Our house sees a lot of play, but Heath mama isn’t great at keeping track of mindless toys and Heath papa strongly dislikes clutter. This has led to our toys actually being fairly sparse; the kids can clean up everything in 15 minutes or less. The 15 minutes is a way to keep a pulse on stuff, if it takes more than 15 minutes, there is too much stuff and it’s time for a drop off at Goodwill. If it makes noise, flashes random lights, is motion sensitive, or plays mind-numbing robotic “classical” music that is supposed to make your baby a genius, we don’t own it. If it is aesthetically pleasing, encourages imaginative play, and is durable, we’ll keep it.
At the moment, I think we are in a really good place as far as toys go. Everything gets played with pretty much every day and everything is cleaned up at the end of the day. Most of these toys have been in our home for the past 3 years and are still going strong. These are the sorts of toys I plan on keeping forever, long after my kids have outgrown them, at the ready for when friends stop by with young kids and eventually for the grandkids. Developmentally my kids play at a five-year-old or younger stage, I expect this list will change a bit as they grow older. *I had lovely pictures to go with each section but my computer and camera aren’t talking and I don’t have patience for that sort of drama*
1. Books. I’d like to say that you could never go wrong with a book, and that is almost true, as long as you avoid twaddle, things that are designed simply to sell a brand (I’m looking at you Disney), and things that shed glitter.
2. Wooden blocks. I pick up wooden block sets whenever I find them at a good price. TJMax had these awesome castle blocks a few years ago and they mix and match well with a set I found at Aldi a year or two ago.
3. The Wheely Bug. This was a gift from the in-laws when we moved to our long ranch home that has the perfect hallway for riding this baby. Della has been using it since she was 18 months old; next month she will be 5 and she still plays with the bug. We have the small size and I may get the large size to accommodate Angelina and Della’s size. This is a toy built to last. And it’s darling.
4. A Kitchen. There are toy kitchens that have incredible bells and whistles, and I’ve drooled over them, but I know that a kid doesn’t need much to have a fun kitchen. You could use a cardboard box. But when my mother-in-law offer to get a kitchen for our kids, I chose this one (on sale). It has a sink, oven, stovetop, and cupboard – just the basics – yet grand feasts served to royalty have been whipped up in this tiny space.
5. Board games. Okay. Okay. We are a board gaming family. There, now you know the secret as to why we are so awesome. Last year, on Christmas day, the only gift under the tree was one family board game (Hoot Owl Hoot). It was such a hit that this year I’m going to be doing the same thing, only with 3 board games (because Target had a b2g1 deal). I’ll share our top favorite family board games later this week.
6. Swings. Our toddler swing is from Aldi. The wide saucer spinner swing is from Amazon and is the favorite summer toy. I’d like to figure out a way to have it up in basement for winter play.
7. Art Supplies. Water color paints, construction paper, stickers, scissors, glue sticks, crayons, markers, colored pencils. You get the idea.
8. Toy Playhouse. All three girls play with the playhouses daily. Our collection started with the barn, followed with by the busy town, then a petshops palace from grandma, a tree house from Goodwill, and most recently a Noah’s ark as a Christmas gift. I’ll be honest, this is on the verge of too many options for the kids, but the houses still fit within my criteria of fitting within their place and are very easy to pick up at the end of the day. Kitty sleeps with her Noah’s ark instead of a stuffed animal, and plays with it for hours on end every single day. Sometimes you hit toy gold, and when my sister-in-law gave this gift she hit the jackpot.
9. Little dolls and animals. I do not care about keeping sets of things or sticking with a brand. I want things that will hold up through lots of play, can be easily cleaned, and won’t choke them. If they can be put away in the toy bins within the 15 minutes, we don’t have too many. These definitely see more play than our baby dolls, I think it’s the size, my daughters like playing with dolls and animals that fit so comfortabl in their hands.
10. Dress up clothes. A couple hats, a handful of colorful scarves, a cape, a wand, and you are set. Goodwill is a fantastic place to find all of these. If you want, you can get the ridiculously cute dress up things on Etsy and support those sellers. That’s cool too, but they are more than what I can spend on something that will be wadded up in a dressup bin most of its life.