As a mom of seven kids, you might imagine that I have some strong opinions about what makes a good toy. You’d be right. In fact, let’s just call them my personal rules for choosing toys that stand the test of time. As a family one of our guiding principles is to be good stewards of what God gives us. One of the ways we try to be good stewards in our home is to choose to buy things that will last.
Here are 6 TIPS FOR CHOOSING TOYS THAT LAST:
- CHOOSE WOOD OVER PLASTIC. Wooden toys tend to last longer, and break less easily. (For our family, Duplos (0-8 years old), Legos (5+ years old), and Magformers (all ages) are clear exceptions to this rule, and there are others… but generally speaking, we go for wood when possible.)
- CHOOSE TOYS THAT AREN’T DEPENDENT ON HAVING ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER. Maybe this is the large-family-mother in me coming out (because inevitably, with seven kids, pieces get lost around here. A LOT.), but even with one kid, when you “need” a certain piece to make it work, that is (Murphy’s Law) going to be the piece that gets lost, thus making all the other pieces useless. Even though the cuttable-velcro-fruit toys are fun, whole fruit toys will likely be played with longer. (And can I just say, I loathe puzzles?)
- (Almost) NOTHING ELECTRONIC. Anything that beeps, requires batteries, has a volume button… these things simply “die” quicker (and become dated sooner) than toys that have some sort of kinesthetic or creative aspect without the electronic element. Not to mention that they most likely annoy the crud out of mom. So yeah, those are typically off my list too. (Leapfrog toys— especially their Phonics Radio–are one personal exception to this rule.) It’s not that we never buy anything electronic– but we are wary of it. And more often than not, if it has batteries or a screen, we choose something different.
- CHOOSE TOYS THAT ENABLE CREATIVITY vs. TOYS THAT DO ALL THE CREATIVE “LEGWORK” FOR YOU. For example, Loving Family People characters with a simple dollhouse enable creativity in play vs. over-styled Bratz-style dolls or career-specific Barbie toys. Toys that allow your child to enact and tell a variety of stories and roles from their imagination are preferable to toys that have inherent character/story/attitude built into them.
- CHOOSE TOYS THAT FIT WITH TOYS YOU ALREADY HAVE. Thinking in terms of toy “sets” will keep your toys together, longer, without having to add new bins or find new places to store things.
- CHOOSE GENERIC OVER CHARACTER/BRANDED TOYS. For example, a good set of Lincoln Logs or Legos to build a variety of buildings is better than a DespicableMe or recent-movie-theme figurine. One is perennial; the other will soon be dated.
Do we sometimes have toys that don’t fit these rules? Sure we do. And you probably do too.
But generally speaking, when I’m asked by one of the grandmas what her grandkids might like, I think of what that particular child has been interested in or asking for, and then I mentally run through these tips and come out with something that’s a win-win:
- The kid loves it, and I don’t have to create a new bin or category or storage spot for it.
- The kid loves it, and it doesn’t break in a month.
- The kid loves it, and it doesn’t get old when a certain movie or style is no longer popular.
- The kid loves it, and I’m not annoyed by it.
- The kid loves it, and I’m not furiously hunting down the one-missing-piece on which the whole set depends a week later.
My hope is that these guidelines will help you in this toy-buying season before Christmas.
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