There comes a day in every parent’s life when the question must be answered: Which of your kids’ childhood toys do you get rid of, and which, if any, do you keep? Setting aside the treasured stuffed animal for posterity is a no-brainer. But how many boxes of Barbie shoes and Happy Meal prizes do you haul up to the attic? Do you give away the toy kitchen, or wrap it in plastic and stick it in the corner of the basement? Of course the answers depend on many factors, such as your storage space and whether or not you intend to be in the same house when your babies start having babies.
Even if you don’t anticipate ever having grandchildren, it’s nice to keep a few little boxes of age-appropriate toys handy for your youngest guests to enjoy. So how do you decide which to keep and which to pass on?
Obviously, in order to survive the span of a family’s childhood years, the toys that are keepers must be well made. They also have to be fun and provide endless hours of creative play for all ages! Then in order to make it to the sacred dumping ground of your spare closet, basement shelves, or attic, they must be easy to clean and easy to pack away. Here are some that have survived at our house for almost 30 years and recently made it to our grandkids’ toy closet:
Legos/ Bionicles/ Duplos: This is the most obvious choice for a number of reasons. First of all, these toys require quite an up-front investment. Secondly, they are fun for all ages, girls and boys, moms and dads, and even grandmas and grandpas who can still get down on the floor! In addition, they are ever-changing and inspire more creativity than most toys–at least after you get that first diagram-specific build done. As far as Legos go, everything is awesome (yep, you knew that was coming)!
Matchbox Cars: Little die-cast metal vehicles are some of the toughest toys ever made. They tend to show up in every Christmas stocking and Easter basket, and often get thrown in the cart as a reward for a shopping trip without meltdowns. Over the years this results in a lot of cars rattling around your house! Gather them all up in a plastic bin and stick them away until you begin designing a grandkids’ playroom. Then add a little rug with a racetrack or town scene, and you’re all set for hours of races and crashes!
American Girl dolls and accessories: From the dolls themselves, to the books, furniture, and even little period-specific shoes and glasses, the American Girl series was an all-time favorite with us. We can’t wait to share them with our new little granddaughter!
Polly Pockets: We keep a box full of Polly Pockets close at hand for young visitors to play with and it never fails that everyone in the room wants to get their hands on the tiny people.
Lincoln Logs: This quintessential American building toy has been around for nearly 100 years. The sturdy wood and plastic parts are designed to put up with a lot of wear and tear. Like Legos, you can add new pieces to old and be sure everything will work together.
G.I. Joes and accessories: The bulky tanks and ancillary vehicles break the “easy to store” rule rather soundly, but at our house there is a reason for that. My highly organized mother-in-law made the mistake of giving away my husband’s extensive G.I. Joe collection (after he got married and left the state) and we all have yet to hear the end of it. So every soldier, tiny canteen, rifle, and hand grenade that came in our door is still here somewhere.
Light Bright: This was one of the favorite things to play with at my grandmother’s house, so naturally it made the cut. The colorful pegs can be used with or without templates. Just be sure to pick those sharp little boogers all up and spare your feet the agony of finding one later! Keep the original box and everything stays in the best shape whether it’s in use or in storage.
Discovery Toys Marbleworks, Measure Up Cups, Giant Pegboard, or pretty much any other product: Although I am not a big fan of home parties, Discovery Toys is worth sacrificing an evening with your family. These three products in particular were well-loved, stood up to years of use and abuse, and survived to tell the tale. The Giant Pegboard was even key in diagnosing our youngest son’s colorblindness, so it is being held close as a diagnostic tool for our grandsons–and granddaughters.
Remote control cars: Although not particularly a sturdy category, if you have one that survived it’s worth hanging onto. Just be sure to remove the batteries from the remote and the vehicle before stowing it away for posterity!
Dollhouses: This one also breaks the easy to store rule, but we simply loaned ours out for few years until the playroom setup got underway. Especially if Daddy or Grandpa hand crafted the dollhouse, it’s a particularly sweet heirloom that will provide many more hours of imaginative play for the next generation.
Fisher-Price playsets: We particularly loved the little parking garage (maybe because we had so many Matchbox cars). Whether your favorite memories involve the barn (you can hear that cow moo when the barn door opens, can’t you) , airplane, or school bus, these are made to last. The key with a toy in this category is to wash them thoroughly before you store them. Decades-old drool and rice cereal are almost impossible to scrub off.
Tea sets: My sister brought home the most darling little Polish Pottery tea set straight from Poland as a gift for our daughter back in the 90s before Polish pottery was cool. What fun we all (brothers included) had using it for tea parties with both imaginary and real treats! When our daughter moved out and did not have room or interest for them, I commandeered the tiny cobalt pieces as little knickknacks for the kitchen. Today, we are looking forward to hours of tea parties with our grandson and granddaughter as we dust off the petite cups and saucers and set the table for friends.
There is most likely some dark corner of our attic where a special toy from the last century is waiting to be uncovered. Which do you think we’re missing?
(Check out my new book Prayers for the Mother of the Groom, as well as my bestselling homeschooling titles.)