Kinetic sand

This is just normal sand mixed with some kind of polymer that turns it into the most absorbingly tactile and moreish, perfectly mouldable sand without the drawbacks of actual sand (i.e. gritty, gets fucking everywhere and useless when dry). This never dries out and both my children and I sit with it for a minimum of 30 minutes a time with our Brookstone sand tray and sand. If left to her own devices and she was not bothered by Sam, Kitty could play with this for probably 45 minutes to an hour. Terrific stuff. It’s available on Amazon – don’t feel you have to get the Brookstone sand tray unless you’re feeling flush as it’s fiendishly expensive, just get a few tubs and mess about with it on any smooth surface. You’re welcome.

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Magna tiles

Clackety and crazy, these click-together magnetic tiles are easy for even the littlest hands to muck about with. They are available on Amazon from all sorts of different sellers in various box sizes and costs so have a look at what suits your budget.

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Like Playdoh, without the drying-out possibility. It’s a weird, feather-light mouldable… substance… is the best way of describing it. Like the kinetic sand it has a tactile quality and a touchability that is difficult to describe, but kids go nuts for it. Again, have a poke around on Amazon for the best deal.

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Stabilo cappi pens

Okay these are not strictly a toy, but if dried-out felt tips make you sad beyond words (do you sense a drying-out theme here?) these are the dudes for you. The pen barrel is triangular, which stops them from rolling off tables and the caps are attached to each other on a piece of plastic twine so you cannot lose the freaking lids. Very quickly all the pens will be attached to the wrong-coloured lids but like WHO CARES? The pens will only dry out from over-use  (or if your 2yo decides that holding the felt tip in his fist and stabbing DOWN onto the paper over and over again is verily the most echt form of self-expression).

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Stacking boxes

If you do not have a set of these and there is an under-5 living in your house, get a set right now. I have been genuinely stunned at how much my children like these (I mean, not as much as watching Fireman Sam while eating Nutella toast, but if they are banned from doing that, this comes a close second). Stack them in a tower, stack them inside each other, line them up, knock them down… it’s truly gratifying to see the latent autism in all children really go to town. These are available from all sorts of retailers but this particular set below is from

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