The following items are all present in our house, unless noted and enjoy being played with in turn. There is no order to the list. I do not just buy wooden toys, but I try not to get the real cheap plastic that will break easily, especially if it has movable parts. Or I consider if the items will still be safely usable even if a part breaks. I do not try to buy items only made in North America. I do avoid toys that come with gratuitous battery usage. So Hex bugs and fish need batteries. Doll houses do not. I have not provided any links or photos to products because the post would never get posted until 2050. I will be glad to answer any questions as best as I can. I apologize for any typos, I write with kids hanging around.
Canadians do not always have access to the same stores, selections and prices as Americans, so my list hopefully reflects the items that can be found no matter where you live. I do order quite a bit online, but many of our toys have come from stores here in Canada.
I try to buy toys that are open-ended and can be used in a variety of play. Animals living inside Duplo houses. Tea and toast served to stuffed animals. Dolls being doctored and diapered.
"dinky" cars, track building pieces, car cases, car carriers
I would not waste money on the plastic race sets. I buy track building pieces that make a versatile track wherever my kids set it up. Car cases do not get good reviews, but they are a necessary evil and most of the time, get the job done sufficiently. We have at least four different ones to hold the various collections. And we have at least three transport car carrier trucks, one that have been known to carry a load of small dinosaurs in recent days.
assorted wooden blocks, train tracks
Almost everyone makes wooden tracks and wooden building blocks. Places like Michael's sell other wood pieces like finials, balls, etc which are sold as open stock.
plastic animals and people
These get some of the most use in our house and earn their shelf space. Schleich is one of the more common brands, but Michael's and other places sell similar styles.
pretend kitchen sets
Oh the joy of being served something to "eat or drink" by a little person. Slurping up the offered tea, juice and water brings them great delight. Build a great collection and put it in your kitchen or close to your work area.
Lego, Duplo and large building bases
Look for sets that come with vehicles, people and animals. It is amazing what sort of play can emerge.
dress up clothes, hats, accessories, play mirror, travel cases, pretend make-up and hair care sets
My MIL got us started a couple of years ago on dress up clothes and we have just kept adding to the now overflowing basket. Discarded sunglasses, magic wands, slippers, sandals, scarves, mittens and gloves have all been tossed into the mix. They have a blast.
dolls, doll clothes, diapers, strollers, accessories, blankets, beds
Our dolls take abuse but also much play. Also using regular diapers are a much better deal than the ones sold with doll items. And dolls aren't the only ones that get diapers, many of our stuffed animals also need them.
stuffed animals, puppets
Two of our kids love every stuffed animal they meet. We have a lot and are played with everyday. A tension curtain rod, clothespins and pillow cases make an instant doorway puppet theater.
This also is used almost everyday for a variety of reasons. The case no longer closes properly, but nothing a rubber band doesn't solve.
homemade play dough, utensils
I'm not a very good mom with messes, but there are some amazing things to do with playdough, especially a homemade selection of colors and even scents. And raiding your kitchens (both real and pretend) should yield a nice selection of utensils.
pretend cameras, phones, binoculars, etc.
cash registers, shopping carts
dump trucks, snow plows, etc.
Dump trucks can haul a lot of indoor loads too and cotton balls give snow plows a chance to move around some tidy, non-melting snow.
vintage Fisher Price Little People toys
Some of the original toys have made a comeback in recent years, I have not bought those, so I cannot comment on how closely they match the originals. I did invest in some used originals ten years ago and have never been sorry. They still function well despite the wear and tear they have received. I found all mine on Ebay and yardsales. My mom still has all the sets we played with and my children play with her stuff when we visit.
play capes with hoods
Seeing the kids rush by in their capes is just plain fun. A must-have. Ours are light-weight fabric so they flow and fly behind the kids as they play. Easy to sew if you have the inclination.
Something I bought for myself, but has seen more use by the kids, I'm afraid. It's huge and they love rolling around on it on our carpeted basement floor. It's durable and hasn't need to be re-inflated even after a year of use. An accidental toy purchase for sure.
plastic orange cones for indoor and outdoor use
Ours came from the dollar store, we have four of them and they are used for goal posts, inside and out, obstacle courses for biking, and other such fun.
How can you go wrong with this classic toy item? We have built up our son's stash and they have been featured in home movies, war scenes, and guarding buildings. Look for ones that will stand up unattended.
Ours uses rechargeable batteries and is best for older kids who understand when to hold the button and talk.
playchute, parachute men
The playchute comes in small and large sizes for indoor and outdoor play. We are getting the small six foot one for inside winter play. We'll get the large one come summer. Parachute men who have thicker no-tangle rope are ideal.
board games, card games, puzzles
We have a huge selection and as our kids get older, they enjoy learning new ones. I prefer the more classic games that do not have cheap plastic parts to get broken or need batteries to work. And buyer-beware, many of the current versions of older games are often modified (and cheapened) beyond recognition. Do a bit of research before you buy either in-store or online. Buying an older used game online or on consignment is often the better way to go.
analog phone with cord
Our kids love playing with our corded phone that we bring out when the power goes out. It has been used to set up a police station at our dining room table, order pizza and practice phone etiquette.
electric adding machine with receipt paper
We played with my dad's occasionally as a child and I recently saw them again at Walmart. It's on my list for this year.
Pinterest is a great place to go look for things to make or to ask crafty family members to make. I am attempting several projects which I will share upon completion. Etsy is a great play to go to find something handmade by someone else. I have done this as well. The items are so charming and unique.
In the left sidebar of my blog is a short list of Favorite Shops I have ordered from in the past. It does not include the well-known online stores, but I use those too.
This is not an exhaustive ideas list, but a general list of items that work for our house and family. What's on your list?
P.S. You may have noticed an absence of books on the list. They deserve their own post. Also I did not mention movies or television. Perhaps another post for those titles as well.
And I have made no mention of other electronics. My kids do play video games, but it is quite limited and often my husband joins them. My son does have an mp3 player which was pre-loaded for him by my husband.