Gift for a 4yo... Playmobil? Magnatiles? Hospital? Calico Critters? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 09:22 AM - Thread Starter
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DS was given a $50 gift card to Amazon. He wants to be surprised so I need to pick out something awesome! We've never had the opportunity to buy something so pricey ($2 at the thrift store often breaks our budget) so I'm really not sure how to put it to best use!

I've come across a few things but can't decide. He loves cats... and animals in general. He loves playing hospital/doctor. I wish I could get a cat-hospital Playmobil set or something... I don't think he'd be interested in the Playmobil people (he almost never plays with human-looking toys!) but he'd love the little accessories. I think he'd love Magnatiles too but they are SO expensive and I'm not sure it's worth it. But he is always trying to tape his blocks together so he might appreciate building with the Magnatiles. I also ran across Calico Critters which seem right up his alley but I don't know anything about them, good or bad, and I didn't see many starter sets (where we wouldn't have to buy extra things to make it fun).

I'm open to any other ideas too! He cannot play with battery-operated toys (for multiple reasons). I prefer wood or metal but a bit of plastic is OK here. He has some sensory issues and I thought some kind of sensory thing would be cool but I can only think of a trampoline and we don't have space for that. Aside from playing with animals and hospital, he also likes playing fire, hunting (though I'm not getting him a toy gun!), construction, and anything music-related. Mostly he prefers realistic toys, and he spends a lot of his time taking real things apart. He doesn't really play independently so it would be great to find him something he might engage in alone!

OK now you know way more about my kid than you wanted to lol... any recommendations?

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#2 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 09:41 AM
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We got Magnatiles when DD was 2. Since then, we've added more sets. She's 8 now, and its the only toy that she and her friends have played with consistently throughout the years. They get lots of use, and are the one thing that when kids come over, always get pulled from the shelves.


To put it in context, we also have a ton of Playmobil, lincoln logs, blocks, backyard trampoline, Calico Critters, Barbies, swingset, stilts, pogo stick, wooden blocks, matchbox cars, etc.


The Playmobil are also a hit, but not as much as the magnatiles. The Calico Critters are fun to get and play with a bit, but then they tend to get lost and forgotten.

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#3 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 11:47 AM
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Magnatiles are a great toy.  Would he be frustrated that the magnets are weak and structures fall apart easily?  They are easy to rebuild too, but some kids who come over to play can't seem to handle that aspect of them.  I've explained it to my kids and it doesn't seem to be an issue for them now.  We have the big mangatile set, and I'm not sure how fun it would be to have just the smaller one.  The more tiles, the more the possibilities.


There are a lot of playmobil animals.  My DD loves the animals too and plays with them a lot more than the people.  Also, there is Littlest Pet Shop.  I know it is marketed to girls, but they are animals.  The tiny baby ones are cute.


Calico critters are cute and nice.  They are pricey.  A little fuzzy to the touch.  The clothes sort of suck.


Does he have any lego?  He's at a good age for lego building.  He could build houses for all his random little animal friends.

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#4 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 12:33 PM
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What about a doctor's kit?  My son enjoys playing doctor, too, and he will give everyone check-ups.  Things with small pieces (Playmobil, Calico Critters, etc) drive me bonkers, as the accessories just get lost easily or create clutter.  


My 4 year old loves his Legos, too.  We got a big bin of them (like this) and he enjoys making buildings, cars, robots, etc.  The bin is super helpful for clean-up, as all the small pieces are properly stored and easily found the next time.  My son rarely ever plays independently, but will play alone with Legos.


I know you want to stay away from plastic, that has always been my goal too, but it sure gets harder as the kids get older.  One toy that has really stood the test of time is our Hotwheels Garage.  It gets played with EVERY day, which makes it worth having a big plastic thing in my living room!


My son got this set for Christmas, and it has been a hit.  No super small pieces, so it's safe around our 17 month old.  Lots of room for creativity, as the pieces fit together all sorts of ways.  Our set is the car-building one, since he's a car fanatic, but they also have basic sets with more colorful pieces and no wheels.  There are directions included for making certain types of cool vehicles, which he likes to try sometimes.  Mostly, he likes to create his own.


Have fun shopping!

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#5 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 01:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Love the ideas, keep them coming! Sounds like Magnatiles is in the lead right now. I could get this 48-piece set if I throw in some extra cash he was also gifted that I was saving... Is 48 pieces enough for it to be fun?

And the other option is that I use the Amazon gift card to order my supplements & a few grocery items we need... and then we could spend his $50 on something else non-Amazon, like a museum or zoo membership or class or a shopping spree at Savers or something.

Can you tell I have shopping issues? I can't spend a dime without questioning my decision!!

Co-sleeping is really wonderful when your child actually SLEEPS!! familybed1.gif
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#6 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 05:12 PM
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My inlaws got some magnet toys,  not magnetiles, but Magformers, and my kids LOVE them!  It is actually the one main toy that they are still playing with since Christmas!

Cassie, mom to Alex(7), Aidan(5), Andrew(4)

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#7 of 12 Old 01-18-2013, 05:31 PM
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My child HATES the building sets others have suggested and prefers plain blocks to all of them-won't even touch a lego. As a just turned 5 years old he LOVES LOVES his calico critters and the knock-off Target ones,  they get played together and we have none of the extras- we have real log/tree blocks and found items and he can spend tons of time with them.


There are these items -   we also love playing with our child size stethoscope in our home-I feel it's a must have toy

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#8 of 12 Old 01-19-2013, 05:54 AM
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My kids love magnatiles. For one child, I think a 48 piece set would work. THe more you have, the bigger the  structures become.   My kids also love playmobil, but not really at 4. too many small pieces. Honestly, I feel the same about the calico critters. We have some of those, but little sister didn't really like playing with them until she was closer to 5. Don't get me wrong-- they're cute. Just small, with lots of small accessories, and difficult to dress.


Another idea, since you said he loves cats, is    I got this for a relative and it was loved.

Twin boys (2/05) and little sister (10/07)
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#9 of 12 Old 01-27-2013, 08:09 PM
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We love our magnatiles. Everyone seems to really enjoy them, even adults!

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#10 of 12 Old 02-02-2013, 07:51 PM
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Magnate lex are expensive and honestly, $50 won't go that far to buy a big set. On the other hand good luck buying used. Id choose two accessory rich playmobil (the small carrying case type have Big Bang for the buck.
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#11 of 12 Old 02-05-2013, 06:28 PM
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How about Haba marble run?  It's all wood, except for the marbles.  My boys love watching marbles run around a track.  They are kind of pricey, though. 

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#12 of 12 Old 02-05-2013, 09:26 PM
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What about building straws?


I never actually got these for my kids but it was on my wish list forever.



He might appreciate some duct tape if he likes taping the blocks together.   It comes in handy with cardboard box building.



We had some Calico Critters before and I think they are okay but not great.  They are really dolls with tiny clothes etc for playing in little houses and such. 


My kids loved loved loved Schleich animals.  They got played with day in and day out month after month year after year by everyone.  There are adults and babies of the animals so they are nice for family groups.  They live in block houses and travel in sand boxes and mud puddles etc. and ours have been used as big chess pieces too.  I do not know how the girls kept track for that!

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