Banner Image: Melisa & Doug
From the most bougie of baby boutiques to the most humble kid's toy store, Melissa & Doug toys are where it's at. Known for educational toys with quality construction that emphasize open-play, imagination and social-emotional development, toys from Melissa & Doug are disguised to kids as just plain fun.
With many parents faced with keeping their kids entertained this summer without the usual camps, daycares and activities, thanks to COVID-19, integrating Melissa & Doug toys is an excellent option to beef up your current collection.
And, with a portion of the country potentially not going back to traditional learning in the fall, a little extra developmental support backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) isn't bad.
Who Exactly Are Melissa & Doug?
Yes, Melissa and Doug are actual people, who are passionate about creating children's toys aimed to take back the idea of childhood. A time long, long ago, you had to use your imagination, get a little bored sometimes and open your mind to play. No screen time, no video games. This is the childhood experience Melissa & Doug aim to cultivate and (in our opinion) succeed beautifully.
Partners in toy-making before they became partners in life, the first toy prototype was made in Doug's parent's basement in 1988. Every new toy is still conceptualized by the couple and made by hand in their Connecticut offices before going into production.
What Makes Melissa & Doug So Special?
It's pretty simple. They listen. Every toy, now and back to 1988, has been printed with a 1-800 number asking for parent feedback. While calling this number in 1988 would connect you to a phone they slept with, taking calls at any time of day, it now goes to a team of "play experts" who are happy to help or receive feedback on their products.
The result is a toy company that parents look to not just for play toys and arts & crafts projects, but enrichment for growing minds and developing skill sets.
And it's not just the products that are so wonderful; it's the company as a whole - Free printables, a parenting blog that will change your life and an easily shoppable section of toys for kids who have special needs or spectrum disorders.
Without further ado, here are our 21 favorite toys from Melissa & Doug:
For the Babes & Toddlers (0-3 years)
An example of their "classics reimagined" approach. Monster Bowling adds fun colors and plush toys to a game kids may already know. Turn this into a family game for added fun. Bonus for anything with lots of pieces, it comes with its own carrying bag.
Outdoor play encourages physical development. Splash and play in the Sunny Patch Pretty Petals Sprinkler for hours of water fun for the whole family.
One contributor here noted how much she liked this sprinkler for her kid, who was afraid of other sprinklers he had encountered. It's hard to be frightened of 12 adorable little flowers.
A simple game of bug catching (and release) is actually an exercise in hand-eye coordination development and pushes kids to get curious about our natural world.
For Preschoolers (3-5)
One of Melissa & Doug's bestselling lines is their chunky puzzle collection. There is a chunky puzzle for everything your child may be interested in. They even make some with sounds, doors that open and locks to figure out. The Farm Puzzle is a classic way to teach kids farm animals, talk about animal sounds, and work on hand-eye coordination.
And while the chunky puzzles stack remarkably well, the Deluxe Metal Wire Puzzle Storage Rack will save your life during cleanup.
The answer to messy arts & crafts and your go-to travel entertainment, Water Wow! takes mess-free coloring to a whole new level.
Plain water is added to the paintbrush, and when your child paints on what looks like regular coloring book pages, the entire world appears in vivid colors, right before their eyes. Once the page dries out, you can paint them all over again. Empty the brush when you are done and store it in the case on the front of the book.
The Fresh Mart Grocery Store is a Melissa & Doug bestseller. Kids can pretend and role-play the behaviors they see in their parents with a grocery store that's on their level. As your child grows, this playspace becomes a tool to teach about money and where our food comes from.
And it's never too early to start learning excellent customer service skills!
Cutting Fruit Play Sets
Known for making quality wooden toys, Melissa & Doug changed the game when they introduced the cutting fruit collection. Helping with hand-eye coordination and giving a place to pretend play kitchen skills, this collection of toys has grown from the classic Wooden Cutting Fruit to include a Sushi Slicing Playset.
One Amazon reviewer described how her daughter loved the Sushi Slicing Playset even before encountering sushi for the first time. She happily recognized the food and dove in on her first experience. No food aversions over here! Another parent describes it as "the best fake sushi they had ever been forced to eat."
The struggle is real.
For School-Aged Kiddos (5-8)
A Magnetic Daily Calendar is a fun and colorful way to start working on scheduling and communication. Kids do better during the day when they can anticipate what's coming next, and a daily schedule is perfect for showing and not just telling your kids what to expect.
The Magnetic Human Body is like having x-ray vision! With a layer for the skeleton, internal organs and circulatory system, you can help your child learn how the human body and its systems work. This is a great tool to help children visualize an abstract concept.
As this set includes both male and female anatomically correct bodies, it's also a perfect tool to aid the conversation of the differences in our body parts. One parent remarked how they, "love that is anatomically correct in a non-startling or overly graphic way."
Playing with dolls is vital to developing empathy and social/emotional skills. And forget the old "dolls are for girls" bit. There is no place for patriarchal viewpoints in child development. It's been shown that boys who play with dolls set themselves up to be more nurturing partners, spouses and fathers when the time comes. We don't think that's "sissy stuff" around here.
Mine to Love Dolls have huggable bodies, wipe clean easily and have every accessory under the sun. They are available individually, in twin sets and different races. Perfect for promoting diversity and ensuring children see themselves in their toys.
If your child loves animals, the Examine & Treat Pet Vet Play Set is an excellent choice for them. Help them take care of all their stuffed animals with the bag of veterinary tools. Caring for animals helps with empathy, and pretend play could turn into a lifelong passion for animal care.
Do you have a child that's afraid of the doctor? Playing doctor may sound like a good idea, but prove overwhelming. Start the narrative by playing vet instead of doctor and help your child learn there is nothing to be afraid of when someone is helping us.
While these are rated for ages three and up, we can imagine many a one-year-old happily cuddling up with a life-size jaguar, lion, giraffe or bear. Can we be real here, we can think of many adults who would be happy to have one of these in their collection.
Melissa & Doug Jumbo Plush Animals are magical in any nursery or toddler room. With realistic marking and features, whatever animal you choose is bound to be an exotic friend for life.
Get Up and Play
Kids want to play, and honestly, they want you to play with them. With so many kids lacking peer-to-peer interactions in 2020, child-caregiver interactions are becoming even more critical. With toys from Melissa & Doug, you can help your child grow, learn and develop healthy interpersonal skills, all while playing!
Now, if you've been a parent for the last couple of decades, you probably feel like you have seen it all from Melisa & Doug, none of this is news to you. Check out the What's New section of the website, and you'll be surprised. Recently, Melissa & Doug added a Disney Collection with wooden toys, puzzles, plush toys and more.
Get up, get out, and go play!
You might also be interested in: The 15 Best Swing Sets for Kids of All Ages
Our 21 Favorite Toys from Melissa & Doug:
- Monster Bowling
- Sunny Patch Pretty Petals Sprinkler
- Giddy Bug House
- Giddy Buggy Bug-Catching Net
- Giddy Buggy Binoculars
- Farm Chunky Puzzle
- Deluxe Metal Wire Puzzle Storage Rack
- Water Wow!
- Fresh Mart Grocery Store
- Fresh Mart Companion Collection
- Food Groups Wood Play Food
- Grocery Cart
- Wooden Cutting Fruit
- Sushi Slicing Playset
- My Magnetic Daily Calendar
- Magnetic Human Body
- Magnetic Dress-up Joey & Magnetic Dress-Up Julia
- Mine to Love Dolls
- Mine to Love Doll Accessories
- Examine & Treat Pet Vet Play Set
- Jumbo Plush Animals