Over the past three years, since Annie was born, I have noticed a trend I like to call, “toys are the devil, get rid of them all.” Articles here, here, and here all promise that ridding your home of toys is akin to magic. If there are no toys, your kids’ imagination will reign free! Instead of whining, they will play make-believe and pretend the carpet is a crocodile lake they must be rescued from. Or maybe they will pretend to make you food or complete a puzzle (if they can find all the pieces).
The truth? I bought into it. At least a few times I year I am desperately cleaning out our toy bins trying to rid our home of all these tiny little toys that take up too much space and not enough of the girls’ time.
I have gotten rid of fake food, neglected stuffed animals, toys with missing parts, puzzles with missing pieces, and even books that we never read. And yet, our house is over run with toys. It’s a never ending battle, fighting that clutter.
What my decluttering attempts have shown me are the toys the girls actually play with. Each time I attempt to get rid of toys, I am forced to really think back to if this toy has recently been used/loved/adored. And what I’ve found is that there are a few toys in our house that have stood the true test of time; these are the ones that were worth the money and then some.
Here are the top five toys that have worked in on house, ones that during my frantic cleaning binges, I have never even considered throwing away.
Little Tykes Play House
Annie received this Little Tykes play house as a gift when she was born. Once she could actually sit up and move, she used it for almost a year and Claire has done the same. Not only that, but when we have friends over to play it’s the first toy they gravitate towards. Claire loves climbing in and out of the house using the slide and opening and closing the door. They don’t even seem to mind that we accidentally put some of the stickers on upside down #oops.
Next on the list is a toy that is on everybody’s list in the history of adored children, magnatiles. We received them as a gift when Annie was born and they have proven to be the toy that holds Annie’s attention more than anything else. We build rockets, houses, birthday cakes, castles, and more. And when we’re done? Claire loves nothing more than to bulldoze them to the ground.
Melissa and Doug Water Wow
As a parent, one of the lessons I learned the hard way was if you’re going out to eat, you better have 5,000 tricks in your bag to keep children quiet. The Melissa and Doug Water Wow books are my secret weapon. Annie can play with these for almost an entire meal. The trick is, I don’t let her have them all the time, only once in awhile. That way, she’s excited to see them again and plays with them for way longer. They are also very useful on airplanes and long car rides. (As are these.) While Claire is a bit young for these, she has spent quite a few minutes trying to put the pen back in the cover. I’ll call that a win.
An amazing artist, Annie is not (yet), but she loves to paint. For her third birthday we received the very wonderful gift of really good quality art supplies. Using these supplies is by far Annie’s favorite activity. She uses them at the art table we have in the play room, at her little table and chairs she has in her room, and I now give these dot markers to all children whose birthday parties we attend (I usually pair it with this book). They are fairly neat and hold the kids’ attention for what feels like a really long time (but is probably only 10-15 minutes). Annie has also really liked these paints, but they are much messier.
Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Makeup Mirror
If you haven’t noticed, most of these toys are geared towards Annie. Claire mostly just follows Annie around anyway, but there is one toy she seems to really love. Since she’s a second child, it’s an Annie hand-me-down, and was equally popular with Annie when she was just a babe. This makeup mirror is especially handy for when the girls were sitting but not crawling yet. They love the way it lights up, plays music, and has parts you can pick up and put back.
And there you have it, our five favorite toys. They aren’t those beautiful wooden toys that stimulate the brain and look beautiful on open shelving, but they do their job. My girls love them, they keep them entertained, and I haven’t had the urge to throw them away (yet).