Melissa & Doug See & Spell
WHY WE LIKE: This toy utilizes both imagination and the brain to form simple words. It’s tactile. Children can choose the order of the words to form, rediscovering the toy over and over. There isn’t a screen showing you what the cat, frog, or tugboat is doing, so the child’s ideas are activated to fill in the story. Yay! It’s well made. And there are about a dozen more sets you can get with the same sensibility — number puzzles, ABCs, shapes, and more. It’s a great value!
Melissa & Doug See & Spell ($17.86)
WHY WE LIKE: Exercise! Outdoors! Two things kids are sorely lacking. The car is powered by physics — aka, your child’s back and forth motion. It’s a simple toy that doesn’t require batteries or electricity. Young kids and older kids can use it. Old-fashioned fun with modern ingenuity.
PlaSmart’s PlasmaCar ($51.77)
Sunny Patch Seaside Sidekicks Sand Cupcake Play Set
WHY WE LIKE: This toy is also from Melissa and Doug, a consistently great toymaker. Again, it uses imagination and creative play. You use it at the beach or in a backyard sandbox. Or, even at your local playground. So it can be used year round (substitute snow for sand if you like!). This is also part of a Sunny Patch line of toys that are meant to be used outdoors — lots of options. Durable and budget friendly.
Melissa & Doug’s Sunny Patch Seaside Sidekicks Sand Cupcake Play Set ($14.98)
Sunny Patch Blossom Bright Sprinkler
WHY WE LIKE: Also from Melissa & Doug is a play sprinkler. Sure you could put out a regular lawn sprinkler, but for young children the full-force sprinklers are too much. That’s why we like this one because it’s perfect for the little ones. Your 1-3 year olds who want to be nearby mom or dad but still play in the water. You can be right alongside and not get wet. It’s also a great alternative to a kiddie pool without the drowning danger.
Melissa & Doug’s Sunny Patch Blossom Bright Sprinkler ($17.72)
Swing-N-Slide Monster Web Swing
WHY WE LIKE: This swing meets current safety standards. And it’s a swing!! Anything more fun than a swing?? It’s so relaxing. More than one child can hop on, which encourages not only outdoor time but also social interaction (so lacking with video games and TV watching).
Swing-N-Slide Monster Web Swing ($88.26)