Toy Gift Guide

toys that parents and kids will love

Sometimes you have to buy toys. There is just no way around it. And it’s especially hard to find the right gift for someones elses kid! We focus most of our gift giving on great experiences. We do pool parties, and trips to fun kids places. Museums, theme parks, and camping with pools.  At the end of the day, there still needs to be at least 1 toy under the tree. I try to make sure that our family and friends get to buy the cool toys. As the parents, we buy one sharing toy then some clothes and books.

We have been working on creating a more minimalist home, and the toy room has taken the brunt of the purging. The toys that remain have to be high performers. They need to be fun for the most amount of kids (Our kids are ages 1-9.) They need to be played with for hours and hours. I want them to last for years and not get broken or become boring.

Maybe you need inspiration for your own kids, nieces and nephews,  your friends kids or grandkids. Really buying for kids is just more fun than shopping for adults. I have friends who often skip buying something for me, but always find the perfect gift for my kids. Just as it should be.

So if you need to find a great toy this year; this is for you. These are the toys that our kids have owned for years. The toys that make the cut, purge after purge, because they earn their keep. They aren’t the cheapest options. When we want a little affordable gift, I usually opt for coloring books from the dollar store. But these have earned their keep through 5 kids. Some end up being toys that the kids share between them. So don’t think that each of our kids gets one of these every year. They have come one at a time as a gift for everyone to share. But in the end our kids have a few high quality toys that are engaging and long lasting. Add in some books and basic art supplies, and this is how my kids roll.

As a mom, here are my basic requirements:

Low tech

Doesn’t break easily

Interesting for hours

Will be played with for years

Easy to organize

Good for a wide range of ages

Not messy (tee shirt tie dying kit, bucket of 1000 beads, anything with glitter: NO, please just don’t.)

Not noisy (Really, do we need any more noise? Drum sets, Elsa singing microphones, shakers, Elmo talking phone. In the end, they have all found new homes.)

Toys I don’t mind playing with alongside my kids

Toys where I don’t HAVE to play with them (both of those are important features)

Here are 6 great options that meet all those requirements. We have owned all of these for years. And you will notice they all have amazing Amazon reviews, cause this mama knows what’s up!

Magnatiles:

We generally buy a new set each year to add to our collection. These are that good! There are a few brands. We have bought all of them over the years. From our 1 year old to our 9 year old, these are the favorite. We started with a 100 piece set and expanded from there. I let the kids keep 4 kinds of toys in their toy room, and someone always picks these. Boys or girls, everyone loves them. Our baby plays with them on the fridge and the 9 year old builds “epic” towers. They aren’t cheap, but the cost per hour is about as low as it gets.

Gears! Gears! Gears!

Amazon has two size sets. These are a good affordable option. The small set runs about $18 and the large about $35. These get played with all the time. They are durable and interesting. It another one that is great to start with one set, and then we add another one later. The more you add, the better they get. The kids make all sorts of creations with these. It’s simple enough for a toddler and our 9 year old makes some impressive stuff.

 

Trampoline

I have never spent better money than on a trampoline. Granted we have avoided any broken bones or knocked out teeth in the 4 years since we bought ours, so that helps my view of it. Literally hundreds of hours have been spent on this thing. It’s the favorite when we have friends over. I have even spent a good amount of time jumping with the kids. From the baby crawling on it to Mr. Mt trying to do flips, it has been amazing. It’s about the only activity they enjoy doing outside when it’s cold. We just push all the snow off and let the kids jump around for 30 minutes so they can get their beans out. More than any other toy we have bought our kids, this one has saved my sanity. I can sit in the yard with the kids on a nice summer day and read a book while the kids go crazy.

Blocks

We bought 2 sets of these 8 years ago. 4 additional kids later and they are still going strong. They have earned a permanent place in our toy room. They are simple and classic. You could start with one set, but with 5 kids they love having the extra blocks to create huge buildings. These have been ramps for matchbox cars, to small scale versions of the Colosseum, to towers built just to get knocked over. I won’t be surprised if these blocks see another 8 years. How many toys can claim a 16 year consecutive life span? I bet they will be in good enough shape that I will keep them till we have grandkids running around.

 

 

Bouncy House

We bought this a few years ago as a sharing gift for all the kids. We set it up a dozen times a year. Even though our house is small, it still fits inside in our living room. On those crazy cold winter days (Christmas break, I am looking at you!) it is a great way for the kids to jump off some energy. When we have friends over, we always set it up. It only takes 5-10 minutes to pull it out of our storage area till it’s inflated. We have had ours for 2 or 3 years now and have gotten a ton of use out of it. The baby loves crawling in it, and the 9 year old is still thrilled to jump with his friends. It is an easy, affordable way to jazz up our birthday parties and backyard BBQ’s.

Snap Circuits

There are very few “educational” toys or games that I think are really worth their weight in salt. But this would be one of them! My boys received this as a gift a few years ago and we have gotten a ton of mileage out of it. This one is better for older kids, 5-6 to 12 year olds. They have a few different options and we will be buying an additional set this year for Christmas. Kids can actually put together really cool circuits on their own. Most science project sets are a total bust, but this one is amazing!

Or they have a Jr. set that is only $17. There are over 4,500 positive Amazon reviews! I’m not the only one who thinks this toy is awesome!

If you want to get high mileage, lots of bang for your buck, will be played with for years to come toys; these are the winners! In our home, we would rather have 10-15 really great toy options than 500 pieces of half broken junk lying around. These are the ones we have owned for years. I know it is especially hard to pick out awesome toys for other people’s kids. Toys that parents won’t hate, and the kids will love playing with for a few years. All of these are a great option for kids to share as well. The more expensive ones I have bought as the 1 toy they all share. Instead of 5 cheap toys each, they share one awesome toy. For us it’s the perfect mix of minimalism and frugality. I hope this insider peek into our toy room from a mom of 5 is helpful as you hunt for those holiday gifts!

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14 thoughts on “Toy Gift Guide

  1. Those are all terrific! I feel like I would have lots of fun with some of these. Thanks for the ideas!

    I also like board games that I can play with my kid. Uno is a classic, and I played Sleeping Queens with my five year-old and was extremely impressed! Any suggestions for games?

    • Thanks! I hope one of those works out for you. I’ll have to admit that Mr. Mt is more of the board game lover than I am. We decided for 2017 that every Friday night will be “family fun night!” and the kids are thrilled. Mr. Mt is thrilled because he thinks it will be a great opportunity to play more games. Zingo has been a big hit and is great for a 5 year old. They have a few different versions now that work for younger kids too. Some are for sight words or word building. We have had that one for 5 years, and the kids still love it.
      Laser Maze is great for kids a bit older (6-10) but they also have a Jr. version. My kids love this one too! It has tons of great reviews, because it’s simple for kids to play, educational, and really fun. Hope that helps! Maybe next year I will put together a board game post. Especially after a full year of board games every week. =)

  2. Growing up, one of our neighbors had a trampoline! It was so much fun. Do you find it equally awesome as an adult or is mostly for the kids?

    • It is mostly for the kids, but I’ll admit we do a bit of jumping as well. =) It’s hard not to have fun while jumping. Whenever I need a little work break and want to connect with the kids, I take 10 or 15 minutes and do a little bouncing with them. Plus, it’s a really great exercise break. =) I think Mr. Mt has even more fun than me (he’s just more fun in general!) Him and the boys do star wars fight scenes, which is hysterical to watch.

  3. We have a couple items from Melissa & Doug and like them. I like how you mention simplicity & not much noise. We have one electronic drum & Mickey Mouse microphone that our 17-month uses, but, she also enjoys a play kitchen or a doll house. We play with her some, but they also keep her entertained so we can do adult things.

    • The noise never use to bother me too much. We use to put duck tape over the speaker to keep it reasonable. But now that we have a smallish home and 5 kids, toys that make too much noise need to find new homes! =)

    • Poor grandparents really need suggestions. When you don’t have little kids at home, it’s SO hard to know what to get. I was tempted to name it “Toy Guide for people who don’t have kids” because that is so challenging. And thankfully none of these are very seasonal, so they would work just as well for birthdays.

  4. Great list! I LOVED snap circuits when my kids were younger. In fact, when we were cleaning out my son’s closet a few months ago, I found the box (with two sets). Though the 16 y.o. wasn’t really interested any more, my 13 y.o. was – it kept her entertained for hours and she’s since had it out a couple more times. (This one made the cut for my “gifts for kids” list! too.)

    • That is awesome! I think I am going to be buying an extra snap circuits again because they have so many cool sets out now. If my kids play with it till they are 13, I have a lot of years left for them to enjoy!

  5. Thank you! These are great. Some of my family asks us to buy books, but when we do we usually end up getting duplicates of what they already have and that’s no fun for anyone. I love that some of your suggestions are expanding sets so that even duplicates will be well-loved.
    BTW- I’m not seeing your links.

    • The sets are a lifesaver. It’s so much easier to keep things organized with a few big sets rather than dozens of different toys. The sets are have fun little variations, so it’s not like they are just getting more of the same exact thing. It helps make the old set fun and new again.

      Shoot I will have to double check on the links. They look like they are working on my end. :/ Thanks for the heads up.

  6. I’m a big believer in trying to get toys with a high dollar per use value. We have lots that fit that criteria (particularly different kinds of building toys) and some that have been less so.

    Blocks are the best. I just did an article about “Blocks are the best.” When I was little, we had about 6 different sets. They all ended up in a big burlap bag with “BLOCKS” stitched on it. My mom kept them and brought them out whenever a little guest came over for 45 years. It was the only one of our childhood toys that she kept (in fairness, she’d both moved and had a house fire that caused a lot of smoke damage making many items unusable.)