Given that Christmas is coming round the corner I thought I would take a break from my usual blogging topics and write a list of toys that my children love and have loved for the last few years. As my children are now four and seven years old we’re talking about up to six years of playing with these toys. So these are toys that really grow with your child and also encourage learning about the world and how things work.
I remember when my children were toddlers it was difficult to know what they were likely to be still playing with in a few months time, let alone a few years time. So I hope this list will help other parents in the same situation. While the links are affiliate links all the toys on this list are included because my children love them and have loved them, and that I enjoy playing with them too. No other reason. I have tried to describe, and link to, the generic versions of these toys. A couple of times I’ve included brand names, but only where I believe they are significantly better, or unique. Links go to search pages, rather than specific products, so you can see what options are available and choose the best one for your situation.
So, in no particular order, here are a selection of toys that grow with your child and give years of playing pleasure:
I love lego and duplo and so do the kids. It is a fantastic toy and there are so many different sets now. Building to follow instructions is a really useful skill – to create what the set is for – and also free building where you make whatever you want to create. And it’s good to develop fine motor skills too by putting the bricks together.
Hubelino marble run
This is a great addition to Duplo – fits really well with it and there’s not really any difference in brick quality noticeable between the two brands. This really extends the useful lifetime of Duplo, and gives it something extra to what Lego on its own can do. We still have the Duplo out, even though starry girl is nearly five. And the fact it uses the Duplo means you can do alot more with it than other marble runs as you have all your Duplo pieces to use to change how the run works every time.
All children love to copy their parents, and letting them have free range on their own toy kitchen is much safer than the real kitchen. (Though I do let my children help me cook too.) I made sure we got a kitchen that was big enough for both children to stand side by side at it, as I wanted to maximise the opportunities for them to play together, rather than fight over it.
Gears Gears Gears
This is a great set for learning about reactions. It is bright and colourful, and as your child grows they can do more complicated things with it. At a basic level it is a series of cogs with boards and connectors, but you can build them together to make 3D contraptions. And further sets have motors and additions for vehicles, monkeys and all sorts of other things.
Dolls and dollhouse
Playing mummy and daddy is one of the favourite games with both children in our house, and having a “real” baby makes it so much better. We have a diversity of dolls, including boys and coloured skin. Watching them play together and seeing what they come up with is amazing.
Cars and animals
You can play with these on their own or combine with other toys to make an epic playspace. They are also easy to keep a couple in your bag if you need something to provide entertain while you’re out and about.
We are only now growing out of this, and moving on to a Lego train. My son especially has had so much playing time out of the wooden train from about one til six years old. We had a combination of sets from Brio, Bigjigs, Ikea,Thomas, and others and loved the fact that (mostly) it all fitted together and you could play with everything together. And there is such a range of types of train and pieces of track that we ended up running out of room in the living room to build it in!
I had heard so many people raving about magnetic tiles, but I was sceptical about whether they would add much to the variety of toys we already had. Boy was I wrong – the kids love them. We have the magnutz ones, though those don’t seem to be widely available outside the Netherlands. We make space ships, houses, and all sorts of other things, often combining it with other toys. People get flown about, or cars garaged in them. We’ve used them so much the box is completely trashed!
These are a classic, and deservedly so. Their simplicity means that anything can be built with them. Rocket boy went through a phase of building swimming pools, complete with diving board. And we often have zoos in the living room. They can be either plain wood or coloured – either way they are great. I keep thinking about moving on to Kapla so they can build more precisely, but they still have so much fun with the basic blocks we have that I’m not going to rush to get rid of them.
Digging, pouring, splashing and making shapes. Sand, water and the two of them combined are fascinating for children. Don’t mind the mess and let them go for it! Add a couple of bottles and funnels to bathtime, or have an area of the garden where the children can dig. This is one of the simplest things you can develop. Playing with kinetic sand adds an extra dimension as it sticks together better, and playdough is great for a wet afternoon. You can get loads of accessories and sets for these, but many of them are quite complicated for small children. My advice would be to keep it simple and not worry too much about giant playsets – rolling pins, cookie cutters, moulds and things to poke the playdough are all you really need. Add in a couple of cars, or animals, or twigs and leaves, and you can have all sorts of fun. All these sorts of activities encourage your child’s imagination as well as their fine motor skills and provide them with a varied sensory input.
NB This is not an exhaustive list – I just hope I’ve given someone a few ideas of things to look out for. If you have something else to add then put it in the comments!
All items are included based on the extended play testing done by my children. I have not been compensated for this post. Product links on this post are affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate and Bol .com Partner I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect how much you pay.