Let me begin by justifying the timing of this post. Catalogues are coming thick and fast through letter boxes. Christmas decorations are waiting stealthily in the wings until November 1st when they will usurp the last of the Halloween tat on shelves. People are shopping. For those toys. In October. Toys that won’t see the light of day for another two months.
I won’t tell you about the bike I have in the attic for the past six weeks or the 20% I saved on Lego in September. That wouldn’t be endearing at all. I will, however, say this: the manipulation of tiny minds needs to happen soon. Now is the time to start planting the seed of desire for whatever item you want to buy (or, in our case, have already bought – nobody here has expressed interest in a bike. Yet.) When the idea has been floated and the bait has been snapped at, letters can be written, requests locked down and no-going-back contracts drafted. Now is the time to ramp up subliminal messaging.
So, with all this in mind, I have compiled a list of toys that my kids continually go back to; a list of battery-free staples. Here is the countdown of the top 5 toys that keep on giving, toys that aren’t just for, you know… Christmas. But shhhhh… it’s only October.
Santa always brings the brood new costumes. I don’t know why but it has sort of become a tradition. Can a kid have too many fancy dress costumes? I don’t think so. They provide a great distraction when the kids ‘aren’t having a good day’. On one of those afternoons when they are just not getting along and starting to resemble the spatting inmates of Lichfield, I’ll nonchalantly leave the dress-up box in the corner and before I know it Elsa and Woody will be harmoniously building a frozen cowboy-hut with blankets. Strangely, they become irresistible on play-dates. Fact: Kids love other kids’ dress-up boxes. A few decent costumes teamed with your old high-heels and cast-offs makes for many a happy afternoon. (We are big fans of Melissa & Doug costumes like the one featured above.)
One of my proudest purchases from a value-for-money perspective is an easel I bought pre-loved from a local buy-and-sell group on Facebook. It’s a easel with a chalkboard on one side and a magnetic whiteboard on the other. It was bought in Aldi (I think) but it takes the rolls of paper from both Ikea and Smyths; a big plus. This multi-functional treasure is used pretty much every day and was one of the best tenners I’ve ever spent. The colouring box is usually left within reach of the older two and you’ll often walk into find one of them mid-creation on either the paper roll or the whiteboard. Magnetic letters will be arranged into cutely misspelled words on the whiteboard and the chalk – as much as I hate the damn stuff – gets regular use.
3. Mini Kitchen
We have an Ikea play kitchen. It resides in our kitchen/diner permanently. We don’t have a playroom and our house is not big. I have, on many occasions, threatened to banish it to one of the bedrooms, it and all its tiny plastic food and miniature utensils. I have experimented with its location within our kitchen, moving it from one corner to another in futile attempts at gaining a few extra inches of living space. No amount of Feng Shui will make our house bigger. Despite my general disdain for the space it takes up, it remains part of our lives and there is rarely a day when you won’t be presented with a plastic plate of lilliputian vegetables or stumble upon Obe Wan Kenobi at at dinner party with Doc McStuffins.
2. Micro Scooter
Ain’t no scooter like a Micro Scooter. You will probably own at least two cheap scooters before you finally – begrudgingly – fork out the dough for the Micro. Is it really worth that money? Yes. Yes it is. Reassure yourself that you have done the right thing. The quality is great and they are light enough to carry while pushing a buggy, while drinking a coffee, while wearing a baby. Your children will reach frightening speeds and threaten to mow over the elderly on narrow footpaths. Passers-by will wonder what kind of a parent you are to put your children in such peril but your kids will have a BLAST! Good luck trying to keep up! (Tip: the Maxi grows with your child and the Mini does not. Otherwise there is very little difference. For that reason, it’s best to spend the few extra quid on the Maxi.)
Truly deserving of the number 1 spot, it’s hard to articulate the absolute awesomeness of Lego. Yes, a little part of me dies inside every time I hear the familiar ‘whoosh’ of the pieces hitting the wooden floor but the mileage you will get out of a couple of boxes of Duplo thrown into a large bucket can’t be disputed. Ours has about five years on the clock and the six-year-old plays with the bigger bricks as much as he does with his smaller sets. A smart investment. And every granny in Ireland has a box of old Lego from the 70’s under the stairs that’s as good as the day it was bought. Hardy and durable, this stuff will survive us all.
- Ride-ons. My two constantly argue over a little plastic, faded Thomas ride-on. Wiggle cars and Scuttle Bugs are big hits too.
- Dolls’ house. The size and shape doesn’t matter, as long as it has swinging doors and some furniture. You’ll find all sorts of diverse social groups mixing it up here. Princess Sophia will be lounging around on the couch while Iron Man takes a nap upstairs.
- Train-sets. There’s just something about train-sets that little boys can’t seem to get enough of. My girls love ours too. The less elaborate the better. You’ll be the one assembling it. Repeatedly.
- Car mats & cars. Cheap and cheerful, these come out time and time again.
- Figurines. Of any kind. We have boxes of the things from overpriced Disney princesses to Happy Meal Minions and they never fail to entertain.
What have I missed? What are your kids’ favourite go-to toys?