Building bricks and blocks
You can’t beat the creativity and motor skills that a good building project encourages. There are plenty of building toys available but it’s LEGO that’s truly stood the test of time. It’s so popular it’s almost a rite of passage into adulthood, and you can start your little architect early with LEGO Duplo’s bigger bricks for little hands.
Every season LEGO brings out new sets and themes, from police to pirates, Atlantis to Star Wars and now LEGO Friends designed for girls who like pink (rather than girls who like fire engines). Each set is carefully tailored for a specific age group – but watch your little LEGO aficionado quickly progress beyond his LEGO years.
Next step – more complicated building with Meccano.
The freedom to create a model version of anything you fancy, from mum and dad to monsters, makes modelling a key rite of passage. You can make your own modelling dough for free, or plump for the classics – Play Doh and Plasticine for little ones and for older sculptors, Fimo.
The novelty of driving doesn’t wear off even when you pass your test for real, so it’s no surprise that generations of children have pretended to be race-car drivers. Ride-ons have developed massively, from ladybirds to Ferraris, but most mums will recognise this chap, the Little Tykes Crazy Coupe, who turned 30 last year. No back garden, yard or playgroup is complete without one.
As toys get more hi tech and flashier, it’s reassuring to see that old-fashioned wooden train sets aren’t going anywhere. The stalwart is Brio, which many mums will remember playing with themselves. But now, Thomas and Chuggington characters are also available in wood and so you can mix and match. And take heart, in the majority of cases they don’t turn into trainspotters!
Toy cars and the car garage
Sticking with the wheels theme, toy cars and car garages are ever-popular for boys and girls (just like some of our other favourite unisex toys). Hot Wheels have little die-cast push-along toy cars covered and there are lots of durable wooden garages to choose from. We’re not sure why toddlers love multi-storey car parks (with the unlikely addition of a helicopter landing pad) so much, but they’ll always be a firm favourite!
(Picture: PlanCity Wooden Parking Garage)
It used to be Tiny Tears and now your little girl is most likely to be after a Baby Born or Baby Annabell. Lifelike baby dolls are a constant toddler and pre-schooler favourite, with even many tomboys going through the phase. Look out for ones that do real-baby things such as sleeping, crying, shivering and, um, weeing.
Dressing up clothes
They don’t have to be fancy to be fancy dress. A headband with some black ears plus face-paint whiskers turns your child into a cat, while long white ears and a cotton wool tail creates a bunny child. Shops and supermarkets are now filled with fun costumes, from animals to Disney Princess frocks and superhero favourite Spiderman. Dressing up is fun – getting little ones out of their costumes can be harder!
Bucket, spade and some sand
Have you ever seen a young child able to resist playing with sand? Buckets have become funkier – they now come shaped as castles, mermaids, favourite Disney characters, but all a little one really needs is a spade, a traditional bucket, some sand – and even better some water on hand too. Perfect for the sandpit or the beach. Castles galore!
They may begin as nursery decorations, but you can guarantee favoured soft toys will become faithful friends for your little one’s childhood and beyond. Classic bears from famous shops such as Harrods are a grand gesture but once they’ve been cuddled every night for years, they all end up looking the same – threadbare and much-loved.
MFM mums’ recommendations
We asked you what your timeless toys were and you said…
Are there any more that you’d recommend?