Our Favorite Toys for Younger Boys

A few weeks ago I shared the toys my kids don't need.
But I thought I should probably balance my miserly, scrooge-esque, minimalist ways and share what playthings we DO have, especially those that have been the most well loved and used and have merited a place in our home.  So this is the complement to that post, I guess.  Every one of these has provided hours of good play for them (which translates into hours of time for me to do things like clean, blog, or, you know, eat without the seagulls descending ;).  Maybe it can help someone out there looking for a great gift?  

What I've noticed about our most used and engaging toys is that they are all very, very simple in and of themselves and some of them aren't even legit toys at all.   On their own they don't do anything but they require the child to engage, think, build, imagine, and create.  Those are the toys that last and that (in my opinion) are best for kids.  And a few on this list are dirt cheap so yay!  Obviously girls may love some of these things, too.  I can only personally vouch for boys ;)

So away we go:

A REAL Tool Kit
Boys learn really quickly that tools that don't really do anything aren't all that fun.  Most boys are ready much earlier than we tend to think in our society for things like knives and saws and real working tools.  Yes, there is a risk but it's only through actually using things like that do they learn how to use them safely and properly.  With a few rules and extremely awesome guardian angels we haven't had an E.R. trip yet (yet...I know one is coming sooner or later.  Here's hoping I'm not asking for one by writing this.).  I love seeing the things they build with scrap wood and branches.  I got a set similar to the photo above (off Ebay) when our youngest was maybe six?  This one also looks nice (although there's no saw).


Costumes and Swords
The boys are always dressing up as someone.  Usually Robin Hood or Peter Pan or Narnian characters and they get the most use out of the homemade Lord of the Rings costumes.  Capes, swords, belts, armor, random lengths of scrap fabric...all of that is gold to my boys.  A box full of costume supplies picked up at thrift stores or discount racks would be an amazing Christmas present that would be so memorable.  FYI, plastic swords will last about a millisecond.  Go with a good wooden sword if you want something that will last.  Again, dangerous.  And that's why boys like 'em ;)
(I'm sloooowly getting used to that concept.)


 A set of good blocks is worth the price tag (although I do think it would be REALLY cool and much cheaper to make your own set).  Years ago I asked for a pack of these Melissa and Doug ones for three separate occasions as gifts from grandparents.  So we have three sets (one of them the architectural set) all jumbled together in one big box and they are played with constantly.  Marble tracks, mice mazes, towers, castles, door stops…they are used all the time.


Can't really go wrong with Lego.  Except that they're pricey and it is very very hard to find them at garage sales (if you do, GET THEM).  I've often asked for different sets from grandparents for gifts and they are always a hit.  The boys from age 2-3 on will spend hours building together.


These aren't used for what you might think.  Google or search Youtube for 'stick bombs' or check out my oldest here.  He started a little local homeschool trend last year when he learned about it and we posted those videos!  These sticks are super cheap (head to Michael's or Hobby Lobby with one of their coupons and they're even cheaper) and they provide building and engineering and physics learning and crazy exciting explosions that they LOVE.


This was by far the best few dollars we've ever spent on a "toy."  A few dollars and an hour or two of work have given us hours of building and play from even the three year old.


Wooden Train Tracks
Are you sensing a theme here?  Wood and building...can't really go wrong with boys if you go that front ;)  I know there are several different big brands of wooden train building sets available.  I have no idea if one is better than the other.  We just have a small set of the cheaper kind that has served us fine and built many many many a track.


Flat Gemstone Rock Things
I'm pretty sure that's their official name.  They're the ones used in vases or aquariums and usually found in the floral department.  Several years ago I bought a pack of these types of stones from a craft store along with three little treasure boxes for sorting them as one son's Christmas gift.  He LOVED them.  And they really are fun to handle and play with (even for adults!).  He would spend hours sorting them or making pictures out of them.  They're often used as treasure when they play pretend and I'll even use them for the occasional math lesson.  I imagine they'd be really great for a child with sensory issues.  Buy them at a craft store like Hobby Lobby where they always have coupons and sales and you can get the stones and boxes for around $10-15.


(I wouldn't necessarily buy something like this but type A me needed a picture.)
Craft Supplies
  A box filled with all sorts of craft supplies would be such a fun gift to give and receive.  Our boys are now at a point where they'll spend an entire afternoon doing their own crafts together.  I would definitely include lots of construction paper, scissors, TAPE, glue, crayons, a hot glue gun (if old enough), string/twine, popsicle sticks.  And NOT glitter or markers.

Their favorites are all ones that involve strategy and battle.  Surprise ;)  StrategoRiskSettlers of CatanChess, and Ticket to Ride are just a few.  The three year old can even play a pretty good game of chess or checkers.  I absolutely love that they can now play most of these together and they're at the age where the games are actually fun to play with them.  (Sorry, Hi-Ho Cherry-o.  You made me want to poke my eyes out.)

Sports Equipment
Not all boys are super into sports but good basic sports equipment is generally a pretty good investment for most homes with boys.  Younger children should obviously get equipment more age appropriate for their size and skill (those ones linked are small and softer).  Whether it's for proper and approved sport use or (more likely) pelting your brother or used in random made up games, a few balls and other things of the sort will pretty much always be used somehow.

I'm sure there are plenty other ideas that could be added but these are the time-tested and worth the price toys most loved and used in our little home here!

(Many of the links included are affiliate links.  When you click through and make ANY purchase from Amazon during that visit, I get a sizeable percentage at no cost to you.  That's a very nice thing to do.  Thank you!!)


  1. I have a toddler boy and a baby boy, and you've answered several questions I had in my head, so thank you! I especially appreciate you spelling out some art supplies - I keep wanting to get craft materials for my toddler, but balking at the prospect of huge messes all the time. Those things look like they'd keep the mess to a level I can handle :-).

    1. My oldest used to spend so much time creating things out of cardboard and tape! He never really got into coloring like the middle two now do. But scissors, and tape are highly valued around here...they get them in their stockings! There are messes and frustrations but at least now they're at an age where they can (mostly) clean it up (after being reminded four times ;)

  2. We have that set with the football, soccer ball and basketball and our 1 year old loves it. We also have a beautiful set of wooden blocks made by a family friend. It's a toss up as to whether mom/dad or the little guy have more fun with them. I just bought Ticket to Ride for a gift, I'm glad to see it made your list.

    1. Out of the ones I mentioned, I think that one is *my* favorite!

  3. If you have a chance, check out J.M.Cremps- Adventure Store for Boys. It's local to my area but have a decent website and the catalog is dog eared to death over here! (4 boys, one girl at house)

  4. Smiling because I only have girls but swords, costumes, craft supplies and legos are a BIG hit here, too. In fact, all of the above are making appearances as gifts yet again this year. We don't have a ton of games, but we do have Stratego and Ticket to Ride.

  5. Love the real tool set. I was out looking for a present for my two year old a few days ago, and while he is too young for the 'real' tool set, I was dissapointed to see what counts as a tool set at the shops. Whatever makes them think children will have any fun with some of these toys. So boring! What happened to toys a kid can really play with!

    Love the costumes and swords too!

    Do you know which game you have pictured? I had a look but it doesn't seem to be any of the ones you linked. Also, which game would you say was the favorite?

    Oh, and what did I get my two year old? A child's basketball hoop and basketball, which all the boys are having fun with (I have 4) and a lego bin man truck (trash truck).

    A really good set of suggestions here! Thanks Mary!

    1. I didn't realize I didn't save the normal Risk image! I guess they're coming out with a Europe version next year and that's the image I saved.

      It's tough to pick a favorite. The younger ones are able to play Stratego better. (My three year old wants to play it constantly, although he doesn't totally get all the rules.) Once they're a little older (9-10) they tend to choose Risk. I personally like Ticket to Ride the best, which, not coincidentally, is the least battle-y ;)

    2. A very helpful explanation, thanks Mary! Looks like Risk will be the good pick for us to start with. And the European one looks good too. I shall have to keep a look out for it.

  6. When your boys are a little older, you should consider these Hero's Edge foam/rubber/latex swords:
    These are not your typical cheap foam swords. They are for LARPing (live action role playing) so they strive to balance safety, quality and appearance. My younger son received one for his birthday in May and my 17 year old wants one for Christmas so they can battle. Yes, they still love to do battle even at the ages of almost 18 and 12. They are heavy duty, well made (soft) swords.

    1. Those look great Charlotte! Thanks for the link :)

    2. Okay, I'm REALLY excited about these! They look so real yet (most likely) won't send anyone to the E.R.!! Thank you so much! I think they're going on a birthday list :)

  7. This is an AWESOME list! I have 2 boys (4 years & 21 months) and these are the things they love or stuff I need to put on a list for later. Our boys are getting Magna Tiles for Christmas. I know your boys would love them too. Pricey, but so amazing and great for math! Thanks for all your great boy posts! I learn so much from seeing yours a few years older than mine.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! We do have a pack of magnatiles and they do like them a lot! (I like playing with them, too :) Your boys will love them!


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