Favorite Toys for Tykes

I’m thinking Christmas thoughts and looking for ideas. Could we share the things that have been a big hit at various ages? Maybe someone else with kids at or near my twins’ age will mention something I hadn’t thought of - I seem to struggle with “age-appropriate” purchases.
Age 2: Oversized cardboard “bricks” (bought theirs at OUAC). STILL getting lots of use.
Plain old $.98 bouncy balls

Age 3:
Plain old $.98 bouncy balls
Dora “Memory Game”
Sesame Street “Alphabet Bingo”

12 months: Parents Pound a Ball and Bee Bop Band Yes, you have to monitor your kid or he will put anything that will fit into the Pound a Ball holes and you’ll be stuck trying to figure out how to get a bendy straw back out. But it’s worth it. The Bee Bop Band all stores in it’s own case, which doubles as a drum.

18 months up- I love these natural blocks. We have some that are 15 years old, not made by this guy, but much like them. They are blocks, but not shaped and sanded into right angles. They still stack and you can build with them, but the ways in which they work together are different from standard blocks. I think the flowing curving shapes trigger parts of the brain that right angles don’t. (I could be totally wrong about that, but it’s my theory.) I have both kinds of blocks for the kids, and they switch back and forth between these natural shapes and the more conventional ones. Oddly, they seem to not want to mix the two, for some reason.

3-7 year olds love the “costume chest” that is full of crap I find at thrift stores or just after Halloween sales - scarves, bandannas, a wedding dress I chopped two feet off of to make a “princess dress”, a rhinestone tiara with half the stones missing, big rubber boots, some pirate shirts, a couple of “cloaks” made from bedsheets torn in half (sew a pocket widthwise across it and you can thread a rope through for tying it) - the less representative, the better. Those scarves can be everything from a beach sarong to a princess’s headpiece to a pirate’s sash to a hobo’s bag (tied onto a stick) to a clown ruffle to a… you get the idea. If I provided them with a beach sarong and a princess’s headpiece and a pirate sash and a hobo’s bag and a clown ruffle, not only is it more stuff to store, but they wouldn’t have to be creative and think how to make such a thing with what they have.

I hear those rich folks can buy such things already prefabbed, but I find their kits to be too limiting. How many times is dressing up like a diva fun and exciting? I mean, it would be fine as part of the trunk, but for that kind of money, I can buy a LOT of scarves!

5 and up - Magz construction sets and K’nex (warning, link has sound that starts automatically) my son lived and breathed these things for a few years, and he’s now my putter-together for any furniture that requires assembly! Train 'em young, folks. :wink:

Finally, I don’t know if I’m the last person on earth to learn about this or what, but a friend introduced me to Magic Sand the other day. It’s so weird! It’s dry sand that you can mold under water, but then if you lift it out (or pour the water off) it’s dry! I found a video on how to make it at home: Warning: link plays audio and video when clicked.
This stuff kept two adults and a toddler amused for a good hour, and the toddler keeps asking to play with it again. At that age, it’s definitely a “with a grown up” activity, mostly due to the mess she’ll make if we leave her alone with it, but an older kid could play with it or even make it with just a little adult help.

Oh, man. Both my niece and nephew, who have never met, LOVED Lincoln Logs from the time they were 3. Once the youngest gets to about 5 or so, perhaps a Thomas the Tank Engine railroad set would be good.