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9 Tireless Toys That Kids Keep Playing With As They Get Older

From building blocks to empty boxes, there are some toys that kids never really outgrow.

Erica Silverstein

Tell me if this story sounds familiar: The kids beg you for an expensive toy, maybe the hot toy of the holiday season or an electronic gadget with all the bells and whistles. They’re beyond thrilled when they receive it, claiming you’re the best parent ever. One month later, it’s gathering dust in a forgotten corner of their bedroom.

And then there are the other toys, the ones that flew under the radar at the birthday party, which kids return to again and again through the years. These are the toys worth spending money on (or spending time searching for deals and secondhand outcasts). While every kid will have different interests, here are the favorite toys my kids (ages six and nine) keep playing with as they get older.

1. Magnetic Tiles



Every year, I put Magnatiles on holiday and birthday wish lists for my kids because no matter how many we have, we can always use more. From looming towers to space-age vehicles, the kids create wild structures and then fight or barter over the last remaining triangles and squares. The big shapes are easy for toddlers to handle, but the joy of construction lasts for years.

2. Trampoline



We bought a small, one-person trampoline for my daughter’s third birthday, and while it’s a bit trashed now, it still has a place of prominence in the playroom. Sure, the kids jump on it when they’re feeling wiggly, but they also use it to race Hot Wheels, as a stand-in for mountains and parking garages, or as an indoor Nerf target. (It’s really satisfying when the foam darts bounce off it!)

3. Legos and Duplos



Given the number of adults who buy and painstakingly build thousand-piece Lego sets, it’s no surprise that Legos last for years in most playrooms. What I didn’t expect is that the Duplos (Legos’ preschool line) would also stand the test of time. Even with vats of Legos at home, my kids will pull out the Duplos to build outrageous vehicles or use the people to live in Magnatile houses. Shh, don’t tell my school-age kids that Duplos are supposed to be toddler toys!

4. Balls



Red rubber kickballs, soccer balls, Nerf footballs, super-bouncy balls — even my non-sporty kids will invent new ball games or ask us to kick or throw with them in the backyard. You may end up with impromptu bowling in your living room, but kids continue to find ways to incorporate balls into all kinds of play. All my friends with basketball hoops report that those get weekly workouts as well.

5. Dolls and Doll Accessories



As a child, I adored imaginative play with my dolls: Cabbage Patch, Playmobil, Strawberry Shortcake … you name it. Not only did I play with them for years, but my daughter now plays with the same dolls because I never got rid of them. Whether you’re going for Barbie or American Girl dolls — and all the clothes, cars, strollers, etc. that they come with — dolls will remain members of your extended family all the way through elementary school, and possibly beyond.

6. Tree Swings

Tree Swing


Kids age out of swing sets, but tree swings have a more lasting appeal. Whether you go with an old-school tire swing or modern web-style tree swing, even the middle and high school kids will enjoy monkeying around on a swing. Get one solid enough and Mom and Dad might give it a go every now and then too.

7. Stomp Rockets


Photos by the author

Bubbles spill and sidewalk chalk crumbles, but one outdoor toy with some staying power in our family is the stomp rocket. There’s something thrilling about seeing how far you can send them sailing … into the neighbor’s yard, onto the roof, out on the street. Yeah, you’ll need to replace the rockets when they inevitably get lost, but every summer you’ll find this toy competing with cornhole for most popular game at your Fourth of July barbecue.

8. Building Blocks

Toys Kids Don't Outgrow


Whether they’re made from foam or wood, building blocks can occupy the imaginations of kids of all ages. Little kids will love to build and smash towers, and older ones can create cool architectural structures or play spaces for Lego minifigs. We have both types, bought when our kids were in preschool, and they’re definitely still played with on a regular basis. (And, to date, no one has taken a wood block to the head — though we had to put the kibosh on foam block indoor baseball.)

9. Empty Boxes



I would have more storage space in my basement if an entire closet weren’t filled with giant boxes claimed by my kids as fort-building basics. The old adage that kids are more interested in the box the toy came in than the toy itself is often true — though in our case, it’s the box the toilet came in and the box that giant piece of furniture came in. The imaginative things one can do with a cardboard box knows no limit. Even when they can no longer fit inside, your budding artists and engineers will still find creative uses for this material originally destined for the recycling bin.