Toy mess

My kids are finally getting old enough that I’m retiring yet another set of toys.

The infant toys went a few years ago and now many of the toddler toys can be packed up or given away.

Cue the cheers — and the tears.

As I go through the memories of these toys being used constantly for the past seven years, I can’t help but think of which ones gave us the most bang for our buck. When you have your first child, you have no idea which toys to invest in or wait on. So here's a list of our most used and loved toys that were worth every penny for us. These toys are what I would tell every parent of a 1-year-old to go purchase because my kids, our neighbors, cousins and friends loved these toys, regardless of age or gender.

  • A quality play kitchen. The big kids still play with our kitchen and my 3-year-old can’t get enough. Our daughter got one for her first birthday and it has been used nearly every day for six years. It's still in great shape and inspires so much creativity. There are even brands that offer free replacement parts. But from what I’ve seen, the wood ones hold up best.
  • An outside play set. Depending on space and budget, this one can be tough. But even a small slide or swings that hang from a deck do the trick just as well. Our play set is a favorite of mine and my kids.
  • Hot wheels. Get a basket of hot wheels and watch your toddler zoom them around. Then watch your bigger kids line them up by size or color. Then add a track or a garage and watch them play forever. I was surprised how much my daughter and her friends love playing with her little brother's cars, but it’s something they all do together. As a bonus, the cars can go to restaurants, swimming pools, etc., and are super cheap.
  • Lego Duplo building blocks. Yes, Lego sets for older kids are awesome, but they have so many tiny pieces! Duplo building blocks are bigger and don’t necessarily come in sets. Even the big kids love how quickly they can build houses, buildings and cities for their Paw Patrol characters to play in.
  • Water toys. To be specific, get a water table for when the kids are young and a water balloon pump for when they get older. The water balloon pump comes in handy for adult water balloon fights, too, in case you’re wondering!

The list is endless of great toys that are perfect at various ages, but if you’re looking for ones that will grow with your whole family for a decade, these are some of our favorites. What are your favorite toys that have been used by kids at every age?


Jaime Wyant is an Omaha native, wife to Bret and mother to Marin and Liam. She writes monthly for Read more from Jaime here.

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