Babies and preschoolers

Puzzle Owls by Kathe KrusePuzzle Owls (Käthe Kruse, $48, ages 10 months and older). A really beautiful toy. Colorful wooden blocks in sweet, humorous owl shapes can be fitted together, like puzzle pieces, in a wooden frame—or stacked into towers. [CLOVER TOYS]

Rolling Garden (PlayMe, $124.95, ages 2 and older). A beautifully designed wooden track set with garden-themed shapes that kids can send rolling down the tracks at different speeds. Some of the shapes click as they travel, and others create a colorful swirling effect. [ONCE UPON A TIME]

Charley Harper ABC Nesting Blocks (Ammo Books, $24.95, ages 10 months and older). Ten heavy cardboard nesting blocks are decorated in illustrator Charley Harper’s modern, midcentury style with numbers, the alphabet, and plants and animals. [CLOVER TOYS]  Turmelino Trio by Haba

Turmelino Trio (Haba, $50, ages 5 months and older). Older kids can use these soft, patterned blocks (which stick together with Velcro and come in stylized head, body and leg shapes) to create colorful critters. Smaller children (even infants who can sit up) can play with the blocks’ shapes and textures, put the blocks together and pull them apart. [CLOVER TOYS]

Lawnmower Push Toy (Papa Don’s Toys, $39.99, ages 1–3). A pretty natural-wood lawnmower contains colorful balls that make a popping sound as little ones push it along. Well made in the U.S., with nontoxic finishes. [THE TOY PLACE]Froggy Boogie by Blue Orange Games

Froggy Boogie (Blue Orange Games, $29.99, ages 4 and younger). A cute all-wood memory game, in which baby frogs try to avoid naptime by racing around the pond—without being frozen in their tracks by an adult frog. [LEARNING SPROUT TOYS]

Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench (Hape, $29.99, ages 1–3). Kids build hand-eye coord­ination, color recognition, and a sense of cause and effect with this well-constructed, multipurpose toy. Pound the colorful balls at the top or remove the xylophone to make some music. [THE TOY PLACE]Activity Walker by EverEarth

Activity Walker (EverEarth, $88.95, ages 3 and younger). This sturdy push toy for little ones is high in play value; it includes a bead maze, animal puzzle, shape sorter, xylophone and gears that turn as your child scoots it across the floor. The colorful walker is made of wood taken from renewable forests, and—yes!—features a storage area to keep loose pieces in one place. [ONCE UPON A TIME]

Jungle Endeavor Set (Tegu, $59.99, ages 3–8). Twenty-six smooth, magnetic building blocks and planks in camouflage colors (browns, greens) can be fitted together in any way your child can think of. The blocks are made in Honduras from eco-friendly wood. [THE TOY PLACE]Wheely Animal Ride-Ons by Prince Lionheart

Wheely Animal Ride-Ons (Prince Lionheart, $67.99, ages 4 and younger). These ride-ons have a soft covering over a plywood base made out of renewable materials, wobbling spring-mounted feelers, and are entirely nontoxic. They come in adorable animal shapes: a mouse, pig, ladybug, bee or tiger. [LEARNING SPROUT TOYS]

Be Quiet, Mike! by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick, $14.99, ages 4–7). Mike is a noisy little monkey who seems to be shushed wherever he goes—until he discovers a drum set in a store window. Bold illustrations make this perfect for the younger set. [MOCKINGBIRD BOOKS]

Les Zazous Plush by Moulin RotyLes Zazous Plush (Moulin Roty, $44.95, ages 5 and younger). Choose one of five sweet, floppy critters—a rabbit, cat, elephant, koala or mouse—that are handmade in France using the fuzziest of fabrics. Fabric eyes make them safe for even the youngest kids, and they come packed in a sturdy cylindrical box for gift giving. [ONCE UPON A TIME]

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker (Chronicle Books, $16.99, ages 4–8). A book for truck-mad kids in which heavy construction machinery—Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Excavator—wrap up their day. [MOCKINGBIRD BOOKS]

Elementary ages

Discovery Spaceship Play Set by EducoDiscovery Spaceship Play Set (Educo, $140.99, ages 5 and older). This 26-piece set, made of maplewood and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), features three floors, a detachable rocket, a working elevator and lots of wooden accessories (astronauts, alien, robot, land rover and many more) that space-mad kids will love. [CREATIVE MOM TOYS]

Create Your Own Enchanted Storybook (Creativity for Kids, $17.99, ages 5–9). A castle-shaped storybook that kids can write in, illustrate and decorate with glitter stickers, markers and rhinestones. There’s a window over the drawbridge door that holds a picture. [LEARNING SPROUT TOYS]

EzyRoller (EzyRoller LLC, $103.99, ages 5–9). A unique ride-on toy that slithers down the road using kids’ leg power—no chains or rollers! [LEARNING SPROUT TOYS]

Spot It by Blue Orange GamesSpot It (Blue Orange Games, $12.99, ages 7 and older). A compact tin fits easily in a purse or backpack (making this game perfect for trips and overlong visits at relatives’ houses) and contains four different matching games. It’s the number-one selling game in the country at the moment. [THE TOY PLACE]

Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy (Peachtree Publishers, $16.99, ages 5 and older). Beautiful illustrations enhance a story about an alley cat who wants to leave his hard life for the comforts of the Cheshire Cheese Inn. Luckily for him, the innkeeper is looking for a new cat to catch mice. [MOCKINGBIRD BOOKS]

Rat-a-Tat Cat by Gamewright

Rat-a-Tat Cat (Gamewright, $11, ages 5 and older). Kids practice their memory skills—and their powers of sneakiness—in a fast-moving game in which players compete for the lowest score. [CLOVER TOYS]

Children’s Miscellany (Chronicle Books, $12.95, ages 8 and older). Three volumes jammed with the kind of facts that kids this age love: super powers, how to fly a helicopter, weird fish names. Clover Toy owner Sarah says these books kept her kids “thoroughly amused” on a long road trip. [CLOVER TOYS]

Big Bag of Science (Be Amazing! $44.95, ages 5 and older). More than 70 fun experiments in chemistry, physics, magnetism, biology, weather and geology pique kids’ interest in science—without being too difficult. [ONCE UPON A TIME]Catapult Kit by Keva

Catapult Kit (Keva, $26, ages 7 and older). Precut wood parts, glue, rubber washers, a bamboo dowel and bean bags (to use as projectiles, of course) add up to a working catapult. [CLOVER TOYS]

Pom-Pom Pals (Chronicle Books, $16.99, ages 5 and older). A craft kit that, according to store owner Sarah, appeals to boys. It contains materials to make pom-pom monsters and other critters. [CLOVER TOYS]

Tweens and teens

Nanoblock Space Shuttle by The Ohio Art CompanyNanoblock Space Shuttle (The Ohio Art Company, $25). Itty-bitty blocks for kids who have mastered their small motor skills but still like to build. This set comes with 580 blocks and instructions to build a 3-D NASA space shuttle compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand. [ONCE UPON A TIME, THE TOY PLACE]

The Phantom Tollbooth, 50th-Anniversary Edition by Norton Juster (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $24). Celebrate 50 years of readers discovering—and rediscovering—Milo and his travels in the Lands Beyond. This special edition includes the original art stamped on the case, essays about the book, photos of the author and illustrator, and the 35th-anniversary essay by Maurice Sendak. [MOCKINGBIRD BOOKS]Magnetic Charms by Mogo

Magnetic Charms (Mogo, $12.99). Small tins are packed with themed charms (“Animal Attraction,” “Lucky Girl,” “Peace and Love”) that girls can snap onto colorful charm bands (sold separately), which hold as many as eight charms. The charm bands can be put together to form headbands and more. Mogo is based in Seattle. [THE TOY PLACE]

Calligraphy Kit (Aladine, $18). The kit contains a calligraphy pen, a fine brush, India ink and a handbook that kids can use to practice calligraphy’s beautiful, flowing shapes. [CLOVER TOYS]

Luck of the Draw by GamewrightLuck of the Draw (Gamewright, $20). A fast-paced game the whole family (even younger kids) can play, in which players compete to make a drawing that best matches the word on a card. [CLOVER TOYS]

Movie Maker (Candlewick Press, $19.99). Kids can make pro movies with their cell phones! The kit comes with a CD of sound effects, a storyboard pad for plotting scenes, special effects stickers, props, costumes and even a clapper board and director’s handbook. [CLOVER TOYS]

Kris Collingridge is ParentMap’s Out + About editor—and a skulker in toy stores everywhere.

Local Toy Stores to Check Out This Season



KidsQuest Children’s Museum Store

Lakeshore Learning

Merry Go Round

Once Upon a Time

The Toy Place at Bellevue Art & Frame

Uncle’s Games

Wee Tots

Gilman Village

White Horse Toys

Mercer Island

Island Books


Tree Top Toys



Seattle + North



Capitol Hill


Columbia City

Retroactive Kids

Downtown Seattle

Top Ten Toys


Green Lake

Mockingbird Books


Snapdoodle Toys

Queen Anne

Blue Highway Games

Once Upon a Time

West Seattle

Curious Kidstuff

South Sound

Bainbridge Island

Calico Cat


Goodie Gumdrops


Wind Up Here


Creative Mom Toys


Learning Sprout Toys



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