Recently we’ve all become more savvy with our spending. Perhaps you already use the cost-per-wear rule when clothes shopping? You know, the one where you think: “That dress is fun and it's only £30. But if I only ever wear it once or twice, is it really a good buy….?” Versus, “Ok, so that cashmere cardie is a bit of a splurge, but the colour suits me and goes with everything and I’ll probably wear it for years….’ Well, the same reckoning works for toys.
When you do the numbers, well-made toys that inspire lots of different games and are loved for years have a much lower ‘cost-per-play’ than cheaply-made (i.e. likely-to-break) ones. Or those gimmicky things that can only be played with one way (so your kid's bored of it in a week).
At KIDLY we love low cost-per-play, grow-with-them toys. Here’s our top 10 of great value picks, big and small, that’ll earn their keep a hundred times over.
Well-made toys that inspire lots of different games and are loved for years have a much lower ‘cost-per-play’ than cheaply-made (i.e. likely-to-break) ones.
SmartMax's sturdy bars, balls, squares, slides, tubes and other fun shapes use the magic of magnets to really boosts your kid's fine motor skills and creativity and they're suitable from 12 months to 5 years and beyond.
Toddlers get a real kick from the smooth pieces and the satisfying way they ping together and pull apart. When they're a bit older, your kid will be inspired to conjure up all kinds of complex objects, buildings and creatures. For longevity, we love that all SmartMax sets are compatible with each other, including the super-fun Roboflex sets that transform into flexible, crazy little robot characters.
2. The Hape DJ Mix & Spin Studio
Musical intsruments and small kids. Hmmm...not for the faint-hearted! However, if you're after a quality piece of kit that grows with them and genuinely encourages their musicality, the Hape DJ Mix & Spin Studio is a great choice.
This super-cool studio has it all; a DJ scratchpad, a tempo and pitch slider, 5 background tunes and 4 DJ sound effects. They can play the keyboard solo with 4 instrument sounds and 18 fun sound effects.
Here's what some satisfied customers thought: ‘It’s a great little toy which entertains both my 1 year old and 4 year old..’ ‘My grandson loves his new keyboard and Daddy, who used to do a bit of DJ-ing, is pretty impressed too!’
3. A TRAIN SET
The good old train set is a classic toy for good reason and one that really brings the family together. Because, come on, who can resist a bit of choo-choo action? We stock a range of lovely wooden options and they're all compatible with each other and any other BRIO-style wooden sets.
At first, just fitting the track pieces together is a fun challenge for toddlers, but you can purchase add-ons like garages, station houses and more as they get older and their storytelling skills develop. These days, lots of wooden car sets are compatible too, so they can build a whole a whole city of transportation options. (Bet you'll find yourself getting down on the floor and 'helping out'!)
The good old train set is a classic toy for good reason and one that really brings the family together.
4. A MARKET STALL
Full disclosure: I was obsessed with shops when I was a kid. I ran one with my big brother and we used to spend hours making all the groceries ourselves, using felt tips and cardboard. Quite frankly, I'd have thought I'd died and gone to heaven if I'd got my hands on the Jabadabado Market Stall. It's crammed with yummy fruit and veg and baked goods, but who knows what else they could sell at it? Books? Clothes? Toys?
That's the great thing about any kind of market stall or shop: they offer so much story-telling, role play potential, and they're brilliant for siblings or for playdates. You can add on with a cash register when they're older, but the Jabadabado stall comes with a combined scales and till, with toy coins - making it a built-in maths lesson too.
5. A CART
A cart is another multipurpose workhorse that'll take centre stage in their play for years. Before they can walk, it's a lovely nursery feature, and handy place to store muslins or changing supplies. As they begin to pull up, it's a great boon to their mobility. Once they're confident walkers, they'll be taking all their teddies for a ride here, there and everywhere. Finally, it becomes a lovely place to store books in their reading nook.
We love balancing games. The ones we stock are always beautiful to look at, so they've got major shelf appeal, and the individual pieces are great for small world play. While in balancing game-play mode, they teach concentration and dexterity, turn-taking and good sporting behaviour too.
But don't just take our word for it: 'Little Dutch's Balance Game Little Goose was a hit with my 3-year-old niece. It looks so sweet and she really got into the balancing game challenge, but she'll definitely be doing small-world play with all the baby chickies and the mummy too. Great price. I love Little Dutch toys. Such incredible value!'
7. ADAPTABLE WHEELS
Kids have a habit of growing...had you noticed? But there are clever brands out there who've thought of that when designing their trikes, bikes and scooters. Micro Scooters' 3 in 1 Deluxe Push Along Scooter grows and develops as its rider does. First, it's a push along with an adjustable steering handle. Once they - and you - are confident enough, simply remove the handle and it's a ride-on scooter with adjustable height seat. Finally, it converts to a Mini Micro Deluxe with adjustable handlebar, extra grippy footplate and rear stamp-break. Then there's really no stopping them!
The Scoot & Ride Highwaykick 1 is another genius example of toddler-to-school-run engineering that's last you from first steps till around 5 years.
8. A TOY KITCHEN
Play kitchens have come a long way since they were plastic and Barbie pink only. Now they’re designed to rival your own dream kitchen, and we sell only beautiful wooden ones in a range of colours and finishes. Some have cooker hoods, some are free-standing numbers that wouldn't look out of place in a groovy loft.
Others come with pots, pans and accessories - even food. Toy kitchens are simply great for siblings and playdates and for inspiring kids to take an interest in real food, where it comes from, and developing the culinary skills that they'll need in life. In time you can add a toaster, a coffee machine, baking sets and pizzas.
Play kitchens have come a long way since they were plastic and Barbie pink only. Now they’re designed to rival your own dream kitchen.
9. A Wobbel Board
The Wobbel Board has been a bestseller for KIDLY year in and year out. It can be enjoyed in so many ways - as somewhere to rock and wobble and really give their sense of balance and core muscles a workout. Or they might choose to lie back and have a quiet moment, maybe read a book or take a nap.
It's also a brilliant prop for den-building or a ramp for their cars. Or maybe a barricade in a play fight, or a slide for their teddies? Wobbel Boards are all beautifully made to last and we love that how the felt backing that protects your floors is made from recycled bottles.
10. A PLAY TENT
Finally, a tent, teepee or playhouse is an investment toy that you won't regret purchasing. It's a decor item, a chillout zone, a reading nook, a hideout and a practice ground for camping when they're old enough. You really will get years and years of play out of it. Some designs come with padded play mats and if you make it extra comfy with blankets and cushions and you'll be tempted to crawl in there yourself!
So there you have it - our 10 favourite low cost-per-play, grow-with-them toys. And remember, if you need any more guidance, our Live Chat Team is always here to help, from 9am to 5pm every weekday. Just hit that purple button, bottom right.