We’ve just posted our list of top green toys. It’s a fun mix of beautifully crafted wooden toys from companies like Plan Toys, Wonderworld, Citiblocs, Tegu and Schylling. As well as some plastic toys from recycled materials (Green Toys) and even a nod to a plastic lamp that you crank rather than load with batteries. We even have two solar powered devices that will appeal to tween and teens.
What we passed on: scratchy organic dolls, dolls that got credit for being organic but were very muted, and in our opinion a little sad looking. We also passed on many solar activity kits that just didn’t work. Nothing like having a solar panel that just doesn’t feel like powering anything.
At the end of the day, I find any labels like Green or Educational to be only part of the story. If the toy isn’t fun and engaging, it doesn’t matter what great list it should be on. Probably too many negatives there–but you get the point. It doesn’t make the cut with us unless it’s also something that engages our testers.
Last year CitiBlocs rolled out with basic sets of naturally colored wooden slate pieces- no Star Wars themes here or intricate step-by-step instructions– just wonderfully open-ended building supplies to create whatever is on your child’s mind on any particular day. Citiblocs got a lot of credit in our book for delivering a quality product at a much lower price than their more pricey competitors and they were rewarded by shelf space in major stores and a boat load of awards (including ours).
New for this year, they have brought out new colored sets–Cool Colors (blues and greens) and Hot Colors (pinks and yellows).
CitiBlocs Cool Colors
Each color has two sizes. They have the same open-ended concept but with an infusion of color. Many of the wood toys we’ve reviewed this year have been poorly executed–chipped paint or rough edges have been more the norm—so we were especially happy to find that these new Citibloc sets have a high quality level. The colors are saturated into the wood– rather than painted on- so there isn’t the same chipped-paint issue here.
This type of open set is really best suited for older 4s and up. It takes more fine motor skills and dexterity than regular wooden unit blocks. I love the idea of putting these in a basket in the family room and letting everyone dabble while they’re talking, watching tv and hanging out together. Citiblocs is a great parent/child project–and you’ll find yourself taking a turn even after the kids go to sleep.
For hardcore LEGO builders, the open-endedness of these sets may be frustrating and overwhelming at first. There are suggested builds that come with the sets (but not step-by-step instructions)–that may make them settle in and feel more comfortable.
Green toys used to mean a recycling truck here or there…or a paper maker, but now there are many toys that are either manufactured with a green mandate or promote a positive green message to kids. The biggest trend are dolls made from organic materials–not all created equal in our book. Green shouldn’t have to mean scratchy or boring in design or color. Happily we received many that found the right blend of green and whimsy! The other big category — trucks…many made of recycled materials – were a real draw to our testers. Then there are the throw back toys–my personal favorite, the wind-up FM Radio.
Here’s the list of our Top Green Toys for 2009. Complete reviews on our our site, www.toyportfolio.com. Click on the toy name to read our rating/review.
Construction toys should be part of every* child’s toy experience. You’ll find that kids develop preferences to building materials–go with it. Our advice is always to start with smaller sets –building your child’s confidence about what they can do rather than frustrating them with a bigger set.
*Here’s my daily plug about bringing home building sets to girls…it’s important for their math skills down the road. We want them to excel in math and engineering…it starts with building with construction toys.
Sometimes we get toys that are marketed to kids and yet we find that almost every grown-up that comes near them just starts playing with them. Since playing is good at any age, I feel it’s very important to write about these types of products. You may remember that the magnetic building sets that burst onto the market several years ago had that appeal – making them a great choice to just have on the coffee table for some open-ended play time for anyone so inclined. Research also indicates that type of activity for adults is great for keeping those brain neurons firing.
This year’s winner in this category is Citiblocs by Citiblocs. At first you might think a box of equally- sized precision cut wooden pieces wouldn’t be that enthralling – at any age…but once you get building, it’s just fun to see how many different variations you can make. The pieces are very smooth and are made of Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand – making them not only fun, but onto our Green Toy list as well.
Each set comes with ideas for building…they are marked 3 & up, we’d say more like 5 & up and & up and & up!
One of our tester moms (an architect) — LOVED this product. Somehow we knew she would.