10 Best Minimalist Toys for Smarter & Happier Kids
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As it turns out, the old adage “less is more” can also apply to kids’ toys. Here are the ten best minimalist toys for young children, with plenty of practical ideas for each category.
When you choose simple toys that are fun and educational, your kids can get years of enriching fun and entertainment from their toys.
This also simplifies your life, as your kids become smarter, more creative, happier, and learn to play independently. Also, you can always consider giving kids experience gifts rather than physical ones – read this list of the best experiential gifts here.
What are the best minimalist toys for kids?
Who am I to write about the best minimalist toys for kids?
- I’m an expert. As someone who holds a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, I’ve put thousands of hours into the study and practice of preventing, assessing, diagnosing, and treating speech, language, social communication, cognition, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. (Read more about SLPs at ASHA)
- I’m a minimalist. After a five-year decluttering journey that took me from emotional hoarder to minimalist, I know a lot about minimalism! In 2019, we decluttered our entire home, sold or donated everything that we owned, and moved to Europe with only eight suitcases, where we now enjoy a debt-free life in our dream home!
- I’m a mom. I have two super active young boys, and I’m here to tell you my kids are normal kids; they love to run, play, and still love TOYS! As a mom, I want to give my kids the best, but being a mom also means knowing that you don’t have to give them tons of stuff to do that. After all, kids don’t always know what’s good for them – just ask my son, who has a peanut allergy and yet happily accepts peanut M&Ms from his friends at school. 😂 (Don’t worry, he’s not anaphylactic – thank goodness!)
So is toy minimalism really possible?
If you still feel skeptical, listen to this!
A recent study found that children who were presented with fewer toys were more focused, played for longer periods of time, and found more creative ways to play with their toys than kids who were given more toys.
The bottom line is that fewer toys can mean happier, smarter, and more creative kids, a happier marriage, and much more.
I’m here to tell you that minimalism with kids is not only possible but also AMAZING!
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10 Best Minimalist Toys for Kids
Honestly, the best minimalist toys are the ones your kids play with time and time again.
The ones that make their eyes light up with joy and challenge them to discover new things about themselves and the world around them.
(Not to mention the ones that keep them playing for longer so that you can focus on completing your to-do list!)
Here are the ten best categories of toys that will help your child be more focused, creative, and empathetic and encourage critical developmental skills they need to become successful and happy in the future.
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WATCH MY VIDEO ON MINIMALIST TOYS!
1. Character toys
Character toys like dolls, stuffed animals, and figurines allow your child to practice social interactions by acting out real-life scenes, such as having friendly parties with their dollies or playing peek-a-boo with their bear.
Character toys also teach children how to care for themselves as they practice nurturing their smaller friends.
Children often project their feelings onto the character toys, which helps them learn more about their own emotions, develop empathy, and work through feelings. They are good for stand-alone play or can be paired with many of the other toys in this list.
Each of my boys has two stuffies to sleep with and their own large bin for more large stuffed animals, including ones from my youth that I passed on to them with joy.
The small animal figurines, including Pokémon figurines, are kept together in one of the smaller IKEA Trofast bins in their room.
2. Building toys
Building toys are good for boosting creativity, improving awareness of spatial concepts, increasing problem-solving abilities, and strengthening gross and fine motor skills.
You might need to experiment to find what your child likes best. When I was a kid, I LOVED building with waffle blocks, but my kids prefer Kapla blocks and LEGOs.
✨ PRO-TIP: Don’t forget, you can also use these for more than just building! For example, you can sort LEGOs by color or use Kapla blocks to count or form letters of the alphabet – the only limitation is your imagination!
3. Arts and crafts
The drive to create is natural; it’s in our blood. Just look at how long ago the early humans began to smear crude pictures of animals on their cave walls!
Arts and crafts are good for many things, from teaching literacy and math concepts to learning colors and developing fine motor skills.
Creating something from scratch also gives kids a sense of pride and accomplishment!
Even as a minimalist family, we keep art and craft supplies readily available in our home, such as:
- regular and tracing paper
- pencils and pens
- crayons, markers, paints, and colored pencils
- tape and scissors (right and left-handed ones here – my kids are both!)
- glue and glitter
- food coloring for kitchen experiments
My sons also love the Boogie Board that’s been with us for around six years now. The Boogie Board is a great drawing pad because kids can draw and erase without creating a lot of paper clutter or making a big mess with paints and glues.
It’s also an excellent option for screen-free entertainment when we travel by plane or on road trips – just be careful to protect it for the trip!
Arts and crafts supplies can easily get out of hand, so a trick we use is to keep them in one place and set a physical boundary; in our case, its a single drawer!
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4. Active movement toys
Movement allows children to express themselves and helps them release energy through play.
There are many indoor and outdoor toys that are good for getting your kids moving.
When we had a smaller home, and it was winter, we had something called a “Gorilla gym” that could attach to the doorframe, which had ropes, swings, triangles, and other attachments.
Popular movement toys include:
- Ride-on toys
- Climbing toys
- Balance bikes
- Scooters and scooter boards
- Swings (both indoors like ours and outdoors)
- Gym mats
- Trampolines (indoor mini size or full-size for outdoors)
- Jump ropes
5. Forts and castles
Kids love to build and while building small structures with toys is fun, building big or even life-size structures that they can hide inside can be even more fun.
When my kids were smaller, we had a little collapsible pop-up sun tent that we bought for the beach. Later, I would put it out on the balcony with toys inside of it so my kids would have fun running in and out for hours at a time playing in that tent.
Forts and castles are one of the best minimalist toys!
They can be as simple as giving your kids sheets to put over your dining room table or a fort building kit they can create themselves with sticks and balls.
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Children love to play with pretend vehicles, zooming around with cars, trains, planes, and boats.
Playing with vehicles is exciting for kids because it puts them in the driver’s seat!
Our favorite vehicles include the standard Hot Wheels cars and trucks as well as the Thomas trains.
Over time we’ve found that our kids weren’t big fans of the railroad tracks, but they like to let them race around the room freely – each child will be different, so see what the best minimalist toy vehicle is best for yours!
7. Sensory toys
Sensory toys stimulate your child’s five senses, which are sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. It’s so fun for kids to experience a toy that gives an exciting new sensation or heightened experience!
You can find sensory toys at almost any toy store, but you can also make your own at home.
Homemade sensory bins include fillers like rice, dry beans, ice, rocks, sand, or cooked noodles with more simples toys added into the mix for extra interest, such as small animal figurines, small vehicles, or letters of the alphabet.
More sensory toy ideas include:
- Sensory bottles
- Blowing bubbles
- Musical toys
- Light-up or glowing toys
- Kinetic sand
- Magnetic toys
- Buddha boards
8. Games and puzzles
What kid doesn’t love to play games?
Games are a great way to pass the time indoors and can teach your child all sorts of new concepts, increase their vocabulary, improve their focus and concentration, and problem-solving.
It also teaches kids essential social skills, such as turn talking, rule-following, and being a good winner or loser!
Games that we love include Memory, Connect 4, Pokemon, Ticket to Ride, and this year we also learned how to play chess as a family! In fact, my little six-year-old beat me at chess the other day! How amazing is that???
We worked our way up from simple, single-piece wooden puzzles to more complex puzzles and games – make sure to shop for your child’s age!
9. Balls and sports toys
Balls and other sporting toys are great for getting your kids up and moving!
They can help your child develop better balance, strength, and gross and fine motor coordination, while also strengthening your relationship.
This sets an excellent foundation for essential life skills, such as team building and cooperation, and how to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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Yes, I put books in this list of minimalist toys because books are great for kids in so many ways.
Encouraging an early love of reading can boost your child’s intelligence, challenge and develop critical thinking skills, and improve focus and concentration.
Not only that, but reading also helps build emotional intelligence and empathy.
We are avid readers, and a few of my kid’s favorite books include the Elephant and Piggie series, Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and even comic books like Hilo and Donald Duck.
If you’re unsure where to begin, your local library is a great place to get started. Public libraries often host wonderful storytimes and reading events and the librarians are a GOLDMINE for good age-appropriate book recommendations.
Final thoughts on best minimalist toys for kids
Remember, minimalism isn’t about having white walls or never buying toys again – it’s about creating a life you love and a home full of things that add joy and value to your life!
The best minimalist toys are the ones that your child loves and uses daily; the ones they reach for and play with again and again!