Designed for Play
For the sophisticated child, only the most well-designed gifts will do. Parents, you may find yourself telling the kids to leave these beauties in the living room rather than the playroom.
Hape Mini e-vehicles
Ages: 3 & up
What it is: Lightweight, compact vehicles made from bamboo
Why we like it: Perfect as a stocking stuffer or small addition to a gift, these mini racers are fast, fun and eco-friendly. Colorful and well-crafted, they are sure to keep little speedsters entertained.
Design Dossier: Graphic Design
10 & Up
What it is: Beautifully designed and clearly written, Design Dossier: Graphic Design elegantly integrates an explanation of what graphic design is, its trends through time, and the people who work within the field. It culminates in a cleverly presented design identity project. Highlights of the book include a Milestones of Graphic Design timeline, tracing turn of the 20th century posters through contemporary videogame graphics. In the designer portfolio section, a diverse selection of active designers are described on two sided cards offering their biographies one side and a collection of their work on the other. A black portfolio envelope at the book’s end holds a card offering advice for creating a logo along with stencils that can be used to create one.
Why we like it: For children in schools where art budgets have been cut drastically, this book offers an excellent introduction to a creative career in high demand.
Woody Rocking Horse
18 months to 5 years
What it is: Made from 100% Birch from an FSC-approved forest (meaning its ethically and sustainably harvested), this is one solid, well-crafted toy. Every edge is perfectly smooth. It has large handgrips and well-placed footrests. And, perhaps most importantly, the oversized rockers prevent tipping forwards or backwards-despite the valiant attempts by our thrill-seeking testers.
Why we like it: Of course, when it comes to a rocking horse, there are not a lot of “traditional” learning advantages involved like problem solving or creative thinking. But the way this horse is designed most certainly helps kids develop things like balance and coordination. And the smiles on toddlers’ faces while they are rocking really says it all. Parents will like how beautiful this toy will look in even the most well-designed homes.
Wooden Building Set: Four Elements
1 & up
What it is: An innovative building set of organic forms.
Why we like it: These beautifully colored shapes are eco-friendly in materials as well as longevity. The blocks are textured in a way that makes building gorgeous tower and arc structures in surreal shapes possible. An elegant addition to bookshelves and coffee tables, not to mention playroom floors.
3 & Up
What it is: Slooooks is a game made for travel. As in “I Spy,” players search for items in their surroundings to win. One spinner determines the color of the item sought the other the first letter of it. The board is cute and fun, with colored sunglasses shaped tabs used to keep score. There’s a timer to make sure turns don’t last too long, and the board has a holder for that too. The first player to pull out all of the sunglasses tabs in their chosen color wins the game.
Why we like it: The age appeal of this game was wide. Variations are provided, and testers found ways to think of even more. For example, younger players can search for objects of a specific color and not use the alphabet spinner. And parent testers liked this game as much as their children did. In fact, some found themselves playing it even after the kids had gone to bed.
8 & up
What it is: A three-dimensional version of tic-tac- toe, but more complex. Players push balls through a rubber grid in an attempt to be the first to place three in a row.
Why we like it: The 3D twist and elegant design reinvigorate a simple, classic game. Being able to manipulate the pieces of other players’ adds to the fun.