As parents, we'd all like to stock our kids' toy box with good toys, right? And I think we all have some idea of what makes a good toy, and yet sometimes our kids end up with, well, not-so-good toys, e.g., the kind they play with once then break, lose, forget, etc.
So, I've chosen the toys on this list because they are fun, engaging and educational--in that order. Plus, they don't need a lot of adult supervision, at least after the initial set up and instructions. And that is something any parent can appreciate...but the work-at-home parent really needs.
When browsing this list keep in mind that some toys that may not be as good for kids at the younger end of the manufacturers' recommended age range are still, in fact, great for older kids. Click on the links to see more specific ideas for a variety of ages for each of these toys.
Building toys inspire the imagination. A child can create the toy that's in his or her mind’s eye and then play with it. Building toys are especially good because they span the ages. Babies can stack blocks, while even teenagers might still play with Legos (though they may not advertise that to their friends).
Train sets are like building toys in that you build and then play, but they have wheels. Something about wheels is absolutely irresistible to children. My personal favorite trains are the Thomas the Tank Engine sets because the trains have personalities. So they are like dolls…with wheels.
Maybe not everyone would classify fashion-related toys as good toys. And I don’t want to reinforce gender roles too much because I know from experience that many girls will play with trains and construction toys. But face it, there are a good many girls that won’t. The trick to long-lasting play is finding what inspires a child. And many girls (and perhaps some boys) are inspired by fashion.
Brainteaser toys and puzzles keep both kids’ minds and hands busy. While for most brainteaser toys kids should be around age 8 or so to be successful and engaged, younger kids can try puzzle books, which can be geared toward any age from toddlers to teens. I particularly like 100-piece jigsaw puzzles because they don’t take long to complete (thus not occupying your kitchen table for a week), but they can still be a challenge.
Listening to music--or playing it--can keep kids busy while you work. But to keep them from getting bored or frustrated (and your ears from splitting), you'll need to provide the right tools, which might include earphones, lessons or musical toys. You can give a toddler a xylophone, but don't expect music, right? Music lessons will provide the basis kids need to really entertain themselves musically. But while they're learning or if music lessons are more than you want to invest, encourage them to use educational music toys as a playthings.
Art Supplies and Kits
Art is a great way to keep kids busy. But art can be messy, and art can take adult supervision. So, choose your art projects carefully, and make a space for art in your home. Arts and crafts kits are handy in that they have all the things you need packaged together with directions. However, if you want your kids to work independently on an art kit, be sure they fall in the upper end of the maker's recommended age range.