Ahhh, the end of your first year with baby! This is such an exciting time, and it’s also one of the most difficult (in my opinion). I personally think this age through about 18 months is the hardest because you can no longer rely on baby swings and contraptions – your child requires your attention almost 100% of the time.
Thankfully, this Lovevery play kit helped me encourage independent play with my son. There are a few items that have been updated since we got our play kit, including the wooden peg drop and sensory pouch. I wish those would’ve been in our kit because they look so cool!
The Lovevery play kits are on the expensive side, and when you think about getting several per year, you might start to wonder if you can do better by heading on over to Amazon.
I’ve spared you hours of research and have found the best Amazon alternatives for the 7 toys in the Thinker play kit. Can we recreate this Lovevery play kit for less on Amazon? Keep reading to find out!
Interested in other age ranges? Check out other play kits in our Lovevery Amazon alternatives series!
Sliding Top Box
The sliding top box is a lesson in object permanence, and there are plenty of Montessori toys that work on this skill.
While the design is slightly different, Adena Montessori has a comparable sliding box toy, available on Amazon for under $20.
The sliding top box feels like an extension of the ball drop box found in The Inspector play kit for 7-8 months. Now, your child has to use some problem-solving skills to figure out where the ball went and how to get it back.
I remember my son trying to reach his hand inside the hole to retrieve the ball. After showing him several times how to slide the top over, he finally started to catch on, but it wasn’t a walk in the park.
I love activities like this where you can watch your child blossom right in front of your eyes!
‘Animals I See’ Mini Book
I don’t know what it is about mini books, but both of my kids (ages 1.5 and 3) love them. Perhaps it’s just easier to maneuver with their little hands, but they’re always a hit!
This particular mini book from the Thinker kit has been a family favorite. My 1.5-year-old is just now starting to make animal sounds, so when we get to the dog and cat pages, he enthusiastically says, “Ruff ruff!” and “Meow!”
And my daughter, now 3, loves counting the animals on the pages – especially the spider page.
You can’t buy just one mini-book on Amazon, so I resorted to a board book that features real images of animals like the Lovevery version (no animated/illustrated animals).
The real images of animals are also very true to Montessori principles, which believe all children should be allowed to work with real materials and real picture representations of life around them. So, if you’re interested in incorporating more Montessori into your home, I recommend this book as a great start!
Organic Cotton Baby Doll
The organic cotton baby doll is not a toy my son ever gravitated towards. My daughter got a similar doll in a later box, and she did like playing with it, but this smaller one never took off for some reason.
The purpose of this baby doll is to help your child build empathy, and Lovevery gives the option of choosing between three different skin tones.
The best Amazon alternative I could find was this organic cotton baby doll is from Apple Park, and it’s just under $50. Like Lovevery, it features organic cotton, and the design is very similar.
However, for the price – and thinking back on our own usage – I probably wouldn’t splurge on this particular Lovevery alternative.
Organic Cotton Sensory Pouch
The organic cotton sensory pouch from this Lovevery play kit is a relatively new addition – this wasn’t in our play kit when we got this box for my son.
It’s a very cool toy where your child can pull the little flower and invert the pouch. You can also store or hide things in the pouch, which is always a lot of fun at this age. The pouch material is also crinkly, offering up a fun sensory experience.
I couldn’t find a pouch like it on Amazon, but in the spirit of hiding things in a bag and having a sensory experience, I found a suitable alternative.
This is the Educational Insights Teachable Touchables – it’s 20 different sensory beanbags, all stored in a drawstring bag. Your child can explore the different textures – scratchy, slippery, silky, soft – and have fun putting the beanbags back into the drawstring pouch.
While this toy isn’t a perfect alternative (and the fabric isn’t as lovely as the Lovevery kind), I think you can enjoy some of the same educational and developmental benefits!
Wooden Peg Drop
With the Lovevery Wooden Peg Drop, your baby gets to have fun putting the peg in the hole – an activity this age range absolutely loves. But it goes beyond that and includes this little tab that your child can pull to release all the pegs and watch them fall.
That really extends the “life” of this toy, because at 11-12 months, just the peg part is a lot of fun. But as they get older, pulling the tab and watching the pegs fall – and doing it all over again – keeps the fun going.
I could not find an alternative on Amazon that included the unique “pull-the-tab” feature. That said, putting the peg in the hole is still a lot of fun, and I did find this wooden Galt Pop Up Toy. Like the Lovevery peg drop, it encourages hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills, though you do miss out on the actual dropping portion of the activity.
The opposite balls are really fun, because they look identical, but when your baby holds them, they realize they’re somehow different. It’s a really fun experiment in light versus heavy. You can also play with these in the bathtub so your baby can watch one float and one sink.
Part of the excitement of this toy is that on the outside, the balls look the same. And that’s what’s really difficult to find on Amazon. No other company is selling a toy like this one, so we had to get creative.
My suggestion is to blow up two balloons but weigh one down with some sand. I think you’ll achieve the same result without spending nonsensical money on trying to get two similar-looking balls that weigh different amounts.
If you don’t have sand in your backyard (I realize not everyone lives in Florida ;), I recommend picking up some kinetic sand. This stuff is SO much fun and will offer up more opportunities for play than just this opposite balls activity. In a pinch, I bet you could also use dried beans or rice. If you try this, leave a comment below and let me know how it went!
We loved playing with the pincer puzzle, though my son lost interest in it after a couple of weeks. I personally love Lovevery toys that keep my child’s interest for years, but I also recognize that some of the shorter-lived toys are helping with developmental milestones, such as the pincer grasp.
This pincer puzzle from BOHS is very similar to the Lovevery version, but as you can see, it’s quite a bit bigger!
Because of its size, it may be introducing some complexities that your 11-12-month-old isn’t ready for yet, but you could always scale it down by just pulling one puzzle out at a time.
I imagine the life of the Amazon alternative is also longer – I think my 3-year-old would have a lot of fun talking about the sizes (taller, shorter, wider, etc.) and colors (red, blue, yellow, green).
Lovevery vs. Amazon Price Comparison for “The Explorer”
Here are the prices* for the Lovevery Amazon alternatives I found:
- Sliding top box: $18.92
- ‘Animals I See’ mini book: $5.68
- Organic cotton baby doll: $49
- Organic cotton sensory pouch: $23.49
- Wooden peg drop: $16.99
- Opposites balls: $8.99
- Pincer puzzle: $23.99
*Amazon prices fluctuate often – please refer to the product links to check the price at the time you read this article.
The total cost for The Thinker play kit alternatives is $146.97 or $66.97 more than the Lovevery play kit.
The Thinker play kit is really expensive to recreate, and when you see all the alternatives lined up, they don’t have that beautiful aesthetic of the Lovevery items.
Overall, I think this Lovevery kit is surprisingly a fantastic deal. You’re not going to recreate it for less elsewhere – trust me, I spent hours searching for the best Amazon alternatives!
However, if you wanted some of the same developmental benefits as The Thinker play kit without splurging on the kit itself, I’d recommend picking up the Adena Montessori box and the pincer puzzle. I have so many fond memories of the sliding top box, and the pincer puzzle will be a toy your child can use for years. You could also have fun recreating the opposites balls with any leftover birthday party balloons you have lying around!
I should also quickly mention that the Lovevery play kit comes with a Play Guide, which includes ideas for playing with the toys, tips on developmental milestones, and even some play ideas that don’t necessarily use items from the kit. I loved reading through the Play Guide and finding new ways to use the toys that I hadn’t previously thought of.
The Thinker play kit from Lovevery is a serious bang for your buck – it costs nearly $150 to recreate a play kit that will cost you $80 max (you can get a discount on the play kits by buying several at once).
Whether this served as a confirmation that the Lovevery kits are indeed worth it, or you’re interested in a toy or two, I hope this article helps you find what you need!
More articles in this series:
- Lovevery Amazon Alternatives: The Explorer Play Kit for 9-10 Months
- Lovevery Amazon Alternatives: The Inspector Play Kit for 7-8 Months
- Lovevery Amazon Alternatives: The Senser Play Kit for 5-6 Months
- Lovevery Amazon Alternatives: The Charmer Play Kit for 3-4 Months
- Lovevery Amazon Alternatives: The Looker Play Kit for 0-12 Weeks