Designer Toys for Grown-Ups


The holidays are a time for families and loved ones to celebrate togetherness, and they tend to arouse feelings of nostalgia that recall simpler times. The days of being a child and enjoying hours with your favorite toy don’t have to be a distant memory. There are plenty of playthings for grown-ups that encourage similar exploration and fun. We’ve gathered some of our favorite toys that emphasize great design, responsible materials, and conceptual artistry.

Designer Christina Kazakia’s Stick-lets are rainbow-colored connectors (with two to four holes) that join sticks of different sizes together. The silicone material is safe and weather resistant. “Stick-lets can help kids get back outside, away from the screen and into the world, where they create stimulating and imaginative experiences. By engaging with this toy, they become aware of a resourceful and renewable element, the stick.”

Muji’s city in a bag doubles as a lovely desk sculpture.

“TyoToys breaks the collectible toy mold by offering scale replicas from graffiti’s living legends.”

Constantin and Laurene Boym paid tribute to New York City’s multicultural population with Babel Blocks. Dolls Moishe, Nafisa, Mary, Chen, and Jose represent “a beautiful hodgepodge of cultures, religions and ethnicities inherent to the city that never sleeps.” Each wooden figure has its own YouTube video with backstory.

Kinoishi puts a philosophical spin on the concept of toys. Designer Taku Sato’s polished, wooden stones offer a tactile and meditative experience.

Monkey Design’s model paper postcards are a playful gift.

Karo Knitter put a twist on the matryoshka doll, featuring architectural elements.

Italian fashion house Missoni designed these limited-editing, zigzag-patterned stuffed animals in support of OrphanAid Africa.

Marilyn Neuhart’s adorable Kitty Casa Doll:

“Using scraps of colorful Mexican cotton fabric given to her by a freelance client, Marilyn started making simple stuffed dolls for her children. A doll eventually ended up in the hands of Ray Eames, who asked Marilyn to make one for Alexander Girard. Ray subsequently sent the doll to Girard at Christmas of 1959, who ruminated over it until the following September then asked Marilyn to make 100 of the dolls for the grand opening of the new Textile & Objects store in three months. Working night and day, Marilyn made her deadline. The dolls became the centerpiece of the revolutionary new store when it opened in May of 1961.”

Sergio Guijarro’s minimalist concept for toy Baooab (in collaboration with Miriam Tochijara) only requires your imagination. The wooden pieces encourage people to explore the sensory, emotional side of play, and see the potential in the negative spaces of the toy.

The Magno AM/FM radio has toy appeal, but it’s actually a functioning radio made from wood (the designer has new trees planted based on the company’s yearly wood consumption), with MP3 compatibility and short-wave reception.

Designer and architect Dror Benshetrit’s rainbow building blocks, Quadror, prove geometry can be fun. The flat planes and interlocking joints of the colorful pieces are inspiring.

Part-time coffee table, part-time contemporary dollhouse: Amy Whitworth Design’s QUBIS HAUS invites the younger members of the household a place to play without sacrificing style, but adults can stage their own dioramas in the sleek space, too.

Regulation-sized foosball table kartoni is a made from recyclable cardboard and other renewable materials. The collapsible game table can be assembled without glue or screws. You can customize the look of kartoni via an online generator where figures can be created and printed. There’s even a spot for your drink and smartphone, making kartoni a true grown-up toy.

If you want to play the adult, life-size version of Lincoln Logs, check out Patch from studio Beza Projekt. These bandage-style joints allow you to construct your own unique furniture or whatever else your heart desires.

These dino desk helpers from David Buchanan, designed as part of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Metaproject, double as fun action figures during downtime at the office.

A sleek, contemporary rocking chair for adults from Doshi Levien. Celery’s Lullaboo line of furniture also includes an adult version, made from formaldehyde-free fiberboard and low-volatile-organic-compound (VOC) paint and finishes.

Josh Finkle’s handcrafted wooden toys of extinct animals “are meant to incite wonder and interest in creatures that existed only a short while ago.” The packaging unfolds to reveal an infographic about each animal’s history.

Build the mid-20th century modern work of architecture you’ll never be able to afford with Eames Blocks.

Beautiful sterling silver spinning tops.

A DIY-savvy drawing machine made from an oak cotton reel, peg, felt tip pen, rubber band, and piece of wax.