Toys for little boys
November 11, 2009 10:36 AM   Subscribe

My son's first Christmas is approaching. Six days afterward he will turn one. Help me make an awesome wish list as the grandparents are already asking for ideas.

The boy is the first grandchild on my side of the family and the long-awaited first child of the youngest on my husband's side. There will be a mountain of gifts for him this December. Heck, he got a bunch of gifts last Christmas despite the fact that he wasn't even born yet. I'd like to steer the gift givers toward classic, durable toys that he will be able to play with for some time to come. I think Santa will be bringing him a Radio Flyer wagon, and Grandpa is making him a rocking horse. What else should be on the list?
posted by rebeccabeagle to Shopping (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Blocks - lots and lots of wooden blocks. I bought my niece and nephew a set of blocks for their first Christmas (1.5 months old) and they still, at the age of 7, use them.
posted by banannafish at 10:39 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Books made from materials that can be extensively chewed on were my favorite toys as a 1y/o apparently. Like cloth books or puffy plastic books or those books that have super thick cardboard pages. I devoured them, both mentally and physically.
posted by kthxbi at 10:41 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think its important to play together and show genuine enthusiasm for the play, therefore stuff that you can do together is more important than the age on the box. So stuff like legos (the big ones), slotcars!, remote control helicopter (indoor target variety) will all be fun for parents and kids.
posted by H. Roark at 10:51 AM on November 11, 2009

Family membership to your local zoo, aquarium, or children's museum.
posted by padraigin at 10:54 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Thomas the Tank Engine train table with trundle drawers for holding all the stuff. Greatest toy "system" and "toy" storage evar!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:05 AM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: Playmobil 123 is fantastic stuff. It takes an incredible beating and it holds its play value for a long time -- right now it'll be fun to just pick up the cow and identify it as a cow; later on the cow can actually hang out in the barn, etc. The truck with garage is a particularly good set. We have a decent collection and it was probably the best toy money spent for the 2nd year -- and it's still in heavy use in the 3rd.

A toy kitchen is a sound investment. Ikea's Duktig (see also their toy pots and pans &c) is pretty nice. Also: Virre slide.

Plan Toys have also impressed, especially the dancing alligator.
posted by kmennie at 11:08 AM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: My 15 month old has been charging around the house pushing this wooden truck for a couple of months. He loves it. It's even more fun when Dad makes a huge tower out of the blocks and he can run up and knock them over.

This wooden duck is also getting lots of play time, he found it quite hard to manipulate at first, but he figured it out about a month ago and can now get a good flapping noisy run with it.
posted by IanMorr at 11:15 AM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: Toys he will like next November will be appreciated by you as well - he'll never get through a huge pile of "stuff for one year olds" before he outgrows them. If you can plant the idea of stuff he'll enjoy growing into over the year, you'll be thankful you did in six months.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 AM on November 11, 2009

I have a 3 year old niece, and watching her through some early holidays made me think that the presents were not important when she was 1. She enjoyed the unwrapping, the boxes, the attention, andd some of the toys. But much of it was just about the experience. The best presents were ones that mom could use (potty training stuff, new books to read, clothes) and the one's that were fun to open. her second christmas the thing she remembered most was the chocolate egg (like a Cadbury's egg), which she had specifically asked for and which she ate in about three bites. She still remembers that and that's going to be her first christmas memory. The other toys are just around and she doesn't think about where they came from most of the time.

I'd say for the first xmas go easy on gifts, wrap up a lot of small fun things (fruit, candy, one or two new toys) and ask the grandparents for some government bonds or other investment that can make for a great graduation present in years to come.
posted by cubby at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maggie Mason's got a great shopping blog. She sources lots of cool, independent shops and seems to focus on more durable, more creative, and more green products. You might browse this section of her site for some ideas and links to other shops. (I think she also has a baby boy, so she's got an eye towards that kind of thing.)
posted by juliplease at 11:35 AM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: I'd take DarlingBri's good idea even further -- the stuff meant for one-year-olds is generally space-hungry and play-value-poor. I'd go ahead and start collections of toys he'll appreciate more over time -- standard unit blocks, Schleich animals, vintage Little People, Bruder trucks.
posted by palliser at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My parents did something really wonderful for my son's first Christmas that they did again for my daughter's first Christmas, three years later, and something I plan to do when I have grandchildren. Cubby is correct in saying that the presents aren't so much for the kid as for the parent. Knowing my passion for helping those in need, my parents gave my kids each a couple of really nice, really durable wooden toys that they played with well into their toddler years (like wooden nesting blocks that could double as a tower, wooden blocks, wooden cars, big chunky wooden puzzles, etc.) and they found a organization that needed kids' toys and clothing donations. They spent the money they would have spent on buying "a mountain of gifts" for my kids on kids who would be lucky to receive one gift, let alone two or three.

As our kids got older, my parents started taking them along on their charity shopping trips. The kids helped pick out gifts and helped wrap them. They've learned not only that their family is generous, but that you really can make a difference in someone's life. Imagine what it's like to be a young child/teenager and you see Christmas all around you but you get nothing. It must be devastating. I'm so happy my parents started that tradition with my kids.
posted by cooker girl at 11:52 AM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

Or, yeah, cubby's idea is good, too -- basically from the same premise, that spending hundreds of dollars on a pile of baby toys is really not a great use of money.
posted by palliser at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2009

How about a toy the grandparents might remember you playing with as a tot, plus a check into the kid's 529 plan?

That pole with the stacking toruses is aleays a big hit. Dad can balance them on his head to great effect, and the infants will eventually like to chew them.

Honestly, my four kids all surprised us with which toys they seized upon out of all the things in our house. And yes, often it was a cardboard box or other packing material. There's pretty much no way you can predict it -- and for a kid this small, they'll grow out of most things in a very short time.

Not too many toys are timeless, but there are a few. There's some Scandanavian rchitectural blocks that I always wanted, for example, but they cost three figures and I bet the kids would have ignored them after two minutes.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:02 PM on November 11, 2009

i 1000% agree with what cubby says. ask for a few awesome toys, of which there have apparently been good suggestions, but then ask for things that are useful FOR the kid, like diapers or new clothes or daycare totes or whatever it is you need.

i'd also suggest savings bonds or something like that. i know they're next to worthless as a way to earn huge interest, but my grandpa got me a bunch before i was born and then for various birthdays and holidays as i was growing up until he died. a bunch of them helped pay for college costs (18 years of interest and such was pretty good then!) and my my parceled out the rest over the next 10 years. sure, as a 5 year old i was like "wow, thanks grandpa, a savings bond! *eye roll*" but everytimg my mom has sent me a random bond in the last 10 years i have been tickled pink and it has meant a lot and made me think of grandpa. (was this a tangent?)

at any rate...your 1 year old doesn't need a pile of toys from a bunch of well-meaning relatives. the hand-made rocking horse is a GREAT idea as it will be something he can treasure.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2009

Response by poster: darlingbri & paliser- those are exactly the kinds of toys that I'm looking for- things that he might play with in the next year and will continue to play with long after that. I'd like to put some of the toys away and bring them out when appropriate during the next year.

I know that my son will not remember this Christmas/birthday and will have no idea what's going on when he opens gifts, but I don't know that there's a power on this earth that could stop our families from buying toys for this kid. At least if I have some good suggestions for them, I can minimize the blinking, beeping, battery powered chunks of plastic he receives...
posted by rebeccabeagle at 1:28 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: if I have some good suggestions for them, I can minimize the blinking, beeping, battery powered chunks of plastic he receives

heh. Good luck with that.

Actually, I shouldn't gripe. My in-laws learned, pretty fast, that toys that beep or blink get donated. When he's 1, if its there one day and gone the next, well, that's the way of the world. When he gets to 3 or 4 it gets harder to enforce.

For my first Christmas as a child, I was given a handmade rag doll that became my 'special' toy (in the Velveteen Rabbit sense). I'm actually trying to think what we gave my son for his first Christmas, and I'm not coming up with anything -- wait, actually I do remember. It was a Radio Flyer Retro Rocket Ride-on Toy. For his first birthday, I did make it a point to buy him an handmade wooden painted elephant that he still plays with sometimes. I picked it specifically so when he was an adult he could say "I got this from my mother on my first birthday".

I'm a big fan of "important" kids books, in hardcover, with inscriptions. My son does have board books, but we taught him very early not to destroy books simply by having real books at hand, being used, at all times. My mother is slowly buying my son hardcover copies of the Oz books, so by the time he's old enough to appreciate them we'll have a decent set.

Toys he had when he was one that he still plays with now include: Wooden blocks; Duplo Legos (which he wasn't really interested in until he was two); stuffed Winnie the Pooh toys; "fight guys" (Fisher Price Great Adventures Knights -- now discontinued -- that I amassed via ebay); my childhood Fisher Price house, castle, houseboat, and school; a classic Fisher Price popper; a rocking horse (a classic first Christmas present); Schleich animals; a metal "Christopher Robin-style" drum; a HUGE metal Tonka dumptruck; a See and Say (I bought a classic one from eBay); some handmade puppets.

I'm a fan of Back to Basics Toys and also some things from Magic Cabin.

I notice there is a train suggestion upthread. My son is now 3 1/2 and only got into Thomas (and trains) in the past few months (since August, actually. I can pinpoint the day.) In shopping around for Train Tables (Santa is bringing a Train Table), I found that, while its worth it to spend the money to get a few of the branded trains, there are equally good train tables (with storage, even) out there for a fraction of the cost of the Thomas branded ones. But I would wait and see if he's a train guy or not.
posted by anastasiav at 1:59 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: Our little girl just turned one. We asked for a wooden xylophone and a drum. She loves them. She also got college money and a big donation to UNICEF in her name.
posted by gaspode at 2:13 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: Nephew's first birthday, he got clothes, books, toys, but what totally flipped him out, light-up-face, "this is the most amazing moment ever" was a little kid sized upholstered chair. He just about exploded with joy and laughter, hugged the chair, sat on the chair, wouldn't be moved from the chair. It's still his favorite thing more than a year later.

Also useful: a set of little steps for using the sink. The set we got, from Target or similar, was plain wood, and the top step flips open to reveal a little hiding place for a couple of small toys. When he was 1, he couldn't really use them as steps, but he loved opening and closing the top step and banging on it to make noise. Now he's older and likes them as steps.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:22 PM on November 11, 2009

I was just about to recommend a tiny chair before LobsterMitten beat me to it. We bought one for each of our children on their 1st birthdays and they've gotten years of use.
posted by jrossi4r at 2:38 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: My son turns one 10 days before Christmas, so we're in the same position!

We have on our list:


And if we hadn't gotten this buggy for him at a second hand shop where it just happened to be sitting outside as we walked by, this would be on the list as well. The Whisper Buggy might be another option to consider.

I'd also like to get him an awesome play kitchen of some sort since he plays with one of the ones at a local store's play area all the time --- also a Step 2 brand.

Don't know if the Learning Tower has been suggested yet, but that might go on the list too, especially since we have an always-involved-and-reaching guy.

The thing is. many of these things will be good for a long while, and the quality is such that they'll stay good for any other children who might come along (cousins or siblings!)

I also wouldn't rule out gift cards to places where you like to get children's clothes. Our guy went from 9 month clothes to 12 month clothes to 18 month clothes in about three months (and yet somehow he's in around the 50th percentile for weight), so, giftcards for baby and children's clothes would be well used by us at least.
posted by zizzle at 2:42 PM on November 11, 2009

Is there anything that he/you might appreciate later? Like an album of his first year, or a quilt, or something? Obviously depends on the craftiness and the willingness of the grandparents, but it might be fun to have later.

the kids I babysit (even as old as 8 and up) love play kitchens and things - if you guys have a suitable backyard, maybe a little playhouse?

Oooh- what about a tent? Something big enough to fit the parents (or not) - backyard picnics and backyard camping will be fun for the few years to come. He's a little on the young side right now, but maybe next year or something.
posted by R a c h e l at 3:01 PM on November 11, 2009

Best answer: With all of the talk of kitchens, I'm surprised there's been no talk of the wonderfulness of felt food! It's very safe It should be made with no glue and no embellishments), so you can chew on it when you're wee and you can play cooking with it when you're bigger. It's very durable and also just plain cool and fun.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:58 PM on November 11, 2009

My son was 11 months his first Christmas and his "big" gift was a quality wooden kitchen. He's now played with it for three years (just about) and I've had 1-year olds and 7-year olds come over and love it.

A learning tower, as said above, is an amazing thing to have and will keep your child very content.
posted by Lullen at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2009

Balls. My 21 month old has been obsessed with all kinds of round objects for the last year. Balls, balloons, and bubbles will send him into peals of laughter.

Also cars and trucks. All different kinds.

If he isn't eating, he is carrying around a car or some kind of ball. Sometimes both.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:52 PM on November 11, 2009

A little boy can never have enough wooden blocks. My son is nearly eleven and still plays with the ones I bought him before he was born.
posted by littleflowers at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2009

Speaking as a guy who grew up with the same scenario (bday 5 days after Christmas), the best thing they can do for him as he grows older, is not to forget about his birthday. When I was a kid, I used to get smaller gifts on my birthday, which was great. Later, it morphed into "combined" Christmas/birthday gifts, which was not so cool. Still later, I would get combined cards, and eventually my birthday essentially disappeared from everyone's radar. The message over time was that my birthday just wasn't as important as my sisters' and cousins', because they all had the good sense not to be born between Christmas and New Years.
posted by Irontom at 10:58 AM on November 12, 2009

Ask each grandparent to write a letter, every birthday, with remembrances of their own youth, family stories, etc., ideally with a few old family pictures. Over time, this would be an amazing treasure.

Most little children can't really pay attention to a lot of new toys at once. It's just a lot of new stimulation. Be enthused on the child's behalf, but be prepared for the box, ribbon, or a stocking stuffer to be the favorite object. Later, when the child plays with the toys, take a picture to send to Grampa.
posted by theora55 at 12:47 PM on November 12, 2009

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