Blog, Q&A

Giveaway: Doodlehopper Toys and Gifts

Today we team up with Doodlehopper 4 Kids, a magical mom ‘n pop toy store in Falls Church, Virginia with an extensive online shop. Read on as Executive Manager Alison Brown answers our burning playtime questions and see how to enter to win one of two $50 gift cards!

We’d love to hear your top toy selections by age group: 0-12 months, 12-18 months, 18-24 months, pre-K and Kindergarten.

New Baby/Shower Gifts 0-12 months 12-18 months
Aden & Anais swaddling blankets Floor/crib mirrors Ball drops
Robeez Soft Soles Baby Paper Shape sorters
Hooded towels Oballs Pop! Pop! Piano
Boo Bunnies Water mats Flash Beat Drum
The Mommy Hook Skwish Roll & Play
Bestever Baby Mat Munch Mitt Bathtime toys

(squirters, sprinkle cups, etc.)

Sophie the Giraffe NogginStik Green Toys
Stacking cups Pic ‘n Pop
Soft/crinkle books Pewi Elite
First Puppets Viking Toy Chubbies


18-24 months Preschool (~2-4) Kindergarten (~5-6)
Wooden train sets

(i.e. Thomas the Train)

Pretend play toys

(doctor kit, tool kit, food sets)

Board Games

(Zingo is a best seller)

WOW toys Pop up play tents Rocket Balloons
Jumbo peg/chunky puzzles Tiggly Learning Sets

(these work with tablets)

Intro to Engineering

(GoldieBlox, Zoob, Lego)

Crayola Double Doodle Junior Stomp Rockets “My First” Science Kits
Gertie Balls Dress up/role play accessories Spy gear
First Crayons Puppets/puppet theatre Jigsaw puzzles
Musical instruments

(shakers, tambourine, drums)

Cooperative Games

(we like those by Peaceable Kingdom)

Butterfly garden/ant farm

(think seasonally!)

ALEX Button Art Magna-Tiles Stomp Rockets
Stacking/nesting cubes Floor puzzles Plushcraft Pillows
Green Toys My First Sticky Mosaics Marble Runs

What are some “mistakes” you see parents and caregivers making when selecting toys for their kids?

Any “mistakes” usually revolve around disregarding or overly-adhering to age suggestions on products. It goes both ways: some shoppers can be way too flexible on the age suggestion and buy something completely inappropriate that the child won’t be able to use for years. Or some can be super strict about what the product suggests and miss out on a perfect fit for the child. The “+” really does means plus, so 5+ can still work for a 7 year old. There is definitely some fluidity in choosing a toy–it’s not a hard-and-fast science because no kid is the same, and there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether a toy is a good fit (an often-overlooked factor is the projected level of parent involvement). Additionally, there can be a huge difference between a “young 2” (a child that just turned 2) and an “old 2” (one just about to turn 3). I look at the age on a product as a suggestion and try to determine the best fit on a case by case basis. Keep in mind that, if a toy is suggested for 3+, a one year old probably can’t use it (or will be too rough with it) unless the parents plan on doing the activity with the child. It’s important to note that a lot of “3+” toys are labeled as such because of choking hazards.

What are some of your favorite toys to encourage creativity?

Creativity can also mean messy. And some of the best creative activities are a mess (i.e. paint, glue, baking/cooking, etc.). But I also try to suggest tools or toys that don’t necessarily make huge messes or require drop cloths. Some examples include:
My First Sticky Mosaics
Paint with Water Pads
Do-a-Dot markers/books
Play Foam

What are some of your favorite toys to encourage gross motor play? Fine motor play?

Crawl tubes, Wonder Wagon (by Hape), Pop up play tents, Jr. Stomp Rocket, Pogo jumpers, Monster Clompers/EZ steppers, hopscotch rug

Gator Grabbers, lacing cards, Peg Stackers, Spinning Gear Sets, Squigz/PipSquigz, ball drops, shape sorters, Chicken ‘n Egg Stackers, SmartMax building sets, peg puzzles

*Note: creating sensory bins is a great way to develop motor skills, and we have all sorts of good things that can go in them but to list them individually would be pages long.  Check out this site for ideas!

What are some great tools/resources for helping parents organize their kids’ toys?

Have realistic goals. For toy storage think about what can actually be achieved and maintained. There are amazing ideas and pictures online and in catalogs, but real life may not have toy bins that are labeled and sorted by color and size, etc. My son is 16 months old–if I can just get everything thrown into a couple of baskets, it’s a good day. If you can have everything stored and sorted like on Pinterest (and maintain it that way), MAJOR KUDOS, seriously. Also be realistic about your child’s play space. In my case, my son’s main play area is our family room/ kitchen. So gone are the days where my family room actually looked like adults lived in and decorated it. We’ve had to remove items, and just accept that a sea of primary colors and plastic is our reality. So at the end of the day if we have put the toys into some baskets and the trucks parked by the fireplace, that is what a “clean” family room is for us. If you have an area with doors so you can close it off, that is amazing!

Edit yourself. Most toys have dual purposes, so you can get more life out of them. Having a new baby and working at a store like Doodlehopper, I totally got carried away buying everything under the sun for him and before he was even 6 months we were completely overrun. It’s so easy to get excited, but a lot of your toys (especially those for little ones) can be used for several things. For example, basic ABC blocks can help with grasping, passing hand to hand, stacking, color recognition, numbers/counting and alphabet recognition. As time goes on, go through what you have pulled out and made accessible. Children tend to “move on” from a toy, or developmentally lose interest. I do this every month or so and save a lot of space that way.

How to enter the giveaway:

Write a desciption of your child’s favorite toy in the comments at the end of this post. It’s that easy! We’ll choose a winner using a random number generator after 8 p.m. EST this Thursday, April 7, and will announce the winner in Friday’s blog post.

What you get:

One of TWO $50 gift cards to spend as you please on Doodlehopper’s website (or, if you’re a NoVa local, in-store). Generous baby shower gift? Just because treat? Bribery in anticipation of a doctor visit? Happy shopping! And please share this opportunity widely with friends!

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  • Reply Kate

    “Trains and balls,” was the answer when I asked 3.5 year old E directly.

    April 5, 2016 at 8:33 am
    • Reply Katie Brown

      But of course!!!

      April 5, 2016 at 12:24 pm
    • Reply Denise

      Our sofa. My daughter loves jumping on our sofa!

      April 7, 2016 at 2:46 pm
  • Reply Cherie Greif

    I am about a month away from having my first baby so I don’t technically know my child’s favorite toy yet but the toy I received as a shower gift I was most intrigued by was a taggies toy. I find it interesting that someone noticed there child was entertained by something as simple as a silk tag and embraced it! In my experience with kids through family and babysitting it’s always the things you least expect them to show interest in they like the most…

    April 5, 2016 at 8:50 am
    • Reply Katie Brown

      Cherie, many truths in this statement. And now Simon has become especially sensitive to tags on clothes. Apologies in advance if you get a piece of clothing from us and there’s no size label. 🙁 I’m trying to group everything by size as I pack it up, so hopefully it’ll be obvious. xox

      April 5, 2016 at 12:24 pm
  • Reply Terri Hedrick

    Nolan’s favorite toy has become a Mickey Mouse doll that sings those theme songs when you squeeze his belly. Nolan, at 20 months, has learned that he is just not strong enough yet to squeeze that start button, so he figured out his own way to play his soundtracks. He throws Mickey down as hard as he can on the hard tile in the living room, which usually doesn’t work. He will then proceed to stomp up and down on Mickey’s abdomen until that sweet tune finally plays! By far, his favorite flat toy!

    April 5, 2016 at 9:13 am
    • Reply Katie Brown

      Terri, let me know how long Mickey Mouse lives to see the light of day. 🙂

      April 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm
  • Reply Laura

    Well, MY favorite toy as a child was crayons. One set for coloring and one pristine set that I would use as toys… assigned all of the colors personalities & genders. I was a weird kid.

    April 5, 2016 at 9:37 am
    • Reply Katie Brown


      April 5, 2016 at 12:23 pm
    • Reply Cherie Greif

      LMAO, this is why I love you Laura!

      April 8, 2016 at 11:42 am
  • Reply Jenny

    My 14 month old loves his musical instruments -shakers, tone drum, tambourine, etc- and his ring stacking toys.

    April 5, 2016 at 10:35 am
    • Reply Katie Brown

      Adorable. Our 2.5 year-old has recently discovered our acoustic guitar, which he more typically uses as a percussion instrument or receptacle for multiple picks. 🙁

      April 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm
  • Reply Ayren Jackson-Cannady

    Firetrucks. All day. Everyday.

    April 5, 2016 at 11:29 am
    • Reply Katie Brown

      Which chromosome is the fire truck chromosome? Answer me that, geneticists.

      April 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm
  • Reply Cory

    The plastic drill that came in the build-a-truck toy. Both boys love the sound it makes and the feeling of it twirling around when they stick it in their mouth. Yeah it’s weird but works!

    April 5, 2016 at 3:21 pm
  • Reply Phuong

    My 6-year-old and 4-year-old love having a mic stand. Ours is broken and the battery-operated options have been void for years. Nonetheless, the kids keep singing, putting on shows and, on occasion, using it for various battles. The one-year-old loves his Melissa and Doug metal pan set. It comes with a wooden spoon, and he bangs the crud out of it. This toy is what buys me time and use of two hands for cooking a quick, mediocre dinner.

    April 5, 2016 at 9:39 pm
  • Reply Jennifer Olsen

    Thomas trains and trucks for my almost 3 yr old. I asked him if I could return the 3rd trash truck he got for something else, but of course not! My 6 month old loves to laugh at that baby in his mirror during tummy time.

    April 5, 2016 at 10:20 pm
  • Reply Lindy Stefan

    My 17 month old is obsessed with all balloons (helium and air filled, tossing in the air or just dragging by a ribbon around the house) and my 3 year old loves his Blade Ranger helicopter with retractable hook that he can “fly” other toys around with.

    April 5, 2016 at 11:38 pm
  • Reply Roberto Lago

    Years ago we purchased a “Thomas the Train Ride On” toy at a garage sale. Given its well-worn condition it had already been another child’s favorite toy, but that didn’t stop my first son from using the heck out of that thing. Pushing him around in that thing was guaranteed to bring a smile on his face. Now my second boy climbs on and waits until someone will push him. The minute you walk in his direction he starts to clap!

    April 7, 2016 at 9:40 am
  • Reply Letty

    We have slightly older kids (4, 6, 8) but legos have been favorites for years. My youngest skipped duplos altogether and build creations with his big brothers’ legos. Despite the tiny pieces finding their way throughout the house, they really have been worth the investment.

    April 7, 2016 at 2:10 pm
    • Reply Katie Brown

      Letty, Doodlehopper also has toys for older kids! I’m not sure where you live, but if you’re local, check out their “second” store two doors down for fun stuff for school-aged children. If you’re not local and you happen to win, give them a call and surely they can recommend stuff for you over the phone or send you some links so you can still purchase relevant items!

      April 8, 2016 at 6:22 am
  • Reply Erin Protheroe

    The Green Toys dump truck is my almost three year olds favorite. He uses it to play and push, and will even pile in small toys that need cleaned up into it and dump them into their container/basket.

    April 7, 2016 at 6:17 pm
  • Reply Stacey Brumbaugh

    My 10yo love anything STEM related. Love the selection of GoldieBlox that Doodlehopper offers. My 7yo “has to have” at least one of every Ty stuffed lovie. It’s so hard saying no to her. My 4yo loves board games. Doodlehopper has a great selection that cover all 3 of my kids ages too!

    April 7, 2016 at 6:38 pm
  • Reply Franziska seidler

    Duplos and legos

    April 7, 2016 at 7:00 pm
  • Reply Kelli Edwards

    My 3 year old daughter enjoys the Melissa and Doug brand sound puzzles. We probably own about 10 different Melissa and Doug puzzles. We started off with the alphabet puzzle where you lift the letter and it lets the child hear the letter and a word it relates to such as “A is for Apple.” This puzzle helped my daughter with speech and I credit these puzzles for helping her to learn the alphabet. My daughter was in speech therapy for 2 years but we just ended our speech therapy sessions as our therapist deemed that my daughter has caught up with her peers. I think the sound puzzles by Melissa and Doug are terrific.

    April 8, 2016 at 12:15 am
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