Slow Burn Toys.

I have learned, over time, that there is such a thing as a bad toy.

Bad toys are flashes in the pan: they interest your child for the few minutes after receipt, or maybe for a sparse couple of minutes one or two Saturdays thereafter, but then clutter your apartment forever. Because God forbid you nab it in the stealth of the night in a fit of Marie Kondo cleanliness in order to donate elsewhere. Your child will intuitively sense its absence and ask after it for months to come. (Does this happen to anyone else? You literally never played with that octopus toy, Emory.)

Below, I am sharing good toys. Slow-burn toys. The toys my children play with constantly, nearly daily, even well after I presumed my elder three-year-old would have outgrown them. One common thread? All of them promote imaginative play and most can be repurposed for myriad contexts. (E.g.: The bilibos are used as bowls in a play restaurant, sleds for dolls, beds for mice, hats for everyone, rocks to leap over, etc. And that ball pit! The balls are used in our house for a play “chocolate shop” that mini routinely sets up in micro’s crib. They are also used to pelt parents, to swim in, to play various sports with, as oranges/fruit in a fruit stand, etc.)

I leave you with a roundup of my favorite toys–because they are my children’s favorite toys and have sustained many a long and languid afternoon.

GREEN TOYS TEA SET

JANOD DOCTOR SUITCASE

BATTAT PLAY FOOD (REALLY ANY PLAY FOOD WILL DO; THIS IS THE BRAND WE HAVE)

FIRST YEARS STACK UP CUPS

MELISSA & DOUG BROOM SET

MAILEG MICE AND ACCESSORIES

MELISSA & DOUG POTS AND PANS

FISHER PRICE ROCK A STACK (MINI USES THESE AS DOUGHNUTS IN SO MANY SCENARIOS)

DUPLOS

PICASSO TILES (OR MAGNATILES)

MOLUK MINI BILIBOS

PERCUSSION SET

PLAYGROUND BALL

FISHER PRICE LITTLE PEOPLE PLAYHOUSE

MELISSA & DOUG BALLPIT

WOODEN NESTING BLOCKS

SESAME STREET STORY TELLING BLOCKS (OR REALLY ANY SET OF WOODEN BLOCKS, BUT MINI GETS A KICK OUT OF SEEING FAMILIAR SESAME STREET FACES)

CRAYONS

SPATULAS AND MEASURING CUPS/SPOONS

I will also — hesitantly — add two light-up toys that have had shockingly long duration in our household, though you’ll note NONE of the above are battery-operated! (#Mindblown). Hill has absolutely loved this singing truck set since about seven months old. He plays with it every single day, multiple times a day. He loves placing the balls (or Little People, or play keys, or whatever) in the back, loves pulling the little string along, moving the lever. It’s for whatever reason a genius toy. The other is this v-tech phone, which I suppose should depressingly show us how much we prize our own phones. But both children absolutely love this toy! We have two, and they are in constant use. Mini loves to tuck hers into her “purse” and to pretend to call aunts, grandparents, parents, etc.

I shared some of my favorite organization gear for all rooms of the house — including toys in nurseries! — here, but these are really fantastic for things like blocks, play food, magnatiles, etc. I find that because they are easy to access, mini plays with them a lot more. I have been eyeing these forever for mini’s room — I think we might be at a stage where these would come in handy for keeping her Maileg mice and dress up clothes in particular separate bins.

Finally, I am still updating my roundup of indoor children’s activities! I am always on the lookout for new additions. A couple of you have written to ask questions about the dyed rice activity (#38), which was a big hit in our home, and I shared a few pictures of it on Instagram, too. I got a couple of the same questions in response to my Instastories, so thought I’d share some notes here:

+We have been using these trays whenever we do any activity, including the dyed rice, although these deeper ones would frankly be even better when you’re dealing with the rice (or waterbeads — yikes! those guys get everywhere!) to keep the mess contained. Still, the trays definitely work (though sweeping is necessary after).

+I buried this alphabet from a puzzle in the rice one day, and mini absolutely LOVED this activity. This set would be great, too (the numbers!), and they’re just excellent puzzles to have on hand in general.

+I have been using those little plastic egg dying cups that came with my Paas Easter egg dying set from Easter for all of mini’s projects/activities! They are cheap and I don’t care if they get stained with dye or whatever. However, they are pretty flimsy and I don’t expect they’ll last much longer. Just added these to my cart as a replacement and will continue to use them (and the trays) JUST for activities.

P.S. Children’s bedtime books I love and mini’s favorite books at around a year of age. Also, if you have a brand new baby and are looking for a fool-proof book for your child to fall in love with: Peek a Who. I have yet to meet a baby who does not love this book. Both of mine laughed out loud at it from a young age.

P.P.S. Traditional childrenswear under $31.

P.P.P.S. Unrelated, but — some musings on reading and real life.

14 Comments

  1. Yes to all of these (most of which we actually have – the only one we don’t have is a tea set, but it’s on my list). I pushed hard for open-ended toys as gifts for my daughter and they have stood the test of time while gratifyingly, nearly everything battery-operated has since found a new home due to lack of interest. We also liked bristle blocks also for younger kids, who want to stack/connect blocks but don’t quite get the concept of balancing or snapping together legos/duplos yet.

    1. Oh, good thought on the bristle blocks! Just added these to Hill’s birthday haul 🙂

      xx

  2. We have that truck, and my husband and I catch ourselves singing “I’m a powerful…DUMPTRUCK!!” to ourselves. Ha! Love all of these recs.

  3. Love the concept of “slow burn toys”. So many of these (tea set, doctor kit, play food, duplo, magnatiles and yes, cellphone) are best loved in our house too. We adore our Brio train set and add onto it with every birthday or holiday in the family. Our newest slow burn toy is great for kids 4+: crazy forts. It has translated to hours of independent play by my oldest and he currently sleeps in one of his forts most nights.

    1. I’ve seen those crazy fort sets — genius! Love that. And Brio trains! How could I forget?! We have a small starter set but Landon’s parents have boxes of them at home and they were so fun to play with over the holidays.

      xx

  4. Love these! And second the magnatiles comment. And our newest obsession is the learning resources counting bears for bear “soup” with measuring cups, bear bathes, sorting, counting, a bear parade (lines up all 102 bears), or I even use dot-to-dot markers and ask him to match them!

    1. Ooh YES! This is a good one — we have those, too, and Emory has loved playing with them in countless variations. We’ve also done the teddy bear bath AND parade!!

  5. My kids also love our play kitchen / food / accessories. I love seeing their creativity!

    We also love PlusPlus blocks (they are fun for adults too!). They come in a larger size for little ones.

  6. We have a 150 pieces of magnetic tiles and I’ll continue to add to the collection over the years. Endless opportunities! We are big fans of Grimms wooden toys. Started with the rainbow stacker and have slowly been adding on. Your micro may love Waytoplay roads in a year or two. My two boys love building little towns with them to roll their cars and trucks along.

  7. So many great ideas here! The VTech phone made me giggle — my mom bought it for my 1-year-old niece and gave it to her on a family road trip back in the fall, and we were crying laughing (on the edge of being driven insane!) as she repeatedly pressed certain buttons (with the cut-short phrases repeating on loop) … hahaha. Sounds like it’s more suited to a child mini’s age!

    In all seriousness, though, thank you for these awesome suggestions. Maileg mice and Magnatiles are among my favorite items to gift to nieces, nephews, and friends’ children, so I’m glad to know they make the cut!

    xx

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