We don't have room for 6 separate sets of half-broken toys that don't get played with very often. Any toy we have must be:
- durable enough to be passed down from one kid to the next
- interesting enough to be used for years
- versatile enough to be played with by multiple age groups
Gathered from my decade of mothering, here are some of the very best ones, test-driven by all 6 of my kids.
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We almost didn't buy this 200-plank set of construction blocks because hello, they're just rectangular planks. But because of their size and precision cut, the kids use them to make the coolest and most intricate things long after they've outgrown other sets of building blocks.
We regularly see everyone from the 12-year-old down to the 2-year-old building with these on the floor. We bought a second set (Keva Contraptions, comes with 200 planks and a few ping pong balls to make ball runs) so everyone could have enough.
This was technically a gift for our son when he was 6 as a way to burn off energy during the winter months in his room. The compact size is good for one person to jump at a time and doesn't take up too much floor space.
It's been in his room for 2 years now and I constantly hear kids upstairs jumping on it, even the older kids relieving stress during homework breaks. It's an adult exercise trampoline with a 200-lb weight limit so theoretically even I could use it — although any woman who's birthed 6 children knows better than to ever get on a trampoline.
Generally I'm not a fan of toys with batteries, but this one isn't loud or annoying so I guess it can stay. And the kids love it. The voice tells them to "swim like a fish" or "jump like a kangaroo" and then plays music to match the action while they do it.
This wand is obviously most popular with the 2- to 4-year-old set. But honestly, all the kids get on the bandwagon being silly with it if they're in the right mood. I find it all over the house (even in the bathroom,) which means that it gets a lot of mileage.
I first saw this at the children's play area in the library and knew our 6-, 8-, and 10-year olds would love it.
Kids have to tilt the ball every which way to get a marble through a really complex obstacle course. The obstacles are numbered so they can keep track of where they are and compare with each other ("I'm on 42, where have you gotten to?")
They also liked Perplexus Epic, which their grandpa got them the following year. There's also a Rookie version for younger kids but we haven't tried that one yet.
We got a huge garbage bag of these at a yard sale for $2 once and it was the best $2 we ever spent. I'd say these are used the most by our kids in the 4-10 age range, but even the preteens build these with their preschool siblings. It's a simple idea that can make an awful lot (scroll down for a picture in this post if you don't believe me.)
When I sat down to write this post, I was shocked to find that Little Tikes isn't making these anymore: no wonder the world is going to you-know-where in a handbasket. But you can still find them through private sellers or on eBay!
Again, batteries. Changing them is annoying. But I'm willing to do it because our 1- to 4-year-olds love this ball popper. Even the kids who are way too old will still jump in if they see their little sibling playing with it.
The Christmas morning we gave this to our toddler, we had to keep shooing the big kids out of the way so he could play with his own present. In fact, after watching my kids use it over the years I'm convinced it's way funner in a group than one kid alone because they're all laughing at each other and running after the balls.
These are just a few of the toys we own that have lasted a long time and appealed to multiple ages of kids in our house. Purchases that I've never, ever regretted making.
What's on your list of best value for your money toys?