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.
LeapFrog 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.
LeapFrog 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.
LeapFrog Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket, $12.99 - This has really cute songs and varying responses when pieces are put in or taken out.
VTec 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.
LeapFrog Touch Magic Counting Train, $10.99. - A good independent play activity for a pack-n-play.
Fisher 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.
VTech - Touch & Teach Turtle, $19.99. - Great independent play "book" with plastic cards that flip up and over, changing the activities in the buttons.
Pacific 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.
Melissa & Doug 60 Piece Standard Unit Blocks, $34.99. - Endless creativity with these; especially with a few sets combined.
Crayola Color Wonder Dinosaur Train Coloring Pad Markers, $6.06. I 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).
Crazy 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.
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.
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.
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 enjoy: Here 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:
- 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
- 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
- Strawberry Short Cake Dolls
- Polly Pockets
- My Little Pony
- Match box cars, with race tracks & car carriers
- Roller blades
- 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!