I could almost tear up at the fact that my Isaac is nearly out of the preschool phase! Here are the toys he has loved and used again and again as a 3, 4, and recent 5 year old.
Imaginext Gorilla Mountain
As you will see on this list, Isaac really loves animals. A friend gifted this Imaginext Jungle to us when her son outgrew it. Like many toys in our house, I keep this one in the closet and bring it out every few weeks. We usually set this up on the hearth, and Isaac will play with this for at least an hour at a time. While Isaac was initially attracted to the gorilla's light-up eyes and the fun jungle sounds, he now loves spreading all the animals out and making up stories of what the animals and the two jungle explorers are doing. (This is out of stock on Amazon, but there are several used Gorilla Mountains on eBay.)
|Sometimes, the jungle animals also explore our household decor. :)|
We borrowed Automoblox from a friend for Isaac to play with on a road trip to Minnesota, and he loved them so much that we bought them for his third birthday. Isaac disassembles and reassembles the cars over and over trying to make the longest car and then the shortest car and then the car with the most windshields, etc. These aren't cheap, but I think they're worth the price considering Isaac still plays with them; Emma also plays with them now, too. They're also great for building hand-eye coordination since it takes a lot of focus to put the wheels on the car. (Link on Amazon here)
Playmobil My Take Along Pet Clinic
I about choked when I looked this up on Amazon and saw it retails for $149! I bought this at a consignment sale at a great price (I'm thinking $15). I wasn't familiar with Playmobil when I purchased this--I just knew it had lots of tiny parts (Isaac loves, loves, loves tiny things) and involved animals, so I was pretty sure it was going to be a win. And, yes, it was and still is. Isaac usually plays with this in the afternoons while Emma naps and he has quiet time in his room. While I was so sick this summer in my first trimester, he played with it nearly every afternoon while I slept. I can't say enough how much he loves all the tiny animals and the tiny vet instruments. I also love it because all the tiny parts fit inside which makes clean-up and storage easy. I definitely wouldn't pay $149 for this--but, if you find any of the Playmobil Take Along toys for less, grab them! (Link on Amazon here)
Little Tykes Car Mountain
I laugh just about every time kids play with this toy at our house, because I found it in our neighbor's trash and hauled it home. Hands down, this is every kid's favorite toy at our house. Whether a child has been to our house one time or a hundred, they walk in the door and immediately ask where the racetrack is. This is a retired toy, but there are several on eBay. I'd say this is something that would be worth $75-100 considering the hours spent on this. There are five different tracks where cars can race, and the "loop-de-loop" is always a hit. When friends are over, three of them will hover around the mountain and race their cars down the tracks over and over and see which car flies the farthest at the end. (The other two tracks go different directions.) Definite winner! And, you can store all your child's Hot Wheels and MatchBox cars underneath the lift-off mountaintop. (Search Little Tykes Car Mountain or Little Tykes Adventure Mountain on eBay--here's one I found.
Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dress-Up Joey
Again, this is a toy Isaac received several years ago and still plays with consistently. Isaac loves dressing and redressing Joey in each costume--his favorite is the superhero costume because there's a miniature eye mask for Joey's eyes. Now that he's older, Isaac thinks it's funny to mix-up the costumes and have him wear pirate pants and a knight top. There are several girl verions of this, too, but they are all focused on ballerinas or fairies where the only variant is the color of tutus/ballerina costumes. I think this is the best of the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dolls because of the complete differences in each costume. Definitely worth $9! (Link on Amazon here)
There are hundreds of animal figurines from mini-dinosaurs that you can buy at the Dollar Tree to beautifully painted Schleich figurines. I've found that Isaac will play with all of them! The first animal figurine Isaac had was a Schleich Holstein cow, which I found at a toy store that was going out of business. I had never seen Schleich animals before and knew Isaac would enjoy how realistic they are. Since the store was going out of business, they didn't have much selection left--so Isaac got a cow! Ha! But, he played with it far more than I ever could have imagined. Since then, his collection of animal figurines has expanded to include many horses, several dinosaurs, and also a Schleich golden retriever. Isaac plays with his animals in the bathtub, outside on the playset, in playdough, in the car--anywhere. (As I write this, he's laying beside me playing with two of his dinosaurs.) Just the other day, Isaac was laying on his stomach in the family room and playing with some of his animals. I teared up and said to Dave, "I just don't want to forget this sweet phase where Isaac lays on his stomach and plays animals for hours."
Here are a few links to some of Isaac's favorite animal figurines:
Lego Mix and Match Men
Two years ago when we were at the Lego store, my mom bought Isaac three Lego mini-figures that Isaac can mix and match. Each mini-figure has a top, a bottom, a head, and an accessory (an axe or a hat). I couldn't find an exact match to what Isaac has online, but there are a ton of Lego mini-figures on Amazon. Legos are usually always a hit with boys, but up until now these have been the only Legos Isaac enjoys. Lego mini-figures are great for long car rides or quiet time. (Link on Amazon here)
I've saved my very favorite for last--homemade playdough. I quickly discovered that homemade playdough beats store-bought playdough--less crumbly and much cheaper. Plus, I make mine dye-free or use natural dye, which is important to me. Both Isaac and Emma love to sit at the kitchen table and play with playdough; Isaac sometimes lasts 2 hours. Usually, Isaac plays with his dinosaurs in his playdough, but he also likes using traditional playdough toys (rolling pins and cutters) or sea animals.
Here is my favorite playdough recipe--I store this in a Tupperware container, and it lasts at least a year.
2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup salt
1 Tbsp oil (coconut, vegetable, canola)
1/2 Tbsp scented oil (optional)
2 cups water
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately. Mix together in medium saucepan. Cook slowly on medium-high and stir until the playdough thickens. Dump onto wax paper and carefully knead until cool.