Giant Child Guidance Railroad

After I had Oscar and before I had a weblog I used to sit at the computer all day, bouncing Oscar in his bouncy seat with my foot and scouring the internet for all the best baby stuff. I hunted down vintage toys on ebay, searched european toy sites for all the coolest wooden toys, had the whole Plan Toys line memorized. Now with Oscar’s second birthday and Christmas coming up I find myself stumped. I have no list. No ideas. Well besides trains and cars, no ideas. Even with trains and cars I’m confused. Train table or no train table? Should I start buying up all of Percy’s friends or is that more of a 3rd birthday sort of event? I could just buy 100 (more) matchbox cars and wrap them all up under the tree and call it a day but I should probably try to diversify the kid’s interests. Books of course, he has more books than the library and I can’t stop myself. But what else? We’ve got blocks, puzzles, playdoh and crayons, um stuffed animals obviously. I just need to figure out what the perfect 2 year old boy present is. If anyone has any tips I’d love to hear them.

Some (my mother) would say I’m crazy thinking about more toys. Especially since we can’t help ourselves when we find great things at the resale shops. Like this weekend’s find, a 1950s Sears plastic train set. Tim was sure it would be compatible with the wooden Brio/Thomas track. It isn’t. The track is nearly impossible to fit together and take apart and it’s missing all sorts of key pieces but still it has had Tim and Oscar enthralled. I’m in love too, with its vintage colors and the cute little faces on the engines.

39 thoughts on “Giant Child Guidance Railroad

  1. dawn says:

    Does Oscar have a dollhouse? This continues to be one of Parker’s favorite toys. And there are many wonderful wooden houses to choose from, with little families. and lots of furniture. and a pet or two.
    just a thought.

  2. Pink Rocket says:

    My son is about to be 4 but still adores the toys we bought him for his 2nd birthday. His favorite, his Geotrax railroad by Fisher-Price (he’s obsessed by trains). But let me warn you, it’s addicting! We’ve got most of the set and it’s so big now that he can’t even play it in his room anymore! Plus, it doesn’t help that they keep making more to expand it! Also, he LOVES Little People, also by Fisher-Price. The little videos are really cute and teach things like recycling and working together. Another favorite is his Leap Pad learning system. He’s 3 1/2 and has been reading since he was 2 1/2 because of it! It’s great to take in the car and is wonderful in situations where they have to be quiet; you can plug in headphones. I hope this helps a bit!

  3. Melanie says:

    I’ve got the girl slant here, but paper dolls and wooden food are pretty popular in our house right now.
    On the train table issue: we got one last week. It’s really cool.

  4. Julia says:

    With my little cousin Tyler at two years old, more of the same was always good! Even though adults may not approve or think its boring, kids that age love what they love! (though maybe for something different a little set of plastic tools? my cousin loved having his own tools…)

  5. Heatherica says:

    I have the same to say as Pink Rocket! My son just turned 4 and we started buying him the Fisher Price Geotrax set at his 3rd birthday. They are totally addicting and everyone in my family gets in on it! He really loves it too.

  6. Stephanie says:

    At two, Milo really started to get into tools (still an obsession). My kids also really love their wooden blocks…lots of play possibilities with those. Another favorite was the wooden velcro fruits and veggies that you can cut with a knife (like this: Also great for Oscar’s age are musical instruments (tambourine, harmonica, maracas, etc.)
    I’m pretty finicky about toys; we don’t do a lot of electronic or plastic stuff, but I do think every kid should have a MagnaDoodle.

  7. Alison says:

    Children’s gardening kits. Tool sets – there’s some really lovely timber ones out there. Puzzles. Felt pictures. Stuffed animal tails that tie around the child’s waist for them to pretend to be animals (there’s a kangaroo one which makes ‘Boing’ noises and dragon ones). Any train track pieces. The entire Plan Toys stuff. Berchet trike/push thing (brilliant and indespensible in our house). Cubby Houses. Garages for toy cars. Trampoline (small one)……should I keep going….

  8. betty says:

    My boy turned 2 in january, so it’s a little bit older, but we got him the Geotrax the first comment mentions, and it’s great. You can expand it, it has remote controls for the trains, and they make noises, both kid and parents are delighted.
    And the other day I bought the Byggo tool box at Ikea, and Jan is in love! He’s still too young to “build”, but he loves me watching me do it, and then “unbuilds” with the screwdriver (he wants to go EVERYWHERE with that screwdriver!).

  9. kath says:

    Orlando 3years – is a real boys boy and loves leggo, building things with ‘real’ (plastic) tools and screws etc – he loves his chain saw and drill, and of course trucks and trains and wind up toys, robots, and noisy drum kids are a hit.

  10. jean says:

    My son loves trains. It started a bit older than two. He didn’t love them at first, but played with them. He is now eight. We never got a table on purpose. I am crazy about the designs he comes up with that take up his entire bedroom floor. It changes all the time. It has been interesting to see his understanding of community develop by building his own. I second the house suggestion, or a farm. Hours of fun. He was really into his farm at two.

  11. Lindy says:

    Just had a second birthday party here. I went ahead and started a wooden train collection. The train table’s been great for other toys too. We bought a few Thomas trains and some basic tracks.
    I’d add Mr. Potato Head to your list. G. LOVES it and so do all his friends. And maybe an easel if you don’t have one already. Ikea makes a great one.
    I’m also using birthdays and Christmases to build up a collection of “older” kids books. Like the Maira Kalman books and other fun finds. He’s not that interested in hardback books with beautiful illustrations yet, but I love collecting them for later.

  12. Lindy says:

    And oh my gosh, yes, the HARMONICA! He’s been breathing through it almost nonstop since he opened it Saturday night. We’ve all been cracking up watching him heave his whole body up and down to get the maximum sound out of it.
    And the sound really isn’t as annoying as lots of beeping singing toys.

  13. Martha Winger says:

    Depending on your family’s beliefs, it’s not too soon to introduce a child’s nativity set. Fisher Price has a great Little People one.

  14. Angela says:

    I have 2 girls, but I remember gifting dd#1 a tea set when she turned two. She still plays with it now at 5 years old. What else… maybe a waldorf boy doll? play kitchen? I second the wooden play foods for cutting. DD#2(19 months) just found her sister’s play foods, grabbed a knife and was happily cutting for 20 minutes by herself.
    This is my first comment, but I’ve been reading you blog for a while. Very inspirational!

  15. persephone says:

    I like the idea of musical instruments. Magic Cabin has some nice wooden ones…
    I don’t really have a gift idea, but I can tell you what we do with my stepson (he is 5). Before Christmas we go through his toys, and I ask what he would like to give away to another little boy for Christmas (this year it will be easier with hurricane relief). We give things to charity and thin out his toys considerably, ready for the next batch. Admittedly, Oscar is a bit young for this, but it will work next year, when you can use the “big boy” excuse on him. (Do you really want to keep this toy? This is for babies and I thought you were a bog boy.)

  16. Kimberly says:

    I have two boys totally into trains/cars. They’ve been fixated on them since they were born. They’re now 6 and 8 years old! A nice addition to the train sets for us were some play silks from Magic Cabin. They use the blue silk for lakes and rivers, the grey for the quarry, etc. It really opens up the imagination. Plus they can be used for millions of other things, too.

  17. robin says:

    the tree blocks are very cool– and you can build them up into a doll house. play clothes? you could make some amazing ones i am sure. my kids didn’t wear real clothes for their first few years! wait till right after halloween and stock up. i’m forever pushing play silks: great for forts and a billion other things. at the learn & play (not sure if this is a chain store or not) they have these cardboard “bricks” that little boys love. a shopping cart loaded with play food…
    also, i’ve heard you mention that oscar is reticent about his stuffed toys. (i might be remembering incorrectly) but maybe a doctor’s kit or stroller, or something like this that would give him an outlet to ‘interact’ with them more…? boys oscars age seem to love pushing stuff around.

  18. Laura says:

    I second the Magnadoodle and Duplo blocks (big Legos). I can’t remember how old my son was when he got his first Lincoln Logs but those are great, and one toy that we all spent a lot of time playing with was “domino race” – a set of painted wooden domino sized tiles that you set up in rows and make them go up and down little stair step things. I got that from Hearth Song. Last time I checked they still had the same set, same catalog photo, etc, and we got ours over ten years ago. Must be pretty popular because sometimes I’ve seen them on backorder in the online catalog.

  19. Siri says:

    So many great ideas above. I know he’s seems a bit young, but even Playmobil is something that he could start playing with during the next year. I wouldn’t recommend the big sets at all though. They just seem to take them all apart and then can’t play with them until an adult feels like putting it all back together, or can’t play with if they lose any key components.
    We have a bucket of little people, animals, vehicles,and the little accessory parts that came with them. The boys play with them EVERY SINGLE DAY. I love the imaginitive ways that they play with them. Even our older son, when he was 2 and still an only child, played with them almost as frequently. They make great stocking stuffers.

  20. abby says:

    no one mentioned art supplies, so i will. i just got my newly 2 years old nephews some of the Color Wonder line from Crayola. they’re markers and paints that only work on the paper provided–not walls. they have a bunch of different options from plain paper to different-themed coloring books. they’re not old enough to really know what coloring is yet, but they’re already making efforts with the pens on the walls, so i thought this might be a good alternative for them.

  21. carol says:

    At 2, my son Simon loved BALLS- lots of them. He even had a bag with the word and carried them everywhere. We had to laugh because the word came up way too much in conversations with him…and, well…you figure it out. My friend made some really great “felted” ones…
    He also really dug a mini cooper remote controlled car and still does to this day.

  22. Teresa says:

    My granddaughter Lilee is 2 1/2 and she loves the puzzles with the knobs. you have to match the pictures of the pieces to the puzzle. And also blocks. The kind we had in school. They have bother at Toys r us.

  23. jennyann says:

    I love the dollhouse idea. At two, tiny people/figures can be a great time consuming toy…around that age pretend play starts to emerge. Henry also loved water play of any sort. And for his second birthday we got him a magnadoodle. Of course, markers and paper are just as awesome 🙂

  24. Amber says:

    Looks like you have lots of great ideas for actual gifts, but I just wanted to be another voice saying that it might not be so important that you get so many gifts. Especially if he’s at an age where he’s not requesting or receiving a lot of specific items, it seems like it might be a better idea to make a big fuss about how big the holiday is and all the baking and crafting and extra family time that go along with it (which I know you will do) and just get him a couple of great things. Better for your pocketbook, sets a better expectation in the event that there are years when the pocketbook isn’t as full…
    I know you know all this and from your blog, I’m sure you’re a wonderful mother (even when it’s hard), just wanted to add another affirmation.
    Also, it seems nerdy or silly, BUT especially if you feel like you are “cheaping out” only getting a couple of toys, buy him a US Savings Bond. It sounds old-fashioned and outdated, BUT:
    You buy it for half the face value and it will mature when he’s a young man and could use the cash.
    You don’t have to manage or think about a thing – no following stocks, annual fees, etc.
    My dad bought me several when I was a baby – every month a small one and the last was a bigger one on my second birthday. They matured when I was 16 or so, but I let them keep going (they accrue interest for 30 years). I cashed them last year and they helped me buy my first house. Better than decorating my rental with whatever toys I could have gotten on that birthday.

  25. jenn says:

    my son is also two this year, and also loves cars and trucks, etc. he had a train table and we bought him a starter set of thomas but it just doesn’t stop there. he does love it, but for christmas this year we decided to buy him no trucks or cars (he has a ton and I am sure that is what everyone else will get him!) and nothing that talks. so I, like you, are searching all the vintage toy sites. I love the soldier skittles from the UK and that is my current pursuit, or the bowling monkeys, things like that. (Of course, his newest obsession is playing with a basket full of old corks I was saving to make a wreath…you just never know.)

  26. Sara says:

    Sounds like our sons are into the same things – match box cars, wooden blocks and trains are among his favorite. Do you have a carpet road? Nate loves to play with his and builds block buildings to accompany the roads. When he was 2 his favorite presents were a harmonica, art supplies and music. My sister has 2 girls so we frequently trade mix CDs of our kids favorite songs. He also really likes (and liked at 2) books on tape or CD that he could follow along. At about 2 1/2, Nate got into games like picture matching bingo, wooden lacing cards, puzzles – especially car, truck or train wooden puzzles, simple go fish or card games. I found a cool wooden sewing block that he uses when I’m sewing. He also really liked (and still likes) his wooden tool chest. I had to put some pads on the hammer so he wouldn’t pound holes into the walls 🙂
    Oh, and I made him playsilks when he was 2 and he really still likes those. I bought some silk squares from either Dharma Trading or Thai Silks and then dyed them primary colors – very easy and cheap (plus, the take up very little space!)
    Good luck – the comments have given me lots of good ideas for this year’s holidays. I think I’m going to make a puppet theater ala angry chicken – see her post from August 30. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  27. scribblesnbits says:

    Hi! Forst comment, although I’ve “lurked” around before. Anyway, I can’t really make any gift suggestions, but I did want to comment that I had that same train toy as a kid! It was a “hand-me-down” and din’t have all the cool gadgets that yours does (the blue and red center wheel thingy in the second picture), but man was it a fun toy! I’ve got it in storage now, but this makes me want to take it out and display it!

  28. Miriam says:

    Someone mentioned Playmobil…The Playmobil 123 line (for younger kids) has a really cute little house that my boys loved from age 2 and up. The kicker is a little bathroom you can add on (good for toilet training discussions!) I was in love with the little bathroom, and Playmobil toys are so beautifully made–even if they are plastic.

  29. Blair says:

    My son, who is now 4, just recently stopped playing with the thousands (it seems) of the Thomas trains he has. Oh, the nights we spent scouring the internet for retired train cars, the money! But what was a good purchase in our house was the train table. A friend made it for us, plain and swedish birch (smooth finish, no chance of splinters). Now that the trains have moved off it, it still continues to be the central hub of all things moving,since they don’t fall off the edge. Yep, I’d go for a play table, trains or no trains, we love it. Wish I’d gotten one for my daughter. We also have a large wooden play castle that has been a boy and girl favorite, perfect size for all our playmobil people. We’ve rigged up a ladder and it has a drawbridge, but otherwise plain and undecorated (so its not obnoxious to put in our family rm). My sister-in-law handed it down to us, so I’m not sure where it came from, but its a very Waldorf-style toy.

  30. amy k. says:

    great ideas already. sadie was hard at this age for christmas because 2 is still so young, but we got her simple puzzles, actually these from here
    and she LOVED them (and what a great price!!) and spent so much time with them, she still plays with them every day. also, a little shopping cart /doll stroller was VERY big. I think the pushing toys are so important.

  31. Windy City Wendy says:

    So many great ideas listed. My son played with a kitchen set at that age and it’s been used by every kid who comes to our house since. (He’s now 8 and we have a daughter who loves it too.) I’d wait on Brio Builder til he’s a bit older, though it’s a fantastic toy. What I was really wanting to comment on was the train table. We got one, but found it really limiting. One of the great aspects of the train sets are the ability to rebuild and reconfigure them in a million different ways. You’d be suprised at how limiting the table becomes. Even though we have a ton of BRIO train track, we’d always be missing “the piece” our son needed to make a tight turn or connection (and yes, we even own those special wacky track and other odd pieces meant to solve this problem). Another thing he loved to do with the tracks was to run them from one room to another and that isn’t going to happen with a table either. Lastly, my favorite memories of him at that age are of his little body laying flat against the floor with his eyes level to and locked on to the movement of his trains’ wheels. He just didn’t play with the trains the same with the table. Save the money and get him something else.

  32. debra says:

    Oh, do I ever know exactly what you are talking about!! To tell you the truth, we don’t even buy the kids gifts for holidays. Grandparents & friends get them more than enough and with all the fun stuff we pick up year round, it just seems a waste to give them so much more than they need. But, when we find cool buys like your train set, we don’t have any problem buying them b/c it just makes more sense to buy the special stuff, kwim? And my kids are very thankful (they are 4 & 2). They get the greatest pleasure out of the smallest gifts–I want them to stay that way!

  33. Karen says:

    Thanks for the flashback! My Brother (born in 1969) had one of those, but the tracks were red and hard to snap too. He loved the roundabout gear the most. I got his son a toy with gears for his 2nd bday which he loved. Is your son technical?

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