OUR TOY BOX - The Best Toys For Little Children - With Hels
Would you like to know what are the best toys for small children? Buying toys for little people can be very overwhelming. Shops and social media are filled with products and adverts which promise the best entertainment for our little ones. New parents and their friends and family often buy way too many items which might not be played with or even opened. We have asked a few mums about their children's favourite toys, which ones worked for them and get the most use of. This time we asked Helen.
I'm Hels, mother of Clem (aged 4) and Ofelia Rei (aged 2). Earlier this year I went freelance having worked in publishing for the last ten years – most recently as the editor of a parenting lifestyle magazine. I now work on content creation and strategy for independent children’s and family brands.
A year ago we moved from east to southeast London in search of more greenery and space, renovating a Thirties semi as sustainably (and inexpensively!) as possible. This entailed rethinking our approach to almost every aspect of everyday life, as we wanted our home to function for a busy young family as much as a couple of home-workers (my husband also writes for a living).
Part of the process was giving away anything we didn’t need, or which we felt didn’t serve its purpose effectively, and only purchasing new items we knew would stand the test of time aesthetically and functionally. With Christmas approaching, we’ve extended that approach to the girls’ toys, appraising what they really enjoy, donating what they don’t play with and only gifting them things that are inspired by (and will inspire) their natural inclinations.
Some of the toys that came up trumps for us in the past:
Raduga Grez wooden toys
We have the Raduga Grez trees and the wooden tea set. These toys exemplify one of the qualities we find most important, which is that the adults in the house enjoy them visually as much as the children enjoy playing with them! They can be adopted into almost any game and have recently become a vital part of our younger daughter’s growing interest in building and scene-making. We’ve wishlisted some of the brand’s wooden stacking rainbows for Christmas.
The Wool and Woodies House of Ply
This flat-pack playhouse is like a miniature version of our own house – we bought it during the renovation so that the girls could stake out their own play area among the chaos. It ticks all the boxes for us in that it’s minimal in style but so characterful. It’s also super easy to take apart and store away if necessary. One side is a blackboard and another has a window with a little ledge, so the girls can use it as a shop as well as a house. Last year we decorated it for Christmas, which they loved.
Nobodinoz ice-cream stall
Few of the toys in our house have seen as much use as this. It’s beautifully designed and our girls – both of whom are obsessed with ‘treats’ and the sale thereof – have played with it consistently since we bought it for our eldest a couple of years back. Clem went through a phase of selling ice cream to everyone who came to the house, though never strawberry – that flavor was reserved for her. Our youngest used to spend ages practicing balancing the balls on the cones. And even as they’ve gotten older, both of them still go back to the ice cream stall whenever they’re setting up shop.
Flexa wooden play kitchen and foods
This was the perfect Christmas gift for Clem last year. Between 2 to 3, children love playing with kitchens. And one thing that’s handy with having a smaller age gap is that toys very quickly get passed down to Rei, so we knew it would stay the distance. This kitchen also satisfied Clem’s love of pink without endangering our intention to keep everything in the house tonally calm and soft. It’s a handy place to store all their little toy foods and utensils too.
Sarah and Bendrix castle building blocks
While Clem has always preferred more domestic role play (dolls, cooking, dress-up) – and this definitely influenced her sister – it’s been delightful to watch Rei choose her own path. When she was younger, she was more into animals than Clem ever was – she loved the Sarah and Bendrix wooden horse on wheels. Lately, she’s entered a real construction phase – she literally can’t see stray blocks without stopping to build a tower. We have lots of geometric blocks already but we wanted to offer her a new challenge, something which combines her love of building with chimes her passion for princesses. So this Christmas she has some of these fantastic castle blocks coming her way. I can’t wait to see her face when she opens them.
Over the last year (and since reading ‘The Montessori Toddler’) I became interested in Montessori methodologies and their focus on child-led learning through play. Montessori spaces emphasise tranquility and the use of natural materials, so we’ve tried to incorporate similar ideas into both our home and our choices as consumers. Yes, as kids get older and start watching YouTube etc. it can be hard to avoid all the plastic, mass-market tat that’s continually being forced on them. But that just makes toys that offer opportunities for physical exploration and sensory engagement (without being over-stimulating) all the more important. The Wobbel Board is a perfect example: such a simple object but so well-made and versatile that the girls play with it almost every day. Plus, you can leave it in the middle of the floor and it doesn’t feel messy or out of place.
Maileg mouse circus
I quite like the idea of books and toys that tie into a real-world experience. As the girls’ birthdays come quite soon after Christmas, I’m sometimes out of ideas and don’t want to invite more clutter into the house. One year her aunt bought Clem the Maileg mouse circus for her birthday, to tie in with a planned trip to a real circus. She had also just started doing baby ballet so it really reaffirmed the performative aspect. Even now, Rei likes to arrange the mice for performances before putting them to bed in their matchboxes at night.
Thank you so much, Helen! - Hel's Instagram