December 10, 2008

More Gift Ideas, Melissa and Doug Toys Edition

I've had so many good experiences now with Melissa and Doug toys. I'm sure they have their missteps just like any other company, but so far I haven't run into one. Their stuff is good quality, reasonably priced for the quality level, and usually made of wood instead of plastic. I'm not sure I've ever seen one that takes a battery. The toys are mostly the kind that encourage independent/creative play. They make good gifts for your own kids, but also good gifts for other people's kids: they look good and they don't make the parents feel like killing you for giving them something that makes THAT GODAWFUL NOISE.

Speaking of godawful noise, they have a GREAT musical instrument set for just over $12.

This is what I would have wanted: a Melissa and Doug magnetic dress-up doll, $8.75 down from $10.00.

This puzzle bundle isn't on any sale at all at $15, but we LOVE these puzzles at our house. Each picture is missing one piece, and the pieces are all exactly the same size and shape. This makes it a nice easy puzzle for younger kids, but it makes it a HILARIOUS puzzle for older kids: you can make a sheep appear to be wearing pink pants by using the pig puzzle piece. You can make a half-rabbit, half-turtle. Oh, the laughs. My, my. ... In fact, don't get this. Never mind.

OMG, would you look at this princess dollhouse?? It's $58 down from $100, and I want it myself. They have a less girlified one for $66. Either one ships free, which is awesome for a big heavy thing.

Uh. Muh. Guh. Look at this gorgeous huge dollhouse, $56 down from $160!!! I might have to get this for Elizabeth. All she has so far is a purple unicorn. Oh, and dinosaur lacing cards.

We have the shape-sorting clock ($13) and I love it. Edward is interested in telling time; Henry is interested in shape-sorting; they can both play with it. There are a lot of complaints in the reviews that the 5 is six-sided and the 6 is five-sided, but they must have fixed that because mine has a five-sided 5 and a six-sided 6. I think the whole issue is silly, though, since no one complained about the ten-sided 12 or the four-sided 9 or ETC. ETC.

The ice cream scooping set is pretty expensive ($30) but looks like a LOT of fun. Want.

For a toddler, these lacing beads ($10) are a great gift. We have an older version of these (circa 1999!) and they get a LOT of play, even from the grown-ups. Surprisingly, we still have almost all the beads. (We throw them in a bin, though; it turned out to be too much of a pain to carefully puzzle them back into the wooden tray they came in.)

Pattern sets like this one ($13) are a sneaky way to get a little education in on the side. This is the kind of toy I consider a good value because it can be played with at many different ages: even toddlers can try it, but an older elementary school kid would still be interested too. The more kids in my house who can play with a toy, the better.

Another sneaky educator is the alphabet stamp set. It's almost $20, but it looks great to me: full set of both uppercase and lowercase letters, plus a multi-colored WASHABLE-INK stamp pad.

We have an older version of this magnetic fishing puzzle ($10). When Rob was a toddler he got speech therapy, and the therapist used this with him to help him with his motor control. He loved it so much, we bought one for our house. It's still in regular play nearly 8 years later.

We have the farm-animals version (not free shipping, but the total cost is the same) of this cube puzzle ($13), and it's one of my favorites of all our toys. It makes six different puzzles, and littler kids can help by finding the right side of each cube. Henry, 18 months, stacks the cubes like blocks.

I got Elizabeth some dinosaur ones in another brand, but I think these pet lacing cards are cuter. That's a nice amount of quiet play for $10. (There's also a farm-themed set and a shapes set.)

I want to play with this animal stamp set ($13) myself, so I'm wondering which child I can pretend I'm buying it for. The stamp pad is WASHABLE, and it also comes with colored pencils so you can color in the animals. There's also a friendship set (rainbows, flowers, teddy bears) for $8.50, a deluxe set (animals, house, tree, sun) for $15, a vehicles set for $10, a dinosaurs set for $10, a horses set for $10 (I especially like the shades-of-brown stamp pad that comes with that one), a baby animals two-pack for $16 (that one also includes a rainbow stamp pad), and a classroom set (good job, great work, please correct) for $15.

I bought this dress-up puzzle bundle ($15 for 3 puzzles) for Elizabeth last Christmas, and it's one of the very few toys I am not only willing but EAGER to play with. I LOVE changing the outfits: there's a ballerina, a princess, and a regular girl child. I have to make myself wait my turn instead of misusing my parental authority to cut in line.

I am embarrassed to say that not only do I enjoy this bead sequencing set, I find it stimulatingly challenging.


Jess said...

I want to have kids so I can buy them nice presents! Or at least know lots of kids requiring gifties from us. ARGH. Why don't we have more kids in our lives?!

DCMomma said...

This is awesome, I just added it to my wish list and then later will go back and add to my cart to finish xmas shopping for the kids! Thank you!

And they don't make that god awful noise like plastic toys.


Cagey said...

I bought my first set of Melissa and Doug toys WAY back in my Single Girl days so that my nephews would have something to play with. That night, while a girlfriend was over, we watched Sex and the City, drank a bottle of wine while we chopped "vegetables" and made "sandwiches". We had SO much fun, sad to say.

And yes, the nephews LOVED the sets, as do my own children now. Easily the best money I spent nearly 5 years ago!

Also, the puzzles are SO worth it - I have bought cheaper wooden puzzles that just did not hold up like the M&D.

Nowheymama said...

I LOVE Melissa & Doug. We have so many of their toys, and they are great: the wooden racetrack, the wooden cars, the wooden Velcro food, the friendship stamp set, etc., etc. Love.

Jodie said...

two things:
1) If that band set is the one with the harmonica, it was recently found to have lead in it. (

2) We bought that princess castle last year for our girls to share (we paid slightly more than the price you list). They LOVE it, and have played with it all year long.

Blueberry said...

oooooh, i LOVE melissa and doug!

we have the magnetic doll and the lacing cards and both are big hits here. :)

Alice said...

this makes me want to have kids to buy for on my list. or, uh, to pretend to buy for and then steal their toys.

Firegirl said...

Melissa & Doug are Very Popular in the preschool teaching world. They're so sturdy and as Swistle mentioned: they are pointedly not electronic, commercially based or noise making.
I've had all good experiences with them, INCLUDING the selling/giving of replacement puzzle pieces.

And how cute and fun and wonderous their toys are! It's as if Melissa & Doug are actually Santa's Elves who went out on their own!

Beth Fish said...

We have three of the magnetic dress up dolls, known here as "my girls" and we play with them every single day.

Kelsey said...

We've had some but not all of these with Harper, and it makes me excited that we now have a second child who will need birthday and Christmas gifts of this variety!

Anonymous said...

I ordered the princess castle for my daughter, and just's alot bigger than it looks. I read the description before I bought it but I guess I didn't realize quite how much space it takes up. Still really cool, but just thought I'd throw that out there for others like me, who's floor space is a precious commodity!

Mommy Daisy said...

I love these Melissa & Doug toys. They are great. We have the pizza set and sandwich set, which have both provided hours of fun. And we also have the car puzzle that you pictured above in the set. I bought that one a few months ago for my son's growing puzzle interest. But it didn't take long to realize it was WAY too easy for him. Like you said, though, it's fun to make silly pictures. He likes to take them all out, then "tease" us and say things like "This one goes here?" while putting them in the wrong spot.

el-e-e said...

Thank you for posting about the shape-sorter clock!! I have been toodling around on Amazon all morning, trying to find "one more gift" for the baby (10 mos) so her Santa pile will look as big as her brother's pile. (Silly maybe.) This will be "To Both" and a good lesson in sharing, time-telling, shape-sorting... everything.

Thank You! You're Santa's best elf!

Marie Green said...

We love Melissa and Doug around here too! We have some of the toys you mentioned and have had them for YEARS and they still get played with frequently.

We also have the pizza and birthday cake- the wooden pieces velcro together to make a whole pizza or cake, and can be "cut" apart with a wooden cutter to serve slices. Also, various toppings velcro to the top. These get SO MUCH play around here. (My only warning is that the topping pieces are small enough for a young child to cram in his/her mouth.)

Also, the M&D mailbox with wooden "letters" to mail looks fun.

Hairline Fracture said...

Melissa and Doug make great toys--I've been pleased with everything I've bought of theirs. Like you, I know it's a good toy when all the kids AND I want to play with a toy!

cindy said...

Another vote for Melissa & Doug's awesomeness! My daughters are each getting one of their puzzles, plus the birthday cake set and the cookie set, because they love to pretend bake.

samantha jo campen said...

I'm OBSESSED with Melissa and Doug toys! Love love love! All Theo wants for Christmas is M & D toys (we're getting him the wooden magnetic alphabet numbers, but shhh don't tell) :-)

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

I love them.

When I have children I want them to have higher-quality, wooden toy sets like these. So awesome. Love the educational value in them as well.

All the beading/stringing toys are amazing for fine-motor development, for sure. Get all the kiddies in on that action!

Hope all of this stuff is around when I have kiddies in the (probably) distant future!

nicole said...

Now I wish I had not already done my Christmas shopping. And I wonder why I did not look into Melissa and Doug because I knew they were out there. Oh well, there's always next year.

Heather said...

OMG, thank you, thank you! Just last night (as in 14 days before Christmas) our 5 y.o. DD told us she's going to ask Santa for a dollhouse for herself and her 1 y.o. brother, as well as a couple other toys that she's dreamed up and is sure that Santa can make in his workshop. Yikes! BUT... that castle (the less girlified one) would be perfect. Now I gotta get DH to sign off on it and hope that if I order it it arrives in time for Christmas. Being overseas there are no such guarantees as to "on time deliveries". But I'll take my chances.

Beth A. said...

The magnetic dressup princess is a big hit at our house, and it was an absolute lifesaver this summer when we were travelling.

I found that castle for $50 last April and jumped on it. It's gorgeous, and I don't know how I found enough willpower to sit on it until Christmas. I can't wait to finally give it to my daughter, since she's just started a princess/castle phase and is going to love it. Melissa and Doug also sells two different sets of cute little poseable figures to go with the castles.

Anonymous said...

I guess some of the Melissa and Doug toys are sold out already. The two I put in my Amazon basket today say that they ship in 1 to 2 months! Oh well :/

Bunny said...

Last year I bought the princess puzzles at your suggestion. Sarah still plays with them all the time. And this year she is already getting the pet lace ups and the magnetic dolls, a set of two. My son is getting the M&D calendar. It is magentic and has lots of little tiles you put on the calendar.

Ooh, we also got the slice and bake cookie set. it looks really cute!

Kristin H said...

The dollhouse (not the castle one) is actually down to $49.99 with free shipping! I got one. Thanks for posting this.

CP said...

OK, please stop! I read this yesterday and immediately went on Amazon and ordered 2 stamp sets and an extra stamp. I do NOT need to order more gifts for my kids! I'm blaming this purchase on you. :)

Tracy said...

gave my niece the music set. She loves it. Daddy is very musical, so it doesn't seem like loud NOISE in that house. That's what aunts are for right? Give the loud gifts?

Michelle said...

Oh I'm with you on Melissa and Doug. In fact, we have almost half the items you listed here. The one we DON'T have is the last one -- the bead sequencer. That would be SO up Mister Man's alley. Glad I popped in to check things out even though I'm almost a week late (it's been a BAD week).