Thursday 10 April 2008


One of the things I spend lots of time doing is picking up toys. Last thing at night, as soon as I get home and constantly in between despite exhortations of “you played with it, you put it back” and “we put one back before we take the next one out”. My kids seem to have learnt the art of selective hearing from my grandmother.

Many of the toys I see sold in shops and indeed given to my children take up space in my house, yet don’t seem to benefit my children at all. These include a clutch of Barbie’s, a medley of McDonald’s give-away toys and assorted pound-store toys which assuredly could not have passed the Kite Mark or Lion Mark (British toy standards).

You can see the difference in toys that are made with the child’ s learning and enjoyment and not profit in mind, and hand-made and wooden toys particularly stand out in this regard.

I am acutely aware that some children in this world do not have the luxury of good toys, or even any toys and that many of my generation, as the children of struggling immigrants and those older did not often have many toys to play with this – to what extent did this hamper our development? I would say not at all as there is nothing more playful than a child’s imagination.

Saying this, when we do buy our children toys I think we should be a bit more picky. Many of the educational theories (including the Waldorf and Montessori methods) focus on the quality of toys as learning tools.

The toys that I particularly like are those that are simple and encourage the children to be active – a simple rag doll dragged around and babied seems better for role-play than a hi-tech crying, drinking, wee-ing super-doll which you just sit and watch.

The following are the best toys I have come across for learning, role-play, creativity and physical development:

Lego (voted the world’s best toy), Stickle-brix (I bought some for my girl when she was little and they are still being played with) or Mega Blocks – depending on the childs age.
Box of Beads (for older children)
Cardborad Boxes, egg cartons, cereal boxes
Instruments. I am fairly conservative when it come to music, as I take a fairly traditional approach, but I don’t percussion-type instruments like shakers (although Little Lady has asked for a guitar which I am not too keen on)

Rag-doll or simple doll
Dolls-house – I’ve always wanted to have a go at making one and I am keeping an eye out for just the right-sized box. If I do get round to it, I’ll put the project pictures up for people to see.
Your old clothes, shoes, scarves and dress jewellery for playing dress-up
A clothes-line tent. Just drape a big old sheet over you clothes line and ties the ends to rocks. When I was little we used to put the sheep over the back of a sofa and all get in. Kids love hidey-holes.

Scrap paper, crayons, pencils.
Board games
Magna-doodle type toy
Jigsaws (for the really creative, this is something you can make with your children)
Meccano for bigger kids
Skipping Rope­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
Kite – again something that’s fun to make as well as play with.
Swings, slides and roundabouts are good too, but that’s what the park is for.

I like the fact that none of these classic toys are too expensive or hi-tech and most already exist in people’s houses. My only condition for any of these would be that they should be lots of fun. One that doesn’t fit into any of the above, but is great fun and cheap is bubbles:

For those on a budget, it can be difficult to buy the good quality toys that Montessor mentions. The following guides might be of help:

Cheap Toys For The Frugal Family
How to Make Toys From Trash
Inexpensive Toys My Kids Love


  1. L agree with you! I had most of toys you list on such as for creative and learning. I'm always keep the cereal box, egg cartoon and etc. Also paper, crayon and colour is such a great learning toys for children..

    Great post.

  2. Is this my mom? and my mom are so alike...she owns a daycare so she does all of this stuff... and picks toys in accordance to the kids level....

    p.s. Inshallah I become a good mommy like you.... if I do I will become Happy Muslim Mama (hint: happy to be muslim )