Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Toys My Kids Love

What kid doesn't lust over a mini battery-powered Hummer? But even if they didn't cost more than my own real-life minivan I wouldn't get one because the kids would play with it for all of 15 minutes before boredom set in. Here's what's been successful with my kids--with an emphasis on budget--are there great toys you've discovered?

13. Rescue Heroes The boys loved these guys when they were younger, and I thought the names were a hoot (Willie Stop the police officer and pictured at left is Marshall Law). Perfectly sized for small hands, they stand up easily and come with moving accessories. Most are priced under $10, and I've even got them on sale for $7 with a bonus Rescue Hero cartoon video. Caution: don't get sucked into the big stuff like the aircraft carrier, I got one on sale for $30 (normally $70) and they hardly played with it. It's all about the figures.

12. Fashion Pollys Also a figure toy these are tiny plastic dolls with removable rubber clothes--sounds rather risqué I know, but they're great. Kids love tiny, girls love dressing things and these are perfect. They start at about $3.60 and Disney has a line that has been especially popular with our four year-old that is slightly more expensive (of course). Beware, they do break: heads pop off, normal wear and tear, but they last long enough to get your money's worth and then break, which is a great thing because if toys didn't break once in a while we'd be swimming in them.

11. Paper Airplane Books Spencer and David love their books and fancy paper for making airplanes. Simple, creative, instructive, what more could I want?

10. American Girls If you aren't already familiar with this mega-merchandising nightmare you must have spent the last decade lost in the desert. It's the dolls and the books and the clothes and the accessories and the vacation packages and . . . you get the idea. The dolls are $100 (gasp) and I hear people claim to buy them for their heirloom quality. To me, we buy toys for playing not for passing down so I refuse to pay that much for a doll. However, the stories are great and the girls love them so if she has to have one, go with the mini dolls (less well advertised because they want you to buy the big stuff) which are tiny replicas of the bigger models and come with tiny books. As I said, kids love tiny and though at $20 they're still a rip-off, at least you won't have to take out a second mortgage. Also, Grace used to get the catalog and cut up pictures and paste them on cardstock to make her own paper dolls. It kept her busy for hours. Just a thought . . .

9. Wood box My boys love to rip apart and to build, kind of a yin/yang thing, so we got Spencer a little tool box through Toys to Grow on ($30) and a box of wood pieces to build things with. We replenish the wood box from my Grandpa's garage where he always has pieces laying around. It's for all those MacGyvers-in-training out there.

8. Camping gear With four kids and so many relatives giving gifts it feels like my kids have too many things for their own good so I really enjoy giving them practical stuff such as camping gear. The kids love pretending with it when they're young and using it when they're older. We start with $5 mess kits at Walmart, headlights, rain ponchos, space blankets, camping pillows and camp stools then work up to sleeping bags, air mattresses and back packs. It's practical to have as emergency equipment for your family--you don't want to be caught in a winter power outage in Alaska without emergency gear.

7. Art supplies A Tupperware container filled with new crayons, glue, stencils, glitter, colored pencils, their very own scissors and markers are great for small kids. Older kids love books on how to draw things, drawing paper, pastels, fancy colored pencils, water color paints, even this fabulous easel Costco had on sale last year for $37 (with rebate) which I can't seem to find online now. Kids love creativity and having their own supplies.

6. Puzzles These are very popular. The young kids start with the 24 piece varieties, work up to 60, then 100. Now the boys love these puzzles from Tamagami that are colorful and interesting to look at and are hard enough to keep them occupied for many many MANY hours. Big bonus. They retail for about $7. If your kids aren't into puzzles, try sitting down and doing one with them, get them started with the border, hand them all the pieces for a specific area. They'll catch on and get into it.

5. Kid Knex This is another toy for younger children, the big colorful pieces are fun to put together, they come with buggy eyes and feet and are great for making tiny rocket ships. The price is right, most sets are under $15. They have Knex toys for older children (age 7-ish) and then for older children (10+) too. We have two different sets and the Kid Knex got more play time than the older kid set.

4. Books on tape My kids love having a child-sized portable tape recorder and books with tapes. They'll carry them around from room to room, listening to their favorite stories. Favorites include the Curious George series, anything Disney, Nice New Neighbors by Aliki and Bill Peet stories.

3. Dishes and pots and pans A big Tupperware container with dishes, wooden spoons, cookie cutters and teapots is her favorite toy. Kid Connection at Wal-Mart has reasonable prices (usually under $10) for various kitchen sets such as a toaster/blender combo or a stove top that really lights up and makes sizzling sounds. Now does it also make an authentic burning smell?

2. Games: Loot, Memory, Battleship, Clue, Monopoly The best games are cheap and have been around for ages. The children probably play chess more than anything but every once in a while I'll see a new card game that they like, like Loot Uno or Labyrinth. I just found a Pirates of the Caribbean version of Life which the boys will love. The original was fine, but with a pirate theme I see great possibilities.

1. Legos What could I say about Legos that hasn't already been said? Don't buy Legos. They're outrageously expensive. Go with Mega Bloks, a cheaper knockoff. You may find a Mega Bloks set that's expensive, like this Pirates of the Caribbean set (once again, thanks to Disney merchandising) but the basic sets are reasonable like this one.

More about the Thursday Thirteen meme.

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26 comments:

Izzy said...

We're currently in the midst of an American Girl doll fixation. I had told her she would have to earn one but her grandma up and bought her one. Now it's all the accessories which are sooo expensive. Fortunately, Grandma doesn't think $68 for a brass bead and bedspread are too much to spend. I will say, however, that compared to Bratz and MyScene dolls, AG stuff is so wholesome and age-appropriate. In that respect, it's worth it's weight in gold.

scribbit said...

True, you can't measure the value of a doll that doesn't look like a prostitute, right? Nowadays they are rarer than you'd think. Love the American Girl stuff, just not the price.

Anonymous said...

LEGOS!!!!

Gattina said...

OMG ! What a lot of toys, half of them I never heard about !

Carmen said...

i wondered what the kids were into these days. :)

Sanni said...

Thanks for sharing this very entertaining TT! A Buzz Lightyear for me, please =)


Happy TT from Germany,
S.

Anonymous said...

great list! My daughter loves American Girl too.. I do too actually.

Kukka-Maria said...

We LOVED playing with dishes when we were kids! Funny how I hate dealing with dishes now.

Heirloom dolls in little girls' hands. Funny. Plan on having their hair all fuzzed out in about 2 days. :)

Tug said...

KNEX & Legos...oh yes! I should own stock - LOL.

Happy TT!

Barbara H. said...

My youngest loved Rescue Heroes and paper airplane books and games. Unfortunately we didn't have any girls to explore American Girls stuff with.

Barbara H. said...

Oops -- for some reason my link didn;t work. My TT is favorite old movies.

scribbit said...

My kids have all loved Playhut tents and tunnels. You definately can spend a fortune, but some are under $30. There's something about hiding out in a tent, or crawling through a tunnel and if you throw in a flashlight, you'll have them occupied for hours. Ethan has never been interested in Legos much, but loves K'Nex. LIttle People have also been very popular in my house. They're so cute and fit nicely in their hands and never wear out. We even have some of the older ones, which they love to stick on their finger tips.

Isabel isn't quite into American Girl yet, but loves the catalogs. However, I'm nervous because they have that line of dolls now that are supposed to be "modern day" girls. They arent' too slutty, but I'm really nervous that American Girl won't be able to resist making a prostitute doll.

Carinne said...

OOps, sorry, I accidentally posted it as Michelle - don't know how that happened. The previous post was from me.

Anonymous said...

Having no kids, I only have to shop for nieces and nephews.

So, when I went shopping for Legos (yes, beat me now) for a family member, I was surprised to have the following conversation with a nameless toy store employee:

ME: Hi! Do you have any Legos starter sets for UNDER $80?
Geoffrey the Giraffe: NO! (Laughing)

One would think that they were making enough money from their $40 admissions at LegoLand in San Diego to give these things away.

Happy TT!

scribbit said...

Legos, ounce for ounce, are more expensive than most precious metals I would bet. And the way my boys lose them I won't buy the expensive stuff, unless it's the tiny party-favor $2 packs. Those can be fun for stockings.

Haley-O said...

Great gift ideas there! Thanks for the tips. :) the monkey LOVES her toy dishes -- especially her toy cutlery, which we discovered makes great real cutlery for her.... ;)

local girl said...

My daughter loves Polly Pockets. She has some cool clothes, too! I just wish they weren't so small. We keep losing the shoes!

Di said...

I miss those days! Everything on my kids' (11 & 13) lists is electronic and costs over $100. I think it's making me miss Teletubbies and Lego!

Susan said...

the camping gear one brought back huge memories - my dad had lots of old army and boy scout stuff (like mess kits and gear belts, etc.) that I LOVED strapping on or packing into a make-shift saddle bag to play with on our farm when I was little - I would disappear in the pastures for entire days playing Jane West with all my gear -- thanks for the trip down memory lane and thanks for all the comments on my blog over the weeks when I've been out of circulation a bit :) great TT!

Julie said...

Thanks for the helpful Christmas shopping ideas. We love K'nex around here almost as much as Legos. I'll have to check out the younger version K'nex sets.

Hooray for the old Little People! My favorite toy growing up. Luckily I saved a few.

KarenW said...

My son has always been a huge lego fan. He still is at age 15. Yes, they are expensive!

Lisa-Marie said...

Hey - I'm a frustated Mom at the prices of American Girl too. I love the doll just not the prices. I got so frustrated I started my own company to provide alternatives for American Girl clothes, furniture and accessories. For example our Brass Bed and bedspread cost $34.50 - HALF of what AG charges. Please visit us at http://www.dollsclothes-emilyrose.com.

Anonymous said...

Great list! I love the things you picked and it gave me some great ideas for gifts. I have a little boy who is obsessed with "dinner shows" on the Food Network who would love one of those Kid's Connections sets. I will be heading over there with the money from grandma tonight. I should also restock his craft supplies. What great ideas!

As for the American Girls, those are outragous. I have a friend whose daughter is into those. She took her to the store in Chicago, is doing a birthday party there, went and took her to the movie, got the doll clothes for Xmas, etc.. It kind of cracked me up at the time. I was making hair bows and selling them to my girlfriends. She actually asked if I could make some that would fit and go with Molly's holiday outfits. Whaaat? I guess I will find out when Emily gets a little older.

Again, thanks for the great ideas!!

Ballpoint Wren said...

We've got buckets and buckets of legos, and I got 90% of them at garage sales!

Some of them were scuzzy when I picked them up, so when I got home, I put them in one of those lingerie washing bags and send them through the washing machine and dryer. As good as new!

scribbit said...

Bonnie, you're a genius. I've used the dishwasher to clean some stuff too, but a lingerie bag. That's Noble prize material. :)

Hebe said...

We've got loads of lego and although it was good at first it has been overtaken by Gameboy and Playstation for my older ones. Lego Duplo though is worth every penny. It lasts for ever and they play with it for years. My kids tend to get another set each Christmas and it just builds up and each child (4 of them) has played with it and loved it.