Monday, January 11, 2010
Toys with Staying Power
Toys breed. They really do. One by one, they take over your house. I have spent an hour or more cleaning our master bedroom, knowing that the moment I let the boys in I'll be stepping on Lincoln Logs and looking for the source of the "Transformers" theme song, which I will be able to hear but will not be able to see. (I'll check under my bed, in the closet,and in my underwear drawer before I find the tiny singing demon robot in my husband's shoe).
Every year after Christmas, when Jason hauls a refrigerator-sized box of toys that won't fit in our house any more off to Goodwill, I feel a little guilty. It seems -- no, it is -- wasteful to buy hundreds of dollars worth of toys every year, most of my which the boys will play with for no more than a week before discarding them to return to an old favorite.
The problem is that when you're a new parent, you don't know what the "old favorites" are yet. So, after lots of trial and error, and boxes and boxes of toys that didn't make the grade shipped off to charity, I thought I'd share a list of winners. This list is skewed toward boys, because that's what I happen to know.
-- Stacking buckets by Parents. I bought our set 5 years ago. Aside from delivering on their intended purpose of developing spacial reasoning, these are just plain fun. My younger son wears them on his head or pretends they are pots and pans. My older son uses them for stilts (don't judge me -- I know you want to).
-- 30-Piece Alphabet Blocks by Imaginarium. These blocks, made of foam, have survived four years of abuse. They've been slobbered and chewed on, used as missiles, and now that the boys are getting older, are actually a good learning tool.
-- World Map 33-Piece Floor Puzzle by Melissa and Doug. I'm on strike from wooden puzzles - I find the pieces jumbled together at the bottom of the toy box, never to be reassembled again. The nice thing about floor puzzles is that the large pieces aren't easily lost but are easily stored in the original box. The world map works much more nicely for younger children than the map of the United States, since it's easier to learn the names of 7 continents than 50 states.
-- Buddy L. Dump Truck by Tonka. Because this is made of heavy-duty, rust-resistant metal, it's a good toy to store outside. Jack and Henry have spent hours filling up the bed with rocks or dirt and dumping it all out again.
-- Rock N' Ride Brown Pony by Tek Nek. Durable. Durable. Durable. Ours has been repeatedly dragged down the stairs, turned upside down, and used as a ladder. The pony sings an annoying but catchy little tune that you'll find yourself singing at board meetings or church socials if you're nicer than I am and don't take the batteries out.
-- Battery-Powered Jeep Wrangler by Fisher Price. Jack drives it, and Henry's a willing passenger. This one is expensive, but worth it. Just a note here: we bought this for Jack when he was 3, but he wasn't really coordinated enought to drive it until about a year later.