As I watch my kids play this morning, I am struck once again by their creativity.

I have never been a big “toy person”. I don’t like toys that sing, vibrate, flash or talk. I don’t want Barbie for my kids, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I hate plastic – for food storage, for yarn making, and for toys, too. I want to see my kids use their creativity, to learn through their play, and I don’t want them to get overstimulated. I want “good for brains” toys. And only a few. We live out in the country with land to roam, trees to climb, rocks to scale, and places to explore. Who needs toys when you have all these?

But we do have some toys. This is the rundown starting with my favorites.

The Essential Toys

Play silks – the absolute ultimate toy (at least for my girls). It can be a cape, a turban, a veil, a shawl, a table cloth, a toga, a baby blanket, a rope, a tent… the list goes on and on. If my kids could only have one toy, I would choose a play silk. And, yes, it is real silk. That is a nod to my fiber-snobiness. No acrylic here, please.

Blocks – basic, wood blocks are the second thing on my list. As with the silks, blocks have so much room for creativity. In our house they become not just towers to knock down, but mazes, roads, and more. Add any other toy, and blocks become even more fun – my kids mix in dominoes, cars, dolls, and yes, even silks.

Modeling Clay – My favorite is actually modeling wax, but the cost is prohibitive. Even so, each of my kids has 12 colors of modeling wax and do pretty well with each tiny, brightly colored lump. We also have lots of cheap modeling clay that works just as well. I still prefer the natural-ness of wax. (If only I was rich…)

Some More Great Toys

Train set – We have a large Thomas The Tank Engine set (wooden = natural). We have had it for over four years. There have been periods of dissuse, when the box sits undisturbed under the bed for a few months at a time. But, then out of the blue, someone will get it out and it is like new toys have arrived. The train set captivates all ages, has endless possibilities for layouts, and everyone can play together. It was a huge investment but totally worth it.

Dolls – My girls have all been different about dolls. One daughter treasures them and keeps them pristine and hardly plays with them. Another daughter wears her dolls out with love (think “Velveteen Rabbit”). And the other girls are somewhere in between. However they do it, dolls are a huge part of our day. We have some American Girls, some waldorf style dolls, a few old dolls dating back to my dad’s childhood, a few needlefelted dolls, and (unfortunately) some Polly Pockets. While I love the more simple, natural dolls, each of my girls have their own preferences and all the dolls get lots of playtime.

Construction Toys – We have Legos, Tinkertoys, and 2 Erector Sets (one plastic and one super awesome metal). This is The Boy’s territory. He can tinker all day long, building, disassembling, creating, and thinking. Always thinking. I love it.

Toys We Have That I Don’t Love (to put it mildly)

Polly Pockets – these were my compromise. Yes, they are like Barbies (which I hate), but they are also a lot like paper dolls in function (which I like). In my defense, when I started buying them 8 years ago, they still looked and dressed like little girls. Over the years, they have developed a little more shape and the clothes have gotten more immodest. Hence my animosity. But, The Bookworm has an extensive collection already, so what am I to do?

Bionicles – Yes, they are kind of a construction toy, but they are for making ugly monster things. Not being a boy myself, I don’t understand the need to build creatures of terror. These get a pass because they do take some creativity and the are super spectacular in the eyes of The Boy. And I didn’t have to buy them.

Disney Princesses – If only Walt knew the value of modesty. However, Belle learned the value of looking at the character of a person and not just his face and Cinderella is harmless (I hope). My kids haven’t even seen the other movies, but they love all the princesses just the same. Sigh

Toys you will never find in my house –

Bratz, Barbies, and other toys that encourage immodesty.

Electronic “Learning” toys – I don’t buy the idea that flashing lights and inane, repeated phrases are going to do anything but give my kids a short attention span.

I know there are more, but nothing else comes to mind. It probably boils down to everything in Toys ‘R’ Us.

So, there is my opinionated, biased list of toy do’s and don’ts. What are your favorite toys? Which ones do you hate? What compromises have you made?