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The Top 5: Toys for Boys that Go the Distance

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I don’t know everything about boys, but I know a lot more now, seven years after the first of our three boys arrived in the world.

Now that I am further along the journey, I feel like I can say, with a level of confidence, which boys’ toys are worth investing in and which will really go the distance, lasting years and several children.

Even though our boys are all quite different in personality and temperament, the toys I have listed below have been winners for all three of them and worth every cent.

I hope this post provides some ideas for parents of boys and those buying gifts for boys. By the way, an equivalent post about Girls Toys that Keep on Giving is in the pipeline, so stay tuned!

1. Costumes

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When our eldest son was little, I could never ever have imagined how often and for how many hours our children would wear costumes.

Just last week my 5 year old went to school pick up in a Where’s Wally outfit and my toddler was dressed as a dinosaur.

We have a number of costumes of varying quality. The poorer quality costumes are generally occupational – pilot, doctor, fire fighter, builder and chef.  We also have a number of “movie” and “superhero” costumes including Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Iron Man and Sportacus, not to mention the dinosaur, wizard and cowboy ensembles. We also have a range of props including clown wigs, glasses and Where’s Wally’s striped scarf and beanie.

It is possible to pick up a cheap costume for $10 from K-Mart and mid range costumes from toy shops such as ToysRUs  for around $20 – 40. If I had any inkling how much love and wear these costumes would receive over the years, I would have invested in better quality costumes across the board earlier and bought multiples of Sportacus and Spiderman.

At least one of our children is wearing part of a costume every day and on weekends, sometimes all three of them.  Even now, with our eldest in Grade 1, I cannot envisage a time when our costumes won’t be worn, particularly with Book Days and various other school and kinder dress up days and themed birthday parties.

2. Trampoline

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Nearly three years ago we bought a very big, very expensive Springfree trampoline. A friend with three slightly older boys recommended that we buy the biggest trampoline we could afford/fit in our backyard. It was a significant outlay at the time, but with two boys and the expectation of a third child to follow, we knew that we would be entertaining a lot of boys in our backyard for a very long time.

I can honestly say that our trampoline has been worth every cent. Unless it is raining, all three of our boys are on the trampoline every day after school. Whenever friends come over, the kids all go straight to the trampoline. In contrast, our cubby house, which was in a similar price range, receives far less use and attention and requires regular cleaning out/de-spidering. As an aside, our cubby house has been used the most by our toddlers (1-3 years old).

Our trampoline truly is the gift that keeps giving.

3. Duplo/Lego

When our eldest child was two, we bought him his first set of Duplo. Our collection has steadily grown over the years and is currently used by all three of our boys, when they all play together. Given a choice, Mr 7 now prefers Lego but Mr 5 likes playing with Duplo or Lego, so depending on who is at home with him, there is always a fun construction option at hand.

As well as providing endless hours of relatively quiet enjoyment, Duplo never breaks, is hard to lose and easy to store. Did I mention I love Duplo?

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As for Lego, Mr 7 received his first set on his 5th birthday and it was love at first construction. The love affair continues to blossom, and he spends time every day playing with Lego. Mr 5 also loves playing with Lego and they play (sometimes) happily together every morning before breakfast. In fact our greatest parenting achievement is thanks to Lego – last summer holidays our two eldest boys played Lego for 5 hours. Uninterrupted. Happily. It was surreal. It has never happened again but we live in hope and needless to say, we take Lego wherever we go.

4. Schleich/Papo France

I love these lifelike, detailed figurines and co-ordinating products (trees, dwellings, vehicles etc). They are not inexpensive but are well made and durable. We initially bought a set of the Schleich farm animals for our eldest son for his first birthday. Since then, our collection has grown to include dinosaurs, cowboys and knights from Papo and a jeep with a horse float.

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All three of our boys play with our Schleich collection although their interest seems to peak when they are preschoolers. Mr 5  loves playing with them at the moment and incorporates blocks, Duplo and other toys into his play.

We have also been known to use them when reading books such as Dear Zoo.

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You can buy Schleich products from various toy stores and online here.

5. Books

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Our boys have always loved books. We have a number of books that all three of our boys have loved as toddlers:

 

These stories have been read thousands of times over 7 years and will forever remind me of my children’s early years. I especially love it when our eldest child reads these stories to his younger brothers.

All three of them are also mad for Curious George anything – from board books to paperbacks to anthologies, they love to read about the mischief George gets up to (they are learning about shenanigans from a Pro!). They all also adore Oliver Jeffers books, from Lost and Found (suitable for younger readers) through to the longer and whimsical Stuck, The Great Paper Caper and This Moose Belongs to Me.

Honourable Mentions

Other toys that deserve honourable mentions include puzzles, cars, Thomas the Tank Engine trains and musical instruments – they have been loved and played with but not with the same enthusiasm and consistency by all three of them as the toys I have mentioned above.

What are your “must have” boys’ toys? Do you find it easy to buy gifts for boys?

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  • Mel

    ooh thanks so much for this! My boy is 14mo and I’d really like to start planning presents that I know he’ll love down the track. I’ve seen the Schleich range and I love it too – add that to the list I think :)

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      You are welcome Mel! It is overwhelming when they are little and you don’t know where to start. You are wise to start planning now so you acquire good quality stuff from the start.

  • Jodie

    Great Blog V! This list would also suit Amelia… just add food and doll make-believe. Thanks so much!

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Thanks Jodie. Yes, I think a lot of this would suit girls, although just from observation :) Wait til you see the post we on girls!

  • AS48

    Must have boys’ toys – anything by Melissa & Doug. Sturdy, wooden toys that do not require batteries or AC adapters! Puzzles, cars, trucks, maze toys – all wonderful wooden toys. They cost more than their cheaper plastic counterparts, but they are worth it.

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Great tips AS48 – I would agree with all of those. Thanks for sharing.

  • ShayneTilley

    The big question for me is, as a brand new dad, is how do I stop the seeming endless flow of cheap $20 toys that get used once and thrown away (grandparents I’m looking at you). I’ll buy quality over qty (some once told me the poor man pays twice), but how do you moderate those around you.

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      It’s tricky Shayne. Once the initial excitement of buying gifts wears off, you might find they come to you for suggestions, which is when you might get an opening to have some input – then you can hopefully explain that you are collecting a certain item (a book) or type of toy (wooden musical instruments/blocks/duplo). All the grandparents ask me for ideas now which has meant less of the plastic fantastic and more practical gifts.

    • Se7en

      Oh I hear you!!! We had this overwhelming problem of folk burdening our kids with toys we just couldn’t want… cheap and nasty is just that and always horrible for the recipient because it will break. When we went from two to three kids we had a massive clear out with our kids and declared we would only have se7en types of toy… gifts not on the list would be donated before they were unpackaged.
      We were reasonable, not crazy expensive, mad toys, just we were having a few kids and we wanted to grow our collections of duplo and wooden cooking toys and such for everyone to play with and enjoy. Extended family quickly adhered!!!
      I am so glad we set that precedent, with eight kids in a two bedroomed home, space is at a premium and our toy collections have grown and are loved and played with daily…

      • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

        Thank you for sharing that Se7en. Great advice. Gosh, with 8 kids, you should be writing this post! I salute you!

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au/ Donna Moritz

    Perfect List. I have purchased all of these (except the SpringFree but I would love one!) and as an ex Speech-Language Therapist, I can safely say that Books will always be my favourite – sometimes i am not sure if I buy them for me or for the kids!

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Thank you Donna. I love books too.

  • Amanda Kendle

    All of these are spot on for my boy. But I would add – perhaps surprisingly – a good toy kitchen! We have the wooden Ikea one (ie it’s not pink) and we have had lots of “delicious” stuff cooked there for us, and quite a few of his (male) friends are happy to play with it too. More specifically for our Mr3, a high quality rubbish truck (or 2 or 3!) is the most played with toy of all.

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Great ideas Amanda Kendle – thank you. We love a play kitchen too. In fact, my toddler got some new wooden “food” for his birthday to play with our old one. He is playing with it as I type! I agree – three year olds really love their rubbish trucks and we have quite the collection.

  • Alice

    OMG! Where did the Sportacus costume come from? My son is OBSESSED with Sportacus. In some ways, it would be a shame to get him a real costume – he has a makeshift one from a re-purposed superman outfit – but I’m sure it would blow him away.

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Alice, we have 2 Sportacus costumes, both of which have been given to us when friends have seen the intense fervour of our kids’ devotion to all things Lazytown! Our original costume (thank you Melissa!) is now threadbare after 4 years of intense wear and we were all ecstatic when a brand new one was given to us this week by friends from school (thank you Marissa!). It was immediately worn it for 2 hours and then another child wore it for 2 hours the following morning before kinder and it has been on high rotation since. You can get them online too I think.

  • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

    We bought the Springfree last Christmas … such a great investment. The teenagers still get on it too!

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Oh, that is great to know! Thanks Nikki.

  • se7en

    Oh I love toy posts!!! And LEGO is the winner even when they are fifteen!!! My littlest guy (almost 4) loves and adores WOW toys… only stops playing with them to sleep!!!

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Thanks se7en. It’s good to know our boys all speak the universal language of Lego and it’s a toy that keeps giving.

  • Mel

    Love this list! Interestingly I would say that duplo, dress ups (largely my old hats/bags/scarves :))and books would be in my Miss nearly 3′s top 5! My other two would probably be her teaset/play food (Aldi has provided some great inexpensive wooden food) and a variety of art supplies

    • http://www.styleandshenanigans.com/ Vanessa

      Thanks Mel. There is a lot of overlap when they are younger. You will love the post on girl’s toys that is coming soon :)