Friday, November 28th, 2008
Essential Toy Guide: 3-to-5-Year-Olds
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These are essential toys, the high value gender-neutral toys that your kids will enjoy and then later you’ll hand down to friends’ kids. These are not posh. They’re reality toys that you don’t have to mortgage your home to buy. Be sure to weigh in below with your opinion about other essential toys.
Wooden Take-Along 24-piece Tool Kit by Melissa and Doug — My daughter loved taking wooden screws and nuts apart and attaching them to this toolbox. Later, the screwdriver and wrench appeared by her side whenever she wanted to help Mom or Dad fix something. $12.
Primary Lacing Beads by Melissa and Doug — Soak up lots of detail work here with hand-eye coordination. Go with simple primary color beads, not the frenetic attention-deficit designs found with most bead sets. $10.
Family Pets Lacing Cards by Eeboo — Graduate from lacing beads to lacing cards, a more complex task and easy to do individually as a group activity. Pets are gender neutral, good in case you have a second child. $16.
Lacing Pets by Melissa and Doug is a less expensive option at $10, but the storage box has a plastic sliding lid that is harder for a toddler to maneuver.
Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register by Learning Resources — First, it’s a pretend register making noises. Then you realize the number keypad lets you do real math (with a solar powered LED screen), and the till can hold real money in addition to the supplied play money. $29.
2-in-1 Vacuum by iPlay — Emulation play is a big deal, and vacuuming comes naturally to a toddler. This toy vacuum is favored because it has sound effects, but doesn’t speak to you or have a personified face. Plus, the dust container is removable for pretend emptying. $40. Also consider a toy broom, or regular sponge and water-filled mini-spray bottle for wiping tables. Three-year-olds love to clean, especially after they enter preschool.
Medical Kit by Fisher-Price — Playing nurse is great fun (let’s be honest, doctors rarely poke and prod patients; nurses do all the work). This kit has the best selection of instruments I’ve seen without going overboard with pagers and other junk. $26.
LEGO 50th Anniversary Building Set — 700 bricks of various shapes and sizes. It’s heavy on traditional bricks and should be viewed as a foundation, with future specialty kits providing wheels, people and such. $37.50.
LEGO Creator Community Builders Set — Avoid specialty kits entirely with this buy-once-and-you’re-done 1,670 piece set that includes basic bricks, wheels, people and a mix of other unusual pieces. $101.
This toy guide is not finished! We need your expertise! Help other parents by posting a comment below with your suggestions for must-have toys that your child(ren) have loved. And if you have strong feelings about toys in this guide, or similar ones, share those thoughts too. Thank you!
And be sure to check out all of our toy guides: