December 15, 2018 — By Wendy Sachs

It happens a lot at the holidays- you pick out the hottest, most difficult to find toy and wrap it carefully. Once the child opens it, they play with the box more than the toy!

Children often want toys that are loud, expensive and tied to the newest or most popular television show. But those toys don’t have staying power and they aren’t always what is best for a young one.

Play is the work of the child. So choosing toys with a little more thought is important. It’s also great to choose toys that grow with your little one and that can be used in multiple ways.

Good blocks are a staple. It starts with wooden blocks and can move on to other building materials toys such as one of our favorites, MagnaTiles. Building structures and making them fall can engage children of all ages, helps them explore cause and effect, reinforces mathematical concepts and can be used by larger groups of children so it is a social experience. It might seem that one small set of blocks or tiles is enough, but having a few sets so the structures can get complex and the groups of builders can have plenty of materials makes building even more fun.

Prop toys like pots and pans, play food, play tools and dress ups are essential for encouraging and extending imaginative play. Don’t get sucked into the gender roles for these. Look for items in neutral colors and feel free to provide dresses for boys and fire hats for girls. Kids like to play out different roles!

Having a good supply of art materials is a fantastic idea. It should be available and in a good place so that kids can access easily. Consider setting up a low table in the kitchen with an abundance of paper, crayons, and maybe even play dough for little ones. Add in safety scissors, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and glue sticks as they get older. Having the materials ready for action promotes the idea to kids that art is a great way to express your thoughts and process feelings. It also allows them to be creative whenever the time strikes. Here to hoping it strikes while you are prepping dinner!

A good set of plastic or wooden toy animals grows with your child. And you can use these later to help with ideas like sorting, comparing and counting. At first your baby may just put these in the mouth (make sure they are big enough to not be a choking hazard) as you name each animal. But later they will use them to act out stories, build homes for them or create whole worlds.  (yes that really is what kids love!) and anything with wheels!

One of the best sites for great toy ideas is Fat Brain Toys. Here you can search by age and also by interest. They do not carry many licensed items and they have many toys and games for all ages.