Wooden blocks are well-used and well-loved at my house. We use them to build towers, houses, words, villages, roads, skyscrapers, boats, dollhouses and animal villages. We use them to count, weigh, build, balance, measure, and spell. Wooden blocks are never outgrown and never go out of style. They allow adults and all ages of kids to create and play together. My children (now 10, 8, and 6) still play with ours blocks constantly. These are the sets I plan to save and pass down to the grandchildren.
Grimms Building Block Sets
My very favorite building blocks are made by Grimms. Grimms blocks are handmade in Germany from sustainably harvested woods and non-toxic water-based stains. All sets also use the same base size (2 cm or 4 cm) making it easy to combine different sets when building. I discovered them because I wanted my kids to have colorful blocks, but I didn't want blocks that were covered in paint that could chip off, especially if the blocks were manufactured in China. Grimms blocks are stained not painted and have no finish or lacquer. I love the rich colors and visible wood grain. They are really beautiful.
It took me a while to cough up the price of these blocks sets. But I wish I'd done it sooner. They have outlasted so many other less expensive, less versatile, less beautiful, less loved toys. We love our Color Charts Rally set and Set of 100 Large Stepped Counting Blocks. I would also love to own the large mosaic blocks, sloping blocks set, large shapes and colors set, or romanesque blocks set (so many awesome sets to choose from!). You can read longer reviews (and see more photos) of my Grimms blocks here and here.
Grimms Stackers and Puzzle Blocks
Grimms rainbow stackers make terrific boats and bridges and roofs. The house stacker and nesting bowls are perfect for pretend play with cars, dolls or animals. The stackers and puzzle blocks provide unusually shaped pieces that add interest and variety to any creation (in addition to the stated purposes).
I have owned several brands of alphabet blocks and these are, by far, my favorite. The others have all been given away. Uncle Goose alphabet blocks (which are made in the USA) can be purchased in various languages, including French, German, Hebrew, Swedish, ASL, Braille, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, among others (we have the Spanish set). Other not-to-be-missed sets for your consideration: periodic table, women who dared, constellations, planets, birds, bugs, flowers, U.S. States, and Christmas blocks (we love these!). Don't limit yourself to building words! These blocks are fantastic for building, especially in combination with other block sets.
I know lots of people who rave about their Magna-tiles, but we love our Tegu blocks. Tegu blocks are wooden magnetic blocks made with eco-friendly rubberwood in Honduras. The magnets are completely sealed inside the wood so that they are safe for all ages. These blocks will allow your kids to make innovative and creative structures all while exploring magnetic polarity and problem solving. Often featured in children's museums and other educational play spaces, Tegu blocks can also be used to create flat pictures on magnetic surfaces (fridges, white boards, etc.). My kids especially love creating vehicles with the magnetic wheels. Note that Amazon often significantly discounts sets especially around Black Friday.
Melissa & Doug Standard Unit Blocks
For a much less expensive option, consider Melissa & Doug unit blocks or architectural blocks (same size as unit blocks). They are large, unstained, unpainted, and smooth with rounded edges. We often combine these blocks with our colorful Grimms blocks (see photo above). For smaller table top unfinished blocks, consider Plan Toys blocks or HABA blocks, which also come in fun architectural sets (again on a smaller scale).
Another inexpensive option, Citiblocks are small uniform planks that can be used to create a surprising variety of structures. We have the unfinished ones, but they come stained and painted as well.
Other Gift Ideas for Kids
- Gifts that Encourage a Child's Sense of Wonder About Nature
- Games that Teach Kids about the Natural World
- 15 Favorite Children's Christmas Books
- Give Thanks! 10 Favorite Children's Books about Gratitude and Thanksgiving
- top 10 eco-books for kids
Gift Ideas for Adults
- Eco-novice's Top Picks for Reusable Lunch Gear (based on 3 years of rigorous testing)
- 10 Inexpensive Kitchen Gadgets to Give Your Favorite Cook
- Teflon-Free Cookware and Bakeware
- My Favorite Cookbooks
- Delectable Fair Trade Chocolate
- Vegan Whole Grain Waffle & Pancake Mix
- Use Eco-friendly and PVC-free Yoga Mats to Avoid Phthalates and Other Toxic Chemicals (I think a new yoga mat is going to be one of my gifts this Christmas!)
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Your purchase via these links helps support my blog. Thank you for your support. Read my full disclosure policy here.