Old-fashioned toys
July 23, 2011 2:52 PM   Subscribe

What are some really old-fashioned toys (no plastic please, other than LEGOs) that can still be easily purchased locally, and at what stores? Craft stores? Bonus if you can sort them by age group (but hey, wood blocks never get old!)

I know Etsy is a good resource for handmade toys, and a few are so simple one can make them at home, but you know how family always wants to inundate your child with ugly plastic toys... So what are some local-bought toy alternatives they could gift?

Thank you ;-)
posted by midnightmoonlight to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And yes, I googled it. :-/
posted by midnightmoonlight at 2:53 PM on July 23, 2011

Lee Valley has some really cool tin toys. Wind up cranes and trains etc.
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lincoln Logs? I loved playing with them around grade 4.
posted by wowbobwow at 3:16 PM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: A good toy shop or (maybe) hobby shop probably stocks Brio train sets. They're available from Amazon, too, among other places online. (I thought they went under or switched to plastic, but it looks like I was wrong. The Thomas the Tank Engine Brio stuff is the easiest to find it seems, but the more generic train stuff is still out there.)

If you're willing to make an exception for Lego, how about one for Playmobil?
posted by hoyland at 3:20 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

My favorite old-fashioned toys come from Lehman's. (Link goes to wooden toys, but do check out the other categories in their toy department.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:20 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lincoln logs, pick-up sticks, Jacob's ladders, paddle ball, checkers, various magic puzzles, dominos, and an enormous variety of old-timey peg games. Look at what Cracker Barrel sells on their website.
posted by SMPA at 3:20 PM on July 23, 2011

Ikea has some wooden toys - saw them in the kids section this morning.

Vermont Country Store has a small selection of nostalgic toys (Mrs Beasley! Music Box Teaching Clock! Tinker Toys!)

If you live anywhere near the Amish or Mennonite, check out their stores - every time I go to Good's in Quarryville, PA, I check out their toy section (minimal plastics, no electric etc).
posted by jaimystery at 3:21 PM on July 23, 2011

More nostalgic gifts from Duluth Trading.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:23 PM on July 23, 2011

Old Skool Anything? Manufaktum in Germany has the answer. Well, for inspiration, I guess.
posted by ouke at 3:23 PM on July 23, 2011

You might also encourage family members to check out their local/area teacher supply or educational resource stores.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:24 PM on July 23, 2011

In the baby/toddler world, and "online" although commonly carrier at "regular" stores:

Melissa and Doug are the cheapest of the mainstream wooden toys

On a slightly nicer level...

Haba Toys are nicer Euro wooden/cotton toys

Plan Toys are a little more rugged than Haba Toys
posted by k8t at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2011

And educational/teacher supply stores often have really nice toy sections... and often awesome staff.
posted by k8t at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2011

Both my local Tractor Supply and Ace Hardware carry Schleich farm animals. Nicely made, and my little girl loves to play with them. (Sorry about the Smurfs, but the knights look pretty cool.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:30 PM on July 23, 2011

My Erector Set, Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs (in addition to Legos, which you mentioned, and Playmobil, which are plastic (but AWESOME)) got me through childhood. I have seen old school Tinker Toys at Toys R Us in the last 5 years. I have no idea about the other two.
posted by phunniemee at 3:31 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

jaimystery, get thyself up the road a piece to Ronks, and to Lapp's. Their toy selection is small but lovely, well made and locally made.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:33 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're after advice and availability in the US, ask these people; they're well-stocked and extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Toy store in Staunton, Va.
posted by Namlit at 3:48 PM on July 23, 2011

Lauri puzzles are modern classics.
posted by kmennie at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2011

Melissa & Doug and Haba (see k8t's comment) are pretty widely available.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:24 PM on July 23, 2011

Schoenhut's toy pianos are great. They're occasionally used by working musicians.
posted by paulsc at 5:08 PM on July 23, 2011

Maple Landmark's toys were just featured on Heartsy, and they looked really great.
posted by dizziest at 6:06 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great links! Looking through the links I've found some traditional toys.
I'm mostly looking for multi-purpose toys that promote imagination/creative play. So, I think I also make an exception for Playmobil, thanks for recommending that!

Most other toys seem so obnoxious, I don't want to be one of those whose house has no walking space whatsoever, because of all the one-purpose toys.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:35 PM on July 23, 2011

Our house is full of toys: traditional, single purpose, crappy, tacky, ingenious, beautiful and bloody irritating. But the thing the boys come back to most often is the couch, its cushions, blankets, pillows and our (not always available) patience as they turn those materials into everything from a ship to a cave to a bed. (They also beg for TV but that's a whole other bag of snakes.)
posted by firstdrop at 6:46 PM on July 23, 2011

BRIO. I loved this toy. Still do.
posted by squorch at 7:10 PM on July 23, 2011

Marble runs. My kids started playing with them when they were... two years old, maybe. We still use them, years later. (The marbles weren't an issue for us when they were little, but if your kids put non-food items in their mouth you might have to wait until they're older.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:18 PM on July 23, 2011

Hearth Song catalog has great, quality toys.
posted by radioamy at 9:52 PM on July 23, 2011

The follow comments are about babies/toddlers:

Just as commentary... I too was "I don't want all these junky toys in my house" and registered for wooden/organic/made by war widows and elves toys...

Fastforward and I have a 2.75 year old. All those EXPENSIVE nice wooden toys? Almost no interest. (And when, inevitably, the pieces get lost, I'm bummed out because of the expense.) He likes plastic loud toys. We'd go to other people's houses or stores or whatever, and he loved all that stuff and actually engaged with it and interacted with it.

I try to manage it all by going for the nicer noisy toys (Fisher-Price and to some degree LeapFrog do a much better job of alternating songs and not sounding too electronic, compared to VTech, for example), and avoiding toys with characters on them.

The majority of the time, now, he plays with wooden trains, wooden/fabric/plastic food and plastic dishes, cars/trucks (all HotWheels and the like... I did buy one expensive wooden car and we lost a wheel in a day), and lots of puzzles.

Anyway, telling you this, because there is a half-way point between going fully crunchy and buying everything plastered in Dora The Explorer that screams Hola at you every 5 minutes until the batteries die.
posted by k8t at 10:25 PM on July 23, 2011

Magic Cabin is good for this sort of thing. Lots of puppets, art supplies, dress-up, construction, etc.
posted by corey flood at 10:31 PM on July 23, 2011

I am not sure how old fashioned you would consider these, but my kids loved the large heavy duty cardboard, colored like bricks blocks. Yeah, they take up space but they played with them from age 2 - 11. They did everything from setting them up like dominoes and having them fall down on each other (for hours) to creating furniture to setting up little towns and shops. Probably one of the best Christmas gifts they ever received.
posted by maxg94 at 5:06 AM on July 24, 2011

I like all of these educational wooden toys.

Cardboard building bricks were a big hit with all the visitors to the children's section of my local library.

My kids are playing with wooden pattern blocks at the moment. They are a pain to keep track of, but they love them, so...
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:05 AM on July 24, 2011

Most kids I know love small enclosed spaces. I'd recommend either a tent or tunnel.
posted by marsha56 at 9:46 AM on July 24, 2011

I echo the previous poster who mentioned that you can try to get the best toys (not plastic but wooden) but in the end you'll like the toys that have longevity and are in play year after year. They're not always the prettiest.

Magnatiles are plastic but are definitely a toy with lots of open ended possibilities and everyone of all ages love them.

Tegu blocks are the same idea. Wooden, but a bit more expensive than magnatiles which are the same idea.

A tent or fold up playhouse is a good one that is always in use somehow.

Play silks and clamps for quick forts, tents, etc

Dress ups of all kinds continue to be in play all the time: fireman hats, police vest, capes, doctor, pricesses, random fancy clothes, cat ears, etc

Baby doll strollers
posted by hellochula at 4:25 PM on July 24, 2011

I can't believe I didn't link you to The Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and its online store. Oooh, toy cars!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:32 PM on August 9, 2011

Response by poster: It's not that I don't want "junky plastic toys", I just don't want toys that serve no purpose but to make noise or fill up space. I want toys that are engaging, enable creative play, etc. I want a smart child who can entertain themselves instead of begging others to entertain them (TV, adults' patience, etc)

I know there are some plastic toys that are quite good, such as the LEGOs and Playmobil, and I'm not adverse to them; I think they're great!
posted by midnightmoonlight at 6:15 PM on August 12, 2011

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