Toy Math: A Formula for Buying Toys with 'Play Power'

When I buy a toy for my son there are a bunch of things I take into consideration: how much does it cost? how much room in my house will it take up? do I like the materials it's made from? and, perhaps most importantly, will my son enjoy it and play with it often? Toy industry expert Richard Gottlieb has distilled a few of these considerations into a formula for what he calls a toy's 'play power.' Math is my Achilles heel, but here goes: Play Power (PP) = Joy + Durability / Cost. Quite simply, the most fun for the least cost. Now, what are some of those toys??

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Gottlieb (who blogs at Global Toy News) was inspired to think about the idea of 'play power' after watching a child play endlessly with an inexpensive balsa wood airplane at a birthday party (in contrast to some of the more expensive gifts) and he came up with ten toys he thought had some of the highest 'play power.' Topping his list was a rubber ball and it also included a yo-yo, jump rope and water balloons. Most on his list and the list his readers came up with were classic toys that have been around for generations. And, as Gottlieb notes, most were play platforms that encouraged open-ended, imaginative play.

I think there is a lot to be said for investment toys that aren't inexpensive like a quality play kitchen (which, of course, many of you make yourselves), a dollhouse, a bicycle and the like, but thinking about 'play power' is a useful way to approach toy purchases for your own kids and as gifts for others. Sometimes you won't know where a toy falls on the 'power play' continuum until you've bought it and your kid has used it, but Richard's list is a good place to start for ideas. Here are a few I would add:

• paper dolls
• marbles
• toy cars
• puzzles
• toy tea set
• Playdoh (or homemade playdough)
• apps (even though the device to play an app on is expensive, there are a few .99 apps my son has played dozens of times with accumulated hours of fun)

What toys do you think have the most 'play power'?

(Images: 1. Flickr member D Sharon Pruitt licensed for use under Creative Commons 2. Chalkboard image: Shutterstock)

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As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.