Tuesday, December 7

Tried and True Toys - A Gift Guide

I'm just going to come out with it - my kids don't play with their toys. Their ponies, Polly Pockets, Pet Shops, and numerous other plastic bits and pieces go virtually untouched. Occasionally they are laid out in a row or shoved into a back pack or box. But they are not *played* with. If you asked them they would tell you they love these toys and would never dream of parting with them. But they, like most of their other toys, just sit. Please tell me I'm not alone.

I started to think about what my girls actually play with. By play, I mean become engaged using. What do they spend time using or doing. Not just to have, but what actually occupies them. Here is the list I came up with:

1) Dress up
2) Coloring (mostly on plain paper, not coloring books)
3) Puzzles
4) Books (Eva only)
5) Imaginative Games (For example, Eva loves to play school. Her stuffed animals are the students, she has created work books for them. She reads them stories and has made a discipline chart for them. Audrey creates tea parties for her stuffed animals)
6) Stuffed animals. They really love theirs. They do not just sit on their beds.
7) Our little trampoline.

In my mind all the other stuff could be donated. Ha. I wish.

So with this in mind, Bryce and I struggle to find just the right Christmas presents for them. We want them to be excited and happy and to feel that magical feeling of seeing their gift. We'd like to get them something they want. But we don't want to purchase something that will end up in the plastic pile. We want to feel good about what we are giving them. It has to be something we believe in and want them to have too. I was talking with some friends today who go through the same thought process. Maybe you do too?

Enter the Tried and True Gift Guide! I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of toys and items that (your) children have actually played with and loved. Not toys that look cool or that you wish your child would like. But look around and tell me what occupies them. I will add your suggestions to the guide with a link back to you. Please leave me the name of the item and a link to where it can be purchased. Also tell me at what age your child used the product.

Yes, all kids are different. One thing may be a hit with one but not another. I still think this will be a valuable list. If nothing else it will get us thinking and help us to make conscious and thoughtful decisions when buying for children.

The Tried and True Gift Guide
1) Folded Trampoline - ages 2-6. This has been great for us, but I know of one family who did not like it.

2) Birthday party set by Melissa and Doug - Eva has had numerous birthday parties for her stuffed animals. Birthdays are an enormous deal for kids. It makes sense that they'd want to reenact them. ages 3-6
3) Tea set - ages 3-6 - Any set will do. I think it should be ceramic, though. It is also nice if it comes with a container to hold the pieces. This lady bug set looks nice.

4) CitiBlocs - all ages. Mme Goudarzi writes "Make sure its the big set, so they can really build something good! My boys and girls all play with them but especially my 14 yr old, who is definitely the mathematic/engineering type! They make apartments, cityscapes, towers, cabins, bridges and whatever else."

5) Sugar + Spice Fashion Girls - ages 3-6. Recommended by Mme Goudarzi.

6) Magna - Tiles - Lisa says, " These have been a HUGE hit in my house and a wonderful investment. Super for imagination and creation. "7) Razor Scooter - 4 and up. Dana says, "For the past 2 years, this has been taken out every single time she goes outside to play. We take it on vacation with us."

8) Plan Wooden Kitchen (with accessories) - Dana writes, "I originally selected this for its compact size and because it's the only wooden one I could find locally. This has been used for the longest span by the most number of children."

9) Office Supplies - Dana writes, "This is very popular with my six year old, especially during the winter months when outdoor play is limited. She is happiest with basics like paper, colored-pencils, scissors, glue sticks, Scotch tape and a stapler."

10) Dress-up - all ages. Dana says, " This is not usually an independent activity but the supply is raided every single time we have visitors, both boys and girls. " I will add that magic wands have been a huge and important part of our dress-up stash. 11) Pocket Toys - Dana writes, " This has been pretty consistent with my daughter. Polly Pockets, the smaller ponies, little animals, etc. The favored toys may change, but the preference for the small size does not."

12) Legos - Kelleyn, Susan and Mme. Goudarzi all recommend Legos.

13) Hot Wheels cars - recommended by Susan.
14) Tents -recommended by Lisa and my Mom. Now that I think of it, my girls do love their tent. Eva received a small doll tent that she also uses for her stuffed animals.

15) A Real Digital Camera - ages 7 and up. Recommended by Lisa for kids who are outgrowing toys.

16) Sewing Machine - ages 7 and up. Again recommended by Lisa who are out growing toys.

17) Art Supplies - Jennifer writes, "Most of the toys sit in the playroom, unloved. Sometimes they'll do puzzles, games, legos, but mostly they love to do art." I completely agree with Jennifer. Although you don't need special art supplies, here is one of our favs: Scented Markers - not just for the smell, but the ink lasts a long time. I had these as a kid and loved them as much as my kids do. Creamy Crayons were also recommended.

18) Schleich farm animals with a fence. And the rabbit hutch with two bunnies.

19) A play doctor kit - I second this recommendation. My girls have the set my sister and I had as kids and it is very loved and used.

OKAY - send me your picks. Or just your thoughts about this topic. I'll make a button to the Gift Guide and put it on my side bar. Hopefully by tomorrow. xo

p.s. I had a hard time with the photos. They freaked out so I had to omit many of them. sorry about that .


likeschocolate said...

You are not alone. We have boxes of plastic tubes that sit in the closet only to come out occationally for a play date and not always then. These are the top things my boys like to do other than watch tv when I let them. Play with leggos. I guess that is one toy they actually use, their xbox or other computer devise, and now the beloved Bleyblades. What stay in closet are the trains, cars, tinkertoys. What they love to do most is play games but only if I play with them.

Anonymous said...

Here are two items that my kids adore:
1. Citiblocs, wood, set of 300.
Make sure its the big set, so they can really build something good!
my boys and girls all play with them but especially my 14 yr old, who is definitely the mathematic/engineering type! They make apartments, cityscapes, towers, cabins, bridges and whatever else.
We purchased it at Costco, for the very reasonable price of $23 (online is more expensive)
Here is the link:

2. The other popular toy for my daughters is the Sugar and Spice magnetic dress-up doll set. A favorite for my 3 and 6 yr old. They like to lay out all the outfits and mix and match. But they don't really use the backdrop scenes that it comes with.
We bought it at Barnes and Noble:
here is the item link:

I agree with Likeschocolate that boys somehow always love legos.

In my experience though, all the kids love crafts and projects with parents more than toys.
And just in case you asked (or didn't :)My advice to any parent is to seriously beware of electronic toys /video games! Avoid it as long as you can and use it sparingly if you have it. A creativity killer and addictive!

ksjjpalmer said...

Oh, man, do I want to just load it all up and take it away! It stresses me out to be bringing in more toys this year. Julia doesn't have a tea set but does have a fully stocked kitchen that is now idle. I would suggest the kitchen for 2-5 yr olds though. She loves to play imagination games as well as long as it is with another kid. Jacob has been stepping up to play with her lately which is delightful to listen to. She also loves all art and jewelry. A bead jewelry making kit would be a suggestion. My boy's tried and trues are Hotwheels cars, books, and games. He played Yahtzee by himself so much last year that he inadvertently learned his timestables up to 6s. I am looking forward to the suggestions! I need ideas for an almost 5 year old girl!! Thanks

christie said...

I love this posting. I agree with it too. I would
add "tents" to the list, a popular item for both
you and Em, but also one I've played with audrey
and Eva.

Lisa said...

I agree with the tent idea. Madison got one on her second birthday and that thing still gets brought out and used often 6+ years later. It probably cost $15 Of course, sheets also work well and we use though often with Tom's tool clamps from the workbench!!

MagnaTiles have been a HUGE hit in my house and a wonderful investment. Super for imagination and creation. Nora can spend hours building houses and castles for all her plastic crappy toys (and yes, she actually plays with all those for hours too. Of course, Madison never did for a second without my participation)You really need a good sized set to buid anyting. We have two of the large sets http://www.amazon.com/Magna-Tiles-Translucent-Colors-100-pieces/dp/B000CBSNRY/ref=sr_1_3?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1291757714&sr=1-3

The other succesful purchases we have gotten, especially for Madison my non-toy girl, are real useful items. 2 years ago it was a real digital camera (with extended warranty) and last year it was a real sewing machine. Those items, by far have been the best for her besides books, books and more books!! Oh, and experiences like horse riding lessons or zoo pass

Now I should go wrap the zoobles and pillow pets that were requested. GAAHHH They even each asked for a make-up kit, but that's not happening!!

This Girl loves to Talk said...

well my kids are kinda opposite. the most played with toys are Littlest Pet shop (those small plastic animals??) they line them up, play with them in doll houses, take them to bed with them etc. But most other stuff does just sit there until other people come over to play.

Dress up box is definatly most used by my younger daughter.

I really just dont buy them toys.I try to limit christmas to 3 presents and often I buy lunchboxes and school bags (school year starts for us after christmas)to pass off as gifts. Swimwear is also a must as it is very hot here at christmas/

TV sadly would be their favourite thing! lol.

My 7 year old really likes outside things like rollerblades, bikes, climbing trees

I love this post - apparently there was an article in a New Zealand paper that said dont worry so much about gifts what kids really want is time with you. See how that goes down ' No presents this year kids.. you get ME!!" lol.

I will say my kids are better behaved and play with more stuff IF I PLAY WITH THEM..... gah!

Dana said...

I wrote about it on my blog. . .


katy said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses -
Likes chocolate - our girls have a set of Large style legos - Duplos I think they are called. And do like them. They like games too, but just like yours they must be played with mommy or daddy.

Mme. Goudarzi - Both of your recommendations sound great. I think Audrey would love the magnetic dolls. I agree with you about the video games!
And, yes, nothing compares to doing a project with mom or dad! Maybe we should wrap that up and put it under the tree.

Susan - I feel a bit stressed about the stuff too. I often feel like my job is mostly about "stuff" management. Makes me crazy.

Mom - Thanks for the reminder about tents.

Lisa - Magna tiles sound really cool. I knew you'd have an opinion and ideas on this topic.

Likes to Talk - I guess I'll start looking for a box big enough for me and Bryce. It's true, that's what kids want the most.

Dana - Thanks for your great post!!

Jennifer said...

Art supplies, art supplies, art supplies. Most of the toys sit in the playroom, unloved. Sometimes they'll do puzzles, games, legos, but mostly they love to do art. Kate does play a lot with her babies and little friends, and she's always tucking them in purses and carrying them around. She also plays with her tea set and play food (mostly feeding her babies) and her doctor kit (taking care of sick babies). Will mostly just reads, draws and writes stories or lists. Or he does math problems. I know, that's weird. He doesn't get it from me!

Anonymous said...

My kid isn't toy-oriented, either.

Schleich farm animals with a fence. And the rabbit hutch with two bunnies.

Dollhouse furniture + family (without the dollhouse).

A play doctor kit.

Creamy Crayons.

Books like Where's Waldo but for younger kids (Usborne and Max at the Zoo).

A real backpack with zippy pouches.

Emily Malate said...

I've given you a hint about what my one year old is into - here is an expansion:
plastic hangers
long shoe horn
my hairbrushes
remote control
colanders & wooden spoons
the cat's tail
laundry baskets
picture frames
dust bin
puzzle pieces

Marlo said...

My girls NEVER play with toys either really. What they do play with is blocks. We have the wooden colored ones that are in the shapes of squares, triangles, semi circles, etc. They build and build and build constantly. My oldest daughter (4) loves the Sugar and Spice magnetic dolls. They both love bike riding and digging in the dirt. Books are also a beloved possession. I would have to agree with those who mentioned art projects and coloring. My daughter asks to paint DAILY. Their absolute favorite thing to do right now is play with a marble game someone gave us. You build a ...contraption and pour the marbles in and they go through all the tubes you have connected. You can get it here. My 2 year old even lovs it and never attempts to eat the marbles. Good luck everyone. Reading this post makes me want to donate all our toys as well.

The Art of Family said...

Thank you for the prelude to your gift guide. You are definitely NOT alone in this. I think I have this same exact thought every day when I walk through the house and wonder why toys are every where. I don't see them playing with it - it's almost like the "playing" is displacing items out of their way. And like you - my kids wouldn't dream of parting with anything - and are adamant that they "really do" play with them. Hmmm - yes. Christmas shopping is the cornucopia of toys - what to get, what to get...

Good news is that when I asked my 4yr old daughter what she wanted for xmas she said, "Mom. I'm going to decide to let you buy me what I should have for xmas."

And that was that. I should be jumping up and down. But I think she just made it harder for me.

Some of our tried and true toys? Princess shoes and tiaras. You can find these anywhere, and the more sparkle and glitter - the better.

And my 3yrd old son loves Hot Wheels and mid-size die-cast cars of classic cars. Or ambulances.


Monkey's Mama said...

Stacking robots are fun - you can use them as intended for stacking - or as "guys" to fight and act out all sorts of boy mayhem.


Monkey's Mama said...

oh and this game is awesome - you can play alone or with friends. Great to take to restaurants since it's small and packs in a bag. Rush Hour Jr. http://www.amazon.com/Think-Fun-5040-ThinkFun-Rush/dp/B00004WJSN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1293512645&sr=1-1

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