You know how your son will get a $100 present from grandma, but will end up having the most fun playing with the box? Or how your daughter will emerge from the playroom – the playroom that is piled high with so many toys, ohmygoodness-how-did-we-even-acquire-all-of-these-toys?! – only to announce she has NOTHING to do? Yup. We’ve been there, and so have you.
Turns out, mamas, that less actually is more. Simple, timeless, and minimalist toys inspire open-ended play, spark imagination, and get the creative juices flowing. We’ve chosen five of our faves here that truly stand the test of time.
For letting imaginations run wild: Melissa & Doug Solid-Wood Building Blocks
Simple, wooden blocks have been a part of imaginative childhood play for centuries, and for good reason– the possibilities for creative play here are endless. Melissa & Doug Solid-Wood Building Blocks are a timeless collection that let your toddler and preschool-aged kiddo build everything from a dollhouse to a rocket ship. The set includes 60 natural-finished, smooth hardwood blocks that are easy for little hands to grab and stack. They encourage open-ended (and super fun!) play while simultaneously teaching sophisticated concepts such as math, organizational and sequential skills, and spatial relations. We can’t say enough good thing about these blocks; we promise you’ll get years of play out of them. (And maybe even enough free time to take a shower and blow-dry your hair!)
Pro tip: Keep the wooden storage box that comes with the set—it’s incredibly durable, simply styled, and lets your kids clean up the blocks all on their own.
For inspiring the next generation: Little People, Big Dreams series
Big topics can be tough to explain to little people, but the inspiring new Little People, Big Dreams series tackles this issue with grace and simplicity. The straightforward text and minimalist illustrations perfectly capture the incredible lives and accomplishments of famous designers, artists, and scientists. The books are easy enough for a toddler to understand yet complex enough to spark the curiosity of an older child, ensuring that your little reader will return to this series again and again.
Pro tip: We LOVE giving books as gifts – especially to clutter-conscious mamas – and we think bundling a few of these together would be perfect for that special little person in your life. Gift Maya Angelou, Amelia Earhart, and Coco Chanel to really rock the girl power!
For a space all their own: DalosDream Teepee Tent
What’s better than having a little hiding spot all to yourself where you can dream, play, read, and imagine? The DalosDream Teepee Tent is the perfect play space for when your little one needs a little me time, whether it’s for play or rest. Roomy enough for comfortable play and sturdy enough to withstand years of use, this tent’s simple and modern aesthetic compliments any bedroom or play space. Now if only these came in grown-up sizes…
Pro tip: We found the tent tends to move around a bit during play, so adding a heavy blanket and some pillows to the base is the perfect solution to keep it a bit more stable and to create a comfy little nest perfect for snuggling and relaxing!
For the budding artist: Little Parners Tri-Side Learn & Play Art Center
There are few things we appreciate more than finding products that are beautiful and functional, and the Tri-Side Learn & Play Art Center from Little Partners certainly checks that box. The tripod setup includes three separate boards – a chalkboard, a felt board, and a magnetic dry erase board with a refillable roll for parchment paper – so your little artist can get the creative juices flowing. Four non-spill (??) paint containers and a deep, sturdy bottom shelf to help everything stay neat and organized.
Pro tip: Our fave feature – and what really sets this easel apart – is that each board’s height adjusts independently. We love that the art center not only grows with your child, but allows for friends – and siblings – to play together at the same time.
For the problem solver: Melissa & Doug Farm Wooden Chunky Puzzle
Hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and fine motor control are all super important when it comes to baby and toddler development, and puzzles are a great way for kiddos to play while also building these important skills. We love Melissa & Doug for so many of their innovative toys, but we can’t get enough of their Wooden Chunky Puzzles. With so many to choose from – farm animals, dinosaurs, sea creatures, oh my! – you’re going to have trouble narrowing it down to just one.
Pro tip: The chunky wooden puzzle pieces stand on their own and can also be used for pretend play fun!
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