You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

What I think every child should have in their play room…

How many toys does your child need?  Your child does not need lots of toys…just toys that will be used a lot!

We have talked a lot about play and its importance.  Now take a look around, what toys do you have in your home that encourage play and all the benefits that come with it? I recently walked through the toy section of a big box store and completely understood why parents and grandparents have a difficult time deciding what toys are the best choices to purchase for their child or grandchild! The shelves were filled with electronic toys and the “newest and best” toys based on the latest TV show or movie. The educational aisle had so many choices, it was overwhelming!

Number one, it is not necessary to purchase the biggest or most expensive toy to get the best!  In fact, some of the least expensive toys provide the most bang for your buck!  So what toys on those store shelves are worth putting in your cart?  Here are my toy picks for every home with children.  Many of them are “classic” toys…that does not mean “old fashioned” because many of the more classic toys today have new twists that make them even more fun.  Classic toys simply mean toys that can be played with in many ways using your child’s creativity and imagination.  So here are my picks…do you have any to add?

1.  Dolls or stuffed Animals

How many homes with children don’t have at least 10 of these?  They sometimes seemed to multiply over night in our house. (Can they breed?!)  However, they are valuable to children, yes boys and girls!  Dolls and stuffed animals give children an opportunity to model caring, loving behaviors they see in other people.  Rocking, feeding, and even practicing bedtime routines and house rules.  I had one daughter who often had her doll in “time out” “thinking about it”; wonder where she heard that?

2.  Blocks

Blocks and lots of them are the perfect toy for children.  Young children can play with blocks by picking them up and mouthing them (be sure they are large enough not to be choking hazards), toddlers begin to stack blocks and knock them over (learning cause and effect here!) and soon you may have a little architect on your hands building elaborate castles, roads for cars, and houses for Barbie.  Different types of building blocks are great to have around, the favorite Lego Blocks, Tinker Toys, Bristle Blocks, and any other building set that encourages your child’s creativity.  With the three girls in the house and a boy, we had a set of very popular pink Lego type blocks that eventually made their way into the classic Lego Blocks…some interesting buildings were built with those multiple colors!

3.  Puzzles

A puzzle provides quiet activity, fine motor development, stretches your child’s patience and gives your child a real sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is complete.  There are many different types of puzzles and children as young as 18 months will learn how to complete chunky, easy to manipulate, wooden puzzles.  Here is a tip I learned…if you have a lot of different puzzles.  Give each puzzle a number.  Number the back of the pieces and the board with that same number and it is much easier to find the right pieces for the right puzzle if all of them happen to get dumped out! (Or should I say when they all get dumped out!)

4.  Playhouse or Tent

Every child likes some small “house”, it will become a fort, cave, house, store, school…and the list is as big as their imagination.  Even young babies love to crawl in and out of a small tent or playhouse and play peek-a-boo and older school age children will still use it for their “club” meetings.  You can build a tent with a blanket and card table, buy a collapsible tent, use a big cardboard box with a door cut out, or purchase a true “play house”…but your child will use this toy for many years in a multitude of imaginative play scenarios.

5.  Shopping Cart

There are few toys that are more of a favorite than a shopping cart.  If the cart is wide based and sturdy, it can be used for a pre-walker learning to balance. Of course it will be used for pretend trips to the grocery store but you will be amazed at its other uses.  It will become a gathering cart; toddlers love to gather items throughout the house or outdoors.  It could become a doll or stuffed animal stroller, a car, or even help with clean-up of toys!

6.  Musical Instruments

Children love music and they love creating it too! (Although there were times that I would argue that it wasn’t music!) Banging, shaking, cymbal clanging, guitar playing, and horn blowing will build a child’s confidence and maybe ignite a passion for music.  Rhythm in music has been shown to improve math skills down the road too.  Complete sets of musical instruments are in stores, but often an oatmeal container, a pot with a wooden spoon, or a water bottle filled with dried beans  or rice (with the lid secured tightly with electrical tape) will serve just as well.  Start your own tradition of marching in a band to bed or to pick up toys, to put on a show for Grandma, or to play along with your favorite music, but ignite your child’s love of music.

7.  Dress up clothes

What a better way to play pretend than by dressing up like someone else.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year and let your child be that super hero, monkey, fire fighter, Mommy or Daddy, nurse, doctor, or anyone else they want to “try on”.  Dress up helps a child explore different roles and expand their imagination.

8.  Play Animal Set

Most children love farm and zoo animals and often learn animal sounds before animal names.  Driving tractors and manipulating the different animals and people will develop fine motor skills, imagination, and language. Small animals are easy to put in a diaper bag for play at a restaurant or during a shopping trip.  Who doesn’t remember playing with the red barn that “moos” when the barn door is opened?!

9.  Play Kitchen

A play kitchen is a favorite toy of boys and girls alike.  Children love to play with pots and pans and play food.  Both boys and girls will “cook”, practice manners, plan healthy or not so healthy meals, learn about hot and cold, and serve dolls and Mommy and Daddy many meals.    Pretend kitchen type toys are one of the best toy investments for your child.

10. Tool kits and Work Benches

A hammer is a must for girls and boys.  Noisy banging, using a screwdriver, and “fixing” all kinds of things is great fine motor and imaginative play.  This type of play just may spark a child’s curiosity about how things work. Our girls were happy simply pounding the wooden pegs with the hammer…our son ended up with a “play” screwdriver and unscrewed the bottom door hinges on our bedroom doors!

11. Ride on Toys

All children need some type of ride on toy and a toy that they can eventually pedal.  Children need the gross motor development but it will also help with imaginative play.  Hopping into that car and waving good-bye when “going to work” or buckling that bear into the seat for safety or going on some exciting trip will all develop your child’s imagination and creativity.  Going on a bike ride in your neighborhood and discovering the other side of the block is a great adventure…and a great way to ensure a good nap that afternoon! I love the new Balance Bikes, training wheels are no longer needed!

12.  Cars and Trucks

Big dump trucks, front loaders, and any kind of car are important for girls and boys.  What child doesn’t like to drive a car or truck and go “four wheeling” over the grass or in a sand box or dirt?  Cars and trucks are great for fine motor control, learning cause and effect, imaginative play, and constructive play.  Our girls didn’t think Barbie looked bad in a front loader either!

13. Items for an Art Box

Paper, chunky crayons, washable markers, paint, play dough, glue, glitter, stickers, pom poms, feathers, jewels, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and so much more can be put in an art box for your child.  Let your child get messy and creative.  Provide free art time and watch your child get excited about what he can create.

14. Water or Sand Play

Children love to pour, scoop, and dump water, sand, dry beans or raw rice.  You can purchase a sand or water table or make your own with a plastic container.  Let your child see what floats, how much water fits in a cup, pour rice or sand into containers, watch how ice melts, dig and find treasures and enjoy learning many spatial concepts while playing.

15. Balls

What toy box is complete without a ball?  All types of balls are available now.  Find balls that are easy to grip for younger children and balls that are big enough to kick and catch for older children.  A simple game of ball helps a child develop gross motor skills, hand eye coordination, cooperation, and turn taking…not to mention being introduced to team sports.

16.  And of course… Books

No child’s area of play is complete without books…lots of them.  Books that can be chewed on, books that have flaps and pop ups, classic books, new books, colorful books, silly books, and most important, books that you read often to your child.  Reading is the key to academic success in the future and opening up the world in general to your child.

There is my list of toys for your play area…most are classic toys that will last and provide many hours of fun and learning for your child.  I bet they will even bring back some happy memories you have of playing as a child!  You don’t need lots of toys; just toys that your child will use a lot!  What toys do you remember were your favorite?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



  1. Amanda

    I loved that a site actually included books in the needed toy list. Most say that books are not toys but I would rather my child entertain themselves with a book than a noisy pointless toy. I think that anything that entertains a child is a toy weather it be a book, board game, video game, TV, dolls or whatever. It would be nice if you included an outside play set because outside play is important for physical health and a educated child is one that is well rounded including physical health.


    • I agree that outside play is very important…..this was to list toys for a toy room….but I do have a blog about outside play. Outside play every day!!! 🙂



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