For part one of the All-Time Top Ten Toys list, click here.
In Monday’s blog, we covered the first and second items on our list – blocks and LEGO®, respectively. To be fair, this is not really a countdown list; it’s not that we feel that blocks are better than LEGO®, or that they outrank the toys that follow them on the list. These are kind of like your children: they are all wonderful and special in their own way, and you can’t really rank them. Unless one of them draws on the freshly-painted living room wall in Sharpie, or tries to flush the cat down the john, or something – in which case it’s understandable if you are actually able to rank their popularity for a while, at least until the memories fade.
Anyway, let’s move on to numbers 3 and 4 on our Top Ten list. These probably won’t come as any surprise to our customers, since each has been a staple line in our store for almost 30 years.
3. Playmobil. It’s difficult for me to talk about Playmobil without squee-ing like a fangirl, because – in my opinion – this is perhaps the best toy ever manufactured. Playmobil is not precisely a building toy like LEGO®, although there may be some assembly required in some sets, but rather an imaginative plaything composed of figures and accessories in a dizzying array of themes. Children can choose from Pirates, Knights, Farm,
Dinosaurs, the spy-themed Top Agents, Christmas, City Life, Doll House, and many more. Sets come with a minimum of one figure and (usually) a wealth of accessories, all done in tiny and amusing detail. Consider the play possibilities offered by the set shown at left (retired, alas)! Will our intrepid Playmobil guys clean up the toxic waste spill before morphing into some kind of mutants? Good thing they have the Ambulance and Hospital sets available, or they might be seeing the Grim Reaper.
What I always really admired about Playmobil’s concept was that – despite the fact that the toys are grouped into conceptual categories – the figures and
accessories from one theme can easily be used in another. The only limit is the child’s imagination. A case in point: our children collected five of the Playmobil infant figures (who are normally just kind of inert window dressing, figures made to fill up the stroller or crib) and created a team of superheroes they named the Wuzza-wuzza Babies. The Wuzza-wuzza Babies (named Wuzza, Wuzza-wuzza, Wuzza-wuzza-wuzza, and so on down the line) led exciting lives fighting crime. Each had a different super power and a distinct personality.
The small pieces offer children the opportunity to increase their manual dexterity, the open-ended themes give them the chance to play creatively alone or with friends, and the high-quality materials and production means that Playmobil toys last a long time. Win. Win. Win.
4. Number four on our list is books, specifically story books designed for the child who has not yet learned to read. These can be anything from fabric or board books for babies, to sophisticated picture books with beautiful artwork, to read-aloud chapter books. Books allow a particular kind of bonding between parent and child: a tangibly-warm, cuddly, comforting kind of physical bond that beautifully complements the richly
imaginative experience that stories evoke. Books for young children tend to rely heavily on rhyme, which develops memory skills. Think about it – how many nursery rhymes can you recite? Skipping rhymes? Song lyrics? These rhymes drill down into our memories, exercising those intellectual muscles that will be needed, in later years, at school and on the job. Test this, if you don’t believe me: recite a nursery rhyme to your child, but change one word. Chant “Eensy-weensy spider, Went up the water pipe“, and see if they don’t catch the substitution. Now, fast-forward ten school years, and-thanks to the skills built by reading and repetition-they may just be able to recall the capitals of all the provinces and territories on a geography
exam! And they’ll graduate high school and get into college, and then they’ll get a (good) job that pays actual money, so that they’ll move out of your basement and get their own place! It works! Go read to your child right now 🙂
Tune in next Monday for numbers 5 and 6 on our Top Ten Toys list!