My favorite developmental toys for kids

I’m trying to live more minimally and decrease the clutter that makes its way into our house.

So when the time came to buy Christmas gifts for my kids this year, I felt a little stressed about finding things that were in line with my desire for simplicity and purpose in our toy room.

I want toys that encourage my kids to use their brains and toys that they won’t get sick of after a few weeks (or a few days!) and that I will feel good about having in my home for a long time. That means no loud, annoying, cheap (easily breakable) or tacky toys.

I’m so excited to share my picks! I linked all of the products for you, so all you have to do is click on the images to check them out. Please share your own favorite toys in the comments!

Magformers and Magnatiles: We have had these for years and they’re still a favorite! Kids can spend hours creating shapes, buildings and vehicles out of these magnetic tiles.

Magnatabs: We stumbled upon these at a toy store and our kids were totally engrossed in them. It’s like drawing with magnets. A perfect quiet toy and kind of fun for adults, too!

Play kitchen: We repurposed the little kitchen I played with as a child and it’s great! Wooden and simple. I also like these ones from Amazon:

Wooden food: Whether you have a play kitchen or not, kids LOVE play food. Mine like to play restaurant or store with it. We love Melissa and Doug’s cutting food, the triple layer party cake, and the slice and bake cookies.

Cash register: Fun for imaginative play and sneakily honing numbers skills. This one gets the highest ratings.

Simple dollhouse: I’m trying to get my second daughter into dolls since my first wasn’t really having it. We’re starting with the Calico Critters starter home and a family of elephants to go inside. The koalas and bunnies are adorable too!

Animal figurines: These are fun for boys and girls. Safari Ltd. is a great brand. The animals are realistic and good quality!

Musical instruments: Musical development at an early age is so important! In my book, musical instruments are the only toys that fall into the good kind of noisy category. I especially love this Melissa and Doug set because it includes a xylophone and a wooden flute.

Inflatable bounce and ride horses: These things are awesome for keeping kids active indoors, especially in the winter. My kids like to chase each other around on them or have races. The Rody Max is SO much fun for adults! Not even kidding. Good exercise too. Click here for a link to a better price on the Rody Max for older kids and adults. 

Wooden blocks: Wooden blocks are a must for every toy room. They make for great group or solo play and last forever! We have some hand-me-downs, but my friend Ali swears by these Melissa and Doug ones.

Hot wheels track builder straight track: The sets seem to be too cumbersome and cluttery, so we’ve stuck to the individual track pieces kids can easily build. My son likes to slip the tracks under chairs and prop them on furniture. I like that they’re easy to clean up and keep in a small bin.

Games: These are awesome for family and sibling play. We love Uno, Candy LandScattegories Jr., Jenga (my kids play with them as blocks and dominos too!), Zingo, and these wooden checkers.


Easel: We have always had an art easel with a chalkboard and white erase board and it’s one of our favorite toys for kids of all ages. Dry erase marker on the wall is inevitable, but rubbing alcohol gets it right off!

Marble track: These provide entertainment for hours! We learned the hard way not to go for the cheapo plastic ones. We’ve tried this wooden one (in the image) out at a toy store and it’s amazing. And my sister likes this one, because the larger balls aren’t choking hazards and the set works with Duplo.

Etch-a-Sketch: We love the mini versions so we can bring them in the car or to church.

Books: You know my favorite gift to give or get is a good book. Here are a few lists of favorites:

Christmas books

Bookworm gifts for the whole family

Picture Books that teach love and acceptance

Growth-mindset picture books

Books for busy little boys

Experiences: While we like giving young kids something to open and play with on Christmas morning, I also like to add something in that is an experience and not a thing. Our daughter loves art, so we’re getting her a certificate to Color Me Mine this year so I can take her on a date there. We also got the kids a punch pass to Funtopia. Other ideas are tickets to a play, the movies, or other outings you can do as a family. The nice thing about these gifts is that they don’t add clutter to your house—just memories!

If this list is helpful for you, please share it! And send it to your parents and in-laws to help put an end to plastic dollar-store toy clutter everywhere.

P.S. I love using ebates when I shop online year-round. You get cash back for every purchase! No catches. Just checks in the mail. Click here to get started. It’s super simple. Not sponsored, just wanted to let you in on my little shopping secret! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *