Anyway, inspired by both the kids and Kate here are my top 5 all time best kids toys (not necessarily cheap but definitely value for money):
1. Lego - this is a time honoured favourite. I had loads of it when I was a kid, as did my sisters, as do my own kids. Whether it's a specific type of Lego (son is partial to the Atlantis range) or the more generic sets, Lego just doesn't go wrong. It keeps them entertained for hours (although it is partial to getting sucked up by the hoover). The kids can add to it either with an expensive set or with cheaper smaller sets. And, of course, we all get involved (it's addictive! - and our trip to Legoland this summer just made the addiction in our house even stronger...)
2. Monopoly - I love this game. It reminds me of Christmas's gone by and the kids really love it too (they think the money is real - bless!). My main complaint about Monopoly used to be the length of time it took to play it but I notice that there are new sets available with choices of games that take 30, 60 and 90 minutes so, as my son has added Monopoly to his Christmas list, I may have to investigate one of those.
3. Hama Beads - these are a recent discovery for me but Toots was completely engrossed by them at a friend's house the other week. I have to admit that my initial thoughts were that it looked fiddly and slightly dull but both Toots and her wee friend were engrossed (for which read: quiet) for well over an hour. AND you get to make something that you can keep at the end of it. Don't know how long she will remain enamoured of the beads but Santa may well be persuaded to get some for her.
4. Nintendo Wii - I am not a fan of computer games and I don't like the kids spending any time on them but my little sis rather generously gave Cheeky Boy and Toots a Wii for Christmas a couple of years ago and I've had to review my opinion of them. I do like the fact that they at least jump around and I encourage them to play the games where they challenge each other (rather than games like Pokemon where they play them on their own). I have even been known to become completely engrossed in a bijou game of Mario Kart of an evening myself - so the Wii has well and truly won over this particular sceptic.
5. Chess - nope, I'm not kidding. It's a classic and Cheeky Boy can't get enough of it. He loves playing either the wooden version with board or the computer version equally. It's improved his concentration and encourages him to think about strategy, planning and seeing through his actions rather than simply reacting. Personally, I've forgotten more about chess than I remember (which is my way of saying that he always beats me) but I've got to include this old favourite on the list as my son loves it - and I seem to remember that I did too.
I am, of course, going to be doing lots of research to see where I can get the cheapest possible versions of these items - ebay, Amazon and Gumtree being obviously starting places - so any suggestions are much appreciated. I'm also going to be checking out Kate's ultimate Top 10 Kids Toys once the listography linky is up for some Santa style inspiration!