My kids have done lots of toy testing in the service of this blog, often the latest and greatest, battery-operated or high tech toys. Sometimes it seems like the more multi-functions and noises a toy has, the better they like it. But I was curious to know how they might respond to traditional toys without all the bells and whistles of the toys being pushed on TV these days.
I was recently asked to check out Aaron’s Tin Toy Arcade, a family-run toy shop in historic College Park, Georgia, USA., that carries a lot of the toys I remember playing with when I was a kid, and even toys my father remembers playing with! This is the good stuff we’re talking about here – real wood blocks, tin toys, retro toys, classic toys, and even joke shop gags.
This Traditional Wooden Train Set ($44.98) comes with two engines, four train cars, a station house, and over five feet of wooden track. That’s eight reversible curved track pieces (so you can curve left or right) and two straight pieces, enough to make a decent-sized oval or a fun, winding train track. All the pieces are easy to put together and take apart, and the trains connect with magnets so there are no little parts or finicky connections to frustrate the young ‘uns.
The girls love to visit the train table at our local Chapters book store, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this train set is such a huge hit in our house. Tee named the trains (one is called Guar Gum for some weird reason), and she and Kay take them on adventures both on and off the track all the time. Two engines means both my girls can drive a train at the same time, and that means less fighting. Thank you!
This is a great starter set for any kids interested in trains, and I’d love to get more pieces for a bigger track. From what I can see online, this set appears to be compatible with other leading wooden train sets like Brio and BigJigs, though I can’t guarantee that as we don’t have those other brands.
We also received a Frontier Logs 114 Piece Log Cabins Building Set ($27.98) that lets kids build log cabins for the Pony Express. (It even comes with a Pony Express sign!) But the very first thing we did when we opened up the box was build a tunnel for our train of course.
Unfortunately, it turns out that our Frontier Logs set has one yellow roof plank three inches shorter than the other ones. (I think we had a stowaway from one of their other cabin building sets!) We also discovered that the step-by-step instructions included in the box for building a log cabin requires two more long pieces than are actually provided in this particular set. Oops! We had to do a little creative renovating to get it to work, but the cabin on the front of the box is doable.
Building with these notched “logs” requires a bit of a light touch. At five years old, Tee doesn’t have any problems, but Kay is only three and is better at knocking them down than building them. (I suspect that’s true for most little sisters though!)
Finally, we also received a Spirograph Deluxe Drawing Set ($24.98). This set comes in a nice carrying case with over 45 parts including 22 drawing gears, three pens, drawing paper, and a Design Guide Book.
I think I was nine or ten when I got my first Spirograph set. I was visiting my grandparents in Hong Kong and since they didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Cantonese, I had some time to kill. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table with my PoPo, drawing beautiful and intricate flower shapes, spirals, and designs with my Spirograph. It’s a simple concept, but I remember how fascinated I was experimenting with different sizes of gears, overlaying designs, and just doodling to see what happened.
I’m happy to report Spirograph is just as fascinating now as it was then. It does need a level of manual dexterity to use, so it’s quite beyond Kay and can be frustrating at times for Tee, but I think that’s to be expected as it’s recommended for ages eight and up. I think Tee will get the hang of it soon, and in the meantime I’m having a lot of nostalgic fun with it!
Now that I’ve piqued your interest and reminded you of some of your best-loved toys from yesteryear, visit Tin Toy Arcade to check out their huge stock of wood, tin, and retro toys! Get free shipping on orders $79+ within the lower 48 US states. Use code WESTCOAST for a 15% discount at checkout!
Disclosure: I received sample items for review. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.