My kids are obsessed with receiving new toys, and with my “hard to say no” personality, it has been a struggle to limit the toys in our house. I do draw a hard and fast line against very large toys (Barbie Dreamhouse), most plastic toys (like those toy cash registers that get used twice and never again), and anything that lights up/makes sounds (dolls that sing). But in my pursuit of the “perfect” toys for kids ages three to 10+, I have found that the following toys offer pretty endless entertainment/use:
Note: These are in addition to the toy staples of books, balls, chalk, blocks, and Legos.
This reusable writing tablet was originally made for adults, but I bought a mini size for each of my kids three years ago, and not only are they still working, but they both still use it. We keep it in the car for long car rides, and I use it to practice writing with them.
We are entering year three of the SAME marker set, even though they are used daily. How have they not run out of ink? I have no idea. Somehow, with this particular box, my kids also always manage to put the markers back in the box, which astounds me. I have tried many markers, pens, and other art supplies, but the kids always come back to these.
These are the highest quality silks I have found, and worth the little bit of extra money. You can buy them in pretty much any color, and my kids use them as capes, doll blankets, flags, scarves, and more. Plus, you can squish them down smaller than a fist, so they can go anywhere.
All the moms I know have heard of Magna-Tiles, but few have heard about the tiny building blocks called Magna-Qubix, and these have been a bigger hit with my kids. I put 10 of them in a small pouch and when we got out to dinner, or somewhere where they might get bored, these are a wonderful distraction. I have been using the same set of 10 for years, and they never get old.
5. Micro Cars
Boys and girls both love these little micro cars. Smaller than Matchbox cars, they’re easy to bring along on road trips or into restaurants.
For three years and counting, my kids make a beeline for this section of any toy store we enter. These figurines are high quality and will last for years. You can buy a smaller one for around $6.
7. Washi tape
I never would have imagined the joy washi tape would bring until my kids took a roll I had and started playing with it. Now they use it literally every day. Both have 10+ mini rolls in their desks that I’m always replacing, and they use them for endless entertainment, from making paper play houses, to bandaging “hurt” animal figurines, to decorating art.
I ended up purchasing both of these story players, and I can’t pick a favorite. My kids LOVE them, and as a parent, I love them because they are screen free, and the kids listen to them every night to help them fall asleep. The difference is that the Toniebox uses small figurines that each “activates” a different story; you place the figurine on top of the box, and the story begins (each one also includes several songs, for a pretty long play time). The Lunii has an enormous online library where you can download stories to the box from your computer (a little more work for parents). The Lunii stories are “choose your own adventure” – they allow kids to pick different elements of the stories. Both of these story boxes hold their charges for days at a time.
I wouldn’t categorize the Zenimal as a toy as much as an essential bedtime/zen-time device for every child. This turtle has nine buttons that each activates a different meditation (they recently started selling separate sim cards with additional sets of meditations). My kids adore this as a way to help them relax (without screens or the need for me to set it up). The best part is that the charge holds literally for weeks (I have even had it hold for over a month of daily nighttime use).
This has been a sanity-saver during the pandemic! At one point, you couldn’t buy any outdoor trampolines online, because they were all sold out, so I purchased one new in its box on Facebook Marketplace, and it has received daily, endless use for the past year (including from most of the neighborhood kids). A trampoline is the perfect answer to, “I’m bored.”
Feature image: USAF photo