Our Favourite Toys
When it comes to children’s toys, I’m not at all interested in current trends. Instead, I look for toys that kids keep reaching for; toys that have staying power and not ones that hold a child’s attention for a fleeting moment. I don’t care if they are made of wood or if they are plastic with flashing lights and fancy sounds. If they aren’t being used then they are of no benefit to my child, myself, or my bank account. Don’t get me wrong - those trendy toys can be oh-so-appealing - it’s okay to buy them if you are fine with the fact that in a few months, weeks, or even days, they may not hold the same value to your child.
Seeing as it’s that time of year where we are searching for gifts for our kids and other children who may be on our list, I thought it would be beneficial for you to see what toys my children love. These toys have withstood the test of time and have become mainstays in our playroom. Not only do my kids gravitate towards these toys, but friends who come for playdates also reach for them too!
1) Dress up clothes/Disney dresses
Maelle loves to dress up and play pretend. She has a plethora of Disney dresses (thanks, Auntie) that she can wear to transform into whichever character she chooses. But, she loves to dress up anywhere with any item. At the library, she always puts on a cape or apron, will adorn herself in gloves or a scarf, and will pop on a hat to complete an outfit. Linden likes to dress up too even if it’s initiated by his sister. He happily wears whatever make-believe outfit Maelle forces him into, often finding his own ensemble; and don’t even get me started on his love for his sister’s cowboy boots!
2) Ride-on toy
Both of my kids love to motor around on our ride-on vehicle. I specifically gravitated towards this one (pictured) because it is a generic digger design that will never go out of style. I love that it requires my kids to physically push with their legs to move around. The self-propelled aspect of this ride-on toy helps children use their gross motor muscles while also keeping them active and healthy. The only thing I don’t particularly like about this toy is the inevitable fights over who gets to play with it during playdates.
3) Playbees/Magna Tiles
I was first introduced to these magnetic play tiles as a teacher and watched as the kids in my class reached for them to create worlds of their own. Later, prior to when Linden was even a thought, Maelle was gifted a set by her cousins and they have remained a staple in our toy room ever since. Not only are they an exceptional fine motor toy, as children manipulate them into a variety of different shapes, but they also expand creative and imaginative play. This toy has long-term value as it can be made into whatever is of interest in that season of life or latest interest for your child. From a box for Linden to put objects into to a whole town for Maelle’s bunny family. This year, I am adding another set of these magnetic tiles to our collection, just to bulk up and expand the possibilities even further.
4) Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Shop
The wooden Melissa & Doug toys are some of my favourites, and this ice cream set has won over every child who has set foot in our house. Since we have had this toy it has been played with almost daily. I love this set because it fosters imaginative play. It caters to a wide range of ages, from the very simple action of Linden pretending to lick the ice cream, to the more complex full ice cream shop experience that Maelle enjoys. Beyond that, the ice cream looks realistic and the action of scooping and using tongs makes the whole set feel true to life.
5) Kitchen + Food/Utensils
We love our children’s Ikea kitchen. The neutral design makes it blend into the decor of any home and the price point for a sturdy, built-to-last piece, cannot be matched. With a stove top that lights up, an oven, and a microwave, there are endless possibilities for pretend play with this kitchen. Add in the Ikea utensil set, along with the plush food items, and you are set. I love how sturdy the realistic looking pots and utensils are and I especially love that the food items are plush, holding up to the tests of time and two busy toddlers.
6) Shopping Cart
I don’t know what it is about shopping carts, but kids simply gravitate towards them. Ours is used for a variety of different play games across a wide range of ages. Maelle loves to play store or family with it, and Linden loves to fill it with toys and push it around the house with no real plan other than having fun. The shopping cart makes a great companion to the kitchen and food sets!
7) Ikea Wooden Trains And Tracks
Although Maelle has never been particularly attached to the train sets we have, I have to mention the Ikea train set because it is simple to put together and very sturdy. I’d hate to gender stereotype, but a lot of the boys who play here (including Linden) gravitate towards the train set. It goes together without any adult assistance; almost every piece interlocks and the neutral design means it will aesthetically withstand the test of time. We have a plastic Thomas set that the kids love but you need an engineering degree to complete the track, so we find it isn’t worth the time to fully set up. Santa is bringing Linden a train table to accompany this train set - no matter what house, class, or store we are in if it has a train set you will find Linden happily playing away.
At almost every playdate, the adults are blessed with a special invitation to a show. The kids pull out the microphone, start a band, or announce what’s to come. I think they just like hearing the sound of their own voices being projected. I love this Discovery Kids microphone because you can play your own music through the speaker (via a 3.5mm jack) and sing along to your favourite songs. Linden loves the preset music button and puts it on to dance along to for a split second before he pushes it again for the next sick beat. I bought this on a whim and can safely say that I am very happy I did.
9) Car Ramp/Car Garage
Linden loves a car garage/ramp. Specifically, we have a straight ramp that he places trucks and cars on before launching them down, giggling to himself about who knows what. I can pull the ramp out and he will happily play for an extended period, making this toy absolutely invaluable to getting adult activities accomplished around the house. Our ramp is also incredibly durable - I know because I’ve seen Linden test its limits by riding it around the house like a push car. When we go to other places that have the circular toy garages (pictured), Linden is drawn to them like a moth to a flame.
10) Art supplies
When I write about art supplies, I’m not referring about the activities that are one-and-done types of crafts. I am talking about the very basics: crayons, pencil crayons, markers, paint, craft paper, stickers, glue, and other basic art supplies. Maelle loves to be creative and can entertain herself for a long time with just paper and some colouring utensils. I love that open-ended art allows her to have downtime while also building her focus and allowing her imaginative/creative juices to flow. Art works on fine motor muscles and builds attention and concentration skills. Even Linden loves to scribble with washable markers on his highchair or window markers on the glass.
*And of course, I have to mention books. Reading builds the foundation for future literacy skills and should be part of every child’s daily life. Whether you are reading to your child or they are reading by themselves, encouraging a love of books that support their interests will help foster a positive relationship with reading and ultimately make them brighter, more well-equipped individuals.