Many children’s toys have one or more of the following problems:
1. They’re expensive.
2. They contain lots of plastic. (Not to mention the plastic in the packaging.)
3. They require batteries.
4. They don’t encourage imagination. (They tend to be gimmicky, which makes them easy to advertise, but causes kids to tire of them quickly.)
My kids are 16 and 19 now, and their “toys” tend to be things like iPods and cell phones, but I still remember the many flashy, gimmicky toys that were easy to advertise, but the kids tired of quickly.
And I also remember the kinds of toys that I felt good about because they didn’t have the problems listed above. They tend to be classic toys that stand the test of time. In fact, I kept many of those toys for the young kids that visit our house occasionally to play with and for the grandkids I will possibly have someday. These are the kinds of toys that don’t end up in landfills.
So with that in mind, here is my list of the top five children’s toys that are light on the wallet, easy on the environment, and/or will stir your child’s imagination.
Blocks – When my kids were small I bought an entire crate of wooden blocks at a garage sale for $5. They played with them over and over and over. They often combined them with other toys, like Lincoln Logs and Legos, to create buildings and cities and, frankly, who knows what.
Books – Books take up little room and can be found inexpensively at garage sales or online. And they’re one of the few “toys” that can be borrowed for free and returned when you’re done by using the library. I honestly don’t think you can start reading to kids too early. And hopefully, they’ll develop a love of reading that will continue the rest of their lives.
Play Kitchens – Kids like to imitate what they see the adults around them doing, which is why play kitchens are so popular. I’ve seen plastic play kitchens that rival those in a real house, but my favorites are still the ones that are made out of wood. And you can “stock” your child’s kitchen with your castoff pots and pans, wooden spoons, and empty food boxes.
Dress Up Clothes – A big box of dress up clothes can keep a child or group of children busy for hours. And the box can be filled inexpensively with old Halloween costumes, dance costumes or mom’s prom dresses.
Wooden Trains – This is another one that can keep a kid busy for hours. You can start with a small wooden set, and if your child takes to it, add on from there. We can thank Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends for making this old school toy popular again.
A note about safety: With old toys and used toys, you have to be especially vigilant about things like small parts, loose parts, and lead paint. If you have any doubts about the safety of a toy, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
What children’s toys would you add to this list?
In 2006, Julie hired herself to save her family money, make some extra money, and pay down debt, all while living a fulfilling life. She blogs about her experiences at The Family CEO.