Bird and Fish

British designer Patrick Rylands introduced this delightful fish-and-bird pair 40 years ago, drawing from his background in creating sculptural ceramic forms. They won the Duke of Edinburgh’s Design Award in 1970 and are being produced today in injection-molded ABS, with internal ballast weights to keep them balanced while in the water. Buy them at the Victoria and Albert Museum for £19.90 (about $30) each.

Papafoxtrot Space Series

Based on some of the world’s most advanced satellites, these maple-and-stainless-steel toys
are more for adults who are nostalgic for wooden blocks than kids who conjure up digital versions on their iPads. But the analog models, designed by London-based studio Papafoxtrot, are more likely to lead to some down-to-earth parent-child time. Buy the entire collection for $126, or individual pieces for $32.

My First Year Poster

In an age when parents keep pictures on flash drives rather than in photo albums, even the baby book is hopelessly passé. Chase Simmering offers an of-the-minute alterative: an infographic poster with 30 fields for recording memorable milestones of a kid’s first year. Order one for $40 here.

Taga Convertible Bike/Stroller

Leave it to the bike-crazy Dutch to figure out a way to turn a stroller into an adult trike. Modeled after the ubiquitous cargo-style bakfiets--essentially a tricycle with a fixed box in front, the Taga is a chassis that goes from carrier bike to premium stroller--in a rapid 20 seconds. Is it more a gift to the cycling parent than the strapped-in kid? Sure. Just chalk it up to one of parenting’s little rewards. Buy one here for $1,295.

Tube Toys

Tired of spending gobs of money on gifts only to watch your kid eschew the toys for the boxes they came in? In this case, the packaging is the toy. Each cardboard tube can be transformed into a vehicle using the stickers and rubber wheels inside. “When you observe children’s playing, you quickly realize that any gap between what something it is, and what they want it to be, is immediately fulfilled by imagination,” the designer Oscar Diaz tells Co.Design. “A toy is just a bit of structure for them to support their narrative. The Tube Toys intend to create just that structure.” And when the physical structure gives out, it can be easily disassembled and recycled. They’re available from Uncommon Goods for $15 each.

Sifteo Cubes

Sifteo champions “intelligence play” by combing the tactile experience of playing dominoes or checkers with digitally programmed games, which are by shaking, tapping, and arranging the lightweight cubes.” The second-generation of cubes comes with four pre-loaded games, ranging from a Zelda-inspired adventure game to a simple math game. The new software isn’t compatible with the original set, but Sifteo offers early adopters a $50 voucher to upgrade. The cubes cost $130 for a three-piece set and $30 for a single.

Zoku Character Tool Kit

An accessory kit to the , this set encourages both artistic expression and healthy eating habits, with 14 stencils for embedding zany and cute faces into fruit popsicles. Pick one up for $14.95 at Williams-Sonoma.


These blocks aren’t just made for testing the bounds of gravity; they’re intended to challenge the imaginations of kids of all ages. FaceMaker is the creation of Zoe Miller and David Goodman (of Miller Goodman), a design duo in Brighton, England, specializing in children’s books and toys. Figuring out the shapes that would yield recognizable faces required many hours of experimental play on the part of the designers. “We had to break down the blocks and play endlessly imagining different possibilities, considering alternative options making the most from the least,” they tell Co.Design. The tops and bottoms of the eco-friendly rubberwood blocks are hand-printed in Thailand using nontoxic paint. Buy the set for $75 here--and post your inspiring results on Miller Goodman’s dedicated Flickr site.

Our Holiday Gift Guide For Design-Savvy Kids

A collection of responsible toys for amusing both adults and children.

If you made a trip to the local Toys ‘R Us on Black Friday, our deepest sympathies. Chances are you encountered plenty of plastic toys to entertain and corrupt young minds but few that met environmentally friendly standards, let alone were engaging enough for the whole family, adults included. These seven products run the age and price gamut, from an award-winning rubber ducky to digital cubes that reinvent the notion of playful learning, and are guaranteed to stir the imaginations of parents and kids alike.

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