I bought quite a few of those toys myself. Then one day someone gave Mr. M a Wiggles Car toy that made the most annoying noise every time someone walked by. Well, that was an eye-opener!
Immediately I hid the Wiggles Car and let everyone know that Wiggles "music" and merchandise are NOT welcome in our house (maybe it's just me, but I really think there are better examples of children's music than Wiggles).
A few days later I collected all of Mr. M's toys from all the rooms in the house and sorted them into two piles. One of the piles was sold to a second-hand store. The other, much smaller one, became the basis of our new "quality over quantity" toy collection.
Here's what we have so far:
- Balls of different sizes, textures and bounce-ability
- Blocks - intelocking plastic blocks, jumbo cardboard blocks and small painted wooden blocks
- Play groceries - an ever expanding mix of Melissa&Doug stuff, plastic foods and empty boxes and plastic bottles
- Pretend play kitchen - we've got a tiny table-top one, but it's no longer sufficent (Mr. M is REALLY into pretend cooking). So we're looking into something more realistic, probably a DIY version
- Train set - in addition to our big Imaginarium set with 2 bridges, a loading crane and DIY tunnels, we regularly draw new train tracks and put together tunnels out of whatever's at hand
- Play vehicles - a small collection of wooden trains, toy cars and an Air Force 1 plane
- Finger puppets - Mr. M is starting to enjoy little puppet plays and even tries to join in
- Puzzles - mostly jigsaw-style simple puzzles
- Play animals - a mix of wild and domesticated ones plus some dinosaurs and bugs thrown in for good measure
- Lacing beads
- Fishing game - actually, we have two, the quite one (no batteries, just magnetic fishing poles) and the loud one (grrrhh, no volume control). Guess which one sees more action.
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar game - very sweet and simple, although we have to simplify the rules even more to the point that I simply tell the story and the caterpillar asks for particular foods
- Elefun - ok, it's actually a floor game and it does require lots of batteries, sigh
Math and science toys
- Sorting toys - the sorting cube (getting to be too easy) and the shape and color sorter. Also, one of the puzzles is a shape and color sorter.
- Pyramid - a simple pyramid (from IKEA) that I thought Mr. M would get over pretty quickly. But he still likes playing with it, assembling it in different order and pretending that the rings are cakes and muffins.
- Magnifier and magnet - new additions, so far so good
- Blocks - see Freestyle Play above
- Scale - it comes with a big set of counting/sorting bears (ok, in our household they are primarily train-riding bears)
Arts and crafts
- Melissa&Doug easel - a gift from grandparents served us very well so far. My only complaint is that the chalkboard is way too smooth and provides very little sensory feedback to the little ones. Oh, and the entire thing is huge, taking up the entire corner of the room.
- Paints, brushes and other painting implements - Mr. M never liked finger paining (getting even a drop of paint on his fingers is still a major upset for him). But he loves painting with brushes, especially with one in each hand.
- Crayons, markers and chalk
- Play Doh and implements
- Random bits of paper, stickers, etc for collages
- Candles of all shapes and sizes - not for lighting, but for sorting and pretend play
- Buttons - theoretically, for sorting; practically - for throwing around jubilantly as well as for sweeping with a brush
- Kitchen utensils - and pots and pans - used for pretend cooking as well as for drumming
- Photo albums (including digital) with pictures of family and friends - Mr. M loves going through them and finding grandparents and himself. Now we frequently discuss what's going on on each picture.
- Containers of all shapes and sizes, paper towel and toilet paper tubes
- Plastic jars
- Rocks, shells, uncooked rice, dry beans
- Cans of food - for building towers and rolling
- Anything suitable for making into a drum or using as drum sticks
- Bee Bop Band set - Mr. M mostly uses the drum and the tambourine. I'm very impressed with the strudiness of the drum - it withstood a whole year of daily very intense drumming (including with real drum sticks)!
- Keyboard - it's an adult keyboard, but a low-end one
- Toy guitar - thanks to the generousity of Mr. M's second cousin, Alisa who found it in her heart to part with it
- Jar lid - yes, that's the latest addition to the musical toys - a lid from an apple sauce jar (if you press it in the center, it makes a "pop" sound, cool!)
Wow, that is a long list! But if you look at it, most toys are used for at least 2 different kinds of play. Most are very open-ended. Many are not even toys at all (in a sense that they are just everyday items).