Sunday, October 24, 2010

Elementary Age Toys

As the gift giving season rolls around again, I thought I would share some toys that have been very popular in our house. I don't like "fad" toys. You know, the ones that are here today and gone tomorrow. The ones people stand in line for hours to buy the day after Thanksgiving only to have the child put them aside by New Year's Day. I'm not a big fan of electronic toys either. We do own a few remote control vehicles (which my boys love) and a Wii, but for the most part our kids spend their time interacting with things they can build with, design, use their imagination, etc. While the Wii is fun for a our Family Fun Nights, it's the toys below that my kids pull out almost on a daily basis.

My favorite toys are construction toys or toys that can be put together in different ways. Nothing holds a child's attention more than something they can create themselves and do differently the next time. Many of our favorites are classics that have stood the test of time. We enjoy Legos, Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs at our house. I recently went downstairs to discover that my 10, 12 and 14 year old daughters had constructed a Lincoln Log village.

My girls have also enjoyed this geodesign board and pixel blocks. Both of ours are from Discovery Toys, but neither are currently available. I found a wooden geoboard I like a lot (and may replace ours with it) at Hearthsong.

Pixel blocks are tiny cubes that can be stacked to make 3-D creations or attached horizontally to make a picture. They come in many different colors. Here the girls made lots of different pictures and attached them like a patchwork quilt. One of their most amazing designs was a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I found a set similar to ours at Amazon.

Everyone likes Wedgits. (Ours had been put away for awhile. When I got them out to do this post, the kids literally fought over who was going to play with them first. ) Wedgits are both a construction toy and a puzzle. On the most basic level it is a construction toy. My 18 month old can stack them, knock them down and stack them again. My 3 and almost 5 year old can build purposeful towers in a multitude of ways. The Wedgits set comes with a set of cards for the older children. Each card has a picture of a figure the child is supposed to replicate. The cards are labeled according to difficulty. The easier ones are straight forward however the higher levels are more challenging and require thinking "outside the box" in order to recreate the shape.

Kathryn (almost 5) built this tower.

Will (7) and I worked on this card. It's not as easy as it looks!

We like puzzles. Traditional 100-500 piece puzzles are a favorite with Ravensburger being our preferred puzzle maker. I often buy them on eBay. We also enjoy puzzles that must be solved. Rush Hour has been enjoyed by several at our house. It comes with plastic cars and a set of cards. On one side of each card it tells you how to arrange the cars on the board. The object is then to get the red car out. If you aren't able to solve it, or need help, the solution is on the back.

Playmobil is another favorite company. Their products have provided my children with many hours of enjoyment setting up scenes and acting out stories. Last year we gave the castle set to all of our children as a shared Christmas present. Even my then 13 year old was thrilled. The one thing I don't like about Playmobil is all the tiny pieces. I sometimes get tired of the tiny guns, flashlights, small basket of carrots and even cuffs for some outfits that I find lying around. I try not to vacuum them up, but I must admit I have done it on more than one occasion. We try to keep each set sorted into different boxes. This is a job I definitely leave to the kids, because I have no idea if a particular sword belongs to a knight, a pirate or a Roman soldier!

Hayley (10) purchased this small house/barn with money she received for her birthday. If you aren't familiar with Playmobil, this should give you an idea of how small the pieces are but also how detailed your scene can be. Playmobil is pricey but well made. We've made several Playmobil purchases from eBay and even found sets at yardsales.

Even older girls still enjoy dolls. When our girls are 7, they may select one of the large 18" dolls. So far we have Kirsten and Samantha from the American Girl Company and Liberty from Vision Forum. My girls have really enjoyed these dolls and the books about them. Ashley (at 14) still has Kirsten in her room. I suspect she will be retired to the attic in another year or two and carefully saved until she can giver her to here own daughter.

Will is a University of Tennessee fan. When he was 5, we gave him a set of Football Guys in UT uniform for his birthday. He has enjoyed them immensely. We have since add the Hockey, Baseball and Soccer Guys to our collection. I rotate our children's toys from time to time to keep them "new", however these sports figures have remained on the shelves since they were received. One of the boys will often get them out when watching a game on TV to recreate what's happening. I've also seen them be creative by putting baseball cards or their Safari animals on the field/rink.

Several years ago Will started collecting animals from Safari. At first I though they were cute but didn't really see them as being a toy that would get a lot of attention. Boy was I wrong. Luke (9) and Hayley (10) have joined in collecting them and I think someone in our house plays with them almost everyday. I've seen them do normal things like set up a zoo and strange things like create 2 teams of animals to play football! These animals are well made with good attention to detail. The picture below shows a small sampling of our current collection.

So now you've seen what's popular at our house. We've owned our share of toys that have lots of lights, sounds and talk to you, but they don't tend to be the ones the children go to time and time again. Toys that allow them to use their imagination and their own creativity seem to be what make successful toys at our house.

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