Fun and Durable Kids Toys

Many of the links on this site are “affiliate” links.  If you use the links provided to purchase the recommended items, or to navigate to the web retailer site to purchase anything at all, I may receive a small commission.  These commissions will help me expand this site and provide you with additional recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you!

Below are several recommendations for toys that have kept my kids entertained for literally hundreds of hours each.    

This post is a bit less detailed than some of my other posts.  Less dorkiness is required for kids toys, but they do still have to meet my functional requirements.  

Functional Requirements (in order of importance, for me):

  1. Fun and engaging, even for a child playing by themselves.
  2. Durable and built to last.  I want toys that not only will survive my kids using them for years, but are also able to be handed down to other kids when we don’t need or want them any more.  
  3. Free play oriented.  Toys should spark creative and imaginative play.
  4. Affordable.  I’m willing to spend a few bucks on toys that are fun and durable, but they can’t break the bank.
  5. Preferably, the toys don’t make constant or annoying noise, and don’t require batteries.

I’ve got two kids, currently ages 5 and 8.  They are wonderful, but like all kids, need some entertainment.  We limit screen time in our house, so they need some fun things to do to keep themselves busy sometimes.  

When I play with the toys with the kids, it’s preferred that the toys are fun for me too!

You might notice a theme with many of these toys:  They encourage building things. Building is probably the best type of unstructured and open-ended play, as it requires kids to use their imagination, and can be done over and over again in different ways.  Toys that do a single thing (make a single noise or motion, can be built only one way, etc.) are repetitive, boring after a bit, and will not be successful long term entertainment.  

My kids own and play with the toys linked below (or did when they were younger).  These toys were purchased with my own money, or that of friends and family that gave my kids the toys as gifts.  I am sharing my personal experience with the recommended items.

The recommended toys (and all toys actually!) are also unisex.  I have one boy and one girl, and they both play with everything.  

After dorking it up for 8 years of raising kids so far, I recommend:

Shape Mags Magnetic Building Tiles (ages 3+):  

These are super cool for building big things quickly in all sorts of configurations.  My kids build trucks, castles, houses, towers, animals, and abstract designs. We’ll leave these out in the living room sometimes and the kids will play with them literally every day for a month.

The original brand of these types of tiles is Magna-Tiles, and we started with a small set of those.  But Magna-Tiles are expensive and come in sets with very few pieces.  For maximum fun, you need LOTS of pieces to build BIG. There are several other brands of copy-cat magnetic tiles.  I went with Shape Mags, and they have been great.  Just as durable and fun as the more expensive ones, but you get a lot more of them less money.  I also recommend getting some big base tiles for supporting large structures.

Wood Blocks (ages 3+):

Yep, just your basic wood blocks.  They are fun and indestructible. This set is big enough for building big, awesome things.  They are cut and sanded nicely, have smooth edges, and don’t chip or splinter. They come with a sturdy wood box to keep them in.  It’s even fun putting the blocks back in the box, like a 3d puzzle. My kids make all sorts of things with them, including ramps to roll balls or cars down.

Hot Wheels (ages 3+):

Cars!  No need for the special sets that assemble only one way.  Get a big pack of cars, a bunch of long lengths of track, and maybe a loop or a launcher.  My kids race cars across the floor, and set up long tracks with ramps supported by bookshelves, other toys, or any other prop they can find.  They like to take them to the playground and race them down the slides. These cars are super tough too.

Legos (ages 4+):

Now that my kids are a bit older (and don’t stick everything in their mouths), they have graduated to Legos. Skip the sets with complicated instructions that make a certain thing.  Get a giant box of multicolored Legos and get creative! If you are a Costco member, this set is an even better deal.

Mega Bloks (ages 1+):

Still have really young kids?  Megablocks are great. My kids loved blocks like these for many years.  They particularly liked building giant towers and knocking them down. Actually that might have been my favorite mode of playing with these.  My then ~1 year old son mostly preferred sticking the blocks in his mouth.  Here’s a small bag, and a big bag.

Duplo Blocks (ages 1.5+)

Duplo blocks are safe for young kids too, but are more similar to Lego’s than Megablocks.  These are better for making more complex builds. Generic versions are available that appear to be identical and a much better value.  Here’s an affordable 80 piece set, and these base plates would have been very helpful.

Q-BA-Maze (ages 5+)

My son’s marble maze is permanently set up for play in his room, and he plays with it Every. Single. Day.  It’s great. He asks me every day, “do you want to see my new build?” He has a set with blocks and rails, but at the moment, I don’t see the same set available online.  So here’s a set of cubes, a bigger set of cubes, and a set of rails.  There appears to be lots of other add-ons available too.

Boogie Board Drawing Tablet (ages 4+):

This little drawing tablet is great for keeping kids busy in the car, on a plane, or anywhere you need them quiet and entertained.  Kids can draw, write, and scribble to their heart’s content. The tablet comes with four different stylus tools, and everything you draw on the tablet is rainbow color.  It’s infinitely reusable, press a button to clear the screen and start over. The tablet is super lightweight and portable. It runs off a tiny lithium coin battery, that lasts through years of typical use.  It seems to only use battery power when you press the button to clear the screen.

Figurines or Action Figures (minimum age varies)

Kids love having little figurines or action figures.  They can play pretend with them, and use them with all their other toys and things they build.  My kids often take them with them in the car, to the park, etc. Match the toys with whatever your kids are into:  Paw Patrol, animals, dinosaurs, lego guys, super heros, or really anything.

Stuffed Animals (ages 0+)

My kids LOVE their stuffies.  They sleep with them every night, and request to take them EVERYWHERE (car rides, hikes, play grounds).  My kids play all sorts of pretend games with their stuffies. We have way too many stuffies, but they are irresistible.  Most stuffed animals are of acceptable quality, but a couple excellent quality brands with a huge variety of species to choose from are Wild Republic and Ganz.  Puppets like the ones from Folkmanis are also super fun.  

Balls (ages 0+ for most)

It’s amazing how very simple things can be very entertaining for kids.  A ball might be the best example of this. Throw it, catch it, roll it down ramps and slides, smash it on things, throw it at your sibling, play fetch with your pet with it.  My kids have a large collection of balls that get played with all the time. I’m not really sure where they all came from. Cheap toy balls might be better (and cheaper) to buy at an actual toy store, dollar store, the dollar bin at Target, etc., but it appears that Amazon has a few worth considering if you don’t want to leave the house.  I don’t own all of these, but they look decent: Oball, balls with spinning things in them, soft stress balls, ball pit balls, and bouncy spiky balls.  I recommend balls that are reasonably soft and light, so they are less likely to hurt people or break things.

Puzzles (minimum age varies)

Puzzles are great for keeping kids busy, but the key is matching the challenge level to the kids ability.  Young kids like it when they are able to complete them in 5 or 10 minutes. If you have a collection of puzzles, they will do one after another for a good chunk of time.  Here’s a few favorites: Safari Chunky Puzzle (ages 2+),  Lauri Crepe Rubber Puzzles (these are GREAT!) (ages 3+), and Jr. Rangerland Animal Tracks (ages 4+).  Older kids are patient enough for a more extended challenge.

I guess that’s it for now.  We have a gazillion other toys in the house, but these are the ones that provide the most frequent and consistent entertainment.  If your kids have a favorite toy I should consider, please leave a comment below.

Many of the links on this site are “affiliate” links.  If you use the links provided to purchase the recommended items, or to navigate to the web retailer site to purchase anything at all, I may receive a small commission.  These commissions will help me expand this site and provide you with additional recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.  Thank you!

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