6 Tips For Choosing "Evergreen" Toys

As a mom of six kids, you might imagine that I have some strong opinions about what makes a good toy. You'd be right. In fact, let's just call them my personal rules for choosing toys that stand the test of time.

We want to be good stewards of what God gives us, and one of the ways we try to be good stewards in our home is to choose to buy things that will last. Do we sometimes have toys that don't fit these rules? Sure we do. And you probably do too. But generally speaking, when I'm asked by one of the grandmas what her grandkids might like, I think of what that particular child has been interested in or asking for, and then I mentally run through these tips and come out with something that's a win-win:
  • The kid loves it, and I don't have to create a new bin or category or storage spot for it. 
  • The kid loves it, and it doesn't break in a month.
  • The kid loves it, and it doesn't get old when a certain movie or style is no longer popular.
  • The kid loves it, and I'm not annoyed by it.
  • The kid loves it, and I'm not furiously hunting down the one-missing-piece on which the whole set depends a week later.

Without further ado, here are 6 TIPS FOR CHOOSING EVERGREEN (meaning, they'll last perennially) TOYS:

  1. CHOOSE WOOD OVER PLASTIC. Wood toys tend to last longer, and break less easily. (For our family, Duplos (0-8 years old) and Legos (5+ years old) are clear exceptions to this rule, and there are others... but generally speaking, we go for wood when possible.) 
  2. CHOOSE TOYS THAT AREN'T DEPENDENT ON HAVING ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER. Maybe this is the large-family-mother in me coming out (because inevitably, with six kids, pieces get lost around here. A LOT.), but even with one kid, when you "need" a certain piece to make it work, that is (Murphy's Law) going to be the piece that gets lost, thus making all the other pieces useless. Philosophically speaking, this means that even though the cuttable-velcro-fruit toys are fun, whole fruit toys will likely be played with longer.
  3. (Almost) NOTHING ELECTRONIC. Anything that beeps, requires batteries, has a volume button... these things simply "die" quicker (and become dated sooner) than toys that have some sort of kinesthetic or creative aspect without the electronic element. Not to mention that they most likely annoy the crud out of mom. Just being honest. So yeah, those are off my list too. (Leapfrog toys-- especially their Phonics Radio--are one personal exception to this rule.)
  4. CHOOSE TOYS THAT ENABLE CREATIVITY vs. TOYS THAT DO ALL THE CREATIVE "LEGWORK" FOR YOU. For example, Loving Family People characters with a simple dollhouse enable creativity in play vs. over-styled Bratz-style dolls or career-specific Barbie toys. Toys that allow your child to enact and tell a variety of stories and roles from their imagination are preferable to toys that have inherent character/story/attitude built into them.
  5. CHOOSE TOYS THAT FIT WITH TOYS YOU ALREADY HAVEThinking in terms of toy "sets" will keep your toys together, longer, without having to add new bins or find new places to store things.
  7. a good set of Lincoln Logs
  8. or Legos to build a variety of buildings is better than a DespicableMe or Tonto figurine from a recent movie. One is perennial; the other will soon be dated.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TOY "RULES" YOU'D ADD TO MY LIST? Please share in the comments.

Image courtesy of xe-pOr-ex/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Aday Family said...

I love these suggestions. In fact, they are the general rules I follow with toy purchases and suggestions for gifts. Though, perhaps I picked them up from you many years ago.

Thanks Jess!


Anonymous said...

I just did this mental checklist a few days ago as I was planning out Christmas gift lists. A rule I have adopted for this year is to buy toys everyone can enjoy. "family toys" I know you guys are already doing this, but it is so easy for kids to think "mine" and it never fails that certain kinds of toys are best when shared and those toys draw the siblings together. Legos are a for sure. The Kid kitchen is another for us. They are also into Sylvanian pets now and Peter 2.5 finds great joy in these little creatures. So, my new rule is what toys will everyone enjoy? And even if I have to add another bin we could never have too many legos.
Enjoy reading your thoughts friend,
Jenny O. Zhong Guo

Catie said...

This is so helpful! Since I read this I've been mentally going through the girls' toys--I'm definitely going to *try* to do a big purge before Christmas.