Part One, that is.
Richard and I spent some time over the weekend making up our Scalliwag Toys Top Ten Toys for Kids list. (We were sanding walls at home, getting ready to prime and paint, and we were going a little squirrelly from the dust!) These are the toys that we feel offer children (and the adults in their lives) the most return on investment.
We evaluated each toy on the basis of three criteria: open-endedness, creativity, and interactivity. Toys that score highly on these characteristics tend to be those that are played with extensively; that engage the child in different ways depending on age; that encourage imaginative play; and that require the child to participate actively in the play, rather than being a mere observer.
We found it really difficult to hold the list to just ten toys. There are lots of wonderful playthings out there, after all, just as there are lots of awful time- and money-wasting clunkers that children immediately discard (everyone has at least heard the old anecdote of the kid unwrapping the gift, discarding the toy, and playing instead with the box, right?) But here are the ten toys we finally came up with. These are the toys we always ask customers about when they come in looking for a toy for a child, and they don’t know what they want. As always, your mileage may vary!
Here are our choices for the first two on our list. We’ll follow up with numbers 3 and 4 on Wednesday.
- Blocks. This toy made the top of the list because blocks really shine in every way. They engage small children and older children alike: a two-year-old may be delighted to “discover” stacking a pile of blocks
(and then knocking it down with a satisfying crash), while a six-year-old may build an elaborate structure. Blocks are pretty nearly indestructable, depending upon the material. Even improvised cardboard blocks (you can make them by taking two empty and washed one or two-litre milk cartons, cutting off the bottom ends so that you have two open cubes, then fitting one inside another to form a solid cube) are strong, lightweight, and fabulous for stacking. Blocks will last forever.
- LEGO®. See blocks, above. LEGO® bricks are just blocks made all 20th-century, with amazing engineering tolerances that mean LEGO® from the distant past (like 1970) will still totally fit with bricks
manufactured last Tuesday. LEGO® bricks are smaller, so that children develop increased hand-eye coordination, and the sets come with instructions for models, so that children learn to follow instructions and read diagrams. Of course, children – and adults – are free to create their own models, and they do. New York artist Nathan Sawaya famously uses LEGO® bricks as his medium to create amazing works, such as the human-scale statue shown at left (you can visit his website here. His pieces are amazing.) LEGO® is truly not just for children!
Tune in on Wednesday for the next installment!