat with Cars, $24.99; ages 3 and up
Remember how we mentioned earlier in this series of gift guides how the best toys are 10% toy, 90% child? The Green Toys Ferry Boat with Cars spurs your child’s creativity with tons of pretend-play possibilities, whether they’re playing in the tub, in the pool, or just on dry land. The ferry boat and included cars are compelling enough, but your child will fill in all the blanks: what body of water are they crossing? Who’s aboard? Where are they going, and why? Also, this toy plays well with others – there’s plenty of room for other toys as passengers aboard the boat, and even little benches!
And of course, all Green Toys products are made with 100% recycled plastic milk jugs – they’re sturdy, non-toxic, and wonderfully eco-friendly. We love Green Toys! And kids do too.
Poof-Slinky Original Giant Slinky, $9.99; ages 5 and up
The appeal of the Slinky is obvious, universal, and timeless: just watching this made me pull out the mini-Slinky I keep on my desk as a fidget toy. So, more Slinky = more fun, right? This guy is 70% larger than a regular-sized Slinky, which adds even more stretching and more stairs to Slinky playtime. Does your child want one? Yes, yes, they do.
Mindware Keva Contraptions 200 Maple Plank Set, $79.99; ages 7 and up
When I initially wrote about this set, I didn’t know that there was, in fact, a record set for stacking Keva Planks: the Keva team built a 51 foot tower at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. You should definitely watch the video, and have the kids watch it, too: believe me when I say that you REALLY want to watch the tower fall down. This is terrifically cool to watch whether you’re a kid or an adult. And, how much cooler must it have been in person? Because the clatter of wooden blocks hitting the floor never gets boring.
This giant-sized set of Keva Planks comes with enough precision-cut maple blocks for more than one kid to get in on the fun (and grownups, too). Plus, the set comes with instructions and two Keva balls to build Keva Contraptions including tunnels, funnels, shafts, chutes, and slides.
Green Toys Blue & Red Train, $29.99; ages 2 and up
More Green Toys! This brightly colored train set is imagination-powered and loaded with play value, with three old-fashioned train cars and two chunky little teddy-bear conductors who can ride in all of the cars. Like the Ferry, this set has multiple pieces to use together on their own, and is ready-made to combine with any number of other toys (load up LEGOs or play food, and have action figures ride!). Everything is waterproof and dishwasher-safe, too, which means that this set is also great for the sandbox or the backyard.
Crazy Aaron’s Putty World Super Illusions Scarab Crazy Putty, $14.99; ages 5 and up
This play putty never dries out, and you get a huge gob of it in a handy travel tin, which means that you can take it along for play on the go. And that’s only the beginning of the fun: the Scarab Crazy Putty features awesome color-shifting illusions, which look different in all kinds of light (sunlight, indoor lights, etc).
Hollow Woodworks Personalized Name Stool, $64.99-$99.99
We’re all fascinated with names from the day we understand that our own name refers to us, and kids who are just learning how to read and write are the most obsessed of all with names. So a personalized puzzle featuring the letters of their name is a slam-dunk gift for a small child: what puzzle is more interesting than one that’s all about you? Plus, they can sit on it, or use it as a stepstool to reach the sink, making it useful as well as enchanting!
(Nifty related fact that I stumbled on today: even dolphins have names for themselves and each other!)
Do-A-Dot Art 6 Pack Primary Colors, $14.99; ages 3 and up
Combining the appeal of paint with the ease-of-use of markers, Do-A-Dot sponge-tipped markers are loads of fun and easy to apply to any artistic or educational pursuit. They don’t dry out and they don’t make a mess. Every preschooler should have some!
Uncle Goose Classic Wooden Alphabet Blocks, $39.99; ages 2 and up
One of the things that I love about the toys we sell is how many of them are genuinely beautiful – Tegu Blocks, clear Magna-Tiles, and virtually all the toys from Kid O, Janod, or P’Kolino are all really gorgeous. And so are the stunning classic ABC blocks from Uncle Goose: these 28 blocks mimic turn-of-the-century design with charming animal pictures, numbers, and letters, some embossed. Plus, they’re modernized with safe inks, multi-cultural themes, and eco-friendly design.
Oh yes, and they’re also fun to stack and they help to teach your kids letters. I just thought I should mention that.
Poof-Slinky Scientific Explorer Bubble Gum Factory, $24.99; ages 8 and up
The Slinky company is also in the science kit business, and this Scientific Explorer kit is tons of fun: it lets kids manufacture their own chewy and delicious bubble gum! It’s a great project for a rainy afternoon, with a little learning thrown in.
Lauri Tall Stacker Pegs Building Set, $44.99; ages 3 and up
Stack pegs as a game, or just stack ‘em for the sheer joy of it! These crepe rubber pegboards are a classic for a reason: they’re kid-tough, lots of fun, and stacked high with educational value, making basic mathematical concepts intuitive while kids get creative.
Kent Displays Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet, $39.99; ages 5 and up
Doodling is a time-honored way to keep kids busy and entertained, but it can take up a whole lot of paper. This portable doodling tablet is not only mess-free (no markers, pens, crayons, paint, anything! You can even write on it with your finger!), but it’s also waste-free, and it’s even handy for parents, who can use it for to-do lists and grocery lists. Plus, it erases with a nifty flash.
Of course, the toys in our gift guides here at Spilling the Beans are only the tip of the iceberg – we have hundreds of other amazing toys that will delight your kids on Christmas morning (or all eight days of Hanukkah). Not sure what to buy? Ask us! Our Toy Gurus are on call to make sure you find what you need to make a special kid smile this holiday season.
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