I have four children, so a great volume of toys have come into my life over the years. I was hunting through some old ones when our neighbors with toddler twins visited this weekend, and it got me thinking about which ones have logged high mileage. Other than the Kindles and Xbox, here are a few that have stood the test of time in my house:
Thomas the Tank Engine trains, tracks, and play table. All of the kids went through a Thomas phrase (though my daughter slightly less; there’s only one major character that’s female. Emily “really knows her stuff” but a bit more diverse representation would have been welcome). I shudder to think how much capital has been invested in our collection of wooden toy trains but the kids have spent hours making trains, making track configurations, and lining up the whole cast of characters.
Blocks. We’ve had a wide variety of blocks, but my current favorites are Kevas, which are thin and stack well. This enables them to create cool designs (for older kids) and tall towers quickly, which is good for little kids who like to knock towers down as quickly as they can be built.
Fisher Price Little People. We have a farm, an airport, a manger scene, and the Disney Princess castle sets, with the associated characters. These are really good for small children who are just starting to do pretend play, but can’t quite cope with breakable (or small) pieces. Because they are good for pretend play, though, kids don’t age out of them quite as quickly as they do with more obviously baby-oriented toys.
Lego Duplos. I think the Duplos got more play than the big kid Legos, partly because the big kid Legos tend to be in sets that the kids put together individually (Star Wars, Lego Friends, Harry Potter, etc.) Trust me, we’ve put together a LOT of those sets. But a big bin of Duplos can work for multiple ages playing together. Big kids can put stuff together quickly just based on imagination, and there’s not the preciousness that requires them to keep them away from little kids.
Matchbox cars. We have run cars over every surface in our houses. My oldest child used to sleep with his cars when he was a preschooler (dropping his favorite taxi down the elevator shaft in our old apartment was a tragedy that it took a while to recover from). Unfortunately, a lot of the sets of tracks for toy cars are pretty flimsy. So the cars are often best combined with blocks and other building materials.
Marble runs. Not for little kids, but once my kids were past the oral phase they all loved building towers of tubes for marbles to run down.
Crocodile Creek puzzles. The puzzles are doable in an hour or so for a group of elementary school aged kids, and I have found that this brand is well constructed so the pieces don’t fall apart when you do the puzzle a second time (or twentieth time). Our favorites include the solar system, the world, and the US state map.
KidKraft wooden toy kitchen plus the Melissa and Doug food sets. All the kids have pretend-cooked on our cheery red kitchen set, and our pots and pans and slice-able fruit and pizza add a realistic element. We also bought a miniature metal shopping cart that the kids have pushed baby dolls around in as they shop for food.
Big boxes of crayons. Markers dry out. Paints are messy (so are chalk pastels). But a big box of crayons and a stack of paper can keep kids occupied for quite a while. Crayons are also portable, so trips often involve baggies of a dozen crayons and scratch paper. Indeed, I’m writing this on the train to New York and I noticed that my purse has a bunch of crayons in it already. Guess I’m ready to go!
Busytown (the game). Based on Richard Scarry’s Busytown book, this game is short (making it doable for parents) and cooperative, meaning no one screams when he/she loses. While not a toy, I’d also like to put in a plug for Scarry’s book Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, which has provided hours of entertainment on trips
What toys have stood the test of time in your house?