Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Best FIVE Toys of All Time!!

... if any of you are like me, you are rushing around trying to get the kids or grandkids the latest popular toy for Christmas, which is often out of stock because everyone else is also rushing to grab up that same toy!

(BTW, if anyone knows where I can get a Leapfrog Leap Pad Tablet (green) for cheap, email me!!)

But, until you find that ONE toy you NEED to get, here are some gifts that are a MUST for any kid, of any age! (grabbed these great ideas from a friend, who grabbed it from a friend's friend..)

Check them out!

1. Stick

This toy is a real classic — chances are your great-great-grandparents played with one, and your kids have probably discovered it for themselves as well. It’s a required ingredient for Stickball, but it’s so much more. Stick works really well as a poker, digger and reach-extender. It can also be combined with many other toys to perform even more functions.

Stick comes in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, but you can amass a whole collection without much of an investment. Avoid the smallest sizes — they break easily and are impossible to repair. The classic wooden version is biodegradable so you don’t have to feel so bad about pitching them into your yard waste or using them for kindling. Larger, multi-tipped Sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. (Note: requires Snow, which is not included and may not be available in some states.)

There are higher-end models of Sticks if you’re a big spender, from the smoothly-sanded wooden models (more uniformly straight than the classic model) to more durable materials such as plastic or even metal. For most kids the classic model should do fine.

One warning: the Stick can also be used as a sword or club, so parents who avoid toy weapons might want to steer clear of the larger models.

Pros: Finally, something that does grow on trees.

Cons: You could put someone’s eye out.

2. Box

Box is versatile, and also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Boxes can be turned into furniture or a kitchen playset. You can turn your kids into cardboard robots or create elaborate Star Wars costumes. A large Box can be used as a fort or house and the smaller Box can be used to hide away a special treasure. Got a Stick? Use it as an oar and Box becomes a boat. One particularly famous kid has used the Box as a key component of a time machine, a duplicator and a transmogrifier, among other things.

The Box may be the most expensive item on the list, available from many retailers and shipping companies, but they can often be had cheaper if you know where to look. Amazon is a main sources of the small- to medium-sized Box. If you don’t mind second-hand toys, the grocery store, bookstores and recycling centers are also great sources for Boxes. Oh, and the best place for the extra-large version is an appliance store (though sometimes they’ll try to sell you an appliance along with it, which could get pricey.)

Note: If you’re in a pinch, Laundry Basket is a similar item and can often be substituted for Box in some instances, though it’s generally not as great for costumes.

Pros: Best celebrity endorsement: Calvin & Hobbes.

Cons: Paradox: what do you put Box in when you’re done playing with it?

3. String

String is not intended for toddlers and babies: it is a strangulation hazard and your kids must be old enough to know not to put it around their necks. However, when used properly your kids can really have a ball with String.

The most obvious use of String is tying things together. You can use it to hang things from doorknobs or tie little siblings to chairs or make leashes for your stuffed animals. Use String with two Cans for a telephone, or with Stick to make a fishing pole. You’ll need String for certain games like Cat’s Cradle — there’s even an International String Figure Association for lots more information. String is a huge part of what makes some toys so fun — try using a yo-yo or a kite without String and you’ll see what I mean. Try the heavy-duty version of String (commonly branded Rope) for skipping, climbing, swinging from trees or just for dragging things around.

Although you can buy String at a store, it’s generally sold in much larger quantities than your children will probably need. I actually have no idea where it comes from, because I don’t remember buying them any, so it must be pretty easy to come by.

Pros: It really ties everything together.

Cons: There’s a reason “no strings attached” is a benefit.

4. Cardboard Tube

These are kind of like the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks — they come free with a roll of paper towels and other products but you have to wait until you get to the end of the roll before you can finally claim the toy. Perhaps this explains why kids go through toilet paper so quickly! The small- and medium-sized are most common, but the large versions that come with wrapping paper can be more difficult to obtain. There’s also an extra-large size that is sometimes sold with posters, and a super-sized industrial version which you’ll generally only find from carpet suppliers.

The Cardboard Tube has also been used by kids as the “Spyer” for its most common use as a telescope. Tape two of them together for use as binoculars. If you are lucky to get a large size, the best use is probably for whacking things. Stick is also great for whacking, but the thing about Cardboard Tube is that it generally won’t do any permanent damage. It’s sort of like a Nerf Stick, well, kinda.

If your kids are younger you’ll want to exercise discretion, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to provide them with a Cardboard Tube or two just so they’ll get used to the feel of it and not hurt themselves or others.

Pros: Comes free with purchase of toilet paper, paper towels, and wrapping paper.

Cons: Doesn’t hold up to enthusiastic play.

5. Dirt

When I was a kid one of my favorite things to play with was Dirt. Dirt has been around longer than any of the other toys on this list, and shows no signs of going away. There’s just no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it.

First off, playing with Dirt is actually good for you. It’s even sort of edible (in the way that Play-doh and crayons are edible). But some studies have shown that kids who play with Dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don’t. So even if it means doing some more laundry (Dirt is notorious for the stains it causes) it might be worth getting your kids some Dirt.

So what can you do with Dirt? Well, it’s great for digging and piling and making piles. Use it with Stick as a large-format ephemeral art form. (Didn’t I tell you how versatile Stick was?) Dirt makes a great play surface for toy trucks and cars. Need something a little gloopier? Just add water and — presto! — you’ve got Mud!

Dirt is definitely an outdoor toy, despite your kids’ frequent attempts to bring it indoors. If they insist, you’ll probably want to get the optional accessories Broom and Dustpan. But as long as it’s kept in its proper place, Dirt can be loads of fun.

Pros: Cheap as dirt.

Cons: Dirty.

I have to admit ... my kids, and grandkids, and myself as a kid, have had more fun with these five toys of all time than any others!! Be creative, give your kids some fun that helps them develop their imaginations and have fun with them!!

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