Finding just the right toy or item for kids can be a hit or miss ordeal. With so many options available out there it's hard to know what will end up being the gift of the year and what will be a dud. In our house birthdays and Christmas gifts are on the small side for a few reasons. One is there are so many kids that it adds up and we do not have an unlimited supply of funds...I know surprising! But the other reason is that it's important to us that our kids not become too spoiled...I say "too spoiled" because I think today in America, the majority of kids are spoiled in comparison to children in some other parts of the world. I can remember my grandmother telling me stories of how at Christmastime her and her siblings (there were several) would get fruit and a piece of candy in their stockings and they always looked forward to that. Because fruit was a luxury. My kids are amazed when I tell them this because we are never in short supply of fruit... or candy for that matter.
So because we aren't the kind of parents who shower our kids with 10 different gifts at birthdays we like to make wise choices on what we are going to get them. My main concern is that the item be good quality. I would much rather spend a little more on an item that is well made and that I know will last then a little on a cheap product that is going to break next week...because what I've learned in a house full of boys is that toys break...a lot! So here is a short list of items that have stood the test of time AND been something my kids actually use for more than 10 minutes!
**You can click on the underlined links to see images of the products.
Melissa & Doug Art Easel- A few Christmas' ago, my younger sister bought this as a gift for all the kids. At the time it was mostly the 3 older boys who would be able to use this but now it is something everyone uses. My kids love drawing, coloring, painting, etc. so this has been a perfect gift for them. It has the dry erase board, chalk board and side for paper to paint or draw on. It gets used everyday and I can't even tell you how much paper we go through in this house. It is very sturdy and well-made...as all Melissa & Doug products are!
Some items that I love to go along with this are:
Art Easel Paper Roll- You can use regular paper because it comes with clips but I like having the rolls for painting.
Mr.Sketch Scented Markers-Remember these markers??! We love them here and they last! I've done the whole buying markers at the dollar store thing but they last about a day.
Paint Cups- My aunt bought these for the kids one year and they are the best thing I've ever owned when it comes to paint supplies. It makes painting practically mess free with no spills and no wasted paint. These are a must-have!
Item #2 that we love in this house is:
All-Terrain Tricylcle This bike is the best thing we have ever bought for our kids before they can ride a two-wheeled bike. Friends of ours had this for their son and once we saw how our kids loved it and how sturdy and well-made it was we knew we had to have it. It is also very inexpensive, considering the quality. Plus if you've ever been to our house you know everything we own needs to be "all-terrain".
Item #3 that we feel is a must-have...
Wooden Play Kitchen- We didn't actually think about getting the kids a play kitchen until Jena came around because I never really thought the boys would use it much. I knew I wanted a wooden one because most of the plastic ones I'd seen were very tippy and always looked hard to keep clean. Plus I wanted something durable that would last. I only read good reviews about KidCraft products and after owning one I highly recommend them. They are very well made...not unbreakable (ask me how I know) but very well made and worth the money. The funny thing is that while yes, Jena plays with it a lot, so do the boys!! They all love this toy. And I highly recommend getting the Melissa & Doug Wooden Foods to go with it because the plastic stuff just gets stepped on and broken.
The next item I didn't think I would love having as much as I do...
Nintendo Wii Gaming System- The older boys had been asking for a wii for a few years but we were very hesitant to start bringing video games into the house. When we finally came to a point where we were willing to give the Wii a try we started looking for a second-hand one to buy. This was going to be a Christmas gift for the four boys to share. We found a family on craigslist who was getting rid of all their wii stuff because they were moving out of state and didn't want to bring it with them. We paid $100 for the wii console with 2 remotes, 2 nunchucks, 2 baseball bats, 2 golf clubs, 2 tennis rackets, a rifle, wii fit board and about 20 games. We were thanking God that day! The kids were so excited and it's actually been a great thing to have. It's something the kids can do at most age levels, we can do it as a family and with wii fit we can use it to exercise. What we've also done is stream Netflix through it and that has been great since Netflix is the only kind of tv watching we have in our house. We do have rules about what kind of games they are allowed to play and we do limit their play on it. They are not allowed to play wii or watch tv on school nights, only on weekends and even then we limit their time on it. We think this makes a GREAT family gift!
And the last item that I am going to recommend is not a new item, its actually been around since I was a kid, but it is a must have for any home with older kids...
These are a few of our favorite things when it comes to our kids from toddlers and beyond. I would love to hear about products that you have found your kids will spend hours playing with and have stood the test of time in your home!