It’s time for toy shopping.
I’m not a big fan of toys that do only one thing, make a lot of electronic noises, and limit the imagination. I want toys that inspire the mind and encourage the kids to be active; open ended toys that can be played with by children of different ages and different skill levels. Also, I intentionally look for toys that will get them outside, get them moving, and give them a place to channel their energy.
We also have a budget, and I want toys that will last. Toys that will be played with for a few days and forgotten are too expensive at any price; I’m looking for classic items that kids will play with for years.
Sure, we have bikes, skateboards, and basketballs but we also play with lots of other toys that encourage activity, body control, and a lot of open play.
Many parents give a kid a bike, a little freedom, and watch her ride off into the sunset. Great for both balance and exercise.
But…if you’re having a little trouble with the “giving them freedom” part, do what I did: get a set of walkie talkies. We have a creek behind our house that the kids love to explore, but it made me nervous to let them go. So we keep in contact with the walkie talkies, and I can call them home easily. We skipped the ones shaped like cartoon characters and bought a “real” set that can be recharged and with a good range because we live in a neighborhood with lots of houses and buildings around. We’ve also used them when caravanning before we both had cell phones.
Nerf (we own for boys, age 4-13)
My boys age 4-13 love Nerf. I thought some of the products were a little expensive- $20-$40 for a plastic gun? But my boys play with them for hours and hours, daily. They run, tuck, dive, and roll. They also play with kids of all ages in the neighborhood, and even the 2 year old gets in on the action. These guns have served us well and are one of the most popular toys at our house. I recommend getting at least two guns, or this set, to start with so it’s easy to include a friend. You can buy a basic Nerf gun for around $7.
Xploderz (For R, age 13; P, age 12; S, age 9)
This year my boys are crazy for Xploderz, which are a cross between a water gun and a paint ball gun. The ammo are little beads that you hydrate (like those water gel beads you can use in the garden) so when it hits the target, it splats. We’re getting R and P the Xploderz Ranger 2000 and S is getting the Faceoff 400.
Play Silks (all kids)
These are a feast for the imagination, but also encourage active play. Playsilks can be used in many ways: forts, tents, superhero capes, parachutes, princess dresses, fairy wings, or more. You can buy them from educational and natural toy stores, but they can get pricey. So, we’re making our own!
Dharma Trading company has the cheapest silk “blanks” (white, hemmed 100% silk scarves) and we’ll dye them with Kool-Aid (caution: you can only dye animal-based cloth this way, not rayon or cotton.) I purchased 30″ white squares t0 dye, a few black squares, and a rectangle. At around $4-5 each it’s a good investment to make. We’re giving them as gifts this year, too. What colors? Check out the Kool-Aid dye chart!
Of course basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls will promote activity, but smaller children might enjoy a sensory ball. These are made of tough plastic and have nubs to help little hands catch and grab.
Building Toys (all kids)
Large blocks such as cardboard bricks encourage whole body movement as children stack, play, and knock down. We bought a set of these last year and they were a huge hit. I’ve seen Melissa and Doug brand at Hobby Lobby. Find a ubiquitous 50% off coupon and you can get a great deal!
These are expensive, so we’re pooling the gift for the little ones because I know they’ll play for hours and hours with the little house. We chose this particular model because it has a “secret garden” children need to crawl into, a faucet and stove burner inside, and room for taller brothers and sisters to be served outside. Plus Miss C (age 5) and Miss V (age 7) love to play restaurant, and it has a built in table and order window! I searched high and low, and Walmart has the best price at $129.99, especially if you “ship to store” for free.
Walker Wagon (for Juli, 10 months)
This was the most economical simple walker I could find. It has plenty of space for Baby J to “put in and take out” (the favorite baby game of all my toddlers) and it’s sturdy enough for her siblings to push her in. We can use it both inside and outside.
Squinkies (Favored by Miss C, age 5)
These are only an exercise device if you have a crawling baby. YOU will get a workout leaping from your chair to fish 1″ tall princesses out of the baby’s mouth and you’ll work that waistline doing the “bend and snap” before vacuuming. Other items in the “Choking Prevention Workout” include Legos, Barbie shoes, and army men.
Blogging with integrity: I am an Amazon.com and a Target.com affiliate, so if you make a purchase through the link you will help support this site! As noted, we actually own some of these toys, and others will be under the tree this Christmas. I have actually purchased the items listed here.