Toys which lend themselves to modular acquisition
November 8, 2016 7:52 AM   Subscribe

We have had some success with toys one can acquire in bits and pieces and combine to make one big bin that gets more fabulous over time. We are looking for ideas for further toys which lend themselves to such a system.

Examples of what I mean:

- Thomas wooden train set (we started with my brother's old set and expanded it. My stepson played with for years!)

- Wooden blocks (these were used to make buildings for the train world and later ramps for the hot wheels cars)

- Hot wheels cars (we did buy a track set for these and it proved too complex and fiddly and did not get much use, but he still plays with the cars)

- Action figures (these included a large collection of Schleich smurfs from my husband's childhood as well as Kinder toys and other odds and ends)

- Arts and crafts supplies (with supervision; he was not a play doh kid but I am prepared to make a second box for that if the baby is)

- Lego (he loves these, and we have already acquired second-hand Duplo and Mega Bloks for baby brother)

Things which were less successful:

- Playmobil (he always asks for them but then loses the little pieces and never plays with them. We have some Fisher Price little people the baby and are hoping that will work better)

- Dolls (his little cousin is getting into the Barbie but this does not interest him)

- I want to get something like Magna Tiles for the next big thing but my husband is wary of spending the money since they are quite expensive :-)

What other toys lend themselves well to being a big vat of something?
posted by ficbot to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Magnatiles are totally worth it. My 11 and 7yo still play with their 8 year old sets.
posted by cocoagirl at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sounds like we have a lot of the same bins! The ones in heavy use these days with my almost 4 and 6 year old are Schleich animals (you could also do dinosaurs!) and Keva planks. The Keva planks are simple, but can build some very cool things and have neat add-ons to make contraptions, mazes, etc. I'm planning on getting some Hexbugs to run through mazes. We have a wooden marble run that is meh, but my kids have played with some different designed ones that they like better. Everyone I know who has magnatiles/magformers love them, so I say go with that.
posted by rozee at 8:07 AM on November 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like Lego, it's not cheap, but it's very good quality that will last generations. My son had a basic set and then kept acquiring various parts until he had a big bin and could make giant marble runs with all sorts of contraptions and bridges and gaits.
posted by bondcliff at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lincoln logs


Erector sets
posted by raccoon409 at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2016

We (three grown women) really like Tegu blocks. They're kinda expensive, but they feel amazing!
posted by ohkay at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Magna tiles are totally worth it. Keep an eye on Craigslist or your local Facebook sale groups for secondhand ones.

Quadrilla is also really great--I'm planning on giving my kids each one of these sets for Xmas.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2016

I second the vote for Magnatiles.

My son consistently plays with them, instead of going through phases like many of his other toys. We've done so many different things with them and used them to supplement other toys (such as building bases for his superheroes, creating different pens and dens for imaginary animals, shining flashlights through them, making containers for sorting, creating and crushing cubes when we're upset.)

If you take the cost-to-play-hours, they are likely the cheapest toy we own. And you may only need one set for a long time - we got the $100 set and that fits most of our needs.

If you have the room, you can get large cardboard blocks (or build your own from soda boxes) that my son loves to build forts out of it. We actually put a search up on Craigslist to get more block for cheap as a lot of people are eager to get them out of the house when their kids are done with them.
posted by TofuGolem at 8:29 AM on November 8, 2016

How old is the kiddo? Playmobil was too many little pieces and too fiddly up until around 5, but Playmobil 123, the line for younger kids, was a smash hit, probably the most-used toy.

We have Magformers; they are not even close to cheap but they are an awesome and much-used toy. They are also extremely well-made; to look at them you'd think stepping on them = shattered plastic, but ours are years old now and still look new.

Are dolls/plastic figurines of interest if they are provided with a neat house and cool accessories?
posted by kmennie at 11:35 AM on November 8, 2016

Magnatiles are huge in our house. Agreed with the comments upthread; for us they have been totally worth it and will be super valuable hand-me-downs.

We've also gotten a lot of use out of Crazy Forts. We haven't bought more than the main set but when we're building I often want one more set to make something REALLY giant.

Also: Art supplies. We have two buckets. One bucket that is paper-related: glue and paint and paper and stickers. One bucket is 3D arts and crafts related: pipe cleaners and pom poms and beads and clay. Play doh shapers/cutters are great to have lots of, even if the Play Doh itself has more of a shelf life.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2016

I love the suggestions! To clarify, older child is six and baby is a few weeks old. I'd like to get things for big brother which baby might also use someday but that is not a firm rule.

The smurfs and action figures have mostly been used to stage battles in an old fisher price castle which also used to belong to my brothers. I'm open to other things which might involve the action figures, but storage space is limited and some of the Little People stuff is bulky. We don't have room for too many more big pieces.
posted by ficbot at 7:59 AM on November 9, 2016

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