Our children are now 10, 7 and 5. I’ve been trying to declutter the children’s bedrooms lately and it made me think about the toys and equipment they’ve played with most during their childhood so far. I think we could have coped with just ten sets of toys and equipment. What’s more, most of these are good quality toys that withstand play, meaning they can be bought second hand and resold or donated afterwards.
Here are my top ten:
- Lego. I know, I know, it’s made of plastic, but I’m pretty certain Lego rarely ends up in landfill, making it more acceptable. I also understand that Lego are investing large sums into invention and production of a more sustainable product.
- Wooden train set. It doesn’t have to be the slightly more expensive Brio, because I’ve discovered that all wooden train sets are compatible. Fantastic! I don’t know who’s had most fun with our wooden train set, me or the children.
- Play food and equipment. We invested in and were given lots of wooden play food sets and play kitchen equipment when our eldest was little. They’ve been played with over and over and over.
- Dolls, cuddly toys and pushchair/pram, plus a few dolly clothes. Our daughters seem to be unable to resist the ‘take me home’ stare of a cuddly toy and I was the same when I was little. I have had to start directing them towards other toys before they drown in the things though. Much as I dislike them taking over the bedroom, I do appreciate that it’s nice to have a cuddly toy in bed. They can be donated as they are outgrown to charity shops or to dog rescue centres. Similarly, it’s nice to have a couple of dolls to encourage nurturing in all children. Our girls have loved their ragdolls as well as their baby dolls. Despite allowing our son to play freely and him having two older sisters, he hasn’t shown much of an interest in dolls or prams. Having gone through two cheap doll pushchairs before one of our sets of grandparents bought a decent pram one Christmas, I can highly recommend investing in the decent pram first if you can. Again, second hand is fine. You can usually find them on local sell and swap groups and they clean up well.
- Doll’s house. Our current doll’s house was bought second hand and it’s been played with so much.
- Puzzles and games. These more than any other item change as the children move from toddlerhood onwards. Moving swiftly from wooden, peg-board puzzles to jigsaws with a few large pieces to more complicated jigsaws, or from simple games like Pop to the Shops to trickier board games like the old classic Monopoly. It’s practically a revolving door system for our games and puzzles. We very rarely buy these new, usually finding them in charity shops or at car boot sales and we always donate them as the children outgrow them.
- Dressing up clothes and accessories. A selection of dressing up clothes and props provides endless possibilities for games, not to mention often saving the day for World Book Day and fancy dress parties. Costumes don’t need to be expensive. They can be bought second hand in charity shops or put together from fabric scraps and your own old clothes.
- Paper and colouring things. We encourage the children to use scrap paper for doodling and save the new paper for making birthday cards or drawing pictures for relatives.
- Building blocks. Our old box of building blocks was picked up in Belgium by a friend and we’ve all enjoyed playing with them. Any toys that have endless possibilities such as blocks or Lego are better for a child’s development than a toy with finite possibilities.
- Books. Last but certainly not least. Books are the one thing I find it impossible to do without. We do buy a lot second hand as well as new and we always pass them on when we’ve outgrown them.
The also-rans that nearly made it into this list were: marbles and marble run, cars and toy garage and fuzzy felt or magnetic dolly dress up sets. I also left out sporting and outdoor games and equipment, mainly because this would have consisted of a ball, something to hit it with and something to dig with.
This list was compiled in hindsight. I wanted to pick out the toys that have been most popular, the essentials of childhood, and also the toys that I feel have been most beneficial to our children’s development. Of course our children have gone, and are still going, through the Monster High/Transformers/Superheroes/Sylvanian Families stages. I’ve written before about how much we like to compromise with our children. Indulging some of their fads and phases makes it easier when we put our foot down about the ones that we feel more strongly about. I also don’t feel very comfortable dictating what family and friends buy our children, unless they ask for ideas.
What are your children’s favourite toys and games? What were your favourites from your own childhood? Do you think I’ve missed anything essential? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.