Today for Tuesday Tips I would like to talk about toys. The kind of toys that I prefer in our house are the basic, evergreen kind of toys. I like toys that are well made, with a simple concept, that can be used and combined in different ways or played with in different settings. Toys that are beautiful to look at, as opposed to most plastic, brightly coloured and battery-operated toys.
I have always had a preference for these kind of toys; I remember telling my mum when I was pregnant with Sara ten years ago to please not give me any battery operated toys! Of course, plastic toys have occasionally entered the house… (and so has Hello Kitty!), but over the past nine years, I have really noticed that the toys my children play with most (if not exclusively) are those that encourage creative and social play, and are designed with ‘open ended play’ in mind. I just love watching my four kids play together, building houses, cities, and worlds, setting the stage for the different scenarios for their pretend play.
I do agree that typical battery operated toys have great appeal to my children at first. They will love the sounds and colours and will be so easily entertained. Often, when the toy is first given to them, they will even fight over it (these toys are designed for the entertainment of the individual child, not with social play in mind!). However, very often my children will quickly lose interest in the toy, which consistently performs the same trick over and over again. So boring! The toy will end up standing in a corner somewhere until we decide to bring it to charity. Such a waste! Heirloom toys are not always the cheapest investments to make, but if you consider that they will be played with so much, for generations even, it’s all worth it. My children still play with some of my own childhood toys!
I thought it would be nice to write down a list of some tips for evergreen toys that have proven to be very successful in our household — toys that are played with by children of different ages and don’t lose their appeal, ever. I asked input from Emilie and Courtney and some of my friends, so this is very much their list as well. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about toys in general, and please do share your children’s favourite toys!
Toys we like (for inside play):
Wooden marble track: the perfect toy for all ages. Small children will like to play with the blocks and start stacking them (without the marbles of course), bigger children will build intricate tracks (and parents will gladly help).
- Building blocks: stacking and building structures, but also great to combine with other toys (f.e. Schleich animals – build compounds, zoo, etc.) or just line them up. Any ordinary blocks will do (we also like this blocks set).
- Dolls: Kathe Kruse and handmade Waldorf dolls look beautiful, but any good quality doll is fine. And some dolls’ clothes.
- Doll’s bed: a simple fruit crate with some small towels will do, but a baby needs a bed, of course.
- A sturdy dolls’ pram with little pillows and blankets. Invest in a good, sturdy dolls buggy and it will be played with forever.
Schleich animals: wonderful quality toys, they look beautiful and will be played with a lot. Great for all sorts of adventures.
Wooden play barn /house /dollhouse /structure: to combine with Schleich animals, Playmobil, all other little characters that children will find or create and need a place to live.
- Lego & Duplo: building and inventing, creating. We love the original, plain blocks.
- Puzzles (educational ones or just the old-fashioned jigsaws!)
- Playmobil: we love the old-fashioned characters, great to mix with all sorts of other toys (see above).
Kapla: some of our favourite blocks for super creative tower-building (see building blocks).
- Dress up clothes: some old shawls, hats, dresses and sunglasses and some pieces of fabric will get you very far. Let the children be creative – no need to invest in expensive dress-up outfits, which are much less imaginative anyway.
- Train track: a simple wooden train track (Ikea) is great for all ages – a puzzle first, then a road, then it becomes a landscape (enter Schleich and Playmobil for surroundings)
- Garage and cars: a wooden garage appeals to most children and it a great space to store the cars.
Nesting dolls: my kids love these! And they make great decor too.
Play kitchen & kitchen toys: a wine crate on the side with circles drawn on top makes a good enough play kitchen. And a little set of pots and some mini kitchen utensils will be played with loads. (Regular kitchen utensils are just as successful, BTW!)
Stacking cups: babies love playing with them, and all my kids still love them in their bath!
- Wooden spinning tops: fun for everyone and they look pretty on your coffee table.
PS Like I mentioned above, these toys are mostly for indoor play — maybe we can share some favourite toys for outdoor play and some great baby toys later.