I think my daughter would love something like Little People - an expandable make-believe set with people and cars and houses and firestations, etc. etc. But I hate Little People, and I'm not such a big fan of Playmobil either. I'd love something simpler, possibly even wooden. Anyone know of anything like this that isn't prohibitively expensive?
Oh...I read the title and I was going to suggest the Playmobil 1.2.3 sets. Not much help if you don't care for them. DS loves his farm set (they have one that makes noise...we have the one that does not). We expanded it with the countryside set, a bulldozer and mommy/baby. In our house it serves as doll house, farm and more general "family" play. He loves them, I think they are well made and even tho' I have a general aversion to plastic this is a toy we all enjoy b/c it's so well made and fun for DS (and fun for us to watch what he gets up to with his "guys" and the animals).
ETA--I should mention that while there are lots of "parts" to the sets they are intended for toddlers/preschoolers so they are far less intricate and involved than their standard line of playmobil. So, no teeny tiny pieces.
(when we were looking for a farm set for DS last Christmas we ended up with the playmobil because we couldn't justify the expense of any of the gorgeous wooden sets like those on the novanatural website)
Two moms and two boys enjoying the truth that love always wins!!!
How about duplo? I think the people are quite cute, and they have plenty of sets with buildings, vehicles etc. We had a farm and zoo along with LOTS of blocks and the kids still get them out at 6 & 8 so definitely long lasting.
I like the plan city toys too, but I think they aimed at slightly older children than little people.
Ah, yes - all good ideas. I have been thinking about Duplo, but I know she wouldn't be into the building part of it yet, so I was thinking I might just wait until she's old enough for regular Lego. I just bought her a Playmobil advent calendar, so we'll see how that works out. But I think Snapdragon hit the nail on the head. Vintage Little People is the ideal to which I'm comparing everything else because I loved them so much as a child. For some reason it didn't occur to me that I could just get them.... :)
Our kids love Lego Duplo which has lots of good figures plus it is a building toy. I'd buy or ask for as a gift the large zoo set or one of the train set plus a bucket of blocks and go from there. The educational line is awesome too because they usually have a lot of walls and have more valuable pieces per set. Legos and Playmobil are pretty much our only plastic toys and they are much, much loved. You can also find amazing duplo on ebay. Hint: you can also order old stock if you know the part number from the lego geek websites. You have to email them. So you can find the mythic "princess with hair" or nine hoses for the firetruck fanatic. (We like regular Playmobil too but i prefer duplo for young kids).
There is a huge window of time to enjoy duplo. Try it! DS at 5 (and lego lover) still builds with them all the time. It is a totally different environment than lego which is really a whole different universe. Also, you can easily sell them.
Small animals like Schliech are pretty awesome of the wooden equivalent from some of the German companies like Hollizinger or off easy. Etsy has many, many handmade peg people but although we had them, my kids were always uninterested in them.
The other things my son especially loved are the wooden train/people line from Plan Toys. All of those figures had vast back stories and adventures. The train that people can ride was the best ever and the whole line is really well made. Note that I am talking about their traditional line with airport/parking garage/train tracks/eco train etc not the newer molded stuff.