1. Darda Upside Down Overpass Racetrack Set
My husband's parents kept a small racetrack for the kids at their house. I was amazed by how quickly barely-two-years-old Linus learned to place the car in the motor socket. Alas, the track didn't last long, and an online survey of product reviews quickly revealed a similar fate for all the motorized tracks currently on the store shelves. <Insert grumble about the shoddy quality of toys on the market today> So, I found this alternative. Now hear this... there IS no motor on this track. So there's no motor to break within a few weeks of use. Instead the little car does the work of shooting itself through the loops and curves. Genius.
Remember this day in P.E.? Magic. Just think of the possibilities of a home parachute... tossing leaves in the fall, hauling it out for playdates and birthday parties, making forts... There's a lot of childhood fun to be had with a parachute.
3. Playmobil Grand Mansion
I looked at every dollhouse on the market before I decided on this one. I even briefly considered building one. Then I remembered that I have toddlers. So why this one?
- Durability - I've been extra pleased with the quality of all of the Playmobil toys we've purchased. In particular, the 1.2.3. farmhouse the kids received for their first Christmas. That thing has been used as a step stool, dropped, and played with A LOT, but it still looks like it just came out of the box. Pretty amazing considering how much toddler love it's endured.
- It's a grow-with-me sort of toy. Take a look at the example room I posted here. See all that detail? While we're still in the carry-random-stuff-around-the-house-for-no-reason-at-all stage, I'll keep most of the little detail pieces packed up. But when the kids get older we can add all those little pieces to the house. Voila, it's like a whole new toy! There's also an expansion floor that can be added to the middle of the house and a lighting set to add electricity. Fun!
- It's fairly gender neutral. I'm sure that both Linus and Veda will want to play with the house. And I'm not a fan of the strict gender roles being pushed on kids through toys and merchandising these days.
4. Viewmaster and reels
Thirty years ago, there was a viewfinder in everybody's toy box. But these days they aren't so ubiquitous. There are some great reel choices out there. Characters, animals, natural landmarks, and SPACE. And, just like the good old days, no batteries required!
5. Melissa and Doug Write - a -Mats
I love Melissa and Doug's Write-a-Mats. These reusable place mats will give the kids something positive to do while they aren't eating the meals I painstakingly prepare for them. (That's a joke. Sort of.) There are lots of options, too - alphabet, numbers, dinosaurs, states, planets, doodling... and those are the ones I remember.