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Some of my favorite early childhood memories involve wooden puzzles from Germany given to us by our au pair, Claudia, and wooden toy trains and tracks at my Montessori school. Especially knowing what I know now about the environmental evils of plastic, I try to only give wooden toys as baby shower, birthday, and holiday gifts to the kids in my life.
Not only are these 7 wooden toys all made in the USA and under $35 — plus one splurge-worthy additional option — they're also sure to last through temper tantrums, sibling rivalries, and on to the next generation. Because playing rough is a natural part of being a kid!
For more than 250 additional Made in USA gifts under $50, check out the interactive map Tara and I created last year — just click on any state to view gifts made there!
More of a visual learner? Shop by gift recipient with our curated Made in USA Pinterest boards.
Little Sapling Toys Alphabet Blocks (from $18)
I discovered Little Sapling Toys through Grass Roots Modern last year, and am so glad I did. These eco-conscious blocks are made in Wisconsin from maple, walnut, and cherry wood and finished with beeswax and jojoba oil, making them as beautiful as home decor as they are educational!
Whittle Shortline Wooden Trains (from $11)
For more than 15 years, right in Valley Park, Missouri, Whittle has been, erm, whittling solid reforested birch hardwood into toys that "will outlast most childhoods." Skip the plastic nonsense from your local gas station (you know the one) and pick up these classic train cars, trucks & engines instead. I would have loved to have the US Postal Service Truck ($11) or the Amtrak Genesis Superliner 3-car set ($55) when I was a kid.
Old Fashioned Slingshot ($22)
Despite the refrain from Christmas Story stuck in all of our heads, I think every child should grow up with a slingshot — used with adult supervision, of course — and I love this Old Fashioned Slingshot made in Minneapolis, Minnesota by The Original Tree Swing company. Crafted from "nuisance weed" Buckthorn branches and natural latex tubing, it's sure to last for more than one generation (parents willing).
Ancient Industries Baking Set ($25)
The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker all would have loved for their offspring to play with these kid-friendly classic wooden kitchen tools made in New York. The best part? They can actually be used in real kitchens to do real kid-friendly cooking!
Maple Landmark Woodcraft Biplane ($32)
Built to last, this solid wood biplane and its wooden passengers are made from sustainably grown maple in Vermont and painted in timeless designs — sure to become family heirlooms.
Kitty Bowling Game ($23.99)
Cat obsessions need not be limited to YouTube videos and Kittendales calendars. If you're looking for the purr-fect gift for a curious toddler in your life, check out this adorable wooden bowling game set made in Portland, Oregon by "Sarah and Ben with a little help from their son Mikah." It's the cat's meow. Includes 6 solid maple kitty-shaped pins, 1 wooden ball, canvas bag printed with a cat, and score sheets.
INKKIT Twig Pencils ($13/set)
Give their school box a makeover and inspire creativity in your budding artist with these hand-painted pencils, carved from recycled wood & twigs in Albuquerque, New Mexico by Cait Lucas.
Pretty Dreamer Waldorf Toy Tools ($49)
Once upon a time, children's toys were made of wood, minimally designed, beautiful to look at in their own right, and lasted as family heirlooms. These amazing handcrafted toy tools ($49) from Pretty Dreamer in Harrisville, New Hampshire make that notion modern again, inspiring creative play for generations to come.
Story: Copyright 2013, Shoestring LLC. Photos: Courtesy