After watching my children play with my mother's saved wooden barnyard animals and my childhood friend's old Steiff collection, I've decided to seek out toys made to last—and to potentially become tomorrow's heirlooms. Towards that end, for this year's kids' gift guide, we're zeroing in on lovingly created designs from small workshops near and far.
To make sure we've got everyone on your list covered, we're posting a new gift guide every weekday from now until Christmas. See all of the Gift Guides to date in our archive.
Above: Found via our friend Deborah Beau at Kickcan and Conkers, AlphaBits by Milan-based Looodus are an artful reinvention of the classic refrigerator alphabet. The set includes 66 magnetized, laser cut letters (two full alphabets, plus 13 extra common letters), so your child can practice letter recognition and spelling; $113.
Above: A stacking toy of play animals, this jolly Circus Animals Act XL is handmade from solid lindenwood and non-toxic paints by Netherlands-based Etsy seller Watermelon Cat Company; $48.69.
Above: For budding architects, Manzanita Kids of Seattle makes a series of modular dollhouses, buildilngs, and towns in high-grade birch ply. Shown here, its Castle Building Blocks, $75, that allow children to build, destroy, and redesign to their hearts content.
Above: Playful and pretty, these individual Fox Masks made from Liberty cotton are hand stitched in Paris by Etsy seller Lucille Michieli; $52.87.
Above: Help your children learn their place in the world. Both decoration and teaching tool, this Corkboard Map from Anthropologie is the perfect place to pin travel souvenirs; $48.
Above: From Limiceramics of Torres de la Alameda, Spain, the ceramic Trio design is a three-part storage container that can also be used individually as bowls and cups. Part of a series featuring the work of five different illustrators, it's available for $62.82 from Limiceramics' Etsy shop.
Above: Big swing sets with all the bells and whistles may be irresistible, but all you really need is a disc on a rope, such as The Original Tree Swing from Oeuf, $55. My own children spend hours on theirs; they love it because it not only goes back and forth, but round and round.
Above: I had the hardest time choosing which of the witty stuffed animals by Poosac to single out. Handmade in Edinburgh, Scotland, and available via Poosac's Etsy shop for $41-$66, they all have such personality. Shown here, the Plush Dinosaur made of poly-filled linen and felt, $53.89.
Above: A modern see saw inspired by the iconic Creative Playthings Hobby Horse, Ply Play's Big Tilt is handmade in St. Louis, MO, of sustainable bent birch plywood and holds four; $800. The Mini Tilt for two is $400.