Parenting Toddlers

The Best Multi-Use Toys to Entertain Your Kids: Ages 1 to 5

This can also be used as a practical gift guide for toddlers through preschool-aged kids

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I am a mom to a one- and a four-year-old child at this current moment and finding practical toys to entertain both of them simultaneously can be a real challenge. Little T (4) has moved on to more exciting things like Legos and my daughter is pretty obsessed with sticking almost everything she can find into her mouth. She recently pooped out some Playfoam, so, yeah. Needless to say, I’m always on the search for simple, multi-use toys that young children of varying ages can enjoy together. This means no small pieces or anything with too difficult of a concept for play.

All of these awesome toys are great for the 1 to 5 age group and are sure to keep your little ones happy and involved. At least for the next ten minutes, right? Fortunately, with these super-fun choices, its typically a longer play time than that! Set those kiddos up for a successful play session while you (finally) get a few things done. Check your social media, wash your hair, do the dishes or just plain sit down for more than five minutes.

Building Toys

I put these toys first because I often feel they will entertain my kids the longest. At least long enough for a quick shower! I’m a huge fan of simple, wooden building blocks but my other favorites are Mega-Bloks, Magformers and Bristle Blocks. Magformers can be expensive so if you click through to Amazon you’ll typically be able to find a knockoff brand that works just as well. Bristle Blocks are great because they are easy for small hands to smash together and I like Mega-Bloks as they pull apart and press back together much easier than Duplos. Plenty of variety to create their very own cars, robots, towers, roads and spaceships! If you’re going for more supervised play, Play-Doh is always fun, if not a little messy!

A Well-Stocked Play Kitchen

Whether you decide to go with a wooden or plastic structure, a play kitchen is always a must! Make sure there are doors, knobs and cabinets for turning, opening and storing their “snacks,” and don’t forget the other essentials! This means accessories like durable play food – we like Learning Resources the best and they have so many awesome sets to choose from! Cooking utensils and pots and pans (many kitchen sets come with these), and a place to sit and serve up lunch. Both of my children love our play kitchen and I try my best rotate out the different sets of play food to keep it interesting. Plus, fostering this type of “real life” pretend play is great for tiny imaginations!

Ride-On Toys

What kiddo doesn’t want to cruise in style? You can go the standard route with this cute giraffe ride-on, or try a wooden style like these adorable bugs by Prince Lionheart. Whatever you choose to go with, be sure to get one for each kid because sharing is not in the vocabulary of a one-year-old. Cruise the patio, your unfinished basement, or race around the kitchen island. This last one always seems to be happening while I’m cooking dinner, but hey, I can’t complain. I’ll always take giggly chaos over crying and whining!

Indoor Games

These games can be played both indoors or outside, so I find them especially useful for boring rainy or snowy days. Our favorites are putt-putt golf with this simple Little Tikes set-up and this fun bean bag toss game from Melissa and Doug. The basketball hoop and slide are also big winners, as are these play tents and crawl through tunnels. Big bouncy balls or toss games like this Velcro one are also interactive and fun and encourage back-and-forth play.

Play Sets

You can go in all kinds of directions with these! Little People sets are a must because they are super durable and so cute! Mr. Potato Head is great for fine motor skills – make sure you have at least 2 bodies. Toy trains are super popular with the 1-5 age group and they last for years! We also love plastic dinosaurs and bugs for exploring the backyard and of course, super-fast, super-fun cars like these! Do you have an animal lover? This vet set by Battat is not only adorable but reasonably priced and comes with lots of great accessories. Grab another stuffed animal and your kids will have plenty of pieces to choose from while caring for their cuddly pets.

More Uncategorized Fun

And finally, a few more items that don’t necessarily share a category, but will be a blast none the less. We enjoy this Melissa and Doug Fishing Game as it comes with two fishing poles and lots of little fish so there’s no fighting over anything (hopefully). Musical instruments are always a riot and we have this set from Amazon. It’s been surprisingly durable and is made of good-quality materials (warning: it contains a kazoo). We put on some music and sing along to our favorite tunes while belting out our own beats. Other entertaining activities are the peg board toy, baby dolls and this fun shapes puzzle by Learning Journey.

You don’t always need to be wracking your brain to come up with crafts and activities for your toddlers that involve loads of planning and preparation. Of course, there are days when you’ll be that super-mom who does it all. But there’s also days when you’re over-tired and uninspired. That’s why I try to keep my house stocked with practical, functional toys that I know will get a lot of use.

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