A couple weeks ago when I did a post on board games that my kids love, I promised another post where I would list out all of the quiet time/individual games that they also go back to consistently. These toys and activities will be suitable for children who are not putting things in their mouths anymore, perhaps 2 1/2 years old to about 5.
My daughter loves her lacing toys. Although these wood ones shown above are beautiful, we have 'cheaper' (quality and price!) ones at home that I had found at a thrift store. You can't beat $1 for hours of quiet entertainment. I have also loved showing Lukka many forms of stitches using our lacing cards, and he has practiced on his own.
We also own a 'sewing block' which is just a circular toy that has holes all over it (think swiss cheese in tube form), and an attached piece of rope and a 'needle' that looks similar to a red wooden crayon. Ani got this for her birthday one year from Grammy and both continue to use it. It actually has been so loved, the needle fell off and we need to replace it. It's around $7 at Montessoriservices.com.
I love the brand eeboo, and this is the exact set of 9 piece puzzles that my daughter has loved for at least two years. Eeboo has well designed and unique games, cards (we have the "Good Manners" cards), and even language-learning books and games. They are generally on the higher end, expense-wise. There are 6 puzzles in this box and my daughter figured out and memorized all o them that one day I saw her putting them together upside-down! Since they are color coded on the back, she was able to do this, and I was pretty amazed at her ability at age 2! The pieces are very durable and we haven't had any break.
Melissa & Doug is a very popular brand of wooden toys and manipulatives, and I feel this wooden lace/beading set is so useful for many things. We have used these to learn colors, sort by color and shape, make 'necklaces', and build. My one complaint is that the box is uncovered (as shown) and so there is virtually no way they are all going back in it like this. I bought a cheap circular and deep basket, and keep them all in there. That way it's easy pick-up for the kids, and they are still contained and attractive to grab and play with. Definitely a fun toy for less than $10.
The game Imaginets was a birthday gift for my son last year--his 'toy' portion of ours, and it has not disappointed. At almost $30, it is on the expensive end but again, so versitile. This is a 'suitcase' that is magnetic on both top and bottom of the inside (so pieces stay where put), and is able to close and snap shut easily. It comes with a deck of cards that are double sided with fun ideas to create with the magnetic shapes. Think of this as a modern-day, magnetic tangram set that is above and beyond the circles, triangles, and squares. We have also used this game in the car (magnetic, people!), as a quiet time activity, and in our math curriculum as home-schoolers. I imagine we will continue to use this game for years to come, both for Lukka and Anikka.
Again, with the Melissa & Doug toys...we have the large set of natural wooden building blocks that we found severely discounted when a business near us was going under. This is a larger purchase, and it's really heavy, so don't think your kids will be able to drag this out from the closet...you'll have to help them so they don't drop it on their toes. The wooden crate it comes in is useful and has handles, and my son loves to put all the pieces perfectly back in so the top is flush with the crate. It's almost like a geometric puzzle just picking it up and putting it away. Every child should have a set of basic wooden building blocks. The end.
The last thing I wanted to write about was the fact that my children love mazes, and they love to complete them during a quiet time, school time, free time, or...really any time! We love the Kumon work books but my kids both seem to be 'aging out' of them. When they were first introduced (we've done a lot of them over the last year or two), they loved them, but now we need something a bit more challenging. Mazes, however, never change and if your child likes to work on visual puzzles I would definitely start here to give them confidence and have fun. The mazes are all different and there are three, I believe, leveled workbooks to complete with Kumon.