Ah, the toy aisle. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with shelves upon shelves of toy options for your little ones. There are so many different toys out there to suit your kids, from their earliest days in the world all the way up to when they take their first steps into ‘big school’.
While you might want them to have the latest and best toys, sometimes the budget can only stretch so far! That doesn’t mean you can’t provide them with avaried toy collection that will keep them entertained for hours on end.
Here are just some ways you can build a well-rounded toy collection for your kids that won’t break the household bank.
Floor gyms – buy a versatile playmat
One of the first ways a baby learns how to play is on the floor on their tummy or back, making a playmat an essential item around the house.
A versatile playmat can be used in different ways as your children grow. When they are newborns, the playmat can be paired with hanging, soft sensory toys. As they’re approaching their first birthday, these can be moved away so your child can play freely with soft toys on the floor. When they’re toddlers, they can sit on the mat when playing with cars or blocks.
The ideal playmat is comfortable, safe, and big enough for your kids to play on, but not too big that it takes up too much space. Look for ones that are portable and easy to clean, giving them a longer life span!
Construction toys – buy blocks with multiple features and invest in at least one Lego set
Blocks are a staple in the toy box, and for good reason. They’re simple for kids to use, help in the development of multiple skills and are also easy to pack up and store away. While a classic set of wooden blocks can go a long way, look for blocks with additional features, like letters or numbers. Not only will your little ones love building, but they’ll be learning as they do it.
These additional features can include sensory items (e.g. a block with a bell) or blocks with letters, numbers and images. They can help your kids develop crucial spatial and cognitive skills, while also providing them with additional educational benefits, such as teaching them how to spell, count, and learn visually.
Another great construction toy to buy is a Lego set, as they’re the natural next step for your kids once they’ve mastered playing with blocks. There’s a range of sets for younger ages, all the way up to school-age and beyond. Plus, the great thing with these blocks is your kids won’t build the same thing twice!
Balls – start with one
Every child needs a ball; whether it’s a soccer ball to kick in the park, or a soft squishy one to throw around in the backyard.
Similar to construction toys, balls are easy to use, store, and help with the development of multiple skills. However, they provide the additional benefit of introducing your kids to sport.
At a young age, a soft bounce ball is the way to go. These balls can teach your kids the basics of rolling, kicking, throwing and catching. Their soft nature makes it easier for your kids to throw and catch, and means there’s less chance of damage if they’re rolled, kicked or thrown too hard at the wrong spot.
Dolls and plush toys – go neutral
Barbies and action figures are a favourite for many kids – especially as they get older. However, when they’re young you can’t go wrong with neutral dolls and plush toys.
Dolls and plush toys have been known to act as a companion for kids, and can help them develop empathy and compassion, social skills, and to express their emotions.
These toys also encourage out-of-the-box thinking. They outlast any interests that come and go, and can be easier and cheaper to replace if they are damaged or lost. Plus, with a range of accessories to choose from, kids can dress them up to suit their changing interests.
Dress-up costumes – use old clothes and fabric
We’re sure you remember dressing up as a kid! There was hours of entertainment to be found in escaping into a world of fantasy, or even dressing up as your parents.
If your kids love playing dress-ups, you don’t have to spend money on specific costumes. Instead, you can easily grab old clothes and fabric you find around the house, or shop for preloved kids clothes. You can use almost anything from old shirts, trousers, dresses and scarves to bed sheets, towels and aprons for your kid’s dress-up play. Kids can create their own costumes, and your old clothes and fabric can be recycled and given a new life.
Playing dress-ups involves imaginative play, which allows your kids to experiment with stories and social settings that can help them learn to solve problems and socialise.
Art supplies – stock up on the basics
Investing in art supplies doesn’t mean going out and buying the most expensive or well-known art sets, it can be as simple as paper, crayons, pencils and paint. You could also use some objects lying around the house, like toilet rolls or scrap cardboard.
Drawing and painting allows kids to express themselves, explore their creativity, socialise, and think critically. It can also keep them entertained when you need to get a few things done! Plus, the supplies can be easily replaced once your kids have gone through them creating their masterpieces.
These are just some of the ways you can provide your kids with a well-rounded toy collection on a budget. By starting small, choosing just one toy and going from there, you’re giving your kids a wide variety of playing experiences that they’ll love, without breaking the household bank.