This may be the greatest toy list I've ever seen.
Being a person who has to shop for 6 kids who are 10 and under this Christmas, I have been browsing the limitless amount of toys that are available. It's a bit annoying. That's why this list strikes a chord with me. Of the childhood toys I had, I think the following ones held the most weight.
Thanks to Wired.com magazine for this Top 5 Best Toys Of All Time List.
Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys (both from this list and otherwise) to perform even more functions.
Stick comes in an almost bewildering variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without too much of an investment. You may want to avoid the smallest sizes — I’ve found that they break easily and are impossible to repair.
Talk about planned obsolescence. But at least the classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don’t have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or just using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in Florida.)
Although she is not generally known as a toy expert, Antoinette Portis has written this helpful user manual for those needing some assistance in using their Stick.
Pro: Finally, something that does grow on trees.
Con: You could put someone’s eye out.
Another toy that is quite versatile, Box also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and size you have, Boxes can be turned into furniture
or a kitchen playset
. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots
or create elaborate Star Wars costumes
. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure.
Got a Stick
? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.
Pro: Best celebrity endorsement: Calvin & Hobbes.
Con: Paradox: what do you put Box in when you’re done playing with it?
Use String with two Cans for a telephone (and teach your kids about sound waves), or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You’ll need String for certain games like Cat’s Cradle — there’s even an International String Figure Association for lots more information. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun — try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you’ll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String
(commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around.
Although you can buy String at a store, it’s generally sold in much larger quantities than your children will probably need — usually my kids are happy with roughly two or three feet of it. I actually have no idea where it comes from, because I don’t remember buying them any, so it must be pretty easy to come by.
Pro: It really ties everything together.
Con: There’s a reason “no strings attached” is a benefit.
4. Cardboard Tube
These are kind of like the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks — they come free with a roll of paper towels and other products but you have to wait until you get to the end of the roll before you can finally claim the toy. (Perhaps this explains why my kids — who love the small size — go through toilet paper so quickly.)
The small- and medium-sized are most common, but the large versions that come with wrapping paper can be more difficult to obtain — I had a roll of Christmas wrapping paper that lasted about three years before my kids finally got the Tube. There’s also an extra-large size that is sometimes sold with posters, and a super-sized industrial version which you’ll generally only find from carpet suppliers. (Of course, carpet stores aren’t toy stores, and while their product also goes by the name Cardboard Tube it’s hardly the same thing and probably shouldn’t be considered a toy.)
Pro: Comes free with purchase of toilet paper, paper towels, and wrapping paper.
Con: Doesn’t hold up to enthusiastic play.
When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. At some point I picked up an interest in cleanliness and I have to admit that I’m personally not such a fan of Dirt anymore — many parents (particularly indoor people like me) aren’t so fond if it either. But you can’t argue with success. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There’s just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it.
First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you
. It’s even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.
So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it’s great for digging and piling and making piles. We’ve got a number of outdoor toys in our backyard, but my kids spend most of their time outside just playing with Dirt. Use it with Stick
as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn’t I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and — presto! — you’ve got Mud!
Pro: Cheap as dirt.