I asked my daughter what toys she would grab if she had to leave the house in a hurry. And though she couldn't quite cope with the hypothetical nature of the question - "Why, Mom, would we have to leave the house in a hurry? Couldn't I pack a suitcase? What if I laid everything out the night before?" - she finally decided she'd take her blankies, her diary, and a deck of cards.
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My 6-year-old is a luddite, but I think there's a lesson here. You don't need to spend a lot of money to make a kid happy.
I polled the parents I know for their kids' favorite toys, and put together a list of the ones that don't make noise, don't require batteries, don't necessitate any stampedes on Black Friday, and will bring a smile to the recipient. Which, after all, is the point. Here they are:
- Locking Diary With Key, $15
- Faber Castell oil pastels, $8.50
- Peg stackers, $14.95, become imaginary skyscrapers, birthday candles and pet crates.
- Tangoes, $23.95.
- The Bygga construction set builds four different vehicles, $9.99. On the downside, you have to brave Ikea.
- An Orb Mosaic will keep fingers busy for at least a few hours.
- A canvas wallet, with a couple singles. Gets them started learning about money and holds allowance, if you give them one.
- Sequence for Kids, $11.99, is a legitimate game and no one has to be able to read.
- A mom I know swears by New Balance sneakers with Sesame Street characters, $30 to $40. A splurge for sure, but the kid will love you. And if you figure the boy wears these things every day for four months straight, the cost per wearing is about 32 cents a day.
- A basic flashlight, $4.88 for two. (OK, so it needs batteries.)
- My Very Own House, $30. The beauty of this thing is that it goes to the recycling center when you can't stand it another minute.
- Old Maid, $8.95. Little ones can't keep a poker face when they get the Old Maid, and it is such a crack-up.
- Deck of cards, $1.25. Teach them Solitaire.
- My three-year-old niece can't get enough of these nesting blocks that make a Victorian house, $20.
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