Top TEN Non-Screen Toys (That Actually Get Played With)

As we draw near to the frenzied toy-buying Christmas season, let me offer our recommendations for elementary-aged kids. We have six kids eleven and under, so I've got a little more than a decade, and many different personalities' worth of "experience," invested in this advice.

(In fact, if you add up my kids' ages separately, this advice has 36 years' worth of day-in, day-out kid-play "cred" behind it. Which makes me sound WAY old-- I'm "only" 34, for the record.)

Here are our TOP TEN Non-Screen Toys (that actually get played with):
  1. LEGOs- Hands down, the most-beloved toy set enjoyed by our 5-and-up crew.
  2. DUPLOs- Also MUCH played with in our home! This is a better choice for kids 5 and under, as Legos can be maddening for little hands that aren't quite, developmentally, ready for them. I always leave our big box of these out, and they are our go-to toy when we have another family over. Everyone can enjoy building with a huge tub of Duplos! (Make sure you have some boards to build on!)
  3. Nerf Swords and Shields- In case you don't know, I have five boys. So, yeah. These are perennial favorites around here. Thankfully, with Nerf, I don't have to worry about injuries. Win-win. :)
  4. Play Kitchen and Dishes- This is another classic set around here, that I continually add to and keep fresh. I prune busted old pieces and add new dishes, plastic and wooden foods, regularly. All of my kids, up to about 9-10 years old, LOVE to cook and bring me "meals" they've made. We have plenty of play food (especially wooden food) too!
  5. Matchbox cars and play roads (This construction-focused play rug looks so fun and I like the simple versatility of this one.)
  6. Large-style Wooden Blocks- I love this set of larger building blocks; it has enough blocks for them to really get architecturally creative!
  7. good quality dollhouse like this (or one like thiswith Loving Family people- These are great everyday-looking people who fit dollhouses and teach children to play in family settings.
  8. Playdoh and great cutting tools
  9. Magnetic Dolls- We have several varieties of magnetic dolls for my daughter. It's a nice quiet activity. (We also recently purchased a Melissa and Doug magnetic cars set that works the same way, where you can redesign the car all different ways, but I couldn't find a link for it online. Our three year old son LOVES it.)
  10. Baby dolls (our daughter has a variety of dolls and clothing), baby doll cradle & stroller- the quintessential little girl toy. These get played with all the time here, even with "just" one little girl in our home.
Runner up: Bath toys with plenty of cups for pouring and nets to scoop (This may not be a great "Christmas toy" but these are oft-used toys in our house that help to lengthen bath time & make it more enjoyable. These last YEARS and are worth the investment!)

One final note: If you're looking at an item on this list and thinking, "I've got that, and he/she doesn't play with it.", I would bet that 90-95% of the time, it is not a toy problem but a toy quantity problem. Having a set of 40 small wooden blocks is not NEAR as creativity-inspiring as having a huge plastic tub of 250 of them. Having one set of four plates, bowls, cups, and forks is not the same as having a variety of foods, dishes, and a play kitchen or small table for them to work at and "cook." 

I'm not advocating that you go out, today, and purchase 4 new Lego sets. Buy a set or two, and then watch at garage sales, on eBay, and more, to add to the sets you have, expanding them in number and in options. Basically, don't "try" one Duplo set and then decide that "they don't like them" because they didn't play with the 18-pc set. 

Having enough *quantity* of a toy will encourage and allow your children to get "lost" in creative play. 


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/

1 comment:

Catie said...

I don't remember if I commented on your previous toy post, but I really liked that one as well as this one. And thanks for tip on the quantity of toys. I never would have thought of that!