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!

Imaginative Play, Natural Play.

My aunt came for our family Christmas party when Sage was four. She gave him a Superman action figure with a plastic box that broke open when Superman threw it on the ground. A green plastic kryptonite chunk fell out of the middle upon impact. Sage opened the package and stared at the toy, turning it over in his hand.

"What is it?" he asked.

"What is it?!" she replied. "Its SUPERMAN! You take this thing and put it in his hands and push this button and he throws it and it breaks and…"

He stared at her. He wasn't trying to be rude. He just didn't get it.

My mom spoke up. "Sage doesn't know who Superman is. He lives in a land of gnomes and fairies."

"What do you mean he doesn't know who Superman is?!" she shouted. "Well its about time he learn!"


My mom was right. We do live in a land of gnomes and fairies. My
children have grown up in a gentle world free of commercialism,
marketing, and directed play. They play because it is fun and it feeds
their souls, not to follow a preexisting script.


Our toys are mostly natural, made of materials that will return to the
earth when their functional life is done. I like that. Wool, silk,
cotton, and wood make up 90% of our playthings. And many of them have
held the children's interest for years and will continue to do so far into the future.

quality, open-ended toys can be expensive, yes. But the dollars spent
on the farm animals above when Sage was two were dollars well spent by my estimation. So far they have enjoyed five years of play by Sage plus two years of play by Lupine – with no end in sight.

We've also scored plenty of second-hand treasures, both online (through Craigslist, Ebay, and barter groups) and at garage sales and have made many of our own using fabric, wood, and found objects. Even a simple basket of stones or acorns is a treasured toy – and is far more valuable (in play terms) than a box of plastic superheroes.


With no one else's stories to draw on our children are free to play out their own dramas. Sage can express his anger or fear through dragons and knights, while Lupine often makes sure no one is going to sleep alone in the farmhouse. (Babies and mamas must always stay together!)

Pete and I are conscious of staying out of their creative way while the children play. It is not our story that needs to be expressed, but theirs. So we strive to be present and playful but in a passive role, quietly allowing the children to take the lead.

Some of the children's favorite (open ended) toys include: