Every year at Christmas, parents talk about the season’s hottest toys. All the chatter can make it seem like everyone’s forgotten the single most enduring “toy” at the disposal of every child—imagination.

Plenty of high-tech toys encourage creativity, but to really fire up a child’s imagination it’s hard to beat the power of timeless, classic toys that rely on a child’s interaction rather than on electronics. This toy can become a child’s best friend, and parents will be happy their children have something that doesn’t require batteries and doesn’t stop working just because it’s dropped a few times.

Here are five timeless, low-tech toys that every child should have:

A CLASSIC DOLL

Countless generations of little girls have fallen in love with a special doll.

This is one toy that can serve many functions, from best friend and confidante to teacher and even role model. If some of today’s brash, in-your-face styles of dolls leave you shaking your head, never fear: you can still find dolls that offer contemporary appeal combined with more homespun values.

A BUILDING SET

Whether it’s plastic, wood, or metal, a building set can fire the imagination of budding engineers. Building materials that link together have a leg up on old-fashioned blocks, allowing kids to create increasingly complex structures. With so many different construction toys available, it’s possible to find a building set for virtually any age or skill level.

DRESS-UP ITEMS

Pretend play is an important way children explore their own potential.

Dressing up as a doctor, nurse, firefighter or police officer helps children learn about career choices and adult roles, and facilitates creativity through role playing. Creating a dress-up chest is simple and low cost.

Parents can fill a plastic bin with hand-me-downs, old Halloween costumes and even a few store bought items.

A WAGON (preferably red)

Whether it’s an old-fashioned metal one in fire-engine red or one of the modern, SUV-sized plastic numbers, nothing beats a wagon for getting kids moving. It’s also a toy that keeps pace with a child’s development and changing styles of play. Very young children will enjoy riding as parents tow them along on walks around the neighborhood.

As children grow, they use the wagon themselves, employing it to transport toys or other children. Turn it over and it’s a makeshift fort or castle.

EASEL AND DRAWING PAD

Sure, coloring books are great, but there’s something about an easel that makes a child feel like a real artist.

A simple wooden frame holding a large drawing pad can become the launch pad for flights of fancy rendered in crayon, watercolor and even washable magic marker. Whatever your child’s media or favorite subject, putting him or her in front of an easel will enhance enjoyment of the artistic experience—and give you a bird’s-eye view of your budding artist at work.

Imagination is truly the greatest toy of childhood. Fortunately, you can find plenty of “no-tech” toys to nourish your child’s creativity and imagination, even in today’s high-tech world.

 

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