First, I like my kids to play, whether it’s outside or with toys inside. I like them to play. I like the give and take, compromising, and problem solving involved in playing together. I also like the imagination and enthusiasm sparked by playing together with a really good toy. I am not a fan of media usage in large doses. If my kids spend more than three hours in front of a screen (any screen) they start making very bad choices. (Choices that could involve emergency room visits, seriously.)
Over the years we’ve tried out various toys for our kids. Some toys have been one-hit wonders. They’re played with for a day and then forgotten or broken. Some toys are amazing. They are sturdy and entertaining and easy to clean up. And I encourage my boys to play dolls and dress-up, and my girls to play construction and trucks, so there really aren’t boy or girl toys in my home.
Our favorite, because of its interactive nature, sturdy construction, ease of clean up, and endless play options is . . . Fisher Price GeoTrax. I absolutely love this toy system. As a daughter of an engineer, I love building the track set up with my boys. We can get some crazy fun train tracks built together. But the tracks are also simple enough that my Kindergartner can build them. I also like the remote control trains that most of the sets come with. The trains have great visual detail and fabulous audio effects. Sadly Fisher Price has stopped making GeoTrax, so now I scour yard sale sites to add to our collection.
Next there are Lego bricks. I love Lego bricks and systems. The creativity involved in building with the bricks is fantastic. Not only that, but building with Legos increases fine motor control, which is something all of my kids struggle with. I love the websites that offer Lego patterns to help give kids an idea of what to build. Also, I really like the indestructible nature of the bricks. I have washed and dried several bricks, on accident, and there hasn’t been any damage. One major drawback to the Lego bricks is that when you find one in the dark with your bare feet . . . there is no way to describe that pain.
We also love the Fisher Price Little People for their durability and imaginative play. I love getting that box of toys out and building a Little People Town. We have the school, the farm, the house, the garage, the plane, the min van, the zoo, the fairy tree, and the Disney Princess Castle. Plus gobs of the little people themselves. We also have most of the Christmas set. Setting up and playing with this toy system takes my entire front room, but allows for hours of imaginative play for everyone.
Another family favorite are the Crayola Water Colors. The colors are a good quality, and easy to use. The expression of creating with water colors allows for a lot of calming in my home. We recently spent 2 hours as a family peacefully painting with water colors. Anything that can do that is awesome in my book!
The Duplo system, also by Lego, is another favorite. I listed these bricks because they are great for little hands. (And there’s no eye-popping ouch factor for stepping on them). We have so many of these bricks, that we can use them to make a wall around the Little People Town. Fun times.
Another toy that allows for a lot of creativity and peaceful times is Sculpey clay. It doesn’t dry out. You can mold it into anything you want, and then you can bake it and paint it into a keepsake. It doesn’t make little pieces of itself all over the place and, did I mention, it never dries out!
Also, my family loves books, all kinds and types. There is fantastic power reading a good book together and exploring a new book on your own. Reading with my nonreaders is always so much fun. I let them choose the books and we sit and read until we’re through. Among our favorites: The Curious George series, the Disney storybooks, Little Golden Books, Biscuit, and Amelia Bedelia. Also, reading together is a good way for my family to reset itself before moving on to the next activity.
Another great toy would have to be the Fisher Price Trio Blocks. Another building set, I know, but these blocks are great. We have the castle set and it is so much fun to build and play with. It’s sturdy, and builds fairly quickly to a nice size. Also, these blocks make for great experiments in physics.
We also love playing with board games. We enjoy all the classic games like Candyland, Sorry, and Clue Jr., but we also enjoy playing Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, and Kinder Bunnies. Our children enjoy playing these grownup games; we usually just break into teams for the littlest kids.
There are other toys out there that are a lot of fun, but these toys have been staples in my childrearing practice. We’ve enjoyed them so much that they have been boxed up and moved several times as we’ve relocated for different jobs.
What toys do your families enjoy the most? Let me know; I’m always looking for more great toys.