Do you have a hard time finding the right toy for everyone when the plethora of holidays, birthday parties and other gift-giving occasions arrive? Sure, there are age guidelines on the box, but they're not always easy to find, and even if a toy is geared for 3+, would a 6 year-old like it? I first heard of ebeanstalk, a website dedicated to selecting good, safe baby toys, when my sister-in-law sent two gifts in a row to H and Charlie from it. The presents were a hit, and also came with a little card explaining what each toy did to aid in development (i.e. sensory stimulation, fine or gross motor development).
I was intrigued when I got the first email from them saying that they need help from moms like me to pick the toys. I already knew that I liked their site content and was excited to be part of their test panel.
The toy they sent is called Automoblox Minis 3-pack (T9, S9 and C9) from Manhattan Toy, who makes great developmental toys. Packaged in a sleek rectangular box, you slide out the inner portion and I found my first positive: no plastic twine encasing every inch of the toy making it a nightmare for parents in the opening process.
The automoblox are wooden cars that are made to be interchangeable, so that three cars can be made into several different ones by simply pulling them apart (they're hooked together by two color coded male/female plugs). For instance, H's set came with a red, green and blue car. Each of them came apart into 2-3 pieces plus the tires and plastic bubble, which looks like the top of a car, are interchangeable and color-coded as well. H is just at the age where color identification is important, and he was able to see the 'right' way to put the cars back together because all the plugs, tops and tires matched. (The set also comes with four black tires)
This toy is marked for 3+, and I felt like it was a really appropriate guideline. The tires come off easily, which is great because it wasn't frustrating for him to pull any of the pieces apart, but they also don't come off so easily that it falls apart as you're rolling it across the carpet. For this reason, though, it's a toy that will be played with out of reach from my 14 month-old. There is a choking hazard warning on the box for small parts.
There were no weird plastic-y smells, and the wooden bodies had some fun details such as drilled out holes where the head and tail-lights will be. The body is made of German beech wood that's triple coated in a non-toxic lacquer so even though your pre-school may be beyond sticking things in their mouths it's just as important that their toys be toxin-free.
The set we were sent can be found for just under $30, and I would absolutely spend the money on it as a gift for Christmas or a birthday. H was occupied for THREE HOURS while Charlie napped...he is a pretty good kid when it comes to entertaining himself, but these three cars kept him busy the whole time! There are also larger toys that come in a single pack. At the very least, we'll be getting the other mini sets (the m9, X9-X and A9-S) so that there are more parts to interchange with.