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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 3.5 yr old and a 1 yr old. We've just recently decided to homeschool. We're also at a point where most of our toys have outlived their usefulness. A lot of them were given to us and aren't really the kind of open ended creative type toys that I would like to have. Others he's just outgrown, or have gotten broken, or whatever.

We don't have a winter holiday that we celebrate, so we do a "family day" in October for our anniversary. It's our big giving occasion. So assume that we have nothing. What would you recommend?

I'm not sure if it matters, but we're planning on doing somewhat of a classical education with a heavy unschooling slant.
 

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I like FP Little people sets. My 4 3/4 dd and 22 month old ds both play with them, particuly the animals, all the time. Been well worth the money.
: anyone who abhores plastic

Bucket of cotton reals. These are brightly colourd plastic. yep plastic again
They come with thick threading twine. can also be stacked and soerted. Again can be saftly used by both children.

A set of thick hard crayons. Beeswax is nice if you can find and afford them.

Jig-saw puzzles.

Dress-ups and cloths for capes and cubbies. Silks are nice but old sheets cut up will do.

Sand pit with buckets, scoops, digger vehicles, animals etc. Old kitchen items work fine.

Water container to plat in with above kitchen items.

Set of wooden blocks in various shapes.

Duplo for both. Oldest might like lego but keep it away from your youngest.

baby dolls with some clothes, bed, plate and spoon etc.

Play dough with roller and shape cutters
 

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First of all, I'd like to say that I love your idea of having a family day for your anniversary. In October no less.


My main toy recommendation would be blocks. Unit blocks, Legos, and Tinker Toys have been a hit with my kids, and I frequently see other kinds and end up drooling over them. The other day I discovered Erectors and am considering giving Grace some as a birthday present. I regret not having space in our apartment for the giant styrofoam bricks.

Then there are the props-for-pretend-play type toys. Our kitchen set lives in a "TV cart" which can also function as a table, altar, store counter, etc. We have a homemade stovetop with burners drawn on cardboard to lay on top. The pots and pans are metal (they came from Ikea), and Grace and I prefer real, breakable mini tea cups and saucers, but unfortunately Eve tends to break them. Eve also has a doll stroller, which she loves. If I were choosing myself, I might have picked something like a wood pushcart that would be even more open ended. (Although, she still uses hers to transport things like blocks and broomsticks.) When I was a kid, I really loved washing doll clothes and play dishes and then hanging them on my own clothesline. Don't ask me why these things are so appealing to kids who have full access to the real kitchen and have been known to make elaborate pretend picnics out of thin air, but they love the kid-sized props and seem inspired by them.

I don't know if these fall into the category you're going for, but I'll mention them: Art supplies, such as big bottles of tempera paint, good kids' brushes, big heavy paper, an easel, clay, chalkboard or whiteboard, pipe cleaners, etc. And reliable flashlights to play with.

Another thing that my kids really like is indoor "gross motor" equipment. We have hooks in our bedroom door frame, for hanging a swing and a rope ladder. If I had more space I would love to have an indoor climber. They are not only a good outlet for energy but also can be used as cottages or castles or stores or caves or whatever.
 

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All the suggestions are great.
Just want to chime in about dress up. Practically the most loved activity of all time, I do believe!


No need to purchase expensive dress up items, not even the wonderful silks from some natural companies. Browse your closet, browse garage sales, thrift stores, etc. Recycle various family members old clothes. Don't just toss out old kids clothes that are given to you as inappropriate/outdated, they may make a great dress up item. Also, fabric remnants from stores and garage sales make fabulous sari's, tents, cloaks, etc. Use your imagination!

I helped my older dd take a plain cardboard box, decorate it with pretty paper, and put a pretty computer printed "dress up box" label on it. That box lasted for several years, I was so sad when it finally smashed beyond repair!
But, we replaced it and all is well in dress up world.
My dd's are ages almost 3 and almost 8 and dress up/pretend world is still the top rated activity that they do together.
 

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Here is what we have in our school storage closet for my bosy ages 3 and 5:
shape buttons, counting chips, play money , Leappad with books, electronic matching game, board games, wooden puzzles, cloroing books, crayopns, marker, chalk, pencils, pastels, paper, stencils, scissors, magazines to cut, stamps, paint, toddler crayons, paper plates, q tips, floss, yarn, dried beans, glue, egg cartons. Basically, anything taht looks lie trash but I knwo my kids can create into soem work of art or toy.
They also have block sets, tons of books, shape sorters, loads of real stuff taht they role play with such as kitchen stuff and dress up clothes. They like playing with real grown up stuff rather than toys any day.
Oh, and a book with all sorts of recipes for stuff liek playdoucg and paint. My kids love creating with me!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
These are all really great suggestions!

The real chore is going to be sorting through all the old things and getting rid of what isn't useful. My sister gave us a ton of Rescue Heroes stuff, which I hate, but the big vehicles are fun.

We have the big cardboard blocks, but half of them seem to be lost. How the heck does that happen? We have a sandbox, but I really want to add a sand and water table to it. Ikea has easel's that are a chalkboard on one side and dry erase on the other for only $20, so I'll probably get one of those. My dad has a big saw, so I think I'll buy some wood and cut and sand my own blocks. We've bought many square blocks and plastic blocks that have been sacrificed to our Great Dane. I need to get organized!

I don't really like plastic toys, but wood is so expensive! I think I'll get a play kitchen, but it will probably have to be plastic.
I'd love to find a good wood dollhouse for not too much $$. I think I'll put most of my shopping off until the beginning of October so that some of the Christmas toys will be out.
 

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lets see, our favorite most played with regardless of what comes and goes:

the big box of dress up. from old holloween costumes, to old formals/dressy clothes a couple sizes up. they love every scrap of it.

unit blocks. we have an uxnexpensive set. they are to scale though and have held up beautifully.

a wooden doll house. lovely. its ryans room.

legos and ellos - of course. a lego table seriuosly upped he play value. it was $3 at goodwill.

FP Little people. don't tell anyone but even my almost 10 year old still plays with them.


playmobile. we have a few of the pirate sets. I woudl like mor ebout it is really out of our budget. but we bought it long before pirates were popular so it was hard to find piratey things. we looooove it. tons of little peices though. the boat actually had working rigging. yeah thats all broken. also a lot of ourt pirates have met thier demise at the hands of littles. she got it when she was four and has only had it a couple of years. I recommend waiting until they are a little older if your kids are prone to leaving thier toys out.

"home" area. we have a washer dryer, table and chares, a toybox painted like a stove (with food and dishes inside), crib, changing table (a real one no longer stable enough for real children) provides a changing area and storage, and of course everything you could ever want for baby. clothes, supplies, diapers, crib, carseats, high chairs, slings etc etc etc . . .

a fine collection of schiellig (or however you spell it) animals. man these things have far more play value than I ever imagined.

and our wooden trains. we really scored. I got three engines and three cars for free through promotions and the tracks at St. Vinies for $2 for over 150 peices. and family has added to it over the years. we get the thomas trains because they are so much more detailed than any others and so fun but we buy cheap track.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by tracilicious
. My dad has a big saw, so I think I'll buy some wood and cut and sand my own blocks.
My friend did this. her kids are still playing with them 12 years later.

Quote:

Originally Posted by tracilicious
. I don't really like plastic toys, but wood is so expensive! I think I'll get a play kitchen, but it will probably have to be plastic.
I'd love to find a good wood dollhouse for not too much $$. I think I'll put most of my shopping off until the beginning of October so that some of the Christmas toys will be out.
what we have done for play kitchen is het a bench style toy box from an "unfinished" stuff store. i think it was $20. we primed it and painted on a fake oven door and burners and knobs. the kids love it. it doesn't take up al the space of the plastic one we had and it doesn't fall apart like that one did.

our doll house was spendy but it was the gift for all three of them one year. I think we dropped $200 on it (but we got it from learning express and earned a $35 gift card which was bonus and a free balcony just because they had a special going on.). we have added to it over birtthdays, holidays and sales. does your extended family give gifts? grandparents and such have really gotten on board with giving fun stuff for the doll house. Sometims you can get them at costco and sams for around $100 fully decked out. and it seems like toys are us has a nice basic one for not a ton of money. playmobile (plastic) has a very nice afordable fold away model. and like all things playmobile I am sure you can add to it.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by tracilicious
I don't really like plastic toys, but wood is so expensive! I think I'll get a play kitchen, but it will probably have to be plastic.
I got a wooden kitchen from Target that I like. It is $79. I didn't attach the legs on when I assembled it, since it would have been a little too tall for DD with them.
http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...sin=B000CCXF7G

It did take hours to assemble, which explains the price. One other negative: the baking tray included with the set didn't fit in the oven - it was too big to sit flat. Oh, and the hole in the wooden spoon wasn't cut large enough to hang on the hooks. I ended up threading a ribbon through the hole and making a loop that can hang on the hook.

I plan to get a small unfinished jelly cabinet and paint it white for use as a toy frig. I saw one for around $40 that will work well.

Considering the length of time they will be used, I think those prices are reasonable, especially for wood.
 

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I recommend buying premium tempura paints from an art store. I got ours on sale, so they actually cost less than the lower quality stuff sold for kids. The texture and color intensity are so much better! I stocked up on large bottles of red, yellow, blue, black, and white. We mix these up in an old cupcake pan to get the rest of the colors we want as we paint.
 

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I think in terms of categories...fine motor, active play/ large motor, imaginative play, art supplies, music and media, group games, "educational stuff", construction equipment, books.

Imaginative play...play kitchen, play wooden or plastic food, bowls, spoons/ forks, play silks (I really hesitated, but they love, love, love these), dress up clothes - hats and such, some cars and trucks, a little Thomas train set that they build the track for, Fisher Price Little People farm, set of plastic dinosaurs, dolls and stuffed animals, baby blankets and washcloths (regular ones, and hand towels, they use them with the dolls all the time), a large toy horse, a toy shopping cart (Little Tykes), doctor kit, some baskets and pails. I plan to get some play stands when I can afford them.

Active play: balls of different sizes, bean bags to toss, balloons (I hung one up from a doorway and they hit it like a pinata), a hoop, push bike/ tricycle, rocking horse, a slide my husband built that has wide steps and a railing, can play underneath it too (they play on it all the freaking time and it's the center for visiting children from young toddler up till about age 10. I can even slide on it and climb underneath it. It's a slide, a bridge for trolls, a barn for animals, a clothes line, a boat, etc....) A swingset or swing would be fabulous, scooter board, a little balance beam (we made one for about $6), a hop ball, rope ladder, trapeze or twizzler.

Art supplies: easel, paints and paint brushes (tempra, watercolor, fingerpaint), crayons, colored pencils, chalk, scissors and glue, tape, play dough, liquid starch and cornstarch for making goop, tissue paper, construction and drawing paper, butcher paper, magic markers (the short ones especially), a magna doodle, stamps and stamp pad

Construction toys: blocks of all kinds (unit blocks, large cardboard blocks, tree blocks, magnetic blocks, legos/ duplos, zoom tools)

Fine motor: I use a lot of Montessori toys (Michael Olaf, Montessori N Such catalogues are great). I took a shoe box and cut a slit and my 15 month old will spend a long time putting poker chips in through the slit. My 2.5 yr old likes putting coins in piggy banks. Puzzles, esp with pegs. Fishing poles and fish with magnets on them. sorting activities, lacing cards, peg board, hammering board, creamer pitchers for practice pouring, baster and eyedropper, bin with rice and measuring spoons and bowls (sand, beans, salt, flour, etc work well too), scrub brush, broom and dustpan, spray bottle, tweezers, cloths, dish pans....Awakening Your Toddler's Love of Learning is a great resource book!

Games: Goodnight Moon, candyland, rhyming and opposite puzzles, art memory, color/ shape bingo

rhythm instruments, cds, xylophone

Educational: at this age, I view the fine and gross motor and imaginative play/ art stuff as the primary work. I do a lot of Montessori practical life activities and music. We do have some educational dvds (Signing Time, Preschool Power, Leap Frog) and a Fridge Phonics. For your 3.5 yr old, I'd look at things like abc puzzles, sandpaper numbers, number balance scales, geoboards, unifix cubes/ cuissinarie rods, rhyming and sequencing and number puzzles
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by tracilicious
I don't really like plastic toys, but wood is so expensive! I think I'll get a play kitchen, but it will probably have to be plastic.
I'd love to find a good wood dollhouse for not too much $$. I think I'll put most of my shopping off until the beginning of October so that some of the Christmas toys will be out.
I was going to recommend the Target one as well. A friend just got it & I LOVE it (we have an old plastic one that I got for $5 at a yardsale, the non-frugal part of me is totally lusting after something nicer though LOL). Honestly though, if I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I'd get a "kitchen" I might just get/make pieces. My twins have each claimed one corner of the family room as their respective houses (they visit each other for playdates & such, it's really cute to listen to them play). After observing them for long enough to determine that they had well & truely claimed those corners consistently. I rearranged their toys & such so that everything in A's "house" are HER toys & everything in "L's" house are HER toys (& the joint toys are stored in a 3rd corner of the room. BUT the only place in the room that the toy kitchen fits is in A's house (which is where it was prior to them claiming their corners). So I left it there. In L's house I put a couple wire "cubes" (the kind that you stack for storage) & took a piece of cardboard & drew a "stove" on it. one of the wire cubbies is her oven w/ the stove sitting on top. She has the toy microwave in her house (though now I think about it, I haven't seen it recently . . . hmmm?) And the other toy storage in her house is a rack of plastic bins so I suggested that one of the bins could be her sink. She's perfectly happy w/ this, I'd love to ditch the big kitchen & do similar for A. I may do it after next x-mas, we have to move the kitchen to the basement to make room for the x-mas tree, I may try not bringing it back up & see how it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sweatpees: that is adorable that they each made their own house! Good ideas too!

Terabith: How did you make a balance beam?

These are fantastic suggestions, everyone! Just when I think everything has been covered, the ideas keep coming!
 

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My dh, brilliant man that he is, made a great balance beam once. he made the bases of 2x4s. cut off a length for the base to lay flat. then a legth was nailed perpendicular to that to raise up the beam (looked like an upside T from the end) so out of the vertical peice of wood he cut 2" x 4" so that another 2x4 could sit in it.
then he cut another 2"x2" section out below that
then you could turn the board on its side and have a 2" beam. I am not sure if that makes sense or not.
So you could go from a 4" wide board to a 2" wide board as you child progressed as well as put it all away in a very small space.
 
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