• Abby Cirkles

Our Most Loved Toys of the Year


Mr. Rogers taught us well, "Play is the work of a child. People often talk about play as relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning".

Scroll to the end for my toy list with links. Read below for some "Play Philosophy" to help you buy and give toys mindfully. Toys are so fun! But toys are also tools. The toys you surround your children with must be curated with care, because they are ultimately being used to mold your child's mind, interests, and ability to interact with the world. (Yes, teddy bears and lego blocks are that powerful). My challenge as you buy and give is to try to round your "child's toolbox" so that the variety of toys best help his/her development. You want to give a variety of toys to initiate lots of different types of play. The same way in school there are different subjects to strengthen different parts of the brain. Different toys do the same thing! Some toys work big muscles, gross motor, (soccer balls and bicycles). Some toys develop strategy (shape sorters, blocks and puzzles.) Some toys lay the framework for compassion and empathy (books and dolls with different skin colors, or doctor kits for pretend play). Some toys develop simple joy (aka the ones with lights and sounds and favorite characters). You get the idea. The toys that come in your home matter!


If you take a look in our home (and our list below) you'll see a variety of wooden toys, plastic toys, open ended toys, and battery toys. I LOVE montessori practices (which is a big philosophy player behind the wooden toy movement), but I'm not a purist in my Montessori ways. I like to classify my home as a "Monti-sorta" home. :)


  • I value open ended toys. These are the BEST gifts you can give. (Open ended toys don't have instructions, have multiple ways to be be used, and usually don't have batteries. It means the child has to do the playing, not press a button and let the toy do the work. Some examples would be wooden blocks, simply toy cars, colorful scarves, a stocked easle for creating, a box of animal figurines, etc.)

  • I also value a playful, colorful, silly childhood. Things that light up, or have their favorite characters are valuable too!


The goal is that you have a little of everything. If your "toy box" has nothing but toys with batteries and buttons, your child won't learn deep play (which then becomes deep work in adulthood). The skill of learning to play by themselves more than 2 min happens as they practice deep play. But on the other hand, if your child loves the frozen sing a long barbie, don't cross it off just because it's not wooden.

I believe these are the six main categories of toys a home should have :

1. Musical Toys - Instruments, Toys that Sing, Etc.. [Music is so fun for children]

2. Thinking Toys - Blocks, Puzzles, Etc. [This helps develop focus and independent play.]

3. Pretend Toys - Dress Up Clothes, Baby Dolls, Cars, Animals, Play Food etc. [Mostly loose open ended items for them to create worlds/ process real life in a developmental way.]

4. Art Toys - Crayons, Paint, Beads, Etc. [Great for fine motor skill and big brain development]

5. Active Toys (A lot of times Outside Toys) - Balls, Bubbles, Scooters, Bikes, Bouncers, Water Tables, etc. [Focusing on that gross motor]

6. Interest Toys - Things they are interest in this season [A lot of these toys will fit in the other, but basically these are from the child's favorite show/movie, or just something they are into these days. For instance, a play airplane is specifically purchased and put out because Oliver is into all things airplanes these days.] Balance is key. About twice a year I take a mental toy inventory of our home. I try to find what category is overflowing and needs to be purged, and what category is bare and needs some "buffing up". It helps me know what to give and what to buy. You could use these in helping you with toy rotation, but honestly I just pulse things to know when to rotate some toys in and out. ***I don't categorize books as toys but a good collection of board books is a must!


Okay, enough "child development" talk. Let's just play! All that stuff above is just extra fun for those of us who love it. Don't let it get intimidating. Here's my list of "Most Used/Loved Toys": ***All linked on underlined title.


1. Fisher Price Puppy Walker



2. Infantino Musical Instrument Turtle Drum



3. Melissa and Doug Geometric Stacker



4. Little Tikes Swing



5. Ikea Easel [Not convenient to get, but this is $20, is a chalk board, dry erase board and has a butcher paper roll for coloring. This is a STEAL if you can find an IKEA to go to.]



6. Melissa and Doug Latch Puzzle



7. Little Tikes Dino Cozy Coupe



8. Melissa and Doug Cleaning Set



9. Fisher Price Piano Gym


10. Hockey/Soccer Set [Yes, Oliver is barely 2 but he LOVES this set.]



11. Baby Doll [This isn't the exact one we have but we have gotten HOURS of play with this baby doll. Boys with Dolls are so important to me. It helps them become caring brothers and builds skills needed for future doctors, teachers, fathers, and friends.]




12. Wooden Alphabet Blocks [This isn't the set we have. I found one at a thrift store I can't find. But this is very similar]




Happy Giving, Happy Playing, Abby ***Don't forget....The Cirkles are Cheering you On

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