Our living room was hit by Hurricanes Olivia and Jesse for the umpteenth time. They have accumulated LOTS of toys in their short lives. We surveyed the damage and cleaned up the debris with a large dust pan (bought just for that purpose). We scooped up stuff and deposited it in storage buckets. We corralled all the ping pong balls and golf balls. We reshelved books. Meanwhile, we had a discussion about which toys seemed to be their favorites. We've discovered that the best toys are the simplest ones - things like balls, blocks, boxes, trucks, and dolls.
We got a new freezer the other day. One of its best features was the box it came in. First it was a post office. Now it's a house for the kids. Olivia takes wonderful care of her baby doll, while Jesse drives trucks around the living room. They both love blocks. And Jesse is obsessed with balls. "Ball" was his second word ("Mama" was his first).
Last week we went to the recreation center for a puppet show, only to discover the schedule had changed. The presentation was now a geography lesson by "Professor World." You see where this is going, right? We walked in to find a 4-foot globe. Jesse pointed to it and exclaimed "Ball!" He does the same thing in the produce section. They're not cantaloupes, oranges, apples, and onions. As far as he's concerned, they're all balls.
For birthdays and "just because," Olivia and Jesse have received tons of fancy toys that light up, make noise, spin around, and do other silly things. They play with them a little, the novelty wears off, and they're banished to the toy shelves. There they sit, played with once in a blue moon, while the boxes they came in are worn out from play. I try to keep this in mind when I give gifts. For her first birthday, I gave my niece some books and edible treats (snacks saved her mom some grocery money and didn't take up room in the house for very long). For her second birthday, I gave her a bath towel with her name embroidered on it and a dress.
Stick with B's and you can't go wrong - books, balls, blocks, and boxes.