Thursday, December 18, 2014

Toy Recommendations

One thing I've learned in the past 13 years of parenting? Go classic with toys whenever possible, not trendy. Think of the imagination, the different uses over a wide range of maturities, the quality, the myriad of ways to recreate with the same materials, not commercial-driven crazes. When you give in and buy some nothing toy that was marketed to your child, you will all regret it.

You can't go wrong with Melissa and Doug Standard Unit Blocks.

Melissa & Doug 60pc Standard Unit Blocks

Melissa & Doug 60pc Standard Unit Blocks
Melissa & Doug 60pc Standard Unit Blocks
Item# MD-503
Regular price: $69.99
Sale price: $47.59
Availability: Usually ships in 2-3 business days.

In case you don't already own this gem of a toy, I searched and found the best price this year at Jacob's Room (quotes above from Jacob's Room). If you have a larger family, you will eventually want a second set.

There's no end to how children of various ages will use these large, sturdy blocks (12 year old still loves them, and all the neighbor kids). Think of the myriad of accessories your child already owns that can be utilized with this classic toy: Hot Wheels, all other vehicles, people figures, animal figures, and the incredible, joy-instilling Hex Bug. Each day will bring a new use, a new joy, a new sense of accomplishment.

Besides PlayDoh, which I love for many of the same reasons, Melissa and Doug Standard Unit Blocks are my favorite toy of all time. They don't get lost, Mom; they're too big. And they're easy to store in the accompanying delightful, well-crafted wood box. Just putting them away is a good brain exercise, as they fit perfectly and it takes practice to learn the best arrangement.


I used to think every little girl (or little boy) would like a kitchen, and I'm sure many a parent has sunk good money into one, but over time? They don't play with it much. Think longevity. How many uses per month, per year, and over time and maturity? Dishes get played with more than kitchens, for whatever reason. But a caveat: the more dishes the set comes with, the less they'll get played with. Stick with a simple, durable tea set. Kids don't like to be overwhelmed, and it takes time for us to learn that.

Large Plastic Indoor/Outdoor Toys

If you ever want a large plastic toy such as a wagon, kitchen, picnic table, sandbox, etc. check garage sales first. These items are very expensive and can often be found in good condition at garage sales for less than $10.

That said, a durable, brand new wagon is a treat for any child, and will likely provide years of joy.


Dolls, but not too many. The more dolls, the less they get played with. If you get another one, ask which of the old ones she wants to give to Goodwill.

Doll accessories, but only one or two, for the same reason.

Doll clothes will be played with more than beds, strollers, etc., over time. The stroller will likely go out of fashion in a month, though your neighbor girls might enjoy it when they visit.

Legos: Boys and Girls

These can be a good investment, but not the sets, in my opinion, because how many times will they want to put the same thing together (or the same two things)? And how many are mature enough to keep the pieces together? Better to buy larger packages of Legos and books to go with them, that feature a myriad of different ideas.

Hot Wheels are durable, invite a myriad of uses, and don't ever go out of fashion. My friend at church found her 18-year-old son perusing them in the toy section. waiting for his mom. The tracks are good, but the simpler the track, the better. Those that you just watch will go out of fashion, so choose something interactive, like a track that races the cars. Blocks and other classic toys that help your child invent his own track, with wedges and heights and slants, make Hot Wheels even more durable over time.

Dump trucks made by the best toy companies are always a good investment, inviting never-ending uses.

Remote control vehicles are rarely worth the money, and long ago I began my "no". If you can find it at a thrift store, go for it, I tell them...with your own money.

Electronics: We have never purchased any electronics other than our family PC, and the educational software our curriculum demands, but in the future we will need a tablet that allows educational, special-needs applications. I am thankful such things exist.

I know Minecraft, Wii, Xboxes, iPhones, iPods, etc. are all the craze, but they eat up time, are addictive, and really, what benefit is there that can't be realized by a good classic toy...and by real interaction with real people, like the family and friends we know are safe, and who God has placed in our lives for discipleship purposes? I've never regretted not having them. If you've got the time to monitor these things, and your time usage and content controls are working, they may be a good investment. I'm just not sold on the idea of any of them as truly beneficial for children, but every family is different.

My kids liked the Cool Math Games website for a few years, which made up their video game consumption (24 minutes a day after school), but the ads have gone too worldly, so I banned it. They don't miss it.

What are your favorite toys? Any ideas you've gathered that make electronic toys work for you and your children? What have your children's favorite toys been over time?


Beth Bullington said...

That is a great list. J loves sets -- He puts them together and then uses those pieces and makes all kinds of other things.

Amber said...

I too love the toys that need the child to be creative. As much as I hate to admit that my kids have plenty of the "popular" toys, I also try to even it out with other stuff as well.
Legos are very popular here in our home, and don't like the kits as the kids are limited to what they can build. I have looked and just can not find a box of mixed Legos anywhere. I sure would love to come across an old bucket of Legos from years ago.

We think so much alike on toys, it made me laugh. Now, if I can just wrangle in hubby we'd be good to go.

Christine said...

We have a good-sized bin of Lego pieces collected from many years, and probably from about 10 sets purchased over the years. They do use them to invent their own creations, albeit, with trucks and cars and other things put together with a tapestry of colors. :)

The thing about Legos is that they are everywhere around the house, because not only my kids but the neighbor kids play with them as well. I haven't given up on the training re proper storage and care of toys, but it is draining on top of everything else. :(

It is a shame they aren't readily available in larger quantity, rather than sets.