Most new parents are told by countless people that having children is "expensive" and silly things like "say goodbye to your _______ fund once the kids come along!" And while it is true that the cost of raising a child these days is a lot larger than it once was, instead of thinking of raising a kid as costing too much, think about how much raising the kid improperly would cost!
The same line of thinking can be used when we talk about toys. Sure, at first it may seem like buying "cheaper" toys will save you money, but when you look at the quality and play value of those toys, cheaper is not always better. They're most likely to either break during the first week and become useless or get chucked to the bottom of the toy box because they aren't very interesting. Suddenly, those cheap dollar store toys are the ones looking expensive!
Providing children with quality, open-ended, passive toys will give them the opportunity to have the best quality play experiences possible. The less a toy does, the more that is required from the child and the more the child will learn in the play process. The more passive the toy, the more the child has to utilize their imagination.
Quality toys should be seen as an INVESTMENT, not an EXPENSE!
The suggestions below may seem very basic but are actually 5 of the absolute best toys one could provide to a child!
Blocks - Blocks are classics for a reason. Nearly every parent can remember playing with blocks as a child, and for good reason. They are so versatile and most importantly, basic. Most even lack color. They are so "basic" that we actually call them "Basic Blocks"! With blocks, children can literally build anything they want. Children have such wild imaginations that they will even use blocks for things other than building. There is no wrong way to play with blocks! HABA block sets often come without instructions, leaving it completely up to the child on what to do with them.
Nesting/Stacking Sets - Children are naturally attracted to nesting and stacking. It is beneficial for children to learn how to sort cubes by size to be able to nest them all together. It could take many, many tries to get it right. But they are learning from every mistake and through early problem solving, their brain is developing skills to help them in the real world later on. How often in our daily lives as adults do we have to be able to decipher size order, estimate where items are placed and how to work through problems using trial and error? We take all of these skills for granted, but we learned them from somewhere!
Sorting/arranging is something else children are naturally drawn to. Grouping like-shapes and colors together, pattern recognition and fine motor skills are just a few of the benefits of sorting sets. Sorting is another skill that we have as adults, that we may take for granted. It is natural for an adult brain to sort things into groups but that is because we have had years of practice through play, beginning as early as infancy.
Threading/Lacing Activities - These help children learn how to properly use their thumb and pointer finger together (also known as the pincer grip) which is necessary to hold a writing utensil properly. Activities like this are also beneficial because they require dexterity, hand-eye coordination and will strengthen their hand muscles and improve fine motor skills. They’ll also become aware of the roles of their dominant and non-dominant hands.
Role Play - Whether it is using puppets, dolls, wooden figures, stuffed animals or something with no face at all (like a block). all children can benefit from some type of role play. The best part is, role play isn't something parents need to teach kids how to do or encourage them to play. Kids naturally act out fantasies in the form of role play as part of their development. This is how they practice for every day life. Role play is also how kids come to terms with tough situations, process events and help prepare themselves for new situations.
Just because a toy has a 12 month or 18 month+ age recommendation on it doesn't mean that a child older than that can't enjoy and benefit from it. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The most basic toys are the toys that appeal and benefit to the largest range of ages. These are the very toys that parents should invest in!