It’s that time of year, when many of us are trying to clean out and re-organize our children’s toys and games after the holidays. With four kids, birthdays close to Christmas, and generous grandparents, our family has quite a pile of toys to manage.
We know this is a good problem to have, but we also know we have to pare down, organize, and get rid of many once precious playthings in favor of our sanity and available storage space.
That said, there are some toys I won’t throw out. These toys have staying power. They have made the “you can stay” cut year after year after year – 13 years to be exact.
So, in my 13th year of parenthood, in a home with children of both genders ranging in age from an almost-toddler to newly-christened teenager, here are 13 toys I’m NOT throwing out with a brief explanation of why they stay.
This was an easy first choice. This toy is so well-loved and versatile I will save it for my future grandchildren. Sometimes it carries food for purchase in our imaginary grocery store. Other times it transports blocks to a designated building location. It’s been known to hold books for check-out in our pretend library. It is tough as nails, surviving several trips up and down the stairs and even provides storage for smaller toys in a pinch.
I wish I could throw these away! Every parent knows the intense pain associated with stepping on one of these creative plastic pieces in the middle of the night with a bare foot; it’s enough pain to make us question why we became parents in the first place. And still, we just can’t quit Legos! They entertain kids of all ages for hours. Heck, they still entertain my husband for hours! While sets with specific instructions have become popular lately, my kids still take the liberty of combining pieces to come up with new and unique creations. The applications of this toy are almost limitless and Legos, in one form or another, always end up on our kids’ Christmas lists.
I had an Usborne book shower for both my oldest and my youngest child. I’m not exaggerating when I say I can barely tell which board books were gifted to us thirteen years ago and which ones we were given just a few months ago! These books are made to last, and they are just as great to read to a baby as they are in supporting little ones’ earliest attempts at independent reading. My big girls love reading them to their little brothers.
This toy might be a little more limited in terms of play options, but my creative kids have cut fruit for hungry space aliens and famished LOL Surprise Dolls alike. Housed in my oldest son’s room now, when this toy comes out he’s never playing alone for long. It’s also a hands-on method for introducing the concept of fractions.
I have affectionate memories of playing this game with my brothers when I was growing up and have watched my kiddos pull out this classic on a hundred rainy afternoons. It’s simple enough for non-readers but creative enough to pull in my older kids. My children have several variations beyond the conventional directions and often keep the completed cooties out to use in other creative play endeavors.
Every kid wants to be a superhero at one time or another. It’s easy to put on, easy to clean, and it has provided hours of super play and an easy Halloween costume for my children of both genders. In fact, when this cape surfaces, there is usually some arguing about who will get to wear it first.
The creators of this toy got it right! They tied the drumsticks to the drum for the love of all things convenient. This not-too-annoyingly loud drum has ushered in the new year, alerted us to a punchline or two, and assisted in many Todd family dance parties all while looking no worse for wear. This guy is likely heading to the future grandparent storage box.
Animals are universally loved by my entire crew. I have moved this toy from one kid’s room to another for the last 13 years. Theodore will inherit this set soon, but he will have lots of siblings interested in playing alongside him. The animal sounds still work and additional animals are still available in the toy aisle if I want to add to the set.
These didn’t exist when we first became parents, but when they finally did join our toy stash they were an instant hit! Believe me when I say our three oldest kids have had hours of fun with these 3-dimensional wonders. The baby is already attracted to the colorful shapes and reaches for them often.
Trains were a big part of our toy box before we had boys. Long before we inherited my now- grown nephew’s train table, my kids had hours of fun with these versatile wooden wonders. While they were never big fans of the show, my kids know the names of these guys based on their numbers, colors, and attributes. Adding the table has brought an entirely new platform for discovery.
So this may seem like an oddity on this list and in some ways it is. It’s electronic, is attached to a TV character, and has lots of parts that would be easy to lose. I still won’t get rid of it and here’s why: we are still using the same Potty Elmo I bought for my oldest when she turned two, and when this guy comes out to play, it means someone is getting serious about potty training. My three oldest kids affectionately remember learning about cause/effect relationships from Mr. Elmo, and we all like having a fun way to introduce potty training to the youngest member of the family.
The brand barely matters here. While typically purchased for babies, all of my children have enjoyed the simple concept of figuring out new and unique ways to nest and stack cups of various sizes well into their preschool and school-aged years. They work well in the bath and have just enough novelty that the kids are motivated to keep all the cups together for the best play possible.
Last but not least I had to include a toy that hasn’t changed much since we were kids. A toy that has been in homes for many years. The classic Mr. Potato Head. My kids have fashioned this oddball spud into a million different formations. Even when a piece or two goes missing, creative play can still ensue. Mr. Potato Head earns extra points with my preschool-aged son who gets a big kick out of the fact that the body parts store conveniently in the toy’s bum.
Watch out toys, the rest of you are fair game for resale, regifting, or the recycle bin. This veteran mom has seen lots of fad toys come and go but has learned the value of holding on to a few classics year after year.
What classic toys would you add to this list?
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