Ok, so in my last post – 9 Fantastic Gift Ideas for kids that AREN’T toys and that parents will LOVE, I gave you an extensive list of non-toy Christmas gift ideas, but I know some of you won’t heed my advice and will still buy toys for your munchkins. If you’re going to just ignore me, then at least buy toys they’ll actually play with longer than 15 minutes before they get bored!
1. HAPE QUADRILLA
“Derived from the combination of two German words, “Quader” and “Rille”, meaning “bricks” and “slots” respectively – which are also the main components of the game – Quadrilla’s unique marble run system is “a lot like coding” (assessment from Wall Street Journal) and a perfect platform for STEAM education.”
Quadrilla is a beautifully designed series of marble run sets, made from quality wood components. There are some different sets available in many different price points, that can be built independently, or you can combine sets to make larger runs. We purchased a marble run set 4 years ago, and it is easily one of the few toys that today still gets consistent use. The Hape brand is a bit more expensive than other toy lines, but the quality and the aesthetics are well worth the extra cost.
2. wooden train table
There are many different wooden train sets available. You can go branded and get the official Thomas the Train Wooden Railway or you can go to the Imaginarium brand which is compatible with Thomas the Train pieces. If you have the room for the table, then I highly recommend going with that, again, this is a purchase my children still consistently use today, three years after Santa brought it. Even if you don’t have the room for a table, picking up an individual set will provide lots of fun. The nice thing about these sets is that they don’t require batteries…which means they’re quiet so that they won’t drive you nuts.
3. DUKTIG Doll Bed
Miss D is currently obsessed with her babies, so I have been searching all over for a nice looking doll bed for her Christmas gift this year. All I kept seeing were cheaply made-from-plastic over-priced gaudy looking doll cribs that I knew wouldn’t make it a week in my house with Miss D, who is a mini tornado. Some of the more expensive beds I came across were nicer looking, but again made from MDF, that I knew wouldn’t stand up to a 3-year-old trying to crawl in with her babies for a rest. I knew I wanted simple, classic and sturdy, that’s when it hit me to check out IKEA. Bingo! Found exactly what I was after online, the reviews were great, so I’ve gone and purchased it for under the tree this year.
4. Play Kitchen
A toy kitchen is a great accessory to encourage role play for all children; my fave toy kitchen also comes from IKEA. The DUKTIG Play Kitchen has adjustable legs to grow with your little one, and features light diodes on the “burners.” What I adore about it, is the simple design aesthetics allows your kids to use their imaginations for creative play. There are no noises or buttons that dictate the activity. It also fits into most home decor easily. Bonus – it’s also much cheaper than some of the noisier plastic versions available. Additionally, IKEA makes some nice toy cookware accessories that are miniature versions of the real stuff we use every day!
I think it’s a pretty straightforward suggestion. As much as I despise this stuff when it’s all over the house, my kids play with it ALL THE TIME, and it’s a quiet toy that doesn’t require batteries! They start by following the directions and building the set as shown on the box, but quickly, the sets morph into other creations. LEGO is a great tool for learning engineering basics, exploring cause and effect and expanding creativity. LEGO makes sets for all ages and difficulty levels including DUPLO sets for toddlers. It’s another toy that has been continuously used by my kids for years now.
6. Board Games
There a gazillion board games out there. Seriously, there are sooo many. Most of them are crap, and kids will quickly lose interest after playing them once or twice. 2 games that have stood the test of time in our house are TROUBLE and Monopoly Gamer (Super Mario).
If you’re not familiar with TROUBLE, it is a racing chasing game where the objective is to get your four pieces from the start, around the board and back into your home before your opponents. You can send the others back to start by landing on their occupied spot! This is an excellent game for teaching counting, emotion regulation, and how to handle setbacks and disappointments with grace. It’s a game for 2-4 players and is recommended for kids 3 and up. We’ve been playing the Minion version of this game regularly for four years now.
MONOPOLY GAMER is styled after traditional Monopoly, you roll dice, move along the board and buy property. But there are other little gimmicks along the way that are modelled after the Mario Party video games. As each person passes GO, they have the option of fighting a BOSS Battle for extra points. What I like about this game is that there is a definite end to this game, it doesn’t just drag on until someone gets bored and quits. I also like that it teaches basic money skills, and budgeting (saving up to buy more expensive properties, etc.). The Dude loves this game because it’s Mario! I recommend this game to anyone with kids around 7+, and it is suitable for 2-8 players if you buy the expansion pieces.
There you have it — a quick list of suggestions for those of you who insist on buying toys. If you take away only one thing from this list, I hope it is this; It is better to spend your money on fewer but thoughtfully chosen, quality made items, than it is on more, but cheaply made stuff for the sake of stuff. Too much stuff and kids are overwhelmed. Keep the clutter down, and the kids in your life will learn to appreciate and value the possessions they are gifted!