It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about fun and educational things for our little ones. With so many toys on the market…and SO MANY ADVERTISEMENTS…what things are really worth the money and the space allocation in the play room?
The MoMs of HDYDI have put together a list of some of the tried-and-true toys that have been hits at their houses. We hope you’ll find this a useful resource as you make your shopping lists!
Cloth books. The best way to instill a love of reading and not go crazy with ripped pages (trust me, pages get torn!) is to get creative. How? Soft books! These come in classics, educational, holiday, and more. We have a few lying around, and not only do they help introduce reading, they make a great chew toy! Getting them by 12/2 will also help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)
Nesting cups or bowls. The best $4 I ever spent was on a set of stacking cups. They were perfect for our girls to grasp as infants…building towers was a great challenge when the girls were 12-18 months…and almost five years later, the cups serve a million different pretend scenarios. (MandyE)
Activity table. I saw my daughters drawn to an activity table in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office. I looked it up online and was surprised to find how affordable they were. My girls loved to fiddle and twirl all the knobs, levers and buttons. It helped them learn about cause and effect, and the fact that they could play simultaneously was a huge plus. Most models are pretty good for relatively young infants, since they can be used without the legs to keep babies occupied during tummy time. Add the legs, and these toys can keep toddlers occupied for comparatively long periods of time. (Sadia)
Baby blocks. Just another block? Nope! These are 5×5 inch blocks that are made of fabric and stuffed with soft material! We love our soft blocks because they can be used as ‘balls’, pillows (I’ve done this a few times), chew toys, and are educational. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you buy them by 12/2. (angelabickford3)
One to Two Years
Play kitchen. We got a kitchen play set when our girls were two. Three years later, our girls still play with it every day, as do any friends — boys or girls — who come to visit. A wise fellow twin mama advised me to get the largest kitchen our space would allow, and I am very glad we did. Both my girls can easily play at the kitchen. The larger set also has room for the many accessories we’ve accumulated…play food, a pastry set, and a tea set. Those have made great additions at subsequent holidays / birthdays. (MandyE)
Ride-on toys. Our girls got ride-on cars when they were a year old. They played with them for two solid years! Long after their legs were doubled up to sit on them, the cars served as strollers for their baby dolls, fire engines, and vehicles for their many stuffed animals to drive. We always used our cars inside, but many of these type toys are suitable for outside, too. (MandyE)
Two to Four Years
Train set. When our girls were three, we got them a wooden train set, and it’s been a great investment. We bought a Melissa & Doug set, but we’ve added different pieces from Thomas, Imaginarium, and IKEA, as those sets interchangeable. We opted not to get a train table. Instead, our girls play with the set more like a puzzle…and the older they’ve gotten, the more complex their set-ups get. At soon-to-be five years old, they like to see how many loops they can create, or if they can make the set circle around the loveseat. (MandyE)
Quiet books and felt boards. Need something to help keep your little one occupied? I love, love, love our quiet books and felt boards. They keep even my busy one entertained and were super helpful for our 17 hour road trip. There are all sorts of choices too, for both boys and girls! And, if you get them before 12/1, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)
Matchbox cars. These are cheap (sometimes less than a dollar a car) and small. They make excellent stocking stuffers and surprise gifts for a long car ride. We have a medium size white bin with a lid where we keep the cars. The boys call the white bin the “garage” and often bring it upstairs and dump out their cars to line them up, pretend race, or just drive them around the house. My boys got their first Matchbox car from my brother for their second birthday and still use them today, at age five. However, I would caution against buying the Matchbox car accessories (the race tracks, the large boat, the command centers, etc…) as they are like most newer plastic toys; they break easily and disappoint the boys after just a few plays. (Janna)
Legos. We’ve probably had our Duplo Legos longer than any other toy. They were a hand-me-down when the boys were 18 months old. They played with them just occasionally in the beginning, but a year later at 2.5 years old, they were building towers almost every day. At five years old, they still play with them, though at this point, we’re planning on passing on the Duplo Legos as they are plenty old enough for ‘real’ Legos. (Janna)
Art supplies. The boys’ bachelor uncle with no kids surprised us all when he gave the boys their own giant watercolor pads and a full set of water color paints and a paint brush. It was the biggest hit that Christmas (at 3.5). Doing art projects with twins can be very messy and overwhelming so while we’d painted occasionally, we hadn’t given them their own supplies yet. They love having their own giant paper and paintbrush and paints. We now paint almost weekly and they also use the large paper for stickers, coloring or other art projects. (Janna)
Sand and water tables. Our sand and table was a huge hit with all the neighborhood toddlers, whether it contained water, sand or both. This was the first toy that could quite literally keep my girls occupied for hours. I’d definitely recommend getting a table with a lid if you’ll ever leave it outside. I loved that mine had a drain on each side that could be opened from below to easily empty it for storage. Playgrade sand is easy to find at home improvement stores. (Sadia)
TimeIN dolls. These dolls have been a lifesaver for our two! They teach the concept of time and can be used to help potty train, teach skills like zipping, to teach about sharing, quality time with a parent, or other time-related concepts, and are just over-all super cute. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/2! (angelabickford3)
Four to Six Years
Blocks. Trio blocks entered our house when our girls were four. The girls could click them together pretty well, and the way the blocks snap means that the structures are very solid. The girls can then play with the bird / cat / castle / zoo that they build, without fear that it will fall apart. (MandyE)
Magnetic pattern blocks. These have been a prominent fixture since our girls were almost four.
They love creating patterns on cookie sheets, and this mama loves that there is so much inherent geometry at play, too. There are all sorts of pattern cards you can find to prompt designs, and the possibilities for open-ended play are endless. (MandyE)
Lincoln Logs: We just received these from the neighbors three months ago, and the boys have used them every day to build elaborate log cabin villages. This is currently their favorite toy. Much younger than four, the Lincoln Logs would have probably frustrated their fingers, but for 4+up this is a great creative toy. (Janna)
Games. For kids 3-6, don’t forget the board games (CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos) and card games (Uno, Playskool Crazy 8s, Spud Rummy and Go Fish). They are great for counting, taking turns, and learning to win and lose gracefully. (Janna)
K’Nex. These building toys are made up of ribs and joints that fit together in 3 dimensions. I confess to having as much fun playing with our K’Nex collection as my daughters. They go back and forth between building everyday objects and abstract constructs. They sell Kid K’Nex, which are a larger and chunkier version of the original designed for smaller hands. I’d definitely recommend looking for K’Nex on Ebay or Craigslist, because it’s quite pricey brand new. (Sadia)
Capes. Kids LOVE dressing up, and a custom cape can add to the collection and make adventures more fun. If you get your cape before 12/1, it benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser. (angelabickford3)
Journals. I loved writing as a kid – still do! Of course, I had a diary, a journal, a special to-do list book, etc. etc. I’m still that way. That’s why I think this is the perfect gift for a budding writer. You can choose from one of their pre-printed books (some aren’t appropriate for little eyes) or you can create a custom book. Super cute and they benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/1. (angelabickford3)
American Girl Dolls and Books. I confess that when I first heard about these dolls, recommended for age 8 and up, I thought they were an overpriced fad. As it turns out, though, we absolutely love the books that go with them. American Girl makes contemporary dolls with clothes to match their owner, but the ones we love are the historical dolls and the books that accompany them. Each historical doll is set at a particular point in history, and the well-written books allow little girls to explore what life was like for children in different points in US history. I’ve been getting my daughters new American Girls books for several years now, and they have yet to get old. Our local library has a decent selection of these books too. A while ago, a close friend of mine gave my girls her Molly (WWII) clothing and book collection, and my usually doll-averse kids love them.(Sadia)
Sienna’s Locket. I really like this book. Not only is it written by a twin mom about her twins, but it’s related to special needs and seeing the world through different eyes. My kids love books already, but this is better geared towards older children (ages 3-12) and is an easy read for a new reader. The illustrations are beautiful too. If you have a special needs child or want to teach compassion to your children, Sienna’s Locket is so cute. If you purchase it by 12/2, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)
Card and board games. Older children are ready for adult-orientated card and board games. My daughters love Monopoly, Scrabble, Boggle, Labyrinth, Mille Bornes and Fluxx. (Sadia)
Tooth Fairy Kit. If your child likes to write notes and is at the point where they are loosing teeth, this cute tooth fairy kit makes a great, unique gift. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter fundraiser through 12/2. (angelabickford3)
Gardening fun. If your kids like to be outdoors and are interested in gardening at all, Plantables & Paper offers great seed starter kits that are fun, colorful, and serve a purpose. You can even plant paper and watch it grow. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser through 12/1. (angelabickford3)
Not Quite a Toy
There are some great items for kids that aren’t quite toys, but that will help make life on mom a bit easier. Check out some of the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser items shown in the picture below. These items are available through December 2nd.
Experiential gifts and gift cards. One gift that keeps on giving and is fun for the whole family is a gift membership to the zoo, the children’s museum, or the botanical gardens. A gift certificate for admittance into the bouncy house my girls think is just great. They’ve also enjoyed gift cards for the yogurt shop / ice cream parlor. And they think it’s pretty special to have their own money to shop at the bookstore. (MandyE)
What are some of your kiddos’ favorite toys? We’d love to hear your experiences, from one MoM to another!