Unexpected and Cheap Toys That Have Stood the Test of Time


When I’m at a friend’s house, I often like to know what toys their kids have enjoyed for the longest.  It’s almost without fail that the simplest ones are the favorites. The big, expensive ones with lights and sounds get old (or break) quickly. The same is true around here.

We get most of our toys at garage sales or from family at this point. Without much storage or a basement, we have converted our dining room into a playroom. I rotate toys in and out of our attic every few weeks to keep them “fresh.” I find that even moving the toys to different locations in the house makes them more interesting, as well.

Here are a few unexpected and cheap toys that have captured the imaginations of my three kids (6-year-old boy, 4-year-old girl, and 2-year-old boy) for long stretches of time.

Store-Away Sandbox  

For the price, we may have gotten the most use out of this tub, I mean toy, of any other toys. We don’t have much room on our back porch for a sandbox (and my perfectionist lawn caretaker husband doesn’t want one on the grass.)  So, we bought a small storage container for sand and Big Brother’s small construction vehicles. Sis uses it to dig and fill containers. This petite sandbox can be moved around the screened-in porch or anywhere in the yard.  We’ve had to train the kids to keep the sand in the box, and for the most part this has worked. In the winter, it stores easily in our garage.

Tinker Toys

These are also the most widely used, and unfortunately widely dispersed, toys in our house.  I love the imagination and ingenuity involved with Tinker Toys.  The older two have built microphones, dumb bells, robots, guns, helicopters and so much more.


Mini Trampoline

At one point I wanted to get rid of this because of the space it took up. But, the kids begged me to keep it.  I’m glad we did.  They use it daily for jumping, of course, but also as a stage or a pretend table.  This is especially helpful in the winter when they need to get exercise inside the house.  I found a place to store this one in the garage when not in use, too.  For $5 at a garage sale, it’s been a good fit for our family.

Make-Shift Ball Pit

When my kids were a bit younger (especially as babies), they loved this make-shift ball pit! We just used our baby pool inside and filled it with an assortment of balls. It’s really been a fun addition to our play room, but you have to train your kids to pick up the balls when they are done! I remember our babies would sit in it by themselves each day and would love climbing in and out.

Looking for more quality toy ideas? I share our favorite store-bought toys, books, and music on this page.

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  1. holli says

    I can’t even begin to tell you how jealous I am of your collection of digger vehicles in the sand box. Owen is just now getting into those and we have two… I am on a mission you have set my new standard!