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.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...