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Have you ever wondered why those big play kitchens, cars and big plastic dinosaurs seem to stand unused a few weeks after Christmas? 

And yet, your little one seems to find interest in everything they’re not supposed to be playing with: kitchen drawers, plastic bags…permanent markers! Whyyyyyy?

Well, there’s actually a good reason for that!  There’s a region in our brain that is specially designed to respond to novel stimuli. The brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine, which motivates us to go searching for a reward.  That’s why new things in a child’s environment–Amazon boxes, dad’s flashlight, or a fresh roll of tape—are so intriguing.  

Novelty invites exploration–the very thing we want to activate when we invite our kids to play.

Instead of large, single-use toys this Christmas, I recommend stocking up on some investment toy sets and open-ended play materials!  Our favorite gifts to give our kids are toy sets that can be added to each year on Christmas or for birthdays.  

If you’re wondering exactly how to these materials, I wrote a guide just for you.  My ebook Thirty Days of Play contains my three secrets to independent play along with thirty days of irresistible play prompts for toddlers, preschoolers and early learners.  You can find it here!

Below is a list of the toys and open-ended play materials that are frequently used in our home. 

Some can be purchased at thrift stores, but for those that can’t I left links.

Toys Worth Investing In

Open-Ended Materials

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and pressured to buy lots of toys or big gifts this Christmas, try something new!  Purchase some of the items on this list and arrange them in a big basket.  Then download Thirty Days of Play for magical pay all year long.

You can also sign up here for new monthly newsletter here. If your’e looking for a great list of books for your preschooler or toddler, check out this blog post.