What Makes the Best Toys?
We never really grow too
old to play; we just play at
di;erent things, don’t we?
Ah, play! We never really grow too old to play; we just play at di;erent things, don’t we? While most of us are endeavoring to train up our children to understand what it means to work hard, we
recognize the value of playtime and creative downtime at any age.
Our little people spend the bulk of
their time at play, and that’s as it should
be. We can incorporate more purposeful
learning into their days in covert ways
that mask as play, but the truth is, they
learn and enjoy a lot simply by playing.
In the Western world, our kids are inundated with toy choices, but that means
there are as many terrible toys as there are
good ones. I’m not getting philosophical
or talking toy morality; I just mean that
there’s a whole lot of plastic junk out there.
Would it be helpful to know which
toys have endured ;ve boys and three
girls over nineteen years in our home?
Obviously, the best toys here won’t be
the best toys for everyone, but there are
some things we’ve considered as we’ve
1. How long will this toy last?
Have you ever gone into a boutique toy
store and marveled at the price on the
European organic birch train set that
sells for $1,200? I wonder, “Who can buy
these things?” However, that’s probably
the last train set you would ever buy. I
can’t shell out $1,200 for a train set, but I
have picked up a well-made car or doll as
a bit of a splurge, and invariably those are
the toys that are still around. ;ey might
look like they’ve endured a war, but they
are well loved and enjoyed by many.
I want to know that a toy is constructed well and will be worth the investment. ;e tiny Waldorf doll I purchased for our youngest daughter was
a splurge, but her love for that dolly is
legendary in our home.
2. How many ways can this toy be
Some toys have multiple uses. A set of
well-made wooden blocks can become
virtually anything, and our set of
CitiBlocs has been used to build simple
houses, train tracks, pretend food, cargo
for the back of trucks, and reproductions
of the Ei;el Tower.
LEGO bricks are good for this too. If
your kids are like mine, LEGO bricks
have a play value that reaches far beyond the sets they come in. I used to get
frustrated with my boys’ propensity to
build a set once and then never again,
but the creativity factor is worth the
mess every time they dump those pieces
all over the ;oor.
Basic costume pieces such as bandanas, scarves, belts, hats, T-shirts, cropped
pants, and vests can be used in many
ways as well. My kids are far more creative than I am; a bandana has been a
pirate hat, a granny scarf, a gypsy sash,
and a beggar’s bag. It is simply delightful to see what kids come up with when
you give them a box of assorted costume-type things.
3. How many kids will want to
play with this toy?
When I think about keeping toys around
for our grandkids, the number-one factor I consider is whether or not a toy will
have “universal appeal.” If I’m going to
store it, I want to know that many kids
will continue to enjoy it.
For us, the toys with the most use
among the age spectrum have been
CitiBlocs, LEGO bricks, the Wii, board
games, bikes, costumes, skateboards, and
BRIO trains. It’s great to see my adult son
take the time to build a killer train set for
the 4-year-old, and although that’s not
what he’d choose to spend an hour doing
for himself, he actually enjoys building
something great for the little guys.
;e CitiBlocs have the same appeal.
I recently saw my 13-year-old, 11-year-
old, 10-year-old, and 7-year-old get
hold of the blocks, and suddenly a town