From now until Christmas, I will showcase one toy idea per week to help inspire parents to make their best choices when they have a personal pow-wow with Santa.
There are a few guidelines I follow when choosing toys for my children. Great toys must:
- be Age-appropriate -- I don't get Barbies for a one year old. I don't get the Playschool telephone for a twelve year old. That's just common sense.
- Teach something -- I love toys that teach a concept or require intellectual input from a child. Problem-solving toys are a favorite, as are skill-building toys.
- Inspire creativity -- Imagination-building toys or toys that allow children to pretend are fantastic. They definitely have a place in my household.
- be Flexible -- The more flexible a toy is in its use (i.e. not a uni-task toy), the longer it will hold my children's attention. There is nothing worse than buying a toy only to have it fall into disuse. Toys that can be played with in many ways help children to be inventive, and that's just more fun.
- be Well-made -- I prefer toys made in the United States or Europe. Sometimes that can mean they are more expensive. But a toy that will hold together and take punishment (and one that is sure to follow good safety standards) can last through all THREE of my children. That's a good investment, in my book.
The first toy on our list is:K'Nex building sets
K'Nex is a plastic building set that is available for a wide range of abilities, from preschool on up. The building set has plastic rods, gears, and connectors that allow children to create just about anything. My seven year old has made a motorized working car, a Ferris wheel, or even a grandfather clock with his set. My five-year-old makes hand-held snowmobiles, planes, and cars. My youngest fits pieces together to make fish or other animals for much simpler play.
K'nex sets are entirely manufactured in the United States. Their website has a place for kids to share designs or print off instructions for new projects.
K'nex is a toy that has engaged my children's minds and encouraged them to use their creativity. Playing with it helps them to develop fine motor skills and spatial thinking. It has been fun to see the little engineer come out in all of them, in entirely different ways. The sets we have are far more flexible than the Legos I played with as a child, and far more affordable.