Educational Books, Toys: Savvy Essentials: The Classics

Savvy Essentials: The Classics

Classics: What are the classics? The classics, for us, are the books and toys we cannot do without.

These are the books we need when we are cooped up in the house on a rainy day, or at home with a sick child. These are the books we love to read night after night, year after year, to child after child. These are the books that teach our kids that reading can be an unending source of joy. Some were written a long time ago, but these are the books that never get old.

These are the toys that unleash our child's amazing creative forces. Inspirations for preschoolers come a mile a minute, and all they really need from us are the right materials. That is to say: toys that inspire, but don't constrain. Toys that can adapt to whatever odd brainwave should happen to strike their little masters at a moment's notice. Toys that are so cleverly designed and well-made that they just call out to be played with. Toys that can stand those tests, year after year, decade after decade, are what we call classic toys. Every kid should have a couple on hand for playtime -- who knows what they'll make with them!

The Little Engine That Could

The Little Engine That Could

by Watty Piper

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." Who among us hasn't conjured up that refrain when faced with a seemingly impossible task? Like running the last leg of a marathon. Or getting an uncooperative child dressed in the morning. "I think I can." This beloved story of a small engine pulling a train laden with toys over a mountain was published in the midst of the Great Depression (1930), and has ever since been taken to symbolize the American can-do spirit in the face of hardship. But for children of any era, it offers a reassuring mantra for climbing all the mountains on the path to growing up and beyond. 

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

by Maurice Sendak

In the forty years since Max first cried "Let the wild rumpus start," Maurice Sendak's classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children's books of all time. Now, in celebration of this special anniversary, introduce a new generation to Max's imaginative journey to where the wild things are.

Winner, 1964 Caldecott Medal
Notable Children's Books of 1940--1970 (ALA)
1981 Boston Globe--Horn Book Award for Illustration
1963, 1982 Fanfare Honor List (The Horn Book)
Best Illustrated Children's Books of 1963, 1982 (NYT)
A Reading Rainbow Selection
1964 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
Children's Books of 1981 (Library of Congress)
1981 Children's Books (NY Public Library)
100 Books for Reading and Sharing 1988 (NY Public Library) Review from Amazon

Corduroy

Corduroy

by Don Freeman

Consider this a story of love at first sight - love between a slightly forlorn, been sitting-on-the-store-shelf- too long teddy bear and a little girl named Lisa. Like any good love story, this one has its obstacles. When Lisa spots the corduroy-wearing bear in the department store, her mother declines to buy him because he is missing a button to one of his shoulder straps. Rejection sends Corduroy on a none-too-successful quest for his missing button, but, not to worry, love prevails. Any child who has ever been attached to a special stuffed animal or doll will be utterly absorbed by this sweet tale as well as its sequel, A Pocket for Corduroy. And parents and children alike will appreciate Ash Can painter Don Freeman's vivid illustrations. 

The Runaway Bunny

The Runaway Bunny

by Margaret Wise Brown

This bedtime favorite is as beautiful a love poem as has ever been written. The story's imaginary game of hide-and-seek between a little bunny and his mother appeals to children's dreams of running away and even stronger desire always to be found. Its gentle tempo and dream-like images have sent countless little ones off to sleep with the lulling assurance that their very own mother bunny will be there no matter where they go, and whenever they awake. 

Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

by Beatrix Potter

The world of Beatrix Potter can come as a bit of a shock in our kinder, gentler era of child-rearing and children's books. The rabbits here don't spend much time on games like Guess How Much I Love You. Rather, Peter is dubbed “very naughty" from the book's beginning, and, in Potter-land, naughty bunnies get their due (in this case, a dose of camomile tea – but at least Peter escapes the switch, unlike his naughty contemporaries, Tom Kitten and Benjamin Bunny). Yet naughty bunnies also get to have all of the adventures, and what a thrilling adventure this is! Full of the radish feasts and hairbreadth escapes that have kept children riveted since the book's publication in 1902. With its utterly beautiful illustrations and delightful cadences, Peter Rabbit is, more than a century later, still a must in any child's library. 

Twister Scram

Twister Scram

by Hasbro

Another reinvention of a classic game that we love in its original and new form! It's Simon Says and Musical Chairs and an outdoor version of Twister all rolled into one. Scatter red, yellow, blue and green mats around a lawn, spin the spinner, and dash for right colored dots. Last one's out! But the game can quickly be stared over, so everyone gets a chance to win. 

The Original Colorforms Set

The Original Colorforms Set

by University Games

This toy is so cool (there's no better word) that is has acquired an almost cult-like following not just among kids but also among grown-up artists and designers. The set includes 350 brightly colored shapes that stick when pressed to the black shiny surfaces in this spiral bound book, and can be rearranged in different patterns and images to your little one's heart's content. Your young designer can compose images as abstract or literal as she chooses, fitting the pieces together like blocks, or overlapping them for texture and depth. The possibilities are endless and so is the play. You'll want to take a turn yourself, and will soon see why this set is so addictively satisfying to play with. (It also makes a particularly great travel toy - plenty of artistic gratification with zero mess in a light, compact set? It may actually be the only travel toy you'll ever need for the four and older crowd). This colorforms first appeared in 1951, and was recently given the Parents Choice award for Top Classic Toy.  

Tinkertoy Classic Jumbo Set

Tinkertoy Classic Jumbo Set

Over the years, millions of children have created fanciful windmills, giant Ferris wheels, amazing animals and whimsical vehicles. The Tinkertoy Classic Jumbo builder set features easy fitting, durable, real wood pieces and comes with string to build cranes that hoist and elevators that rise. Easily build and play with many different large-scale structures using the enclosed instructions. Or use your imagination to create lots of new structures. Over 100 pieces. Combine this set with other Tinkertoy sets to create even larger structures! Review from Amazon

Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs

by K'Nex

There are lots of reasons to give a nod to Lincoln Logs, not least of which is that we celebrate President's Day this week and the birthday of Honest Abe himself. Another reason is that this building set provides a particular kind of satisfaction unlike any other comparable toy. Yes, you can build a house with good old wooden unit blocks which are, of course, another classic, essential toy. But it will never have the same solidity and, well, log-like quality that the one you build with Lincoln Logs does. There's something irresistible about the way the logs and roof slats fit together - so even if our kids can never claim to have lived in a log cabin in their political bios, they'll darn well know how to build one. .  

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Jumbo Cardboard Blocks

The Big Bad Wolf has nothing on these sturdy cardboard blocks. They're easy to assemble, and they're lightweight so even the youngest builders can construct their dream home. Bright colors mean endless combinations. Blocks come in several different sizes. Includes 40 blocks. Review from Amazon

Candyland

Candyland

This is the classic "child's first game", and preschoolers will love it. Children draw colored cards, and move their plastic gingerbread playing tokens to the next square of the same color. Passing the peppermint forest and the ice cream sea on the way, the first one to reach the candy castle wins. No need to read to play this game.2 to 4 players can play this game. This board game includes a game board, four plastic playing pieces, 64 cards, "Legend of the Lost Candy Castle", and instructions in English and Spanish. Review from Amazon

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