I was recently having a conversation with a younger mum and commenting on how I could look back on the almost 12 years I have been a parent and identify plenty of toys I regret buying and some that I definitely don't regret buying. She asked me to write a list of those I didn't regret buying. So I've had a think about it and came up with this list.
1. Lego and Duplo
It's not necessary to have loads and loads of these toys (though one of our kids would happily be given lego for every birthday and Christmas present from every member of the extended family!), but all four of my kids have loved playing with these. Not only is it wonderful because of its durability (my mum and dad still have the stuff we had when we were kids), but it encourages imagination and co-ordination. There are some other construction toys and blocks we have also enjoyed, but I still think Lego/Duplo is my favourite in this category.
2. Wooden train set
A couple of our kids in particular have loved our wooden train tracks, but I also notice that most kids that visit love playing with our trains. We had a Thomas the Tank Engine enthusiast in the family so we ended up acquiring a lot of that brand, but the cheap IKEA ones are pretty popular too. They last well and appeal on a couple of levels - first there's the fun of making the track and then there's the fun of creating stories around the train set. Our son loved creating crashes, or acting out the Thomas stories he'd been read. Our youngest daughter tends to a more improvised style of story-telling, with lots of dialogue. Either way, it's fun!
3. A doll's house / garage / castle with little people / animals
We have had a couple of houses that the kids have enjoyed, but I've seen some great garages or castles which fulfill the same function. Often they can be expensive, which is where eBay is a blessing! I just bought a second hand one for an upcoming birthday for a fraction of the original price. I've found that (like the trains), these toys have been wonderful for imaginative play. I also like Little People sets for younger kids and Sylvanian Families for older kids for similar reasons.
A basic set of plastic animals also provides hours and hours of entertainment!
We've had two types: a bigger one that Dave made out of Koppers logs and (more recently) one of the plastic shell-shaped ones. Both have been great. The plastic one is smaller and less sociable, but one plus is that it is easier to keep the rain out (if you remember to keep the lid on!).
5. Good quality puzzles and games
Jig-saw puzzles and similar games are good for fine motor skills and problem solving, but some are better than others. Most of the ones sold at the educational toy shops (not the big chains) are pretty good; if you don't lose the pieces they last and last! They can be a bit expensive, so I look out for them in op shops and on eBay. We also try and swap with friends from time to time.
7. Basic sporting equipment
At times in our enthusiasm to initiate kids into this sport or that we went out and bought things that we didn't end up using much, so in hindsight we probably do regret some of the more specialised bits and pieces (e.g. the t-ball tee that broke the first time we used it, and the softball mitt that hardly got used at all). But a few decent quality, basic bits of sporting equipment (e.g. a soccer ball and a netball) can get used over and over and over again. We've also got tons of use out of the netball ring that we attached to the side of the house.
8. Bikes and scooters
I have found it was worth buying a decent bike for each stages (decent enough so that it isn't too heavy and has good balance and can then be passed down to the next kid). Scooters have also been a hit in our family. Both have the advantage of encouraging gross motor skills and helping the kids to stay fit. We've only recently bought our first balance bike, for for our youngest (we discovered them late!) and I highly recommend them.
When I asked the kids this question about toys we don't regret, my eldest immediately suggested the trampoline. I'm not sure if it counts as a toy, but he's right - I've been so glad we bought them a trampoline. They all use it every day without fail and it's so good for their general fitness levels. It's great fun too!
10. Doll, doll clothes and pram
A basic doll (nothing too fancy), some dolls clothes (I've been buying them off etsy lately for pretty reasonably prices) and a pram are also great toys. I'm keener on the baby-style dolls that you take care of than the Barbie-style dolls that you just dress and undress.
So that's my list of ten. I deliberately left off anything craft- or book-related as I would have ended up with a longer list. And things I do regret buying probably would number more than ten, I'm afraid.
What do you think? Any you would add?