Our Favorite Toys for Young Childrenby Elizabeth MacDonald
I have an 8 year old daughter, and 6, 4 and 1.5 year old sons, and another daughter who is still being snuggled all day. We homeschool and I am a write-from-home mom. I have enough toys to populate the planet. We have recently gone through and donated more than 3/4 of said items in hopes to tone down the madness. The process wasn’t easy, but I came up with a great method. I laid out several toys at a time and allowed each child to pick three that stayed; the rest were gone. It was interesting to watch their thought process. They would discuss with one another about what items would be played with in what ways. They would beg to keep other pieces, and I won’t lie, I caved on a few – but only if they presented a strong argument. In the end, everyone was happy. I’m going to share with you what we kept, as they are the items that have been loved and played with by all of my children, at every age so far. (I try to shop “Green Toys,” but I’m not perfect – and I have a lot of kids. Plastic is inevitable.)
Wooden Play Kitchen: This thing has been moved to 4 houses and has been loved on daily. It is high quality and sturdy enough to climb on (yep, ask me how I know.) It is used as a kitchen, a store, and anything else they can imagine.
Wood and Felt Play Food: My son attends speech therapy twice a week and uses play food to work on sounds. Now we do it at home! But for so many other reasons, we keep the play kitchen well stocked. We have recycled plastic place settings, wooden sushi, birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies, pizza, fruit, vegetables, ice cream, entrée options, etc. Everything can be cleaned easily and isn’t just used by throwing it on a plate. My kids get to cut, choose toppings, even scoop the ice cream.
Tea Set and Tea: My daughter loves tea parties, the fancier the better. We enjoy one several times a week. We have little wooden tea bags that she uses and then real cookies (of course).
Shopping Cart: We have two. They are used for shopping, races, baby doll carriers, rocket ships… I mean, you name it.
Cash register: My kids play “restaurant” and “store” frequently. The register comes in handy! I’d love to say that we invested in a wooden, amazing one, but the truth is, with some batteries inserted, ours is cool. It has a little microphone on it and a price/scanner gun. It actually scans barcodes and adds up prices.
Marble Run: Again, a wooden one would be amazing to own! Instead we spent the money on 3 marble run packs with accessories. We have enough pieces to build the coolest marble run you have ever seen. The best part? We actually build one every week or so. Everyone participates, and yes, everyone cries when it falls apart. But I feel as though it’s a great life lesson: crap happens, pick up the pieces and build something better!
Swinging Chair: This is a wonderful item. It is used to swing and relax, but also doubles as an act in my children’s circus performances. They climb it like a gym class rope, and perform aerobatics from it.
Instruments: A small wooden piano, guitar, drum, harmonicas, etc. These aren’t over-used in our home, but I do love to have them accessible.
Wooden Building Blocks: Just a must in every home. The options are pretty limitless out there. We have a few sets, but have weeded through them over the years. I love the blocks with different shapes so castles, walls, and towers can be built. Ours also have little painted buildings on a few pieces, which sets the foundation to be used for creative play.
Wood Train Set: We have had this set for 3 years and it sat in a plastic tub unused. I have almost donated it several times, but for some reason I just couldn’t. Then baby #3 turned 18 months old. BAM – that thing is played with daily now.
Wood road for small cars: The set matches the train and can connect to make a large city area where both cars and trains can travel.
Pop-up Play house and rocket ship: They have poles you slide through, so they don’t really “pop” up, but the kids help me build them. I love these because they fold up into a small bag and can be put away. How many play houses can do that? LOVE IT.
Magna Tiles: We have built a little assortment of pieces. My kids create trains, balls, castles, mazes, and walls with these. They have to work hard and think smart to keep their creations from caving in.
Mr. Potato Head: We have 3 and all the accessories. This is something that is not used every day, but yet is loved every time it is played with. I typically pull them out and set up an area for the boys while my oldest is doing her homeschool work.
Wood Tool Bench: Our youngest just received this for his second birthday, but all of the kids love it. It has storage for all of the tools and pieces, and areas to utilize them.
Kinetic Sand: We have moved away from play dough, but we love the kinetic sand. Words to hear: lay out a large drop cloth before you open the sand. TRUST ME.
Wooden Barn and animals: Another item that has been used by all of the kids. The barn we have folds open and closed and stores the animals inside. We have a similar sized doll house that functions the same way. When set up next to one another, the kids play farm!
Building Pegs: I really don’t know why my kids love these so much. They are out all the time though.
Wedgit Blocks: Even I play with these! These blocks really make you think. They come with idea cards on what to build, but once you’ve conquered those, the sky is the limit! We have more accessories on our amazon wishlist for family to purchase this year (hint hint).
Floor Puzzles: I hate tiny puzzle pieces. I despise them actually. Large, floor puzzles are easy to find and hard to misplace. Little hands can help put puzzles together, but there are enough complicated pieces to entertain the six year old.
Trucks/Planes that can be Built and Taken Apart: I do wish that I could purchase replacement pieces, as a few screws have been lost over time. Even with that in mind, I highly recommend these toys. My kids will use the tools to take them apart and use team work to build them again – over and over and over.
Remote Control Cars: Each kid needs one. It’s just a right of passage.
LeapPads: Great for road trips and quiet time at home. We homeschool, so every so often I just need a break. The little one will nap, and I will pull LeapPads out for the older ones. I do love that the games we have purchased are all educational.
Baby Dolls, Sling, Bed, High Chair, Stroller: My daughter is doll obsessed. (so are my sons, and they will become amazing dads one day!) We did sort through and donate a bunch, but there are still several dolls around this house. American Girl Bitty Baby is the favorite. All of the kids have doll carriers to wear their babies around. My daughter now makes her own doll slings from scarves.
Stuffed Toys (just a few of the favorites): The performance acts need audience members. Enough said.
Board Games: Card games, cooperative board games, thinking games, physical games, no thinking-needed games, we have some of each.
Dress-Up Clothes/Accessories: An entire chest of dress-up is in our play room. Butterfly wings, knight’s swords, wigs, princesses, pirates, and fairies may appear at any time.
Doll House: A good quality, wood doll house speaks for itself. Invest in quality dolls and furniture that can withstand the love of a child.
7’ basement trampoline: It snows, a lot here. And I like to run on the treadmill. Everyone wins with a trampoline in the basement.
Doctor Kit: Kids love to play doctor. (Well, my kids love to play chiropractor – but the doctor kit tools work fine.)
Books and books on CD: My husband believes in buying kid books. I enjoy the library. Either way, there are hundreds of books within our home. The six year old loves to listen to chapter books, so right now we are ready every mermaid or fairy chapter series.
What We are Buying Them for Christmas this Year: Well... we are going with the experiences over the gifts! Read more about that here!