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Challenge: Best Toys

Five Simple Toys That Won't Break The Bank This Holiday Season

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Let's face it: kids have A LOT of stuff.

So. Much. Stuff.

In the family room. In their bedrooms. In the bathroom. The car. Your purse.

Their stuff is everywhere.

And, if your house looks anything like mine, there are days that it looks like Toys R Us threw up all over the living room. When they were babies, the floor was littered with Duplo blocks, wooden puzzle pieces and colorful, stimulating Sassy toys. As they've gotten older, we've amassed Lincoln Logs, My Little Ponies, more Legos than the actual Lego plant contains and every single available stuffed animal on the planet. We have been blessed with doting grandparents who have filled their toy room with educational and fun games as well as the latest and greatest toys of the season every Christmas. And, don't forget the electronics: the Wii and Xbox are like family members in this household.

But, for all of the stuff crammed into the closets around here, there are simple toys and items that have stood the test of time in our home. Toys that bring fond memories for not only the kids but also me. And, most of the toys that are tried and true in this house, the ones they play with the most, are the ones that have cost me the least amount of money. Go figure.

Five Simple Toys That Won't Break The Budget This Holiday Season

1). TOMY Hide and Squeak Eggs
This toy was given to us when my oldest child was an infant and it became an instant favorite. The bright yellow container is the perfect size to shove in your purse (always a plus in my book) and only has 13 pieces. The eggs are just the right size for fat toddler hands and their gross motor skills and toddlers love the chirping sound the eggs make when squeezed. The eggs combine shape matching skills, gross motor and color coordinating. And, at only $10.99, they are an absolute STEAL. Buy one for the toddler on your list AND a bunch to keep on hand for those toddler birthday parties that are always on the calendar. Though it's been years since my children have played with these cuties, they remain a fond favorite.

2). Pool Noodle Light Sabers.

My son and his friends are OBSESSED with Star Wars. Whether it's watching the movies, re-enacting the scenes outside or playing themed video games, he eats sleeps and breathes all things Jedi. When he was smaller, he received a set of plastic Light Saber wands as a gift. He immediately went outisde to duel with a friend and we quickly realized that plastic + little boys + pretending to be Luke Skywalker = not a smart idea. So, in an attempt to make it safer for him to get his Jedi on, I made these nifty Light Sabers out of pool noodles and colored duct tape. The pool noodles cost me $1 a piece and who doesn't have black or grey electrical tape laying around? He and his friends have been happily duking it out in my backyard with the pool noodle Light Sabers and the force is on the side of safety (see what I did there?).

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3). A Roll of brown paper. Seriously.

For years, I've kept a ream of brown, grocery bag style paper in my basement for play date emergencies. That paper has been rolled out in long lengths for friends to color side by side, has helped us make "Welcome Home!" banners for when Daddy is coming home from a business trip and has saved mom hiney on more than one occasion for a class project. I've used it to wrap presents for kid birthday parties (have your kids jazz it up with colorful pictures) and grown ups love receiving an elegant brown package with a silk ribbon, too! The roll costs under $30 and will give you months, if not years, of play time fun. And bonus: when you get to the end of the roll, the giant tube is a great sword!

4). A Set Of Used Harry Potter Books.

Both of my kids love all things fantasy and mystical when it comes to their reading choices and in our house, Harry Potter reigns supreme. When my son was in first grade, I purchased the first book at a thrift shop for $0.50 and together, we read the book chapter by chapter over the summer. When I realized how much we enjoyed reading the story together, I found the other books for a nominal price on Ebay and Amazon. For under $10, we had a wonderful time visiting the world of Hogwarts and Harry's many escapades with Voldemort. And, when my daughter was old enough to enjoy them, they got passed on to her. They are well loved and dog-eared but it was the best $10 I've ever spent.

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5). A set of sturdy building blocks.

Kids love to build things. And knock things down. And do it all over again. From building towers that are taller than they are to constructing road systems for their trucks, blocks are the perfect toy for a busy imagination. We have a set of blocks that lives in a big steamer trunk in our basement and not a week goes by that the blocks aren't strewn all over our toy room for some sort of entertainment. In fact, my son, who is 12, just used them to film a domino chain reaction for a science project. They are colorful, they are sturdy and they've been a staple in our toy room since the beginning. Some sets might be pricey but a good set of about 50-100 blocks will serve to bring hours of imaginative, building fun.

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Holiday gift giving for kids doesn't have to break the bank if you are on a budget, I promise. Often times, the most simple toys bring the greatest joys and frankly, that's the meaning of the season, don't you think?


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