I had a lot of fun making this toy list. I strongly believe that play is children's work and that through play they learn a lot. Therefore, I think toys are important. I believe they should be open ended and well made. Our children are ages 2.5 to 6.5 and these are all toys we have bought or would buy for them.
- Steppers $11 - I have yet to meet a child who doesn't like these. Very affordable these provide a lot bang for there buck. A great fun way to improve coordination and balance. They are also safe to use on most floors which makes them great for dreary winter months.
- Doctor's Kit $25- Boy or girl I think every child needs a doctor's kit in their toy box. This one is a great bargain, lots of fun tools and very durable.
- Duktig Tea Set $10 - We've had this tea set for several years now. It's stoneware so it is breakable but we enjoy how "real" it feels. The kids have broken a few pieces (we have this dish set too) but that was after we had them for over a year so we still feel like they were a good investment.
- Skylight Rocket $19 - This is what we gave Mini Man for his last birthday and it was a huge hit. For $19 it's also proved to be very durable. It's gotten a ton of use since August but other than a couple minor repairs we've had to make to the rockets it's held strong.
- Morphians $20 - Simple controls and they fact that these can go over almost any surface: grass, carpet, dirt, pavement, sand, and even water makes these the perfect remote control car for young kids. *If you are buying more than one of these make sure they operate on different frequency or you will not be able to use them at the same time.
- Mala Easel $15 - We have this easel in our schoolroom and at $15 it is an amazing deal. It's white board on one side and chalkboard on the other. There is also a paper rod underneath so it can easily be used for painting. Our kids use it multiple times a day and after five months it's showing little to no wear.
- Squigz $25 - these fun construction pieces stick to smooth surfaces: tables, windows, mirrors, etc.
- Super Saxoflute $15 - We've been lucky enough to be given a few other Quercetti toys and they have all been great quality. This build-able musical instrument looks like it would provide lots of imaginative fun.
- Knight Costume $25 - We bought both the boys this costume two Christmas ago and while the swords and shields have seen better days the tunic still looks amazing - they aren't easy on their toys either :) If knights aren't your child's thing the Melissa and Doug brand offers several other well made costumes.
$25 to $50
- Spooner Board $45 - suitable for children as young as three this sturdy balance board spins, flips, slides, wobbles, etc. It can be used indoors so it's a great toy to help alleviate the winter wiggles.
- Duplo Cindrella's Castle $29 - Little Lady has been given a couple of the Duplo princess sets as well as the Pink Duplo Box ($14). She's currently fond of all things pink and princess(y) and she loves having these blocks to play with when "the brothers" are playing legos.
- Imanginext Castle $48 - Our boys love Imanginext. To be honest at first I wasn't such a huge fan but they really are great toys. They've proven to be very sturdy and they engage our boys imagination - they stories they act out are amazing! We bought this castle for Big Buddy last Christmas and all the kids are still very interested in playing with it. So much so that what Big Buddy most wants for Christmas this year are some accessory sets especially this one and this one - don't tell him but they are currently hidden in my closet :)
- Marbleworks Starter Set $50 - the kids were given this for Christmas last year and still play it with it a couple times a week. We knew we wanted a marble maze and did a lot research before we decided on this one. I love the look of the wood ones but ease of use, good balance (i.e. doesn't collapse if bumped into), and sturdiness mattered more than looks. In those areas this set has exceeded our expectation.
- Trio Blocks $39 - If you have young builder who's not quite ready for Lego these snap blocks are the perfect thing. Your little engineer will be able to build lots of fun creations.
- Playmobil Animal Nursery $40 - I've mentioned above that Imanginext has my boys hearts but if they hadn't started collecting those I think I would have pushed them towards Playmobil. Like Imaginext they also encourage imaginative play and all the sets can be used together. Playmobil, however, also has the additional bonus of offering gender neutral and feminine playlets.
- Magna-Tiles $52 - When I worked in childcare these were a favorite with all the kids - from toddlers to twelve-year-olds. They are durable and easy to build with but can also be used to make complex structures.
- Lego Education Vehicles Set $93 - Legos are a terrific toy but unfortunately they can be quite expensive. Especially when you get into to themed sets - a lot of money sometimes only gets you a few bricks. We have bought Big Buddy a few of the inexpensive theme sets but when it comes to investing in Legos we like the educational sets - you get a lot more bang for your buck. In addition to the vehicles set we also think these are a good buy: Lego Education Space and Airport Set, Legos Education Animal Set, Lego Education Rescue Services. If you are looking for a cheaper Lego option the Creator sets (starting around $13) are also a good buy.
- Strider Balance Bike $109 - We bought one of these for Big Buddy's birthday a couple years back and cannot say enough good things about them. It's now been passed down to Little Lady (having survived both her big brothers) and still works and looks great. Additionally, both boys have been able to transition to peddle bikes (without training wheels) with ease.
- Plasma Car $56 - We have a couple friends who own these and they all rave about them. The weight limit is 220lbs so I've given one a try myself and it was a blast.
- Blutrack 24' Challenge Pack $60 - This is what we are getting Mini Man for Christmas. He likes cars but it's really the tricks/fast movement that excites him; he's the one who plays with our marble maze the most. We've read a lot of good things about the durability of this track. We also like that it's not a set system but something that will engage his creativity and problem solving skills.
- Kiwi Crate Subscription $60 - Any child would be delighted to receive a subscription of these hands-on science and craft kits. Every kit has a special theme (music, robots, light, wind, etc) and comes with all the needed supplies. A three month subscription is $60 or you can purchase a full year subscription for $204. Some of the kits can also be purchased individually for $20.