Something that our kids have taught us is that they don’t need a lot of stuff to stay entertained, just a few quality items. So instead of a room overflowing with single purpose toys, we are able to have a handful of multipurpose items that let their imagination run wild. I am amazed at how they are continually finding different uses and ways to play with what they have. We try to keep things fresh, and so we have a rotation of what is out and available, so they really never get tired of something. If they have played with it enough, we rotate it out and bring something else out. A few weeks later, it is fresh and new again. So, examples, right?
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Lego– Who can’t resist those Danish building blocks, right? The possibilities are endless in what can be created with them. We have leaned toward getting the large bucket of basic bricks instead of specific building sets. It gets more bang for the buck, and you don’t have to worry about keeping the specific pieces together.
Magformers – We discovered these within the past few years, and they are amazing. Like Legos, they are a compact, three dimensional construction set, but they use magnets to connect the pieces. The pieces come in a variety of geometric shapes, including squares, triangles, pentagons, and hexagons. The pieces are made with a variety of colors as well. In addition to being a fun toy, they also make a good geometry and math lesson as well.
KIVA Planks – We discovered these Christmas 2014. These are uniform and precision cut wood planks, so that the width of 5 next to each other equals the length of 1, etc. While simple in theory and construction, they are AMAZING in execution. We purchased two sets of 200 planks, so we have a lot to build with. In addition to creating simple cabins and roads, these can be used to create some cantilevered bridges and buildings.
Kindles – For our oldest children, and when they are ready our younger ones as well, we purchased some basic Kindles for them to use. We have not purchased too many books for them, but you can find many of the classic books and a few recent ones for free in the Kindle store. We have collected library cards as we travel around, which allows for us to check out e-books as well as paper ones. If the kids have a specific book that they are looking for and the library does not have it in, we can look for it for the Kindle instead.
Play Silks– While we were in our sticks and bricks, Stephanie made some multicolored play silks for the kids. She found a good price on basic white ones and did a simple coloring process at home to create 12 multicolored silks. The kids have used them for dress up, making a tent, tying things together, and even making slings for their baby dolls.
Bilibos – Unless you have seen one, it is hard to describe a Bilibo. While it looks like an odd and deformed piece of plastic, it really is a great tool for kids to use. I believe it was originally designed as a seat for children, something for them to sit comfortably in and be able to rock and spin around. It quickly has found other uses, including being a container to hold toys, sand, or water, it can be used as a scoop, a stool, or an oversized helmet. Our kids love to tie them together with their silks and create a train for their stuffed animals.
Bicycles and scooters – These are great get out and go activities. We love they they are gross motor movements and can get those wiggles out. Another benefit is if there are places to go, each person is responsible for their own mobility. Weight can be a factor, so some families may need to decide between one or the other.
Snap Circuits – Jason has as much fun with this as the kids. It is kind of like the small chemistry sets of yesteryear, but involving DC circuitry instead. The sets come with books detailing projects to learn how circuits are built and how different components are used. Once a good foundation is build, kids can begin to design their own circuits and then test them out. We recently added a second set that delves into renewable energy, such as solar and wind.