Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Toys, Toys, Toys

With Christmas fast approaching, there is the question of what the children want/need for Christmas. When it comes to toys, sometimes I wonder where we are going to put something new. I wonder if it is a passing phase or something worth getting.

I like to practice a few simple approaches to try to ensure that we get the maximum life out of a toy.

Minimize Character Themed Products: When it comes to board games, I have insisted that only the original game will do - no character themed version. Sure, it probably is more exciting to a toddler to see their friend Dora on their board game, but one thing I have noticed is that some cartoon stay and some go...would they be uninterested in the game if it had a character that they were no longer into? Additionally, it helps avoid the "it works for my son, but not my daughter" syndrome causing a need to own two copies of a game. I will tell you that we have Wiggles guitars and cars, but in general, if a standard version and a character version are available, I stick with the general version.

What did we play with as kids?: I think the classic toys are classic for a reason. My son loves to play for hours with his Legos. They are can build according to directions (a great skill set to develop) and you can build free form (also very important skill set) and yet they entertain for hours. Thomas the Train is another toy that we have played with for years. Initially, mom and dad had to build the tracks and my son would just watch the trains go around with excitement. Now, he builds the tracks (complex crossing over tracks using toys to form bridges) and my daughter watches with excitement. For my daughter, right now it is her Dolly. She loves it. She mothers it, which gives me the biggest warm, fuzzy feeling in the world - as the way she mothers is a reflection on me. There is always the toy kitchen and dishes. Children love to mirror what they see. Both of my kids love to cook with the toy dishes (or the dishes in my cupboards for that matter). A few years ago, my son wanted a vacuum and a mop. I never did find a good toy vacuum (none were "real" enough), but we got him a mop. He gets upset if I mop without him!

Books, books, books: Books are a great thing. Reading books. Coloring books. Activity books. Puzzle books. They are all enjoyed by children. My son can spend hours doing Word Find puzzles. They help a car trip pass quickly.

K.I.S.S. - Some other toys that we have especially liked and gotten a lot of use out of sort of stick with the KISS theory (Keep it Simple Silly), which in some ways goes back to the classics. Toys don't need to be complicated or equipped with bells or whistles to be enjoyed by kids. One toy is the Playskool Step Start Walk N' Ride. We found it on sale and have really gotten a lot of value out of this simple toy. First as a tool to help the kids learn to walk and then as a ride on toy that we kept inside. Another is a tent and tunnel that we bought a few years ago at Ikea. When the kids were younger, they loved to crawl through the tunnel, which we had set up in the middle of the room. It makes a great "Peek-a-boo" toy. Now, the tunnel leads into the tent. The kids have pillows and coloring books and books in the tent, they love to spend time in there. We have a Sit n Spin that now comes standard with music, but we have never used batteries in it...the toy works just fine on its own (and I don't have to listen to the noise as it drowns out the happy noises of play). The kids also have a Magna Doodle and an Aqua Doodle. Two simple toys that have provided hours of entertainment. An easel is another great toy for a budding artist and it works well for learning to write as well. The one we have is a chalkboard on one side and a white board on the other.

Some of the best toys aren't toys: Laundry baskets, shopping bags, boxes, mixing bowls, wooden spoons...they can entertain a child and their imagination for hours. My daughter will climb in and out of a laundry basket. She will gather up her favorite things and put them in the basket. It is funny to watch her drag it from the laundry room to the family room to play. Forts - a few well positioned chairs, cushions, laundry baskets and blankets can provide hours of entertainment.

Works For Me Wednesday today is themed, Toys Worth Buying. Check it out over at Rocks In My Dryer to see what other parents have found and liked for their kids.


Blessed said...

I have to agree with you! Most of the best toys are the simple ones, I think my daughter enjoys playing with my plastic bowls more than she likes some of her own toys :)

You can check my post out at:

Unknown said...

Absolutely - my son has the best time sorting my clothes pegs by colour!

Unknown said...

Funnily enough my husband & I were talking about this subject yesterday. Our daughter has a lot of toys that she doesn't play with & doesn't look after at all. We realised that when we were growing up we had maybe 4 or 5 good toys that we always played with & took care of. Alot of the toys our daughter has are not good quality so we had a massive clearout yesterday. We kept the lego, Thomas the Tank Engine (she's a little bit of a tom boy) her doll's house & her baby with pushchair. We decided as a present this year she will get a good quality wooden farm which we can use for other children when we have more (God willing). I think children are so over-whelmed by the quantity of advertising that is thrown at them today that they don't get to enjoy the toys they have. & on the subject of simple toys, my husband and daughter made & painted a stable for her horses out of a cardboard box yesterday. It was a great father/daughter activity & she has been playing with it since.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI, if you are still looking for a realistic-looking toy vacuum for the kids, Target has a little Dirt Devil toy for $15 that looks pretty real (and supposedly makes vacuum noises as well).