bufflogals in toyland

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The picture of the girls playing that inspired this post. Etta is playing with a Janod pounding toy, and Claire is playing with a Plan Toys shape sorter.

A friend asked on Instagram if I’d consider doing a post about the bufflogals’ toys, and her wish is my command.

She noticed that the gals’ toys are generally wooden and rather atypical from what is generally on the market for babies and toddlers. This is by design. I want our home to be peaceful and happy, stimulating but not overstimulating, full but not cluttered. And if it’s not too much to ask, I want the stuff we bring into it to look good! This extends to the choices we make for our girls’ toys. While I have only begun to educate myself on things like Montessori and Waldorf, my general inclination and instinct is that their toys should be about them using objects to educate and enjoy themselves, not just being entertained by lights and music and bells and whistles. For us, this means nothing that lights up or makes sounds, pretty much nothing battery operated, and very little plastic. Again, this isn’t because of any particular ideology, but just the result of me following what feels right for me and my kids. I’m not in any way saying other sorts of toys are bad, but this is just where we’re at and what we want for our home.

Etta and Claire have two main play spaces, their room and our den. In each space, it was important to me that the toys be arranged where they could get them out themselves (and eventually, put them up themselves), and to have things displayed and accessible rather than buried in a bin under a million other things. Things they can see actually get used, whereas things in a giant pile get forgotten.

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Here you see the girls’ play space in our den. The shelf and tent are both from Ikea, and my mom found the chairs at a flea market. They have a little white table that goes with them, but it’s being used as a side table until we find an actual side table to go next to the couch. Also pictured is the Little Wheely Bug, which I found for a steal at a local consignment sale. Etta’s just now able to really start to use it at 15 months, and it’s the smaller size. The green-sided walker was a Christmas gift, but I have to say, I’m not as crazy about it as I thought I’d be, as it seems more prone to tipping, though they still sit in front of it and play with it. I REALLY love the walker wagon Claire’s kneeling with, which is a brand called Janod from Oompa.com, which along with Amazon is one of our main toy sources.

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Here’s a closer view of the toy shelf. You can see the small Plan Toys shape sorter, a Janod puzzle, a couple of Melissa and Doug sorters, some Ikea pots and pans, and our collection of musical instruments. Etta demonstrates one of her favorite activities, taking all the books off the shelf.
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This is the contents of the musical instrument box. Most are Hape, purchased via Amazon. The shaker eggs aren’t actually toys but legit musical instruments, but the girls love them.

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I really love these alphabet blocks from Janod.

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The Janod walker wagon in action. As you can see, it can support Claire’s weight, and even without anything in it, is super stable for kids just starting to walk, not prone to tipping.

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We’re big fans of this collapsible tunnel, a gift, which folds nicely when we’re not playing with it.

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Here the girls are playing with our one and only noisy toy, the flowers, which are Lamaze brand. You can see the Hape shape sorter and some Melissa and Doug food. Our Ikea baby gym, now useful as an object to pull up on, is in the background.

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Little Wheely Bug in action, with a push from sister.

A rare exception to my no-plastic rule: this Little Tykes rocking horse. It's perfect for little toddlers because it's low enough that they can get on and off themselves, and the seat has a back, which keeps them on it. And I think it's not bad looking.

A rare exception to my no-plastic rule: this Little Tykes rocking horse. It’s perfect for little toddlers because it’s low enough that they can get on and off themselves, and the seat has a back, which keeps them on it. And I think it’s not bad looking.

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Here you can see the girls’ very messy room, and the toy shelf their daddy built for them. In the bin on the bottom left are wooden blocks that belonged to me as a child, and in the bottom right are little things we’ve collected along the way, like Ikea stacking cups, a Melissa and Doug pull toy, their Kathe Kruse dolls, and their Taggies toys. You can also see some soft books, a Melissa and Doug bead maze, a Skip Hop stacker pull toy, and an Ikea stacker toy. (Also, please note that Claire has pulled herself into a kneel, a big deal, which is why this picture was snapped in the first place.)

Basically, what I look for in a toy is this:

  • Is it kid powered? If it requires batteries, I don’t want it. (I took the batteries out of these toy keys before I ever gave them to the girls. They still love them.)
  • Is it used BY the kid, or does the kid just watch it go?
  • Does it help hone skills or encourage creativity or imaginative play?
  • Does it make noise? I’m fine with instruments the girls use to generate noise, but I don’t want to hear bad midi files of classical music. I’d rather put on my old iPod, which I’ve loaded up with tunes for the kiddos.
  • Is it possible to find this made of wood or other natural materials?
  • And, generally, is it fairly gender neutral? I’m fine with the girls playing with dolls, etc, as they get older and ask for such things, but in the meantime, I see no reason to push them toward gendered objects.

Some brands we like: Hape, Manhattan Toy, KidKraft, Plan Toys, Janod, Melissa and Doug, Haba.

A few people who have visited our house have asked how we got all the grandparents and other relatives on board with this plan. The truth is, I grew up with these sorts of toys, so my parents were all about it from the start, and everyone else has been pretty happy to shop from the Amazon wish list I keep constantly updated for Christmas and their first birthday.

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5 thoughts on “bufflogals in toyland

  1. Thanks for making this post! I’m really impressed with the girls toy collection. We actually haven’t bought any of the toys Cruz now has… They’ve all been hand me downs. I’m so happy to have some ideas of where to purchase him more natural toys in the future! He absolutely loves his Fisher Price rainforest jumperoo though which we did purchase for him second hand on Craigslist. I think it would break most of your rules but we like to put him in it and leave it turned off. This way he can jump and play but we don’t have to deal with the terrible music and lights.

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    • We totally used to have a big plastic exersaucer. It didn’t have lights or music, but it was definitely plastic. It was awesome though, until they decided they no longer wanted to be contained!

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  2. I don’t have kids but I think your approach is GREAT! So many kids end up with too many ‘trendy’ toys and don’t know how to just play with any one for a while.

    The pic of Etta pushing Claire in the wagon walker is awesome, and seeing Claire pull up is amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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