Snapshot Saturday

We were gifted Perplexus for Christmas and let me tell you, I don’t think we own a game/toy that has kept my boys occupied more than this clever orb. Everyone from my 8-year old down to the 4-year old hovers over it and waits {impatiently} for their turn to come, including me and Brian. My determined 7-year old has made it the farthest – to #99 – and he’s beside himself that he hasn’t yet conquered it. I’m sure he will within the week.

Toys like this – ones that really prove their value – are few and far between. A couple of times a year we go through the serious toy clutter in our closets and dejunk, sending the unused toys to better homes. But I’m always keeping my eye out for stellar toys like the above to add to a running list for easy reference on birthdays and Christmas. Living in a place where outside play is limited through the winter, having a few key activities in my arsenal to pull out on long winter days is critical to the success of being a happy, loving mommy. Summertime is a whole different ball game since we tend to spend 82.5% of our awake time outside – so dreamy.

Here are a few other toys and activities that are all-stars in our house:

  • Spot It and Spot It Jr.
  • Homemade Playdough (even my older kids still sit still for playdough) with this kit and a lot of endless kitchen utensils
  • Good old-fashioned markers/crayons, paper, stapler and tape – projects, projects, projects!
  • Legos. I’m in love with legos. Um, so are the boys.
  • Zoobs (these were our main lifesaver during our long hotel stay last fall)
  • K’Nex (both the little kid set and the smaller piece sets)
  • Two huge dress-up bins compiled of old Halloween costumes, karate belts, hats, ponchos, lightsabers and anything else that finds its way there. The boys will play for hours (really, hours) dressing up in the craziest compilations you can imagine while playing jail people (a modern day take on cops and robbers)
  • Block buddies

What are the most useful toys and games you know of (for children or older)? Besides the tupperware cabinet and cardboard boxes, that is (baby Cam’s favorite hangouts these days).

If you’d like to check out past Snapshot Saturdays, click HERE.

51 Responses to Snapshot Saturday

  1. Judy Monje says:

    Many thanks for the good article, I was looking for specifics such as this, visiting check out the various other articles.

  2. Tammy says:

    Just got perplexus in the mail yesterday and let me tell you my kids love it! Thanks for the fun suggestion. If any others come to mind let me know.

  3. Cammee says:

    My 15 year old son recieved the Perplexis Epic for Christmas. He begged for it after a teacher had one at school. I gave one to my mom for Christmas, too.

    Our favorites, like yours, have been the building toys. Our old wooden Thomas the Train track and buildings have been the best money ever spent on toys. Originally for the now 15 year old, they are still in excellent shape and have been favorites of two more boys since. We purchased GeoTrax for our second son (now 8) when he was 3-4 and they were a waste of money. They are pulled out maybe 2 times a year. They would rather play with the old wooden set.

  4. Jenny Z says:

    Thanks for the great toy recommendations! Every holiday and birthday we do our best to fill our boys’ wish lists with things that are fun and educational. Our current favorites are the tried-and-true for generations – Legos (and Duplos for our younger ones); Magformers ; this block-and-marble set ; and regular ol’ (wooden) dominoes – mostly for lining up in different shapes and lines and then knocking over to watch them fall “dominoe style.” =)
    I think a number of toys from your list will appear on our boys’ next wish list. =)

  5. Merilee says:

    Have to second the trios- they are way fun. We also have a Blu Track. This is fun because they can run their cars all over the house. It comes with a hook and a suction cup so they even race cars down the walls. This takes over my front room but I don’t mind because they are using their imaginations.

  6. Lorelei says:

    This past summer we bought these awesome huge workbooks for our kids. The kindergarten one for my son, and preschool for my daughter. It has been over 7 months now and they still pull them out often and will work on them for long periods of time. There’s over 300 pages, all in color with perferated edges. There’s quite a bit of “What do I do on this page, Mom?” but I don’t mind because they’re occupied learning helpful things. It’s also given me the chance on occasion to teach them certain things I wouldn’t have otherwise, like what’s a pattern or how much is a dime worth. But a lot of it they’ve done completely on their own without explanation from me. My kindergartener finally finished every page of his book today and was stoked! He took it to parent teacher conference to show his school teacher and she was impressed. Very happy with our $10 Wal-Mart purchase. Worth it! We’ll be buying the next level for them for next year.

  7. Jackie says:

    It sounds like your toy box looks just like ours. I have 3 boys and they seriously love the same toys your boys love. We also love Snap Circurts and the game Qwirkle.

  8. Susan from WA says:

    You’ve done it again, Mel! 🙂 I’m thinking, “I need to make some playdough for my cub scouts,” and you post your homemade recipe. This along with a batch of your Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and those boys will think they are in heaven.

  9. Heather says:

    Thank you for this post!! My little boy is still 2 right now, but I’m excited to have this list and all the comments to refer to in the next few years.

  10. Sharon says:

    I would recommend any of the Find It! search toys—those are especially great for car rides. Rush Hour and Rush Hour Jr kept the whole family busy for ages…..also the little magnadoodle carry-along size boards, which are perfect for waiting in restaurants, or plane trips. One person draws a random squiggle or shape, then the other person has to make it into a picture somehow. 🙂 My kids are 12 and 16, so if they will still play these you know they’re keepers!

    When they were younger, Legos and Playmobil were my son’s favorites. My daughter loved the magnet sets where you could change clothes on the different people, decorate a house, etc. Our military family was on the go a lot, and some days those were mom’s sanity lifesavers. 🙂

  11. Jill says:

    my kids have moved on to the perplexus epic. it’s soooooo hard. they love it. I second all the comments about magnatiles. my kids also like wedgits, but they LOVE the magnatiles. but they are expensive. and one little set won’t be enough to build anything cool. I bought 2 big sets for a total of $100 and they have lasted for years and still get played with all the time.

  12. Alisha says:

    Love this post. There are so many great things out there, it’s nice to get pointed in the right direction. I have a super tech savvy 12 year old that’s advanced into deep computer programming and science projects that are beyond my understanding (he made homemade laser tag guns for his siblings for Christmas!) but I would say it all started with his set of Snap Circuits he got when he was eight. Getting greats toys can really make all the difference. For Christmas when he was 10 we splurged and pulled extra $$ from Grandparents to get the Lego NXT Mindstorms — lego robotics. Expensive but awesome. I really love reading all the other comments … have put a few new ideas on the Christmas list for next year and I just ordered Spot It Jr for my 4 year old’s birthday.

  13. Michele says:

    No stress chess is a great way to start playing chess. A Ticket To Ride is a great strategy game that my boys like. They were 6 and 9 when we started playing. Payday. Monopoly. Life.

  14. Catherine Rich says:

    I keep thinking of more good indoor games. I feel like I’m in marketing here. Our second grade teacher who has taught three of my kids so far has a large collection of games with at least some educational bent to them that the class plays with every Friday. Here are more of her games that I purchased after playing them in her classroom. My kids ages 5-11 all play them.

    TRAVERSE – it’s Checkers gone wild. 2-4 players

    MASTERMIND – use the processes of logic and deduction to crack your opponent’s code. 2 players. I have the Kids version with the jungle animals, but it is the same game as the regular MasterMind. Kids can really play either version.

  15. Catherine Rich says:

    Another card game I think your kids will like is BLINK. It has a similar premise as Spot It. It is a speed game of matching colors, numbers, and shapes. My 7-year-old is probably right at the heart of the age range for this game, but for younger kids you can play it as a game in which you take turns matching, not racing against each other.

  16. Catherine Rich says:

    Let your mind rest easy–when you have conquered the Perplexus, there are 3 more versions to tackle! Besides the Original Perplexus, there is Rookie, Epic (for a SERIOUS challenge!) and now Twist!

    Another high quality toy that is growing its fan base as we speak is KEVA PLANKS.
    I recommend their own website, not Amazon, for these.
    They are identically sized planks for building anything. They are quality made and what you do with them is up to your own imagination, which I think is important for kids to experience. All ages like them, which I’ve seen with my own eyes. I took our set of 200 planks to an extended family gathering and everyone spent time with them: grandkids, uncles, and even grandpa. The final project of the evening, which used every last plank, was constructed with many people working together–another benefit. Every plank is identical so you spend no time searching for special pieces or connectors and your set is not limited if you lose a plank or two. You’ll be amazed at how stable these building blocks are. Towers can go to the ceiling.
    They are now also available in pine, which is cheaper than the maple planks. But pine is softer and lighter so it dings up easier and the structures may not be as sturdy. I have the maple planks and they are flawless. I recommend them, but if you can’t afford a set of maple, then I would try pine. You can start with a 50 plank set, but you’ll find as soon as you build your first tower, that the height is only limited by the number of planks you have and you can certainly balance 200 in a single structure.

  17. Stacey says:

    As others mentioned, Snap Circuits are awesome. Especially for kids with engineering and/or science minds!

  18. Jennifer Smith says:

    I bought a Perplexus immediately. Immediately.

  19. Mary says:

    Hooray! I’m so glad that you liked the Perplexus! My kids think they are super neat, so I was hoping that you would like it!
    Got to agree with some of your other commenters — we LOVE magnatiles and I wish they weren’t so dang expensive. Also, if your kids like to build machines and stuff like that, Reid has this awesome kit called “Snap Circuits” that I think is a brilliant toy. And we also love “No Stress Chess” — I almost got you guys that for Christmas instead of the Perplexus.
    Hope your winter isn’t too awful stuck indoors — you have to go outside and play with Brian’s fun work toys! 🙂
    We love you! Hugs and Kisses from Utah!

  20. Danielle says:

    Best investment was when we bought eight pounds of duplo on ebay for forty bucks. My boys are now old enough for the little legos but they still play with the duplo since we have enough pieces to create anything. we are probably going to do the same thing to expand our lego collection quickly. Action figures and castle guys and star wars toys and dress up clothes are the other favorites.

    I need to check out magformers and snap circuits!

  21. suzanne says:

    Just wanted to let you know how helpful this was. My grandson was premature and has some developmental delays. Especially with fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. I just ordered the Perplexis and think this will be a great engaging toy for him. Thank you for the information.

  22. Amber says:

    Magformers are the BEST!!!!!! My boys (4 and 2) spend hours building. They create everything for their superheroes to live in, drive in, fly in…you name it-it gets built. WE LOVE MAGFORMERS!!!!!

  23. Krystal says:

    Thank you for the fun ideas! I have all boys and have made notes of your suggestions for upcoming birthdays, etc.

    We discovered Magformers at the Children’s Museum in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago and fell in love. They are worth the investment!

  24. Sarah says:

    If you guys like Block Buddies you would LOVE MightyMind. My 5 year old is obsessed with that game! Legos are his current favorite but he loves it when I pull out MightyMind for some variety, too.

  25. Christina says:

    Plain wooden blocks get the most play here. We have a HUGE set of all shapes and sizes and colors. They ignore almost everything else in favor of the block bin most days.

  26. Dang it Mel! Why didn’t you do this post before Christmas? Everytime I think I’m going to stop buying my kids stuff and make them earn it on their own…I see stuff I want. I need.
    Loved every single thing.
    We love legos…and micro machines (remember all the ones Roy had and gave to the boys? they still play with them All.The.Time)
    Our favorite game is BUSYTOWN. We LOVE this game. And Roy and I don’t mind playing either!

  27. Anne says:

    TEGU magnetic blocks are spendy, but awesome. We got our set on We also love Wedgits, Magformers, Zoobs, Schleich animals, Snap Circuts, Quadrilla marble run, aqua doodle mats. If you haven’t tried Automoblox yet, they are fabulous. My daughter got an inflatable bouncy horse for Christmas and that thing is her best friend. She tucks it in bed every night and brings it around the house for every activity, including the bathroom things. We now have a “no horses in the kitchen” rule. We just hung some gymnastics rings from Ikea in the basement. If you have the space for them, they are a great indoor toy. Sill, I miss the Lincoln logs of my youth. It is so hard to find a good set of them these days.

  28. Eliza says:

    My kids love TRIOS! They were a great precursor to the Legos that we just started getting into. The kids were too young for the small-sized legos but weren’t at all interested in the mid or large sized Legos/Duplos. The Trios provided lots of options and were easy to work with for small hands but still continue to entertain my now 4 and 5 yr olds. What a great idea for a post! Looks like there are some great potential gifts in our future!

  29. Katy R says:

    I have one word for you – UNO. My 4 and 5 year old will literally play that game for hours! Out of all the christmas toys, this simple card game is their favorite! Go figure 🙂

  30. Katie says:

    Thanks for the tip! Just bought perplexus for my son’s birthday next month! We also love wedgits like some one else said. Fun for all ages! As well as a mind ware marble track.

  31. Lauren says:

    GREAT game. I just won it just this morning!! We have the bigger one too, I think it has 140 or something. I haven’t won it yet though.

  32. Erin says:

    My 5yo. son loves Legos (of course), Snap Circuits, Imaginets and K’Nex. Crayola Window Markers (the Crystal ones are awesome!) are also big in our house. If you have a big picture window or sliding glass door, it gives them ample space to draw and you just clean with Windex! I also keep a bunch of different sized canvases from Michaels around as well, my son and 3yo. daughter LOVE to paint and it fills at least an hour of time, which is crucial on cold winter days! We live in the Twin Cities and have spent many days over the past week painting canvases to hang on our photo/art wall 🙂

  33. Julianne says:

    Magnatiles and Wedgits. Seriously awesome for kids, especially ones with difficulties in their fine motor areas.

    Also not a toy but fabulous for fine-motor strength in hands: EZSox. They have little tabs sewn onto the sides that allow the kid to pull up the socks over his/her heel, and therefore put on the sock all by themselves. This genius idea has saved many, many tears in our house. They’re a little pricey, and someone crafty (not I) could sew the loops on. We have 6 pairs of these for our boy and they are awesome.

    Also, since we have fine-motor issues, we do the large Lego blocks instead of the standard small ones.

  34. Merilee says:

    We have 4 boys- they love magformers. They are a little pricey, but the big set is really fun.

  35. Emily says:

    You should try Magformers. They are like magnatiles only better. You can turn them any direction and they still stick…you can make all kind of things with them. All my kids love them!!

  36. Maria says:

    With my two oldest nephews all grown up, I haven’t been in touch with toys in years. However, we’ve had an explosion of nephews in the past 5 years (five boys!!!) and this post is oh-so-timely and oh-so-appreciated!

  37. Abby says:

    Our house is opposite we have two older girls 6 and 4 and then my son who is 2-and recently we have been reading the “Chronicles of Narnia” books but I also bought the radio theatre cds-and they are amazing!-and we could sit and listen to them for hours at home or we did on our road trip to Iowa for Christmas-very captivating and I love the stories and their symbolism of Christ. Also we have been given “Adventures in Odyssey” cds from Focus and the Family and those are amazing too-I love to listen to them and their valuable lessons. But for play my girls love imagination play with dress up or their barbies or babies and playing house or who knows what. I also kept my old Polly Pockets-they used to be in a little compact and not a little doll figurine like now. My son currently is fascinated with cars and tractors-this is a new world for me and I love it-my nephews love legos so I’m sure that’s in my future. But we do simple hide and seek which is hilarious and then we also play four corners-there is a counter and 4 corners numbered 1-4, during counting everyone else finds a corner (quietly) then the counter with eyes closed picks a # and whoever is in the corner is out. Start again and keep going until one person remains. I seem to always get out:)

  38. Laura says:

    As your kids get older these might be super cool… I’ve never worked with them, but I’ve heard awesome things about them.

  39. That toy sounds interesting! I really only had the basics growing up. Barbies. Polly Pockets. Something tells me those wouldn’t be right for your boys, lol.

  40. Manya says:

    I have 5 boys and I love finding quality toys for them to play with. We LOVE legos here too and two other “must-haves” in my opinion are Snap Circuits and Magnatiles! Boys love making radios, musical doorbells, flying saucers, etc with their Snap Circuits!

  41. Sarah says:

    Magnatiles! These things rock for all ages?

  42. My son received Legos for Christmas and my daughter and I have actually spent more time with them than he has! Costumes are a go to for us as well. Forts and tents are always an indoor favorite too! I have never heard of Perplexus, I will have to look into it!

  43. susan says:

    Forgot to add that Legos, although super annoying when I step on them, keep my 7yo twins occupied for hours on end, with 3 boys we love Legos!!

  44. susan says:

    I could have posted the exact same picture of my 7yo with Perplexus..he is obsessed with it…I hear there is another more advanced version too, can’t wait to get that one!!

  45. Danielle says:

    I have three girls, one daughter loves and lives for puzzles and Toob Figurines {those hardy little plastic animals} which because of their awesomeness I don’t mind finding all over the house, especially when you see them perched and set up mid play..kind of cute. Another daughter can’t go for a couple of hours without crayons and paper. But overall the Playmobil Forest Set, stick horses and bouncy inflatable animals(big enough to sit on) have been the highlight of their lives. I wish I could put links on the comments…pictures are fun.

  46. Sandy W says:

    My nephew has a Perplexus and I love it. We don’t have kids and I was even thinking of getting one for our house, for the nieces and nephew, of course!!!!

  47. Daisy says:

    Legos reign supreme around here. Literally hours of play. But one of my boys (age 4) will also spend large chunks of time building new pathways with his train tracks set. We got a big collection of blue plastic Thomas the Tank engine tracks off of Craigslist for ten bucks, and he has played and played with those things. One of my other favorite ways to lengthen their playing time and encourage them to play quietly for awhile: audio books. They’ll hunker down with their Legos, and listen to the story while they build. The library has a good supply of audio stories, and if we keep them swapped out often enough, the kids don’t get tired of them. I highly recommend the Adventures in Odyssey series!

  48. Jackie says:

    Agreed about Legos. For my 5 going on 6 yr old son, right now he is never without a handful of the Lego minifigures. He loves swapping the legs, body, head and hair/hat to come up with all different creations.

  49. Lydia says:

    One of the best toys we ever got for our son was a set of Kapla blocks. Kinda expensive but he would play with them for hours. Great for solo play or for playing together too.

  50. Christie says:

    I need to ditto the magnatiles comment. My girls, ages four and five will play with them for hours, creating everything from bunk ends for their Polly Pocket dolls to castles and zoos. We love them! When they run out of the tiles, good ‘ol wooden blocks help to extend their projects.

  51. Trish says:

    My in-laws gave my oldest daughter Magnatiles a few years ago, and it is the one activity that seems to never get put away. She still plays with them all the time (she’s 8), and my two younger daughters do too. My 2-year-old especially loves them now. And it seems to be the one toy in our house that kids, no matter what age, are drawn to when visiting. They are kind of pricey, but obviously well worth the money, at least in our house!

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