Toys with longevity - 7 year old boy edition
October 22, 2020 11:13 PM   Subscribe

My son turns seven in a few weeks and I'm looking for his birthday present. We typically do one large-ish present and a few smaller ones, but open to changing that up. But all the toys he's received recently have palled on him after a couple of days of play. What toys did your kids (or you) play with over and over again and genuinely enjoy for the longest time? Trying to decrease pandemic-necessitated screen time as well.

For context, he likes Dogman, Captain Underpants, Hot Wheels and Geronimo Stilton. He loves to tinker and build things, but he loses interest in Lego quickly. Really enjoys his kiwi crates, but they only last a couple of hours once a month.

Thanks for the help, MetaFilter!
posted by yogalemon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My 14 year old son *still* occasionally plays with his Magna-tile set. It's an excellent toy.
posted by mezzanayne at 11:28 PM on October 22, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Check out K'Nex. My younger son was into Lego, but my older son had no interest. But older son was so thrilled with the building toy that he saved $50 to pay for half of a very large K'Nex kit when he was 5. He received more kits and pieces as the years passed and was still building with it at 18.
posted by angiep at 11:52 PM on October 22, 2020

Best answer: Mechano is about the right speed for a tinkery seven year old. Do you know why he doesn't like Lego? My seven year old loves any sort of construction toy (including the Magna-tiles mezzanayne mentioned already) but Lego is still The Boss. We notices the boy vastly preferred open ended boxes rather than themed sets, but we know kids who are the other way - they like the structured construction that comes from having instructions and a target to build.
posted by Jilder at 11:54 PM on October 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a seven year old girl who lives to make things and asked for a remote control plane for Christmas. Now your standard remote control plane is way too technical and sophisticated for her age but I came across something on Kickstarter which may be up your alley too, it's called the PowerUp 4.0 Smartphone controlled Paper Airplane. I'm sure you can figure out what it is by the name!

Judging by the Kickstarter promo video, a child can use it and enjoy making the paper airplanes too and it looks very robust. I've yet to receive it so can't give you a user review but am keen to see how it goes and I'm sure that if my daughter isn't careful it will be co-opted by my son and husband - it looks very cool indeed! Maybe check that out?
posted by Jubey at 1:36 AM on October 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

P.S I liked the plane idea because it was a bit technical, a bit creative, involves designing and also gets her out of the house too.
posted by Jubey at 1:42 AM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: My oldest kid (8) sounds similar to yours except they love Lego. What sort of sets have you got him before? Mine is more likely to play with sets from themes they're into (Ninjago and Minecraft) - annoyingly the non-Lego franchises (like Minecraft and Star Wars) are a fair bit more expensive though. He's probably also old enough for some of the less complicated Technic sets, which involve more mechanisms than regular Lego and thus might lend themselves to "tinkering" - some of the models can have motors added, for example.
They're also into video games - I don't know if you have a console (and I realise a new one might be too expensive) but my kid loves Lego City Undercover, Overcooked, Moving Out, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Untitled Goose Game, Mario Kart, and Just Dance. Of those, Lego City Undercover and Breath of the Wild have had the longest lifespan simply because there's so much to do.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:44 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My friend put a magic kit together for one of my children at that age from more professional-level items and it was a huge hit. For smaller things, a Rubix cube also went a long way (although for that one it was often used around a screen.)

Another hit was one of those circuit-building kits although the novelty wore off faster.

My kids also started to transition from “Toys” to “Supplies” around that age so all the art things became what they asked for - Fimo, air-dry clay, a tool set, etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:17 AM on October 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Snap circuits are popular around here, and they can just keep growing in complexity.
posted by rockindata at 4:19 AM on October 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think I got my pocket microscope around age 10, and never really stopped using it. I'm pretty sure it would be fun for a 7 yr old too, and they are inexpensive as well. Mine is like this 30x, but any brand is fine.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:00 AM on October 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

They make great digital keyboards now, with cool sound effects and stuff, that turns them more tinkery than just a "piano." A friend with a tinkery kid highly recommends. (also, said friend recommends that you include headphones).
posted by nkknkk at 5:31 AM on October 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Snap Circuits Jr. & Snap circuits was popular with my kid for several years, so much so that he even asked for an "extension pack" two birthdays afterwards.
posted by MiraK at 6:10 AM on October 23, 2020

N'thing Snap Circuits. Great stuff, and the uptake on them for one of our kids was strong enough that we invested in some of the expansion kits.
posted by jquinby at 6:36 AM on October 23, 2020

I mean, greatest longevity in terms of hours invested?

Minecraft. Minecraft is a digital version of lego, but the world is alive.

I'd get him something that can play minecraft. You can play it on a phone or tablet, or a computer, or any game system. It's social - they'll play with friends. It's educational - they'll learn to program, to problem solve, and more.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:50 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My son is 14 and has had kinetic sand for many years and will come back to it over and over again.
posted by Twicketface at 7:11 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We sound like we have the same kid (mine will be 8 in January). He loves to build things, but for some reason Legos don't do it. These are things that keep my kid entertained for the longest amount of time:

* Puzzle games, especially this car one, but also this puzzler pro. In the before times we also took them to restaurants because he can't sit still and we want to avoid screens.

* He loves these marble run toys. He'll spend hours and then he'll ignore them for a while, but does get back into them eventually.

* Paper airplanes. I mean maybe this is just my kid, but he can make paper airplanes for hours. So lots of construction paper and we have a book with designs and for the past week or two he's employing a stapler which he loves.

* Magic tricks. You can buy cheap-o boxes of some kid tricks and I swear these have held his attention for quite some time.

* Lastly, this isn't always ideal but some 2x4s, nails, eye protection and a hammer can keep my kid busy for hours. He also likes screwing screws into wood. Also recently I bought him some moving boxes and he spent days building an in-door fort, cutting holes in the boxes and using string to make windows he could pull open. I mean the whole room smelled like cardboard, but it kept him busy.

* Also remote control cars, but their batteries die so quickly they can be trouble.
posted by jdl at 7:34 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know how broadly you're defining toys, but: Razor scooter!
Or, other stuff in the same vein: pogo stick, roller skates/blades, bike (if he doesn't already have one), sleds and other snow toys (if relevant in your area), hoverboard..

+1 also on the digital keyboard. In my family, none of the kids ever properly learned to play piano, but we still goofed around on the digital keyboard for hours. I have no idea how.
posted by mosst at 8:13 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not to try to sell you on something that isn't working, but kids who aren't big on Lego at 7 may get into it around 9. I think the peak Lego age range is probably 9-12, based on a small sample of kids whose parents I know and/or am related to (for my part I was into Lego by age 6 or so, but I was way into Lego around 8 or 9, and that stuck until I was 13 and got a computer). Since Lego is expensive, I wouldn't try to push it on a kid who's not into it, but I also wouldn't divest any of the kits you already have for a couple more years, because it might come around.

I'd look for modular building toy kits with motors. Maybe that's still Lego and maybe it's something else, but the ability to make stuff that moves on its own is engaging in a way that a static model isn't. Does he have one of those Hot Wheels tracks with the motor that zips the cars along? Even if he does, might he enjoy a second one so he can combine them to build a crazier track? I liked to make tracks with jumps in them and see how far apart I could make the ends before the car wouldn't make it. Or build obstacles (with wooden blocks or Lego) for my less precious cars to crash into. Or push the track to the point of failure, like with a loop that was too big or too late in the run for the cars to make it, or downhill runs (driveways, stairs at friends' houses) where the cars would jump the track on their own if they got too fast. Or just bending around corners in the house until an inattentive parent stepped on the track and ruined everything.

In retrospect, Hot Wheels were a great way to push the limits of gravity, friction, and manufacturing tolerances without much risk of injury.
posted by fedward at 8:56 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In our household, Crazy Forts have probably been the most-used item, even after having them for over a year now. Our couch has been less often disassembled to make pillow forts since we got ahold of them, and they've been used to make castles, jails, tunnels, rocketships, etc. They do take up a great deal of room when assembled, so bear that in mind.
posted by subocoyne at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing Magna-Tiles & Snap Circuits. Picasso Tiles has a marble run version and race track version that often goes on sale at Zulily.

If you have a yard, maybe a sandbox filled with trucks and sand toys?
posted by toastyk at 10:06 AM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: We purchased a stop motion animation app, installed it on an old iPhone, bought a phone holder attachment thing and a tripod, and it has occupied our then 6-now-7-year-old for hours. The best thing is that it brings new life to existing toys - he has made stop motion videos of LEGO, Playmobil, Angry Birds figurines, Hot Wheels, etc. A friend gave him a cool LEGO stop motion book that comes with some minifigs and different paper backdrops, and he definitely made good use of those.

The movies are often hilarious, and now that he’s older he’s interested in adding speech bubbles/dialog, too. It’s sort of screen time, but it’s also constructive/creative and involves building sets, so I feel good about it.
posted by Maarika at 8:46 PM on October 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Maarika, those apps sound great. Can I ask what they’re called?
posted by Jubey at 10:54 PM on October 23, 2020

Stop Motion Studio is what we have - I think there’s a free version, but we sprung for the paid one so he could add custom text to his videos.
posted by Maarika at 5:44 AM on October 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

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