Before I write a post about the best toys that I have found for the 18-24 months old crowd, I wanted to do a spotlight on my new favorite toy company with the kind of toys that last a lifetime and create many opportunities for learning and development.
I learned about Tag Toys in the usual way I discover companies. I had an idea for a toy that Lexi would really enjoy in my head and I set off to try and find that toy online.
This time it was some kind of board with different switches and locks. It didn’t take me long to find Melissa and Doug products, however being very leery of big toy companies when it comes to quality (on that later) and knowing that many M&D, and other wooden toys for that matter, tested positive for lead and arsenic and a lot of other nasty stuff, I was set on finding an alternative that is safer. That’s how I found Tag Toys.
Check out the video I made of Lexi playing with the toys here:
The company was started with a goal to train intellectual deficits among children with learning disabilities. The founder of Tag Toys earned two separate Masters degrees in Psychotherapy and Educational Psychology as well as a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. So the point of every single toy you see on their website is EDUCATION, DEVELOPMENT, HELP.
Your kid doesn’t have to have a learning disability to love and enjoy these toys. These are all common sense toys that develop the following skills in the best way I have ever thought possible:
- SENSORY- MOTOR, the combined coordination of muscular activity and sensory modalities.
- COMPREHENSION, the discovery and awareness of information in its many forms
- MEMORY, fixing information in mental storage and recalling information for use
- REASONING, arriving at best and predictable outcomes
- EVALUATION, comparing items of information in order to arrive at correctness, identity and consistency*
*taken from TAGTOYS website. For a chart that lists which skills are developed by which toys, click here
But aside from the educational standpoint, these are really fun toys. One look at some of them will make you want to have one in your house and most likely the adults will be playing with them too. Their appeal is universal- everyone likes “tinkering” with things, watching the results, discovering possibilities and that is what Tag Toys so successfully managed to provide to the toy market.
“Made in the USA”
I know for many people these 4 words are very important. Their materials are made in the US and supplies are bought locally from US manufacturers. What that means is that their third party testing also happens in the US, which brings me to…
The issue with most big toy manufacturers that set up shop in China, or any other country other than the US, is that the testing for lead, PVC and other substances takes place in those countries, as well, often at their in-house testing facility. What that means is that corners get cut, profit and production become the keyword, and little kids don’t get taken into consideration. So while on the surface there might be nothing wrong with a cheaper toy, the truth is different batches can test positively for lead, barium, cadmium, PVC (as found out by Healthystuff.org) and that goes straight onto the hands and then mouths of our little ones.
Tag Toys products get send to a third party to get tested for choking hazards as well as substances. While we can’t control any of these processes, it gives me better peace of mind to know that profit and production has nothing to do with how much junk there is in the toys, because the company has no control over the testing process either.
The result of truly caring about your products and not going for biggest profit and cheapest toy is QUALITY.
If one were to lay two wooden boards, one from Tag Toys and one from another manufacturer side by side, the difference will be obvious. Tag toys are made of solid wood: thick, heavy, strong, clean and non-toxic. The quality is apparent. In fact, from the personal standpoint, Tag Toys are the highest quality toys we have in our house and we have A LOT OF TOYS from a lot of different companies.
When on the phone with the company, one of the representatives told me a funny story. Apparently a lot of their products are meant for day care/school situations. Schools often try to save money which is understandable. So they go for the seemingly cheaper M&D products only to return back to Tag Toys a month or two later when those products have all fell apart.
Tag Toys last! This might not matter to a family with one kid, but when you are planning on having more kids, Tag toys will definitely last throughout that time and be passed down generations, the kind of toys that never go out of style.
TOYS WE USE
The three toys we use that were sent to us and the toys that I recommend the most are the following:
A free standing , large, relatively expensive, well made, sturdy board that is a dream come true for a kid (and some adults). It features various locks, latches, switches and knobs for different skill levels and ages.
It helps develop
- memory skills
- hand control
- muscle strength
- finger dexterity
- hand-eye coordination
- fine motor skills
The recommended age is 36 months plus, only due to the (unlikely) possibility that one of the items could get detached (a key, a lock) and choked on. Since I do not believe in leaving small children to play completely unattended (they can literally choke on anything if left alone), this toy is PERFECT for 12 months+ WITH parental supervision.
I am personally in love with this board. The variety of locks and latches are perfect for an 18 months old to tinker with and still leaves some room for skill improvement as she grows and becomes more dexterous. The quality is the same you see on all Tag toys: thick solid wood with a clear glossy finish.
When we have kids over that are slightly older than Lexi, they automatically gravitate towards the board and stay there for a while playing with the locks.
After the initial obsession with the new toy, when she’d spend periods of time playing with the locks, she now regularly walks over to the board to test her skills. While half the locks on it are still a bit challenging for her, it has amazing potential for growth as I always try to get toys that are slightly above her age to challenge her and grow with the toys.
Once you show her one lock or activity, she would spend a long time attempting to repeat it, given that it is not too far beyond her skill level. And that’s what is great about the Tag Toys board: there are latches and locks that a dexterous 12 months old can play with, and those that 3 year olds would be interested in.
I know it looks like it’s the kind of board that you might be able to make yourself, however the issue with homemade board like that is levels of toxins in these locks and items bought from a store. Would you be able to test to make sure that they are free of lead, as many brass items have lead added in it to make it more pliable?
This is smaller more compact version of the Latches Board with the addition of the memory aspect.
The Lockbox is pretty heavy, as it’s made of thick solid wood, but it’s portable enough that you can take it with you to go over to grandma’s or travelling. It has 3 separate compartments, 10 doors and 10 latches, behind which different objects can be hidden and re-discovered.
- hand control
- muscle strength
- finger dexterity.
- memory skills.
- encourages a sense of order.
As with the Latch board, this is a great toy for 12 months + with parental supervision.
Since this is very similar to the board, our experience with it has been very comparable. We make sure we have ours when we stay at hotels, so that she has something small and fun to play with. She often carries it around, or brings it to me to play with. At this age, the hiding game has to be done with the help of a grown up, so we play around hiding different balls in there and try to find them using other doors.
There is also a smaller version of the Lockbox that has 6 doors and two compartments.
This is a simpler puzzle memory game, yet there is nothing simple about. Again solid solid SOLID wood- thick and strong- it’s incredibly impressive especially since we are all used to cheaper plastic toys or plywood toys.
The puzzle is also a memory game and a size sorter. Large knobs are easy to pick up and the inside compartment under each bear is large enough to hide a crayon or a small ball or toy. Once you hide the toy, you ask your child to find it testing their memory or playing a surprise game.
- grasping with the hand and making simple puzzle fittings.
- recognizing and learning the names of common objects.
- memory skills for objects in sequence (important readiness skill for reading and spelling).
This game can be played with even a small baby as soon as they develop object permanence, or even before that, as a surprise game. Like other Tag Toy toys, it grows with a child becoming more and more challenging as you develop new ways of playing it.
This toy is a permanent fixture on our coffee table. Every day Lexi walks up to it, and picks up the bears one by one and then tries to fit them back in. Fitting the bears is slightly more challenging for her right now, because she doesn’t have the patience, but that’s a skill she will develop and that is precisely how this toy will continue being interesting. We usually hide small wooden animals in the compartments and then she proceeds to open every single compartment where she KNOWS the animal is not, until finally nothing is left but the correct bear. We can do this over and over again, up to 10 times in a row without her getting bored of it.
TOYS WE HEART
There are so many Tag Toys that I would love to own and hope to purchase in the future. Every single one is meant to be fun and developmentally educational in more ways than one.
First Column: 1. Look and Feel memory tower 2. Amazing Tracker 3. Magnetic Discovery Board
Second Column: 1. Spellmaster 2. Gears Puzzle 3. Mystery Box 4. Motor Letters
Third Column: 1. What comes next 2. Sound Cylinders 3. Sorting and Sequencing Program 4. Memory Tray 5. Word Discovery Game
Tag Toys sent the three featured toys for review. All opinions are our own.