You see my daughter sleeps with a plastic bracelet from Chuck E. Cheese's under her pillow. My youngest's favorite book is missing pages crucial to the plot and no back cover. My older boys have a collection of empty gum packages displayed like rare stamps on top of their dresser. These are not people with a taste for the finer things in life - so when my kids are given a quality toy that stands up to their abuse and that I don't hate, we're all pleasantly surprised.
The following toys are ones that, no matter how many times I find them under the couch or step on them in a dark living room at 6am, I am rarely tempted to throw away. These are classics, the keepers, the toys that have proven their staying power for both girls and boys, 3 year olds and 7 year olds, mild-mannered and/or insanely rambunctious children.
Legos or Lego Duplos
No list would be complete without them because, they epitomize classic childhood play. Boys like them, girls like them, Dads like them, Moms like to organize them (is that just me?) We were lucky enough to inherit BJ's full set of Legos, but we've easily doubled our collection since Elijah began playing with them as a five-year old. Prior to playing with these classic Legos, we bought a starter kit of Lego Duplos, which they all still happily construct with when I pull them out. Yes, you will step on them and teach your children curse words. Yes, they will forgive you because - Legos.
Educo Wooden Kitchen
Britain received this for Christmas four years ago and it's been played with everyday since. I highly recommend the Melissa & Doug cookie baking set and the Melissa & Doug Cutting Food set to go with it - both are favorites with all my kids and virtually every friend who comes over to play. Again, both my boys and daughter use this equally and BONUS! it's lovely to look at.
I found these at Goodwill years ago for $4 - still can't believe what a steal that was. This set is similar to what we play with daily. These blocks have formed the banks of the Nile River, served as a garage for untold numbers of matchbox cars, been used as Dominoes, car ramps, fortresses and Nerf gun targets. They are sturdy, open-ended play pieces that your grandkids will play with just as readily as your own kids. Even if you can't find them at the thrift-store, worth the money.
Fisher-Price Batman ride-on car
How I wish this were not one of my kids' favorites. Everything about it offends my minimalist, non-plastic-loving, Montessori-preferring sensibilities. But my kids love this thing dearly. Elijah (7.5) still sits on it with knees crunched against his chest and rips down the hallway chasing younger siblings. It is an ambulance, a getaway car, a minivan, a horse. The older kids rarely if ever play with the car ramp component on the front, but as toddlers that part delighted them all. It's held up to more than 5 years of abuse, and it's from Fisher-Price, so although I wish it were made from up-cycled bamboo by hipster Scandinavians who surf on their lunch break, it's been a keeper.
My parents had the brilliant idea several Christmases ago to gift the grandkids the ultimate dress up bin. It was full of masks, swords and costumes they bought for 75% off at Wal*Mart and Target just after Halloween. It may be too late for you to snag those kinds of deals now, but these capes are a great start to any dress-up collection.. As far as costumes go, my kids love any and everything. Capes, masks and especially accessories like walkie-talkies, glasses, hats and belts.
Nerf Foam Sword
Yes, it is expensive "for a foam sword" Yes, it has the word "zombie" in its name. It has neon green accents and no, it is not beautiful to look at. But if any toy in our home has been subjected to years of daily, brutal abuse, it is this one. This sword has not bent or broken in over 5 years of battle, inappropriate use and general wear and tear. The boys have broken every other play sword and light saber we have gifted them, but this one has survived relatively unscathed. (And for those of you with girls...Britain uses it as a crutch when she plays make-believe...)
My in-laws gifted us this set when Elijah was a toddler and the kids create with them all the time. These are Wolverine claws, guns (-sigh-), spaceships, Chinese throwing stars (-sigh-), Harry Potter wands, teacher pointers, pencils, etc. I have been shocked by their longevity and I love seeing what new use the kids will put them to next. Again, sturdy, classic, quality toys. (I'm seeing now that apparently we are slightly biased toward building toys.)
Our kids love this bike and BJ and I love how quickly they have all transitioned to pedal bikes after starting on this model. The seat of this particular one goes the lowest of all the ones we looked it, so you can start your kid on it around 2/2.5 depending on their legs. It also has the best foot rests once your kiddo is really cruising. There are cheaper models out there, but this one has held up to more than 5 years of continual use - it's a quality bike. Jude just started cruising the neighborhood on it last week.
Tonka Classic Steel Mighty Dump Truck
Honestly, my kids rarely if ever use the dump truck function on this bad-boy anymore. Britain sits in the bed and propels herself forward on her heels, her "wheelchair" getting her around the house in style. Elijah sets one knee in the dump and uses his hands to wheel down the hallway like some erratic scooter. Seems like good ab-work to me. Ben and Jude actually do use the dump as intended. They love collecting other toys or blocks and dumping them into bins, boxes and bowls. Works particularly well to clean up Legos. This thing is made of metal and has held up to my four monkeys using it entirely inappropriately for YEARS.
Would love to know what toys have proven themselves over and over again at your house - share in
More gift guides from Crazy Joy: For newborns and their mamas: here. For moms: here and here.