These #toys grow with your child and offer lots of opportunities for open-ended #play.

Toys With the Most Bang for your Buck

What is the most annoying, most useless toy your child owns?  Was it worth the money, or the precious space that it takes up, or the time that you spend cleaning it up off of the floor? I’m done wasting my time and resources on toys that don’t add value to our home. We’ve gotten rid of most of these useless toys! But over the years, we’ve had some toys that we just love! They’ve been played with consistently for a long time,  and their quality makes me sure that they will be around for a while. Here are, in my opinion, the toys with the most bang for your buck.

Toy Standards

For toys that I let into my house, I have some high standards:

  • Open ended- These toys have multiple ways of playing with them. A toy with only one purpose (like beads on a track) can get boring pretty quickly!
  • Can grow with my kids- I try to avoid toys that will only be interesting for a little while. If it’s specific to a certain stage in development, it’s not worth the money or space it takes up!
  • Are good quality– I toss toys when they break. So, if they aren’t of high quality, I would rather not have them in the first place.
  • Aren’t ugly- Ugly toys don’t fit well in our home environment. If I think it’s ugly, why shouldn’t my child?
  • Don’t light up and make noise- We probably have a few of these toys, but for the most part, I avoid toys that are mostly for entertainment. These are passive toys, and they don’t inspire my children to play, imagine, or create.

These #toys grow with your child and offer lots of opportunities for open-ended #play.

Toys with the Most Bang for your Buck

Even if we spent a little more on these toys, they’ve been well worth it.

Toys From Childhood

BRIO Train Set

I picture my husband when he was a little boy, sitting on the floor playing with his beloved train set. Recently, Grandma sent it our way and it has been played with almost every day since.  Because of its high quality, it’s still in great shape. The design hasn’t changed much, so if we want to add some more tracks or trains to the set, it will work out perfectly.

American Girl doll

When I was 9, I wanted an American Girl doll so badly! For my birthday, I got a Samantha doll and was over the moon. Shortly after that, I decided that I was going to save up the money for a new doll. They aren’t cheap! I did little odd jobs until I earned $84 (plus tax and shipping!) for another one. I was so happy to pass one of my American Girl dolls onto Miss H last year. She loves her doll, and knows to take extra-special care of her. When she gets a little older, she’ll get the second doll for Christmas or her birthday (if she wants it!) These dolls lead to such imaginative, nurturing play and they last so long that they are worth the money! Even though the company changed from a little mom-and-pop owner to Big Guy Mattel, these are still well made dolls.

Miss H, playing with her “new” American Girl doll.


These are the toys that inspired my husband’s career choice as an architect. He had a huge tub full of them that my mother-in-law held onto, which is awesome because they’re expensive! But even if you do have to shell out the money for new LEGOs, count on them being a toy that will grow with your child and last for a very long time. Just don’t step on them, because you’ll immediately want to get rid of every LEGO brick in your house.

New Toys

Play Kitchen

One of my best garage sale finds ever: a KidKraft kitchen ( like this one, but a little smaller) for $50. It has been a constant source for creative play in our house for more than three years. Lately E has started playing with it a lot, too. I love watching them join forces to create meals from their play food and Play Doh.


Doodle Board

This is our favorite toy for quiet, independent play! Miss H takes this board to bed with her every night. If she wakes up early, she sits and draws on her board. I love seeing the creations she brings us in the morning. Sometimes she surprises us with words (a surprise because I haven’t taught her how to read yet!) It’s also a great low-tech alternative for long car trips. Side note: the link I included is from Target, because it’s much cheaper there than Amazon!

Outdoor Toys

Little Tikes Outdoor Climbing Toy

This was Miss H’s first birthday gift. She went from a tiny toddler, barely able to climb up the back, to a preschooler who can bound up the slide in one leap. She’s too big for the swing now, but she loves to push her little brother in it. With one more little brother who will grow into it, we’ll get at least four more years of play from this toy! For about $100, that’s a lot of bank for the buck!  It’s holding up well, even under the harsh Colorado sun.

Red Wagon

The classic red wagon has changed so much from my day. When I was a kid….nevermind. That makes me feel old! But we got this Step 2 wagon and it is definitely 10 steps up from the hard, shallow, metal wagons of the 80’s.  I love that this wagon has a canopy, making it perfect for hot summer days.  Once E came along, it was nice to put both of them in the wagon for quick walks, without having to break out the massive double BOB. It’s our favorite transportation of choice when we go to the zoo or a local concert. Sometimes it’s loaded with stuff for picnics or community events. Even when the kids are too big to ride in it (which won’t happen for many more years!) it’ll still carry our stuff!


Sand and Water Table

Great for babies, great for toddlers, great for preschoolers- this is a toy that offers lots of open-ended play for a very long time! In the winter, we drain the water and fill it with sand. On nice winter days (which aren’t as rare in Colorado as you’d think!) my little ones play in the sand for hours.

If you’re picky about what you let into your home, think about which toys will grow with your child, are high quality, and offer really good play experiences for your little one.


What are your family’s favorite toys? 

These #toys grow with your child and offer lots of opportunities for open ended #play.


  • Mary Leigh October 17, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    LOL at the ‘aren’t ugly’ criteria – but I totally feel you! Love this list!
    Mary Leigh recently posted…Five Things on Friday [vol. 15]My Profile

    • leahbmartin October 30, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      Haha I put it kind of bluntly, didn’t I?!

  • Julie Nelson February 8, 2018 at 5:45 am

    Hello Leah, I have two kids and they are always crazy about toys. These are the best guidelines for me to buy the toys for my kids. Thanks for sharing this guidance.

    • leahbmartin February 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad you found it helpful!


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