Get More Value for Your Money by Gifting These 35 Classic Toys That Last

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If you scrimped and saved to afford that hot toy last year only to see it get pushed to the back of the closet by the new year, you’re not alone.

Trendy top toys make headlines during every holiday, but they aren’t always the best choices in terms of value. If you’re trying to invest in toys that stand the test of time, there are many classic toys every parent knows will become cherished hand-me-downs.

These best kids’ toys aren’t necessarily collector’s items, but they get passed down from sibling to sibling and generation to generation. Toys in these categories are durable, provide developmentally appropriate play, and bring joy to kids ages 18 months up to 10 years old.

Pro Tip

If you have vintage toys, don’t donate them without doing some research. They can be worth big bucks. See how much you can make selling LEGOS or Beanie Babies on eBay.

How We Chose the Best Toys for Kids

The toys on this list were selected because they’ve earned multiple toy awards, thousands of positive reviews from parents and have an iconic brand reputation that spans generations.

While you might spend a little more unless you find a sale, parents report these playtime gems are worth every penny. If time is money, the true measure of the value of toys is how long a child will actually spend playing with them.

Because they tend to be durable, you’ll find many of these classic toys in perfectly acceptable shape secondhand at garage sales or in the classifieds.

35 Kids Toys That Stand the Test of Time

These toys will look familiar because chances are you played with some version of them — and your kids did too! The toy market has tried, but sometimes you just can’t improve upon an original. Walk down memory lane and find old standbys you’d forgotten about or discover new favorites to give little and big kids ages 2 to 22.

Best Toys for Kids Who Like to Build

Stack it. Scale it. Tear it down. Building toys are constantly teaching kids essential skills, including hand-eye coordination, creativity and fine motor skills.

1. LEGO DUPLO Set

Lego sets for the youngest crowd are often underrated, but these toddler toys are essential building blocks for foundational learning. The best part about DUPLOS is they won’t pinch little fingers and are safe for toddlers to mouth while they learn to stack and topple.

Age: 18 months and up

2. Wooden Blocks

Blocks have been a favorite toy since the dawn of playtime for a reason. Classic, colorful wooden blocks stand up to plenty of punishment and teach critical concepts. And because they’re so versatile, wooden blocks become the backdrop of other types of imaginative play.

Age: 24 months and up

3. Train Set

Setting up a track and modeling some of the rules of physics by pushing wooden trains up bridges and around curves is serious play. Wooden train sets with interlocking or magnetic connections are sturdy and relatively inexpensive. Get a set that’s easy to expand so you can add to it over the years and build something truly impressive.

Age: 3+ years

4. Cardboard Block Set

These bigger-than-life cardboard blocks are a favorite with kids because they can be used to build forts, life-size castles, and more. You’d assume these blocks might cave under pressure, but the reinforced cardboard stands up to 150 pounds of force. They also break down if you need to move playtime to a different location.

Age: 3+ years

5. Marble Runs

There are a lot of different varieties of these classic expandable building toys, including marble run sets that glow in the dark, light up, or even wooden ones for adults and little kids alike. The only caveat is that it’s best to buy these sets when kids are no longer putting everything (like marbles) in their mouths or up their noses.

Age: 4+ years

Best Toys for Kids Who Love Animals

Got a kid who’s fascinated with everything of the four-footed variety? These toys will satisfy their curiosity about the animal world.

6. Play Barn Set

The big red barn is an iconic staple of childhood play. Animals, a farmer and a tractor combined with a fold-up structure allow toddlers and older kids to engage in imaginative play while working on motor skills. Different versions of this barn also play songs or make animal sounds.

Age: 18 months and up

7. Veterinarian Set

These veterinarian sets allow kids to imagine themselves as veterinarians and explore imaginative play and soft skills like empathy. Light-up thermometers and a play stethoscope that mimics a heartbeat all help veterinary sets model real-life situations. Some sets come with smocks and stuffed patients to care for and cuddle.

Age: 3+ years

8. Beanie Babies

Yes, beanie babies are still around and as popular as ever. These collector’s items have burst the bubble of the original craze in the ’90s and early 2000s but still make great sturdy stuffed animals. A word of warning that the modern versions with oversized eyes and little button noses aren’t meant for toddlers.

Age: 3+ years

9. Pasture Pals

This iconic horse set is often one of the first collectible animal sets kids receive. Melissa & Doug’s 12 different breeds encourage equine enthusiasts to learn more about horses in a playset that’s safe to handle and stands up to rougher play. The wooden storage tray ensures these horses make it back to the stable without getting lost.

Age: 3+ years

 10. Ant Farm

Not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but kids still play with ant farms. Letting your kids fill one with sand and observe ants digging tunnels, feeding and working to create a new home can satisfy developing STEM skills. Just be sure not to move the farm after setup as the tunnels can collapse and secure the lid or ants will have a picnic in your kitchen.

Age: 6+ years

Best Toys for Kids Who Love Cars

From the time they’re knee high, some kids are obsessed with cars and all things roadway. Fortunately, plenty of time-tested toys satisfy that need for speed.

11. Roadway Playmat

While these roadway carpets aren’t technically toys, they’re an iconic play surface worth every square inch. You can get these play carpets in every variety, from construction sites to urban landscapes. While they can be more expensive than toys, car rugs can support years of play before they fray around the edges.

Age: All

12. Garage Set

If you didn’t have the Fisher-Price Garage growing up, you probably had some version of it. Multi-level parking, a car elevator, a play gas pump and several cars to fill up and zoom up the ramps makes this garage set suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and kids of all ages.

Age: 18 months and up

13. Cozy Coupe

Every home in America has probably had one of these parked out front at some point in the last several decades. Little Tikes Cozy Coupe has been on the road for more than 30 years with features allowing kids to safely peddle or parents to push around the driveway or the neighborhood easily.

Age: 18 months and up

14. Hot Wheels

Whether you play or horde them, Hot Wheels cars hold their value through childhood and beyond. These metal cars are modeled on real-life vehicles and adult collectors especially covet the special edition ones. Because of their size and materials, Hot Wheels’ little plastic wheels and metal bodies aren’t recommended for toddlers.

Age: 3+ years

15. Tonka Dump Truck

When parents think of a toy dump truck, they think of Tonka. These giant metal toy trucks are steel and have been handed down through generations of play for the past 70 years. However, the underside and wheels are plastic, making Tonka Dump trucks a toy that easily transitions from indoor to outdoor play.

Age: 3+ years

Best Toys for Kids Who Love Arts and Crafts

Creativity is an important skill to cultivate. Indulging in artistic play with a creative toy lets young children explore their passion for the arts and invent new ways to express themselves.

16. Play-Doh

Roll it. Squish it. Squeeze it. Shape it. This non-toxic modeling clay has been a childhood favorite for generations. Play-Doh is soft, comes in a rainbow of colors and doesn’t get too sticky or dry as long as you keep the cap on the container.

Age: 24 months and up

17. Etch A Sketch

If you feel like the Etch A Sketch has been around forever, you’re not wrong. Most grandparents and parents have played with this drawing toy at least once and the modern version is just as fun as the original. Turn the knobs, create drawings and then shake hard to watch the drawing dissolve and offer up a new canvas for the next creation.

Age: 3+ years

18. Arts and Crafts Kit

Sometimes, you must offer up the supplies and step back to watch the magic happen. These kinds of arts and crafts kits are stocked with pipe cleaners, pompoms, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, felt, sequins and much more. And if your budding artist isn’t inspired, project ideas are usually included.

Age: 3+ years

19. Easel Set

Sturdy and well-made easel sets are something you’ll buy once and hand down for decades. Melissa & Doug make a fantastic wooden one with a whiteboard, chalkboard, a replaceable paper roll, clips, paint containers and trays to hold brushes and other supplies.

Age: 3+ years

20. Crayola Crayons

One box, so many possibilities. Crayola’s ultimate crayon set is still a siren call for little artists who want to try and combine every color in the rainbow. Crayola’s non-toxic crayon sets now also include metallic and glitter hues, a caddy and a sharpener for when that favorite color starts to get flat.

Age: 3+ years

Best Toys for Imaginative Play

The benefits of imaginative play are far-reaching. From language skills to emotional well-being, these toys empower children and shape how they see others and themselves.

21. Toy Toolset

Long before they can walk, children mimic the adults around them. Much of what kids learn about how to be in the world comes from the early years of imaginative play. Help them get a handle on feeling capable with a toy toolbox that’s safe even for the littlest DIYers.

Age: 24 months and up

22. Play Kitchen

These KidKraft kitchen playsets can be expensive because they’re carefully crafted from wood, but they support a lifetime of play. Paired with an inexpensive food and dish set, this kitchen offers up hours and hours of imaginative fun for several children who can cook, do dishes and stock the fridge with groceries simultaneously.

Age: 3+ years

23. Cardboard Playhouse

Life-size wooden or plastic playhouses can be expensive and are usually reserved for outdoor spaces. But in the past few decades, cardboard playhouses have sprung up that offer better bang for your buck, plus the chance to customize with color and collapse these creative playhouses for easy transport.

Age: 3+ years

24. Dress Up Clothes

Open a trunk of play clothes, and you’ll open a world of possibilities for kids who can dress to play the part. Starter sets of play clothes let kids mix and match to create different costumes, from construction worker to gardener or chef. Plus, you can dig through your closet and find plenty of old clothes and accessories to add to the play pile. And don’t forget to throw in a wig or a clown nose for a kid with a funny bone who’ll appreciate the humor.

Age: 3+ years

25. Fisher-Price Medical Kit

If you didn’t have this doctor’s kit when you were a kid, you likely had one just like it. Generations of children made pretend house calls with this medical kit and its blood pressure cuff and toy stethoscope. It’s seen a few updates over the years, such as a digital upgrade for the thermometer and a more durable plastic bandage.

Age: 3+ years

Best Educational Toys for Kids

A lot of educators are fond of saying that play is serious work. And some parents feel better about splurging on toys with educational value built into the price tag. These toys are classics that make learning child’s play and many are suitable for big kids.

26. Play Piano

Xylophones are great for toddlers, but if you know a child who seems musically inclined, Melissa & Doug’s small, sturdy play piano is the star of the show. Specifically designed with preschoolers in mind, the piano has labeled keys and an illustrated songbook that features nine different childhood tunes.

Age: 3+ years

27. Floor Puzzles

Melissa & Doug is a toy company that got its start creating chunky wooden puzzles and other educational toys. Their giant floor puzzles are appropriate for preschoolers and elementary-aged kids who enjoy the satisfaction of problem-solving plus learning more about the natural world.

Age: 3+ years

28. Simon

At its heart, Hasbro’s Simon is just an electronic version of memory games designed for older kids. Simon’s staying power is likely a result of the simplicity of this compact game combined with options for single or multiplayer modes. And like many ’80s games, the retro look and feel of Simon gives nostalgia feels to parents and kids alike.

Age: 8+ years

29. Snap Circuits

If there’s a quintessential STEM toy, award-winning Snap Circuits and Snap Circuits Junior sets are as close as you’ll get. These open-ended toys allow kids to make a bunch of cool gadgets with no additional tools, including a musical doorbell and a voice-controlled lamp. Tons of upgrade kits offer more challenging projects for older kids.

Age: 8+ years

30. Minecraft

Not all video games are created equal. And while Minecraft is only about a decade old, it’s a world-building game that has completely transformed the industry. There are many affordable ways to play Minecraft if you don’t have a gaming console, including downloading the game for a small fee to a PC or smartphone.

Age: 10+

Best Outdoor Toys for Kids

Encouraging kids to spend time in the great outdoors is an increasingly challenging task but essential for their development. These outdoor toys don’t require a big backyard to make soaking up some sun a blast.

31. Sensory Table

Best known as water tables, sensory tables like the ones from Step2 don’t have to just sport water in summer. They can be emptied and filled with sand, pasta, rice or other materials that encourage sifting, scooping and shaping. However, they are best confined to the great outdoors.

Age: 18 months and up

32. Sidewalk Chalk

Chalking up the driveway or sidewalk has been a popular pastime for generations of children, but modern, non-toxic sidewalk chalk makes it easier than ever. Buckets sport a rainbow of colors, making the thick pieces easy to hold onto. While sidewalk chalk is considered appropriate for all ages, it’s best for kids who won’t be tempted to lick it.

Age: 24 months and up

33. Pop Up Play Tents and Tunnels

If you’ve got a kid that wants to keep all the boxes to burrow in, this toy is likely to be a hit. Collapsible tents and tunnels make the perfect rainy-day indoor activity, but they are also fantastic toys for outdoor play that double as a shady place to sprawl. Many play tent and tunnel sets are mazes with fun elements like ball pits and peekaboo windows.

Age: 3+ years

34. Scooter

The great thing about scooters is they’re still cool, whether your kid is learning how to balance before riding a bike or kicking off to hang with friends after school. Razor scooters come in a variety of colors and styles and are adjustable for height as well as foldable for storage. And because these scooters support up to 143-pound riders, they’re good to go until the teenage years.

Age: 5+ years

35. Giant bubble sets

Blowing bubbles may seem silly, but it’s an activity that teaches kids a lot about chemistry and scientific principles. Not to burst your bubble, but these open-ended toys are usually for older kids since giant bubbles can be tricky to master. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a fun activity for the whole family that keeps kids entertained for hours.

Age: 6+ years

Find More Toys That Stand the Test of Time

While this shopping guide features traditional toys that are appropriate for a wide variety of kids, plenty of other toys or games make great gifts. From dollhouses and dolls to board games, the key to finding a great toy is equal parts knowing your kid and researching before you blow your budget on the latest gadget or gizmo.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Thepennyhoarder.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

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Kaz Weida is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.