We’ve given our boys many birthday gifts throughout the years, and it’s always surprisingly unpredictable what will resonate. Some toys have been more or less ignored, but certain toys have stuck: a harmonica for Anton, for example, or a wooden bus that Toby has played with almost every day for more than four years and counting. So, we’ve asked our friends to name the toys their kids have loved best (and please tell us yours, too!)…

AGES 1-2:

A toy ukulele. Anton plays it for ages every day, and it actually sounds good! (Here he is in action.) —Joanna

This stupid thing makes the most ANNOYING sound in the world—truly terrible—but it has been my son’s most beloved possession since he was two. It absolutely mesmerizes little kids. —Linsey

A small crank music box. The look on my son’s face when it plays his favorite song was priceless. —Erin

My son has ridden this mini-trike—his favorite gift—all around our apartment. —Deb

These baby dolls (for girls and boys!) along with this stroller. My son Alex still plays with them at 5.5! —Abbey

This Duplo picnic set was one of our favorite gifts. —Erin

My little one played with this farm every day for a year. You sew wooden animals onto a long piece of string. —Gemma

The Fisher Price chatter phone is a classic. —Maureen

These dinosaurs are adorable—their bodies are big enough for little hands, and their faces aren’t too scary. —Joanna

AGES 3-5:

MAGNATILES! For every age. I put it off for years since they are pricey, but it’s the first thing my kids go for at every playdate, and we have spent hours playing with them. They’re even fun for adults. I regret not buying them years ago. —Linsey

Jacob got this 36-pack of Play-Doh for Hanukkah and I don’t think we saw him for a month! —Deb

A friend gave my daughters a face paint set, which comes with a guidebook that shows you how to paint all different faces (“cheetah” and “pink puppy” are their two favorites). They LOVE it. Every day when I come home from work, faces are painted! —Lina

My son loves this wooden horse carrier. —Deb

My mom gave Toby this chef’s outfit, and he looks so proud when he wears it. Even if we’re just making buttered toast, he wants to put the whole thing on. He’s actually become really interested in cooking because of it. Too cute. —Joanna

This awesome Christoph Niemann book + a subway train of the subway line with the kid’s age or initial. —Erin

For SURE a stomp rocket. When Henry turned four, three different people gave him one, and somehow three still weren’t enough! Endless entertainment and only $15. —Liz

Another gift that has inexplicably stood the test of time: this Melissa & Doug Party Cake. My girls host pretend birthday and tea parties on an almost-daily basis. —Lina

The Hape body puzzle is probably our favorite puzzle of ALL time. It teaches the girls about each “layer of the body”—clothes, skin, bones, muscles, organs. It comes in girl or boy. —Maureen

The Hape gourmet kitchen is played with constantly in our house. —Maureen

AGES 6-8:

My son Henry’s friend got a Guinness Book of World Records picture book for Christmas, and Henry loved it so much he saved his money and bought his own last month. So fun to read through and watch their MINDS BE BLOWN. —Liz

My boys have been obsessed with this basketball hoop for weeks. A mom down the hall had one and placed it outside her door for the kids to play with. She let us borrow it. I bought one for us the next day. It’s been a huge hit. —Sharon

My mom gave us all disposable cameras one summer growing up, and we still talk about what a genius gift it was. We went crazy for them and took such funny shots—my brother took photos over a wall he wasn’t tall enough to peek over, just so he could know what was on the other side! —Joanna

This journal, with 642 things to draw. —Abbey

We also love any kind of messy one-time experience science experiment kit, like an erupting volcano. —Liz

My personal favorite is Mastermind for Kids. We played my parents’ 70s version all the time when I was little. So I got it for my daughter for Christmas and she LOVES it. It’s a great way to learn logic and reasoning, and it’s the only board game we actually got into. —Lina

A sailing-ship kite. They can fly it on windy days, plus it looks good in a kid’s room when not in use. —Jordan

One step up from a ukulele!

What about you? What toys have your kids loved through the years? Please share!

P.S. Would you try this toy experiment?