This post is about the latter of these toys. So if you are at a loss as to what your children will really want this Christmas, get out your list and copy these ideas.
1. Wooden Blocks
I bought this set of wooden blocks with the wagon for my oldest daughter's first Christmas 11 years ago. It is currently being played with by three of my children as I type this. It rarely sits on a shelf. My older kids, the girls, love to build things with the blocks--my oldest likes to make castle type things for her dolls; and the boys, the younger kids, love making towers and smashing them down. We also like to put the blocks in alphabetical order. I know wood blocks seem so simple but I am amazed how many people just never thought of buying this imaginative toy!
2. Little People
I played with Little People as a child so I made sure my kids got them as gifts early on! The 6th grader will not admit this but even she has fun putting together different towns. The third grader and the boys still do lots of play acting and from the barn I bought 11 years ago to the new addition to the Christmas Village I bought this year, all the toys see plenty of play time. True they are plastic but they are made well, not like most plastics. Kids really get to create and make up stories and towns. And because they are using their hands, the little muscles in those hands get a great work-out (those who homeschool or work with hand writing understand how important this is!).
My mom introduced these toys to my family when Dino was little. I love these little cars. You can build them by fitting in the right shapes. The kids play with them for hours because 1. they're cars (even girls love cars--they have pink ones) and 2. they can create different cars from different parts. (Glancing at the website, I see they now have hot rods---oh my I think I have birthday presents ready now!)
4. Pattern Blocks
I love these blocks because they build up by the level--from pre-k to middle school. I suggest pattern sheets to help make pictures but you can also make your own designs like my Sarah loves to do. These pattern blocks are always taken out and played with when we have friends over. I am not sure why they love them so much but they just do. They have been an active part of the playroom for almost ten years!
5. Dress Up Trunk
This may be the simplest of all!! Gather old dresses, hats, shoes, ties and sport jackets to create a dress up trunk. All kids love dress up---my 6th grader and her friends only recently slowed down on playing dress-up but the others are still dress-up fans! Get creative--old towels can be a super cape, old jewelry can be fixed up to make a crown. Hit the good will stores and find some very cool items that will keep them busy for hours!
This year, my kids are getting what I like to call "Zhu-Zhu Land" from the grandparents--only time will tell if they are as much as a hit of the above five items :)