The 15 Toys Your Kids Might Actually Need This Year

simple toy guide for the holidays

Children change like the wind. As they grow, their interests, abilities, and educational needs change as well.

But what if their toys didn’t need to change right along with them?

I am here to tell you that it’s possible.

When it comes to the holidays, it can be easy to make impulse purchases. But if you are choosing to bring new toys into your home this holiday season, consider buying more intentionally.

Here at Simple Families, we have curated a small selection of toys that provide versatility, durability, and opportunities for creativity that will last children for many years to come. We believe that less is more.  Which means having fewer, yet more carefully chosen toys will benefit your children for a lifetime. We’ve also included a behind the scenes look at how these toys were chosen.

Without further ado, here is the list of the 15 toys that will serve your family well for many years to come. This post does contain affiliate links.

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This list was selected with an array of developmental and educational concepts. Here’s a behind the scenes look at how this list was curated.

Choose Open Toys

A guiding principle behind the selection of the toys was to include open toys rather than closed toys. Open toys are items that can be used in many ways by children of different ages, genders, and developmental stages. On the contrary, closed toys are items that can be completed and mastered–then leave children to move on and look for something new.

LEGO Classic is an example of an open toy and LEGO Ninjago is a closed toy. The LEGO Classic is intended to open the window to an infinite number of creations. LEGO Ninjago on the other hand, has a set of specific plans for which the toy is intended. If you have LEGO classic, you may only need one kit. If you have LEGO Ninjago, you may end up and numerous and have a hard time keeping them all straight.

This wood house is another example of an open toy. Depending on the day, this wood structure could function as a family home, a fire house, a parking garage, or even a barn. When you focus on purchasing durable pieces that aren’t earmarked for a specific purpose, then you can have fewer toys and increase the opportunities for your child to exercise imagination.

Invite Innovation

In today’s world, everything has a television or movie character on it. These characters come and go with the season and latest movie. Therefore, when we purchase toys for our children based on characters, the life span of these toys becomes limited. Instead of purchasing an Elsa dress, lean towards purchasing a stunning gown that will allow your child to be any princess she can dream up…not just Elsa. Likewise with superheroes–when we purchase a Superman costume we are limiting our kid to only dress up like Superman. Why not try a character-free cape that will propel his imagination past the next hit movie? Better yet, try out the play silks that can become either a superhero or a princess. Or perhaps even a Superhero Princess. 

Propel Creativity

Beyond imagination and pretend play, toys can give our children the opportunity to create. When we provide our children with a set of real musical instruments they have the chance to experiment with tempo and rhythm. They can actually create the music. When we give our children a chance to create, their minds will amaze us. Having a cart of art materials available to children will allow them to easily access and launch into the creative process on a whim—rather than as a carefully crafted Pinterest activity (of which I am not a fan).

Keeping them Moving + Learning

Besides just burning off energy, research shows us that movement is important for learning. The plasma car and the sit on scooters (which easily slides under a sofa) provide great resources for gross motor exercises and movement. You can find a slew of fun scooter activities here. When it comes to fine motor activities–the chalk wall is as good as they come. Just be sure to buy dustless chalk to save your sanity.

When children are learning to write and draw, the upright position of the chalk wall helps them to build the big muscles they need to stabilize the small ones. Not only do the muscles benefit, but so does the brain. Skip the easel, because the large open space also gives way for a lot of right brain and left brain integration–this happens when kids draw big pictures like rainbows and footballs. Anytime that arms cross back and forth in front of the brain it stimulates these areas that impact important physical and academic milestones.

Evoke the Adult-Excitement + Family Entertainment

Anytime I find a toy that holds the attention of both an adult and child–I call that a win. If an adult loves the toy, it’s a sign that it will grow well with a child. The plasma car will handle even the biggest of “kids” (ours is going strong after carrying 300lbs). The chalk wall has also doubled as a fun family/friend game night. Win Lose or Draw, anyone?

There’s nothing quite like Magnatiles to pull the whole family in for fun. These little plastic pieces are simple, durable, and addictive. We have found 100 pieces to be the magic number for our family of 4. The Magnatiles bring in opportunities for cooperative play, mathematical and pre-geometry concepts, and endless creations.

When it comes to toys, kids don’t need a million of them. Less is more and they don’t need to be cycled in and out every season. If we choose carefully, we can select toys that grow with our children.

What toys have grown well with your kids and family?

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holiday toy guide

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.