Thursday, November 29, 2012

10 Toys that Stand the Test of Time

Christmas is coming and every year I get asked (over and over) what the boys want for Christmas.  Most of the time, we try to come up with practical things, things that they need and we know they will use.  Over the years, we've gotten TONS of toys (my basement bears proof to this fact!) and I've learned that the toys that stand the test of time, those that don't end up dusty in the bottom of the toy box, are not always the most expensive or the ones with the most bells and whistles.  As part of the Huge Holiday Family Gift Guide, I've compiled a list of the 10 toys that continually get pulled out by my children (and my daycare children).  These are the toys I recommend to everyone searching for a great gift that won't be forgotten as soon as the holiday decorations are put away.

1. Legos & LaQ blocks - We have yet to venture into the world of "small" Legos, but my children love the Duplo Blocks.  They use them to build guns, lasers, animal parks, castles, roller coasters, and buildings for their cars.  These are great toys to foster imagination and build fine motor skills.  Recently, I was sent a set of LaQ construction kits to try out with the boys.  If your children have mastered Legos and are looking for a new challenge, I highly recommend the LaQ sets.  LaQ is a company that has been sold in Japan for years and moved to the U.S. market three years ago.  They develop linking toys (similar to Legos) that can be used for free play or to build specific sets.  The concept behind LaQ is to encourage freestyle play and educational development in children.  My kids had a great time with our LaQ blocks.  It took them a little while to get the hang of how all the small pieces fit together, but once they did, they had a blast making cars and churches.  I loved being able to actually see the light bulbs going off in their heads as they figured out new ways to manipulate the pieces!  Unlike Legos, you don't just build vertically, you can link pieces in any direction promoting enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills.

 2.  Blocks - In our house we have several sets of blocks including the Melissa & Doug Wood Blocks Set and the cardboard blocks.  The bricks are great for building forts and houses for pretend play.  The smaller blocks are used similarly to Legos.  Our blocks also get used for "lesson" time to work on colors, sorting, and measurement ("How many blocks tall are you?").  I love toys that aren't limited to a single use.

3.  Marble Racer - We happen to own the Imaginarium Marble Race Deluxe and it has been a favorite in our house for the past 5 years!  There are some reviews on this that say that the plastic was cheap and that the pieces don't fit together.  Yes, we have broken some support pieces (when I stepped on them), but all in all it has held together wonderfully and at $39.95, you can only expect so much.  I like it better than some of the other options because it offers many more interesting pieces for loops, slides, and spins.  I also love that this toy fosters reasoning and teaches problem-solving skills.

4.  Lincoln Logs - This is an oldie, but a goodie!  My kids have learned so much about building and spatial reasoning from creating structures with their Lincoln Logs.  They also love to load them in their dump trucks and carry them around the house and use the cabins in their pretend play.  We also own the Lincoln Log Red River Express that has been lots of fun for the kids.

5.  Action Figures - My kids are currently obsessed with super heroes.  They love Batman and Robin.  Before Batman, though, they loved Buzz Lightyear and the Toy Story characters.  Our favorite toys when the kids are going through a specific phase are the small characters that DON'T MAKE ANY NOISE.  They don't move or have flashing lights, so there's nothing hindering my kids from using their own imaginations.  These figures become players in their small world play with their Legos and blocks.  They take them outside and zoom around the yard creating fabulous adventures for them.  Best of all, since they're small and quiet, they make excellent car trip toys!

6.  Wooden Railway Set - More than the GeoTrax (which we also own) and the battery-powered Thomas trains (which we own as well), my kids LOVE their wooden Thomas trains and tracks.  I prefer these trains as well because you don't have to worry about rechargeable batteries or who is controlling which remote control.  My kids seem to share the wooden trains better, too, which is probably because we own so many of them.  These are more portable and can be set up anywhere, with or without the tracks.  We have also successfully integrated our Thomas trains and our off-brand Target tracks.

7.  Homemade Art Kits - You have to love a gift that can be used up!  Some of the best, and most useful, gifts my boys have received have been homemade art kids.  These are usually presented in a reusable tote or box and include things like markers, safety scissors, notebooks, MECHANICAL PENCILS (those are definitely a huge hit!), fun erasers, stamps, glue sticks, and stickers.  For kids that you know like to get crafty, I would also include construction paper, washable paints, pom poms, googly eyes, craft sticks, pipe cleaners, or any of the fun items you see in the craft aisle.  These are great because the inspire creativity, reduce boredom when cabin fever sets in, and they can be customized for each child's personal interests.

8.  Board Games - I love getting board games as a gift, because you're also receiving the gift of family time.  Our family loves to pull out the board games before bed and during naptime when the youngest babies are sleeping.  The boys particularly like Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and Zingo right now.  When they get older, I hope they'll share our love of Scattegories, Bongo, Scrabble, and Monopoly!

 9.   Outdoor Toys - This is also a great category to consider when trying to get a gift that won't just lay around.  You really can't go wrong with simple outdoor toys like sidewalk chalk, balls, bubbles, jump ropes, and frisbees.  If you want something bigger, my kids get a lot of use from their Scooters, Coupe Cars, and Radio Flyer Wagon.  I love these gifts because you're encouraging kids to get outside (away from the video games and television) and get some exercise!

10.  Play-Doh - There are so many options with gifting Play-Doh.  Of course, you can always buy a Play-Doh set and call it a day, or you can try making your own Play-Doh (who wouldn't love some gingerbread scented play-doh?).  If you're not ready to try your hand at making play-doh, you can always personalize a package of dough with your own accessories.  Consider including fun things like cookie cutters, kitchen spreaders, plastic utensils, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, safety scissors, and craft sticks.  This is sure to be a gift that gets pulled out on those rainy days!

For more great gift ideas, check out the other co-hosts for 
The Huge Holiday Family Gift Guide:

Fun Gifts Beyond Toys by No Twiddle Twaddle  
Book + Toy Companion Gifts by What Do We Do All Day?
Best Art Supplies for Kids by To Train Up a Child
Gifts to Inspire the Imagination by The Pleasantest Thing 
Gifts for Your Backyard Explorer/ Gifts for Your Animal Lover by Blog Me Mom  
Educational Games by True Aim Education Basic/Traditional Toys by Creative Playhouse Therapeutic and Fun Gift Ideas for Child Development by Creative Learning Fun
Top Toys for Babies by B-InspiredMama
Top Toys for Curious Kids by KC Edventures
Educational/ Headache Free Toys for Christmas and Hanukkah by CAUTION: Twins at Play
4 Gift Ideas for Everyone: Want, Wear, Need, and Read by Home Learning Journey  
Gifts that Inspire Pretend Play by Connecting Family and Seoul  
My Favorite Books and Toys for Preschoolers by Mama Miss  
Educational Toys for Preschoolers by The Freckled Homeschooler  
Montessori Inspired Toys by Smiling Like Sunshine
Gift Ideas for Older Kids (9-12) by Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Toys for the Classroom by Teach Preschool  
Gift Ideas for Budding Readers by Mom 2 to Posh Lil Dives
Stocking Stuffers: A Teacher's Top 10 by Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers
Book Ideas for Everyone on Your List by Pragmatic Mom
Top Board Games for Kids and Families by Coffee Cups and Crayons
Home Made Gifts Children Can Make by How to Run a Home Daycare
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  1. We have a marble track on JDaniel's wish list too.

  2. I totally believe in toys that stand the test of time but it's so hard to figure out what toys will survive. GREAT list! For us, it was wooden blocks, toy cash register, toy drum kit and Razor scooters.