simple-living-with-children

10 Must Have Toys

Stephanie Chan

Children are infinitely imaginative. They could transform anything into a toy. So keep in mind that there are no “must have” toys, and don’t feel pressured to collect them all! Also keep in mind that less is more. More of a same type of toy is not necessarily better. Often time, it distracts and becomes clutter. So instead of spending money on multiple toys from the same category, invest in one that you truly love to create your dream toy collection!

Like Marie Kondo said, “now imagine yourself living in a space that contains only things that spark joy. Isn’t this the lifestyle you dream of?”

Of course!  Without further ado, the 10 kinds of toys you “must have”:

1. Plush (one will do!) – Children starting from the age of two would start to befriend their plush, and by three years of age, they would start taking care of them. They learn compassion, caring for others, practise social and language skills and build confidence. They also role-play to practise emotion management. Choose a plush that has no predefined personality or expression so that your child could fill in the blanks with his imagination. A plush could be a human doll, or an animal or even an imaginary creature. It does not really matter. The key is having a soft, baby-like toy for your child to bond with and care for. And one plush is enough. More does not make your child more compassionate or caring. Instead, more distracts and overwhelms your child and eventually lowers his interest.  

Ethan has a small Jellycat bunny, which serves him well.  I also love the dolls handmade by Ouistitine.  They even make a boy doll, which is AWESOME!  I wholeheartedly believe that little boys should play with dolls, too, so that they could learn to care for others and grow up to be compassionate men.

2. Blocks – An all time classic that grows with your children, sometimes into adulthood. Just look at how many adult Lego fans there are! Babies love to bang blocks together and gnaw on them. As they grow into toddlers, they enjoy stacking and building simple structures (and destroying them in the process). As they grow older, the complexity of their creation increases. It is worthwhile investing in some high quality block sets since they could be played with for many years, and even passed down for generations. Unlike other categories, I recommend having a variety of blocks, so that children could learn to work with different materials and build more interesting structures.  

There are many different kinds of blocks available on the market: interlocking, magnetic, see-through rainbow, mirrored, sensory (with beads, shimmering liquid, etc.) or just “plain old” wooden blocks. I’m still discovering new ones every now and then. Anyway, I have Tegu magnetic blocks and MOKULOCK and love them. Here are two others on my wish list: rainbow blocks (plain colours or mixed sensory), Grimm’s 12 pieces pastel rainbow stacker. I am still discovering new blocks now and then, and adding to my wishlist.  Let me know if you know of any good ones!  
Large MOKULOCKLarge interlocking wooden blocks by MOKULOCK

3. Balls – Even very young children enjoy playing with balls. I love these Malia Mu fabric knots that are easy for little hands to grab, soft enough to keep my furniture safe, and oh so trendy! They also look great as decorations on our sofa! I love it when toys are so beautiful that they could be displayed 24/7. I’m sure when Ethan no longer wants to play with balls, I would still have them sitting on my sofa just because they’re so beautiful.

4. Vehicles – Most children are fascinated by vehicles. Not just little boys… little girls are just as fascinated! One of the first words my son said was “che che” (car in Cantonese).  He even said it before he said Papa! (Sorry, hubby!) When choosing vehicles for children, go with really simple designs --- ones that have no logo, pattern, doors, passenger, etc. no sound, and won’t move on its own. Remember, the less your toy does, the more your child does. When given a little car that does nothing, your child will need to provide the sound effect, the motion and all other details. He gets to put his imagination and language skills to use.  I love Bajo wooden cars and planesPinch Toys is on my wishlist!

Wooden cars by Bajo.

5. Peg dolls and wooden animals – Once children have built their imaginary world with blocks, they would want to liven their world with different people and animals. This is where peg dolls and wooden animals come into play! If you are feeling crafty, then go ahead and paint your own. It could be a fun activity with your kiddos! But some of us prefer to buy (like me!), check out Pine & Peg and Little Forest Kids. I especially love the Little Forest Kids' rainbow dolls with dolls of different skin colour to teach children to embrace diversity, and the simple colour family by Pine & Peg is simply beautiful and timeless . Amanda at Pine & Peg also accepts custom orders, and could create mini version of your family! How cute is that?

For wooden animals, my favourite is Mielasiela. Their designs are so clean and cute!  Their wooden animals could also be stacked and played as a balancing toy.  Oh, I just love multi-purpose toys!

Wooden animals handmade with black alder wood by Mielasiela.

6. Art supplies – Let them freely express with paint, paper, brushes, etc. Ethan is only 14 months old, so I like to look for DIY recipes that are edible and natural (no artificial food colouring!)  There are lots of recipes on the internet, and here are some I have bookmarked: Easy Natural Edible Finger Paint by Beechnut, 2 Ingredients Homemade Finger Paint by Mommypotamus, and Homemade Watercolor Paints by Allparenting.

7. Silk scarves – Perfect for pretend play. Children can use play scarves as capes, dress, wings, the ocean, fort cover, etc, etc. Initially, I thought a baby swaddle would do, but silk is transparent and oh-so-light. Watching silk float through the air is simply mesmerizing!

8. Story books – Children love listening to stories. Stories help them understand the world and themselves, and enrich their vocabulary and imagination. I especially love books that are customized to my child. They make my child feel extra special! I have ordered some books from Wonderbly, and love them. I’m eyeing “Where Are You?” (it’s like Find Waldo, but your child finds herself!) for Ethan when he gets older!

9. Movement toys – Children like to move A LOT. And it’s healthy for them to do so. It’s great if you could bring them outside to play and move their body. However, let’s be honest, it’s not always possible! Sometimes we’ve got stuff to do. Other times, we just want to stay indoor. So, it’s nice to have toys that allow them to make big movements. Here are some items on my wish list: Wobbel board (the felt version to keep my hardwood floor safe from damage), Lillagunga wooden swing or an indoor hammock.  Got to convince my hubby to let me drill the wall before I could invest in one of the latter two!

10. Sensory Toys – Rice, pasta, beans, jelly, … in a container! I like to let Ethan “help out” in the kitchen and explore different ingredients. Just be sure to wash little hands thoroughly before and after. Ethan loves helping out with squishing bananas and eggs when making banana pancakes.  This DIY Moon Sand Recipe by Mommypotamus looks pretty easy and consists of all natural ingredients.  I am going to try it very soon!

Hope you find this list useful!  Feel free to comment below if you have any questions, comments or recommendations!  If you enjoyed this article, please like and share!  Thank you so much.  :)

With Lots of Love,

Stephanie xxx


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