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Toys My Kids Played with for Years

Best Toys Worth the Money

I have always lived in small spaces with my family.  Baby 1 lived in a 550 square foot, one bedroom apartment and two parents.  Baby 2 lived in an 1100 square foot condo with baby 1 and two parents.  Now my family of 5 lives in a small house.  I still find it necessary to purge toys at least four times a year.  In fact,  as a rule, I find that for every incoming toy, there must be an outgoing one.

If I knew then what I know now, I would NOT have picked 80% of the toys that I bought.  Instead, I would have saved up for this short list of  toys.  Another idea is to have a wish list that close family friends and relatives contribute towards.  At the end of day, toys that stand the test of time are actually less expensive on a “cost per play” basis than a toy that gets purged within the year.

I welcome your ideas of investment toys that you thought were worth the money!

1) Favorite Toy Kitchen

Hands down, I found that simpler is better.  This kitchen is more fun, more creative, more versatile and has great storage to boot.  Her favorite toy kitchen came used from a preschool but you can buy it new from Community Playthings Yes, it is crazy expensive but it lasts and lasts.  If I were to only buy one piece, I’d buy the stove ($225).  If you can get two pieces, the second piece I’d suggest is the sink.

These toys really do last.  When I got our kitchen (stove, sink and hutch) from a preschool, the kitchen set  was probably at least  25 years old.  After a quick clean up, it was as good as new.  My kids played with it non-stop for 5 years, and then donated it to another preschool where it will have another 50 years of life, no doubt.

Community Playthings best wooden kitchen sink toy for girls boys kids children PragmaticMom Pragmatic Mom

2) Favorite Blocks

Again, Community Playthings is the “go to” source for large, heavy blocks that can be turned into anything your child imagines.  I bought two sets of blocks (hollow blocks and mini-hollow)  in lieu of putting her kids in camp six summers ago and the kids still play with these blocks now.

I don’t own the unit blocks but her kids play with them non-stop at preschool.  They are great too.

Community Playthings blocks PragmaticMom Pragmatic Mom best blocks for kids children

3) Favorite Building Toy

I learned about these gems on a playdate:  Translucent Magna Tiles.  You can buy them online at amazon or find them in a local toy store.   They are pricey at around $120  for the 100 tile set, and sadly, 100 tiles isn’t quite enough.  Two sets are much more versatile.  But this toy is amazing.  The tiles snap together magnetically to create anything from a castle to a disco floor.  My preschool uses them with a light table so that kids can stack tiles to learn about combining colors.  That’s fun but a light table is NOT coming into my house!

4) Cash register, $40.37.   We had to buy more play money and the yellow piece keeps getting lost that my kids still play with this!

5) Melissa and Doug cutting food box, $16.30.  My kids love this toy and we still have all the pieces after more than 4  years!

6)The plastic picnic food and the fruit and vegetable set all work really well with the kitchen set.  These sets  from Learning Resources cost about $22.99 each and were worth every penny!

7) My kids STILL are playing with the toy blender ($20.66)  and mixer ($20.85) but now they are mixing their own concoctions and drinking them.

8) Razor Scooter ($28.50).  We have three and it never seems like we have enough especially when friends are over.  Just make sure everyone wears a helmet and label your scooters because ours always seem to get mixed up with our neighbors!  They come in different colors as well.


9)  iPod Touch ($179.99).  My girls received the iPod Nano last year for Christmas and I have to admit that it’s been well utilized all year.  They don’t mind watching movies on the small screen which meant we didn’t have to lug portable DVD players on vacation.  They want the iPod Touch…but we’re not upgrading just yet.

The gadget to the right of  the iPod is called the Cinemin Swivel Multimedia Pico Projector.  At $305, it’s pricey, but I put it next to the iPod because you use it with your iPod to project movies onto walls.  My middle daughter got it recently for Christmas, and she has been using it non-stop.  It’s a cool gadget, but expensive.

10) Nintendo DS ($149.99).  My girls had earned a DS a few years ago by completing a complete workbook during the summer (bribery works!).  Their little brother got one for his 4th birthday and our neighbor’s son, two years over, came running over after perusing our recycling bin saying, “he can’t have a DS yet; he’s too young!”  Be it as it may, my son does know how the use his DS.  My mom friend said her son loves the video feature in the new models.

While my kids all like their DS and play on them frequently, they are not addicted to them.  They are much more addicted to TV.  I bought a few educational games like Spanish and a vocabulary game and just last night, my oldest was saying how much fun the Spanish game is.  Go figure!  We do have piles of DS games that they don’t seem to use anymore.  I hear that I can sell them or trade them in somewhere.  Here’s the link for that.

11) Mini Kick Scooter.  My sister in California gets the cool stuff.  She raves about this.  Similar to the Razor scooter but requires less balancing as it is 3 wheeled.  Goes about as fast as a Razor Scooter she says! $80.

12) Pogo Stick

We’ve tried all the different pogo sticks and this is the best one for kid, at least, that’s what my kids say. The same brand in the larger size is too stiff for my 6th grader to jump on. She can use this one though. As can my 1st grader.

13) Rip Stick

Another great way to keep kids moving but remember to make sure they wear their helmets!

14) Snow Sled

It took us about 5 kinds of sleds before we found the right one for kids who can sled without an adult sitting with them. This sled is light so your child can carry it without assistance, a real bonus when trudging uphill! This particular one has double handles so it can be used as a single or double.

To view any item more closely at Amazon, please click on image of item.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Love your toy picks and thoroughly agree – our play kitchen was expensive but my children played with it for years and just two years ago we gave it to a friend whose grandchildren visit weekly. Cash register, blocks, play food and scooter were also tops in our house. I am now looking into the projector – thanks for the gadget advice. If only I could purge as well as you do!

  2. Thanks for this list. We are always searching for quality toys.

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I am glad you can learn from my mistakes! It’s funny … if I had just bought these toys from the get go, I wouldn’t have spent oodles of cash on toys that went in and out of my house in a flash! Oh well, you live and you learn (the hard way!).

  3. My son has the minikick and I would say it requires LESS balancing. My son is five and still refuses to pedal a tricycle…. can go about two feet on a Razor before biting it… but can go miles and miles hauling butt on the minikick. Great for those children who are not big on the motor skills.

    • My sister raved about the mini-kick but I heard about it too late for my kids. It has three wheels like a trike, right? So that makes sense that it requires less balancing than a Razor. Thanks for pointing that out! I wish I know about it earlier; I would have gotten them for my kids as toddlers.

  4. These are great- I suck at buying toys- I mean I have major toy anxiety when I am in the aisles and ALWAYS end up buying the worst toy imaginable.

    • To CraftWhack,
      If I could show you the number of toys that I’ve bought and thrown out, you’d think I was completely nuts. I wish I had only bought these toys but I have to say that it was a lot of trial and error to figure out what my kids actually played with. Sadly, 90% of the toys we owned did not fit that category!

    • To Craftwhack,
      By the way, I wanted to mention how much I truly enjoying your blog. You are SOOO funny and I always look forward to your posts. They make me laugh! Thank you! Still not sure what a craftwhack is though…clearly, I need to do more research!

  5. The mini scooter rocks! My children loved that thing.
    Oh–the balance bike made by Skuut. Both of my children learned to ride a bike without ever having training wheels, and all because of Skuut.
    When my oldest son was two, his favorite treasure was a child-sized wooden broom, which he called his “fweeper.” He loved it above all other toys.
    And playmobil figures. Just when I think they’re out of vogue, they come raging back.

  6. Ann

    Not sure how I missed this post… Great one! My daughter would love the mini appliances, my nephew had the cutting board – also fun for adults, and intrigued by the acrylic building tiles (I think I would want those for myself)!

    Will definitely check out the community blocks – so practical!

    • To Ann,
      The Community Blocks were an investment and I had to take a deep breath to pony up the $, but I do find that my kids still use it 5 years later (or even more, actually!).

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