Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Favorite Toys & Books - Large Family Tested & Recommended

I have been asked many times lately for a list of our children's favorite toys and books as Christmas approaches.  Those activities that are that are tried and true, and have not only survived lots of use in our home with our 9 children, but have proven educational, enjoyable, and durable.  *laugh*  I cannot share all of our children's favorites of course simply due to space, but I can give some ideas we'd recommend.  I hope this is helpful for you! *smile*

I'll begin with our favorite baby toys and move up through to our oldest children's favorites.  I've tried categorizing these in to ages groups but there is so much cross-over it's really impossible.  So I'm just going to list them without categorizing by age.  Some gift ideas for you!

Any LeapFrog brand toys have always been huge favorites among our little ones, and even middle-aged kids actually!  *laugh*  They are very impressive in quality and creativity, enjoyable for parents to listen to as well (hard to find *wink*) they are well made, and great prices.  Here are some examples.  But this is not the only brand of toy we buy for our babies, there are also other brands that are very good as well.

Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder, $25. - This toy magnets to the refrigerator for good kitchen play while I'm cooking; and includes several games within it.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AOHDC5Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00AOHDC5Y&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20LeapFrog Farm Animals Mash-Up Kit, $13.99. - This activity involves matching the front and back halves of several animals.  It has funny songs for when a child is accurate, but also for when they're not.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DCWM1N2/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DCWM1N2&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20LeapFrog Letter Factory Phonics, $13.58.  This toy magnets to the refrigerator for good kitchen play while I'm cooking; and includes several games within it.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DCWM1M8/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00DCWM1M8&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket, $12.99 - This has really cute songs and varying responses when pieces are put in or taken out.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0027CS7BI/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0027CS7BI&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20VTec Rhyme and Discover Book, $14.99 - Any hard plastic books I've found like this of varying brands have been awesome.  Toddler cardboard books always rip, and break, and are eaten by toddlers; but these are not only educational but survive for years.  I buy hard plastic books now every time I find them and we have 6 now.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0084BPZN4/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0084BPZN4&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20 LeapFrog Touch Magic Counting Train, $10.99. - A good independent play activity for a pack-n-play.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007HZ9S7C/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B007HZ9S7C&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Fisher Price Disney Baby Amazing Animals Sing-Along Choo-Choo, $39.99. - This toy plays cute songs, but I especially like how it crawls slowly along encouraging a crawling or newly walking baby to follow after it.

Little Tikes Discover Sounds Tool Box, $39.99. - Every shape put through the holes makes a different, funny sound to reward baby's success; and all the pieces store neatly inside the whole box, and pieces are easy to get out once they are put through the holes.

 Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock, $14.99. - Our kids love to play with this independently, but it also works great to have a child sitting up at the table while I make dinner and I call out times for him to set up on the clock to challenge him and teach him.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001539JEO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001539JEO&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20 VTech - Touch & Teach Turtle, $19.99. - Great independent play "book" with plastic cards that flip up and over, changing the activities in the buttons.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00083DD4O/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00083DD4O&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Pacific Play Tents Safari Tent and Tunnel Com., $53.15 - We have a few different types of tents like this and the play is endless when we get them all out simultaneously - filling our family room and hallway, so that all the kids have a place to play and to crawl through.  And they collapse and pack away flat as a pancake, taking up almost no space at all. Perfect for cold winters inside, or rainy days.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ID311Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000ID311Y&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Tomy Constructables Motorized Building Vehicle Playset, $23.82. - These pieces all disassemble and easily re-assemble to create all kinds of moving vehicles.  Our kids play with this a lot.

Melissa & Doug 60 Piece Standard Unit Blocks, $34.99. - Endless creativity with these; especially with a few sets combined.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003XRDYSM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003XRDYSM&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Crayola Color Wonder Dinosaur Train Coloring Pad Markers, $6.06I no longer own any crayons or markers that are not washable after too many ruined furniture, clothing, and wall episodes.  So we get out these great "magic" markers for the youngest kids (oldest kids use large sets of colored pencils - and they much prefer the to pens which "bleed" and are not very precise).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CGGA1PK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00CGGA1PK&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, hyper color, $10.95 - This is awesome stuff.  It's just like the silly putty we grew up with, but this comes in 1-cup quantities, and our favorites are the hyper color ones which change color when they get warm from hand-use, enabling kids to play with two colors really but without mixing up colors and ruining the original look.  We own about 8 sets of this putty and have played with them for years.  We use them only at the table because it doesn't come off of carpet.  But it's great when we have 30 minutes to use before going to the car for example, or before company comes, and I don't want lots of toys out; or while I or one of the other kids are reading stories at the table.  This also helps to develop small motor skills in children's hands which will help them when it comes time to learn to do handwriting.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006LCK9W/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0006LCK9W&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Kid Galaxy Morphibians Shark, $19.32 - There are at least 9 different cars in this line to choose from and our kids love the three we own (so far); all of our kids *laugh*.  They have great reviews for durability, controlability, and can go outside and through puddles without concern.  And if you find that one remote controls another car (the wrong car) you can contact the manufacturer and they'll tell you how to adjust them so that they don't interfere with each other.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006X2ACE8/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B006X2ACE8&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Alex Toys - Do-It-Yourself-Wear! Shrinky Dinks - Fantasy Forest 398W, $12.70.  These are really fun jewelry pieces to color and make!  Earrings, bracelet or necklace charms, to glue onto the top of hair clips, or ornaments if you like.  I'm sure most any shrinky dinks would be fun, but this is the one we own, and will be buying more of because our 8-year-old daughter loves to make and give gifts, and this is a very fun, independent, inexpensive way for her to do it.


Easy Bake Ultimate , Hasbro, $57.99 - This has enabled endless hours of educational "play" for many years for our daughters.  They can bake safely, independently from me whenever they choose (not when mom has time), and have the blessing of gift-giving to siblings or friends.  And I don't need to be concerned about large quantities of ingredients either.  I actually fill a few tupperware containers from our large containers of flour, white sugar, brown sugar, oats, etc. for our young daughter to use, so she doesn't need to be concerned with getting out lots of big containers or worry about dropping them (which, honestly, had been a major deterrent for me to let her back before.)  Tip:  I encourage you not to buy the pre-packaged recipes for this oven as they're way too expensive.  I encourage you to get the cook book listed below.

Baking With Mommy Cookbook:  Recipes for Kid-Size Ovens, $12.57 - This brilliant little cookbook enables kids to cook from home with ingredients you already have on hand!  All kinds of foods, in tiny recipes.  

Schleich Griffin Knight Action Figure on Horse, $15. - We  have LOTS of these, all different ones, which we got from a friend.  Again, not inexpensive, but well worth it in our opinion.  They're about 5-inches high and made of strong plastic, many with removable weapons and parts, shields, swords, jousting sticks, etc. And they come off of their horses, but attach nice and tightly, too.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BM62IQU/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00BM62IQU&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Schleich Knight's Castle Gray, $88.39

Again, not inexpensive, but there are lots of additional parts for these castles so you can build the entire thing, including trebuchet's, ladder structures for soldiers to attache the castle, dragons, prisons...  They're the highest quality and our kids *love* them.  Lots of creative play here, especially since we have some great audio books from this time period that are scripturally based and feed their creative play.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AJCNP24/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00AJCNP24&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Thomas Wooden Railway, $95.75; plus 100 Piece of Bulk Wooden Train Track, $44.99  - These aren't inexpensive, but like all wooden toys they last forever; and our kids have had endless hours with this set.  Plus we got extra pieces from Ebay. And I bought the actual wooden Thomas engines at Wal-Mart if they didn't come with my set. 


Dress-Up Clothes - We have gotten all of our dress up clothes from Value Village and Good Will during their 50% off sales.  I look in the sizes 1-2 ladies for the girls clothes, and size 5-6 ladies shoes; and like wise for the boys, the smallest clothing sizes and shoes available there but still in adult clothes.  Halloween costumes work great (we don't celebrate Halloween, but there are lots of nice used costumes available especially in the month of October). I also pick up purses, wallets, hats, bags, scarves, and have even purchased an old game of Monopoly just so I could laminate the money from it so the kids could "buy and sell" things with the money in their purses.

Audio book recommendations - Here's my post listing all of our favorites!  *smile*   And iPods, used


Computer Learning - Here's my post which lists many programs we learn with, and how we structure this.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0823085759/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0823085759&linkCode=as2&tag=largefa-20Draw 50 Series books  - $8.99  (Cats, dogs, birds, animals, flowers, baby animals, horses, kittens, cars, sharks...) - All of our daughters love drawing with these books, and they are highly successful.  Our 14-year-old who is exceptionally skilled at drawing thinks these are the best books ever; and our other daughters who draw very little are also amazingly successful with these books.  We have used many drawing books both from the library and ones that we've purchased and these are by far the best at teaching books for drawing that we've seen.

Friendship Bracelets, $ 15.26.  Our children have made these for many years, and there are a wide variety of styles and levels of difficulty in this book.


Games we own and enjoyHere are a lot of titles that we use and enjoy. *smile* Hullabaloo, Zingo, Busy Town, The Ladybug Game, Battleship, Guess Who?, Scrable Junior, Chess, Backgamon, Cadoo, Risk, Connect Four, The Allowance Game, Life, Seattle (Monopoly with our city of Seattle's features/locations), Taboo, Cranium, Scategories, Charades for Kids, Pictionary.  Card games (stored in a box to keep organization): Peanut Butter and Jelly, The Storybook Game, Ziggidy, Uno, Phase 10, Old Maid, Go Fish, regular cards, and we have card holders so young children's little hands can hold their cards in a fan to see them.

And here is a list of great kids toys that our family uses a lot of, but which are not hard to find or specific to a certain brand.  The activities that come in sets we own about 4 sets of (except for Legos where we have many sets) and we combine them all in to large plastic tubs so that several kids can all play together.  Like this:

I'm sure you're familiar with these toys, so I'll just list them:
  • Doll houses - toddler ones, tiny detailed ones, and large floor ones
  • Baby dolls
  • 18" girl dolls 
  • Large toy kitchen
  • Plastic grocery foods, shopping baskets, and shopping carts
  • Legos
  • Duplos (large toddler legos, which our older kids love to play with, too)
  • Plastic dinosaurs 6-8-inches long
  • Mr. Potato Heads
  • GI Joe guys
  • Transformers
  • Strawberry Short Cake Dolls
  • Polly Pockets
  • My Little Pony
  • Match box cars, with race tracks & car carriers
  • Roller blades
  • Sewing
  • Crocheting or knitting

However we still only keep the toys and games that we use regularly.  I do not keep the ones that are only used once-a-year or so; I don't have room for those.  They're just more for me to manage, and they take up valuable space.  Feel free to ask specific questions about any of these toys if you'd like more information or wonder about a certain age of child playing with any of them in particular.  And I'd love it if you would share links for some of your tried and true favorite activities for children!

Blessings on your children's learning this Christmas,

You might also enjoy reading my related posts:
A Series of My Posts Regarding Christmas!
Productively Occupying Young Children:  Inclusion in Homeschooling
Television in The Home:  Good, Bad, Does it Matter?
Homeschooling:  Adding in Extra Fun!


  1. I just recently came across your blog and really enjoy it! I have 5 kids, the oldest is 5 and an 8 year old step-daughter. I had been looking for a blog that was a little more relatable to my situation. Raising a large family is very hard work and you seem to do a fantastic job!

  2. Pardon me for commenting on this subject, but i notice you make a special point in explaining that some store sells good halloween dress up costumes. If you don't celebrate halloween for a certain set or reasons, why mention this at all?
    I like this post. It is very interesting to compare toys from one country to another. I only wish these thing were available here. I would say 85% of the toys sold here are senseless and with no educational value whatsoever. Thus grows a country.
    Blessings, S.

    1. I mention Halloween because it's a topic that should be discussed and have light shed upon it by God's Word. We discus truth. =) And I included the link for why we do not celebrate it. If I never mention the word Halloween, no one will hear the truth, and it wouldn't come up in people's word searches for information on that topic.

  3. Which toys do you feel span the greatest age ranges and which are played with the very most? Since many of these are a little more expensive and cannot all be purchased at once, are thecertain ones that you would recommend a young growing family to invest in first?

    1. Absolutely! =) Thinking putty is used by all of our children up to our oldest being 15, but only after a child is old enough to not eat/choke on it of course. The game Hullabaloo (top picture for the post) is also really enjoyed by all. Also the nylon tents, wooden train set, and dress up clothes (also enjoyed by all the kids). =)

  4. We started off with a lot of toys when my first son was small.... A LOT of toys...a silly amount. After three children in 4 years and space at a minimum...the toys dwindled down so that now we concentrate on having as much open ended toys as possible; ones that are not designed for only one specific purpose. The things that get the most use are mega blocks/legos, dress up (which are conveniently on clearance after October 31st no matter if you participate in Halloween or not:) bikes, balls, playdough and kitchen/house play accessories. We have one cupboard with sets in plastic shoe box sized storage containers that can be taken out one at a time such as dinosaurs, matchbox cars, action figures etc. When the children had uncontrolled access to these toys it was chaotic. Your blog has been very helpful in encouraging my "purposing" to organize and create a system with these things that they enjoy but previously were driving me nutty! :) Thank you for more helpful tips!

  5. ay, thank you!! Great reference list for me. I thought I would share the COOLEST new toy I've discovered: magnatiles! My kids discovered them at our local science museum, and I know a couple friends who have them. They get RAVE reviews online and are very open ended and educational, spanning a large age range. Not cheap, and they run this same price everywhere, but Lakeshore Learning carries them and once or twice a year they offer a 30% off one item coupon (always on Black Friday weekend) so I'm planning to buy the big set for next Christmas with that coupon :) Here's the amazon link to check them out: http://www.amazon.com/Magna-Tiles®-Clear-Colors-100-Piece/dp/B000CBSNRY/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1386888437&sr=1-1&keywords=magnatiles+100+piece

    1. Oh thanks! =) Looks like a really neat toy. Yes, expensive. Maybe next year for us, too. I'll have to watch for that black friday coupon from Lake Shore; that would make a huge difference. Love you sister!

  6. Thank you, thank you!! This post is a literal God Send! :)

  7. My five year old has been playing Zingo since he was 2. He LOVES that game. Connect Four, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, and an adding game called Number Hunt are among his other favorites. The other toys that he consistently plays with are the Playmobil sets. He loves the rescue ones, and the "city" ones, such as the post office, bank, and fire station. We've got friends whose kids have used them as old at 13-14 years old too, They're good quality, and the only downside is that there are a lot of little pieces, so you'd have to keep really young ones away from them. Do you have any games that really promote reading in early readers? He knows how to sound words out with high accuracy, but we need to work on fluency.


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