As a parent that’s gone through several holidays and birthday cycles, you quickly realize most toys are junk in gift wrapping. You almost know going in to it that half of the toys you give to the average American kid are going to get about a days-worth of attention before they become toy box filler to the child. In our house, it ends up in the “Goodwill” bin.
Part of this makes sense because of how kids work; You can’t expect a child (or even teenager) to share equal attention among 5-10 toys for any length of time. The other part is that some toys are junk from the get-go. They were junk when they were designed. And if it weren’t for the box and their commercials, the toy would be a complete waste of injection-molded Chinese plastic.
This is where I have to pay homage to the toys that got it right, and were a lasting member of our kids’ arsenal. MVP goes to the Apple Alphabet toy we got our 1 yr-old son two Christmases ago. It was the simplest toy, but it taught both the alphabet, letter sounds, and even provided animals that start with those letters, including a guessing game that asks to identify the described animal.
My son picked up all the letter sounds really quickly from the toy – I want to say he was a little over a year old. He played with this toy on road trips, on the go, alone in his room, and of course with myself and my wife as well. Best $15 we spent that Christmas.
Legos are of course the next best toy you’ll ever get a child. Our kids are finally old enough for the normal-sized bricks, so we got them a starter set, and they’ve been steadily gravitating to them all week. I was hooked on Legos for years – probably from 5 through 11. My friend and I would spend hours building competing spaceships, race cars, fortresses, and anything else we could come up with. The big thing to do back then was also trade the good pieces – joints, swivels, doors and other rare Lego goods. I just hope our kids get into them as much as I was growing up. It’s a lot of quality, creative time.
Sticking with the classics, Play-Doh has been a great past-time for the kids this year, though they have no respect for fresh doh or clean colors. If I give them green and pink, we’re likely have have a marbled clump of pink and green dough sitting out on the table when they’re done, containers left scattered open. Still, give them a plastic knife and some colored clay, and they’re hooked.
Finally, Pop-It Beads were a huge hit with my 5 year-old daughter. Recently she received these for her fifth birthday, and she spend probably spent a combined 20 hours so far just coming up with endless configurations of bracelets, jewelry, and odd knick-knacks. They’re like Legos with a twist for girls, and frankly they’re awesome. I could tell Elena right now we’re going to start building necklaces with the “pop beads” and she’ll respond with excitement almost every time.
Outside of books, that seems to be it. Everything else gets fair play, like my son’s Hot Wheels cars he carries with him wherever he goes, but the rest of the toys get passing interest. Which I’m fine with. Would definitely prefer to draw their attention to writing and reading at this age then spending hours on Mommy’s Android tablet. Don’t get me wrong, that happens, just prefer to reserve it for really crappy weather days.
Here’s hoping your toy picks work out. Odds are, they didn’t, but if they do, spread the word. Good toys are hard to find.