(This is Part Two of a series on recommended children's toys.)
Our bucket of animal figures provides hours of entertainment for all three of my kids.
Unlike a puzzle piece or Lego brick, an individual animal toy is not rendered useless when separated from the pack. This becomes important when your home and car are littered with random toys.
My favourite animal toys are the vintage Fisher-Price, with their hinged legs, charming faces, and the barn with the mooing door. They're available from thrift stores, eBay and grandparents' basements.
In terms of contemporary animal toys, I've only found one company that I like: Schleich. It's a German company, and their toys are durable and detailed. Most toy stores carry them.
Photos from Schleich website.
A child life specialist at BC Children's Hospital mentioned to me a that these figures have been a very popular toy there for years, and are none the worse for wear.
(In addition to all those gorgeous renditions of creatures of the natural world, Schleich was also the first company to mass-produce Smurf figurines.)
Mixed in with this lot, we have dollar store dinosaurs, various animals received as gifts, and toys discovered buried in the garden. A few years ago I asked Saskia which was her favourite animal toy. She rummaged through the bin, tossing the vintage and European toys aside, until she found a fat, plastic, grinning cow.
"This one," she said. "Because it's smiling."