Giveaway: A Toy Garden


Quality playthings are an important part of our family's experience. We choose quality over quantity, and sustainably (ie: second hand or natural materials) over mainstream popularity.

One company we've chosen to patronize as a family is A Toy Garden. I respect their customer service, their family-owned philosophy and the quality of much of what they sell. I interviewed A Toy Garden recently. Our conversation is below. 

Clean: What is your company and how long have you been in business?

A Toy Garden: For
10 years, I have offered an extensive selection of mostly hand-made toys made
by me, friends in Northern California, around the United States, and around the
world. Whenever possible, I purchase directly from the artisans. In general,
these toys are made from wood, cotton, wool, silk, and other natural and
high-quality materials and are open-ended, leaving lots of room for the child
to develop and use his/her own imagination and imitation skills. A few items
are just plain fun and I couldn't resist offering them to you. I also buy from
a few larger manufacturers that have strong ethical and safety policies whether
manufacturing in Germany, USA, Thailand, Canada, China, or elsewhere.

Clean: What inspired you to go into this line of work?

A Toy Garden: I
am a work-from-home mom & social worker and attended the Sacramento Waldorf
School for 13 years. When my daughter was 2, she asked me to sew an apron for
her just like mine! Then she wanted a tablecloth & cloth napkins, then
beans bags, & a puppet theater. I started sewing for her, her friends, and
then started selling to families around Northern California. My husband is key
in supporting the technical/computer (and moving heavy boxes) side of the
business. My children are now 11 and 9 and attend the Sacramento Waldorf School.
I still personally make the bean bags, play silks, silk and flannel blankets,
and some of the gnomes and other toys we sell.


Clean: How do you believe you and your business are bringing good into the world?

A Toy Garden: I
especially enjoy offering toys that are handmade and made in the USA by small
family run businesses. I work with over 40 artisans. Often we develop toys
together via email and photos. I enjoy creating toys I think my customers will
enjoy and that are not available elsewhere. Often, the simpler the toys, the
better. Many of our wooden toys and cloth dolls are made here, as well as some
of our kits and art supplies. I encourage all my customers to purchase items
Made in the US as much as possible. There are many reasons why supporting US
made products is healthy for our families and our country. In addition, we run
our business as earth friendly as possible. We use many recycled boxes and
packing materials. We recycle and reuse as many of our paper, bags, and other
materials as possible. Many of our toys have no packaging at all – just the
toy! Our warehouse is built of energy efficient materials below ground so we
can run our business year-round without heat or air conditioning.

Clean: What else should we know?

A Toy Garden: When
I choose toys I have many criteria. Mostly, I want them to be made of natural
materials and to be open-ended, inspiring children to play with each toy in a
variety of creative ways.  I assess
the quality and overall beauty of a toy as well. And sometimes, I just select a
toys because it is fun and I know children and adults will enjoy it. Our
inventory changes frequently so keep checking back on our site. Thank you for
supporting a family run company!



A Toy Garden has generously donate a copy of one of our favorite children's books ever: The Tales of Tiptoes Lightly. This magical story of a fairy, two gnomes, a couple of mice, and an elephant will have your kids (and you) enchanted.

To be entered simply leave a comment below. Comments close on Monday at 8:00 CST.

Comments are closed. We'll announce a winner soon!

Thank you, A Toy Garden!


Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. I'll be back here on Monday for another wonderful week. We're off to Living Green Expo in the Twin Cities!

56 thoughts on “Giveaway: A Toy Garden

  1. Liz says:

    Wonderful ideas–I’d love to have quality toys. However, I have a very hard time explaining to my family that we “don’t want” a lot of “stuff” for Shire. We tried to say for her upcoming birthday “no gifts please” and the response we got my father-in-law was (and I quote), “Don’t even try.”

    Very frustrating…

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    I agree that extended family can be sticky. Weve been blessed but we have friends who parent in a similar fashion and theyve had leap pads gifted to their kids, plastic dolls, etc. For us a store like this is a wonderful place to pick up the few new items that we bring into our lives. A book? For us thats an easy one.  Good luck with your family!


  3. Casey says:

    Liz — Try making a wishlist somewhere mainstream, like Amazon, where you can pull quality natural toys from all kinds of websites. That’s what I did for Christmas last year and it worked nicely for extended family. 🙂

  4. sienna says:

    amazing giveaway… we’re a huge supporter of natural playthings, but they are sometimes hard to find up here north of the border!

  5. Emmy says:

    I sympathize with you Liz. My in-laws were the same. And we by no means have it all worked out. Finally we just had to say ‘we’re a no plastic family’. Along with articles on why quality/natural is best so they knew we weren’t just being snobby. On our last birthday invite (sent conveniently before Christmas) we said if you’d like to give a gift please choose something made of natural materials or thrifted. With just an exception or two that has worked.

  6. Liz says:

    We also chose to create an Amazon wishlist for our son. Being able to put on a few items from quality websites has allowed the grandparents to easily see what types of playthings we “need” and are interested in without us constantly repeating what we aren’t interested in. At the same time they see there are alternatives to shopping at the giant box stores.
    And books! Well we love books and this is a new one to us!

  7. andrea says:

    I love this website! I’ve ordered from them more than once! In fact, the Easter Bunny left some of her bean bags in my kiddo’s baskets this year… And the puddle pants on her site are an awesome thing!

  8. Lily says:

    We’ve not gotten anything by A Toy Garden. Will take a look. We’ve gotten a number of Melissa and Doug stuff. I, too, am in favor of wooden over plastic, but I will say this, the girls’ pediatrician said that lead paint, when lead is a content, comes off of wooden toys, not plastic toys.

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    This is such a powerful issue for me. We have chosen to buy fine wooden toys made in the US or made in Germany. They are much more expensive so we have less toys. These toys have always been free of lead and always will be. The questionable wooden toys (those with chipping paint, lead or not) are coming from China. Weve chosen to stay away from the entire Melissa and Doug line because they are all made in China and they simply dont last. Look into toys like Ostheimer, Kinderkram, and those without painted finished. To use a friends words, Just cause its wood doesnt mean its good. 🙂 As far as plastic being safe, my understanding is that the only lead issues were found in plastic toys made in China as well.


  10. katie steege says:

    totally agree with quality vs quantity of toys! so hard to stay true to this with mainstream media constantly pushing more and more — plastic/toxic toys! ugh! thanx again for being an advocate of wonderful products/companies!

  11. Shannon says:

    Oooh! We really like A Toy Garden (and we love Tiptoes!) I enjoyed reading your interview with the owner…it’s always so nice to have a glimpse of the people (and thought) behind a company 🙂

    I hope this book goes to a lucky family who hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting Tiptoes and her friends yet…such a wonderful book!

  12. Cassandra says:

    Oh, you guys are preachin’ to the choir over here! I am not exaggerating when I say that I have a closet full of plastic toys we received as gifts (still in their original boxes). And, don’t even get me going on the polyester baby clothes we have gotten as gifts that are also in there. It is our city garage sale weekend and since my neighbor is having one she is going to put them all out for me. Hopefully I will make a few dollars on this pile.
    My family lives about 3 hours away so luckily they are not over very often to see if we use these things or not. They look at me like I am out of my mind when I mention the words “organic” or “handmade” or “natural”. And admittedly, we are not even as extreme about it in our lifestyle as we would like to be (I do let my guys watch Sesame Street…I can’t resist that one, it has such a warm place in my heart!). I have given up on trying to make them understand why my kids only wear natural fibers, use natural products and play with as many natural toys as possible. And I have no end of grief from my mother about the fact that we choose to be vegetarian. I am stunting the growth of my children don’t you know? My mom heard it on conservative talk radio so it must be true. Ugh.
    I feel like these issues separate us from our families and they look as us as “elitist”. My husband and I are the first generation of college-educated people in our families and I think that our lifestyle choices contribute to their perception that we are “uppity” somehow. I’m sorry that I’m rambling…this subject just touched a nerve…

  13. Zoë says:

    I drool over their website – wonderful toys for little ones. I have three kiddos that would love some new things to play with…

  14. Peggy says:

    Thank you Toy Garden for providing a good resource for “natural” playthings and for offering a beautiful book for the give-away. Thank you, Rachel, for creating such a wonderful blog…

  15. Rebecca Morrison says:

    I am very pleased to find more and more earth friendly ,a ll natural products. It is very refreshing to know that change is possible. Kudos to you and this company for providing such quality items.

  16. Brooke says:

    I love the small home based businesses. And really try to support when possible. the internet is a wonderful thing to be able to find all those wonderful gems. thanks for the giveaway!

  17. Katie says:

    We just welcomed our first little one into the world and are already facing this issue with extended family. Cassandra, thank you for your comment! We are trying to address a similar challenge– my husband is a first generation college student (and graduating from med school in a month!)- and we are constantly fighting the perception that we are elitist when we explain to family that we are choosing natural materials (and letting our family know plastic does not qualify as natural) for our babe. It’s going to be a learning and growing process for all of us!

    Thank you for featuring such wonderful toys. I love your web site and feel so encouraged in the way we are choosing to raise our little one when I see this community!

  18. elizabeth says:

    Thanks for sharing. We love natural, quality toys and have even convinced the grandparents less is more! This book has been on our wish list for a while. Thanks for the chance.

  19. KC says:

    Thanks for sharing! It’s really nice to know there are toys being made in America. As my daughter is still little I want to make sure she stays away from many stream toys. I love natural materials no need to worry about lead paint!

  20. Danielle Grabiel says:

    I just recently stumbled across A Toy Garden and fell in love with the selection of items.

    My husband and I have made a goal, and our parents are supportive which is great, to only buy our kids store-bought presents on their birthdays and Christmas, otherwise it will be homemade, gathered from nature or thrifted. We have an exception for particular books and art supplies (maybe a giveaway win will meet the exception criteria too!).

    The upside is we feel we can afford to purchase beautiful, natural and safe toys from stores with ideals that we support, such as Toy Garden because we only do so twice a year. It’s a work in progress and it’s harder than I thought to implement (maybe we have too many exceptions!?!), but I am glad we are trying!

  21. Bianca Whitaker says:

    What a great company. I love to support these small businesses. We too don’t have lots of toys and I can actually remember where they all came from. Now if I could just get a couple family members to forgo the disposable toys…

  22. Charmaine says:

    Rachel, your post inspired me to send an email to the grandmas, grandpas, aunties and uncles in my son’s life. I know that because we live 2+ hours away from all our family, that they like to bring presents, so I figured why not “channel” that energy. And because the toys are high quality, supporting local (well, local to CA) artists and cost more, maybe they’ll buy less?!?

    Katie, my advice to you, don’t be afraid to take any toys you don’t want your child playing with straight to your local thrift store, shelter or the recycling bin!

  23. kendra says:

    our family has been really respectful this way. we are, however, lacking in kid’s books that resonate with me! gifts there are decidedly mainstream and i’d love to get more waldorf-y choices in our library!

  24. Lisa Hanson says:

    Thanks for sharing such a neat company! My family is impossible, Fritz is only 3 months and he has enough toys for 6 kids! And they won’t stop buying, everytime I stop by their house they have something new. I keep telling them to stop buying him “stuff” but they just won’t listen. I should just tell them I’ll only accept things from this site!

  25. Colleen D. says:

    I love the Toy Garden, they are such a nice group of people. I ordered silk scarves once and my daughter loves them. Happy May.

  26. Nan says:

    I love to support family-run businesses that share the values that we have. It’s wonderful to know that we are helping people who have the artistic vision to create things – especially those that delight children. Thank you for sharing this company!

  27. radha says:

    yay for natural toys from a mama owned biz! (we have the book and my girls LOVE it and pull it excitedly off the shelf often!)
    note to cassandra:
    we too have received MANY plastic toys and poly clothes from extended family. I have gotten savvy in accepting them with a smile (after all, they are given from a place of love) and then returning them (for toys or clothes that do match our lifestyle) or giving them away. My girls are used to it now. My oldest knows if she receives something in the “prohibited” category she can’t keep it and we have explained to her why. She will even say ” i am so glad aunty gave us cotton jammies this time, cuz I wanted to keep these”. I can see a greater part of her understands and actually gets this!
    Blessings on the journey of trailblazing natural parenting in this era!
    You are not alone!

  28. Kim Miller says:

    I seem to be the only one in my house that doesn’t mind when the dog chews up a plastic toy 🙂 Slowly, between me and the dog we’ll get rid of all the plastic stuff.


  29. Meaghan says:

    I love this company! I have heard good things about the story- we would love a copy. I recently found your blog via a LuSa ad- what a treasure! I enjoy reading about you and your family’s adventures. Thanks for the chance to win.

  30. LaLibertad says:

    Have fun in the cities! I did fall off the constant battle with extended family. Now, the boy is swimming in junk that I don’t really want in my house.

    A book like this will be a good start to get me looking more carefully at what comes in.

  31. Crystal @ Semi-Crunchy Mama says:

    I don’t even remember where I was when I stumbled across your blog — but I’ve spent quiet a while this morning scrolling back through older posts and loving what I’m reading!

    I can relate to what Liz said in the first comment…toys have been a challenge with both sets of grandparents. I know they’re showering my son with gifts with the best of intentions, out of love. But at the same time, my husband and I have been trying to stress that less really is more, and quality does trump quantity. It’s a juggling act, trying to avoid causing tension and hurt feelings while still having our parenting decisions be respected.

  32. Michelle M says:

    Just visited A Toy Garden’s web site – what a fantastic selection of beautiful toys.

  33. Liz says:

    Well, I finally “bit the bullet” and decided to put my feelings down in writing in a place where I know Shire’s grandparents will see it. Thank you for the inspiration and empathy, everyone. You gave me the courage to stand up for my beliefs.

    Check it out if you want:

  34. Jenna says:

    I’m nearly finished with the book “Simplicity Parenting” which talks about paring down of books not just toys…wow. As a writer and someone who used to work in a childrens book store that was a shock! I admit to the more must be better mentality. But I’ve “weeded” out, keep a library in the basement and now try to keep just a few books at a time in each child’s room. This book looks like it would be a perfect fit!
    Great toy discussions, btw!! Think that needs to be another post. 🙂

  35. SoDucky says:

    Fantastic! Thank you for sharing them. We love wooden and natural toys. The book looks lovely too.
    soluckyducky (at) gmail (dot) com

  36. Amanda J says:

    After seeing your products at Living Green and realizing that I knew you, I couldn’t wait to check out your blog (and I’m already hooked). Thanks for taking the time to converse. And this entry is also to see if I break my record of zero ‘wins’ when it comes to giveaway posts!
    Warmly, Amanda

  37. Susan says:

    Looks like a great company! And if that book is your favorite, then I’d certainly love to check it out!

  38. MaeKellan says:

    Great giveaway and good discussion going on, We love natural toys and the less toys the better but hsving the only grandkids on both sides of big families we struggle with what comes into the house.

  39. Laura says:

    How wonderful! This post just in time for my lil’ girl’s 1st Bday. A Toy Garden is wonderful…I ordered a really nice balaclava from them for her this past winter and it kept her nice and cozy. Thanks Rachel & A Toy Garden 🙂

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