My post on Stuff the other day got me thinking about how I could be smarter when choosing toys to bring into our home in the first place. If you think your house could also use a little 'less is more', here are a few tips I have about the kinds of toys that have been enjoyed over and over at our house.
1. They don't need big sets of things.
I remember Thane was really into Little People toys by Fisher Price at one point. So over the birthdays and holidays we got him over five different sets, a Noah's ark, a farm, a house, the zoo, you name it. They are so cute, but the first one he had was all he needed. We also did this with Rescue Heroes, and then there was a dinosaur phase, and it almost seemed to take the pleasure out of the first few they had and now we have all these extras that we just seem to spend time cleaning up. We call these huge sets 'dump out' toys here, where the whole bin gets dumped out, they find the one they like, and then go play with that one.
My boys seem to use a few animal figurines and a few action guy figurines, and for Seth I'd have to throw a few things with wheels into the mix. I think if they had a basket of their favorite five they'd be happy. And the kind doesn't seem to matter here, random yardsale 10 cent guys have been some of their favorites and they're always so pleased with themselves for the find. But they never use a matching set, and even Seth won't use twenty dumptrucks. My guys do like play areas for their figures to live in, climb on, the current theme seems to be making them into 'levels' (like their action guys are going through a video game). But again, their favorites are a castle they found at a yardsale, Bear in the Big Blue House's house found at another yardsale, and third is the littlest pet shop house. Forget the cute little animals that mommy bought to promote gender equality, but the house is tops on their list.
2. Craft supplies and toys they can build and create with are always a favorite.
And I'm sure, very good for their brain. The more raw the form, the better here. Plastecine, playdough, markers, crayons, paint, and paper. Forget the kit that goes with the playdough to make specific things, or the paper that only works with certain markers. Those either get used up quickly and you're left with one half of a duo, or the novelty wears off quickly and it sits unused (think making hamburgers with playdough; how often is that entertaining, and how often do you want to clean out the machine?), but the plain materials are as limitless as their imaginations.
The same goes for toys they can build with. Here it's lego, megablocks, bendaroos, and pipecleaners. Take those with you and they've got anything they'd like to play, because they can build it!
3. I also think one can never have too many books.
But I think the same rules above apply. They don't need to be new, some of our favorites are yardsale Dr. Seuss's, and old Sesame street and Fraggles and Muppets books. Books that have good rhythm and books that have beautiful pictures are also some of our favorites. Colorful, touchable baby board books are good for that toddler 'let's rip the pages out' stage too. I still think they don't need to have big sets of these either. You know the sets of 20 Scooby-Doo or Diego you can read phonics books? We might have gotten through a handful of them.
4. Battery operated toys are pretty useless.
To begin with they're often too loud, irritating for momma at best and hard on a kids hearing at worst, and then end up with dead batteries that never get switched for new ones. They're costly to keep going, difficult to dispose of, hard on the environment and often replace what the child should be getting out of play, like making their own sound effects to their truck and action guys. If you're going to get something with batteries though, make it the fridge letters by Leappad. My kids have all loved those, and that never happens. They just walk by the fridge and dance to the music and play with learning their letters for a while. It's great. If you happen to have one of those non-sticky stainless steel fridges, or would like to keep the clutter off your fridge or out from under your feet? (Because the letters inevitably end up on the floor around the fridge). Get a magnet board at the office store and hang it at their eye level. The one we have the kids can draw on with grease marker too, a big hit, and sometimes I write things on it that Thane is beginning to roll his eyes at, like 'Mommy loves you'. I maintain that he's secretly pleased though.
Any tips for me? I haven't really gotten into the world of dollies, but Claire seems to have a preference so far for ones with soft heads. I'd also love to hear how anyone avoids stuffed animal purchases (known at our house as 'stuffies'). My tactile kid Seth is so hard to turn down when he asks for a really soft one.