Honestly, I haven't really bought him that many toys myself. I got him a few toy cars a while back because he started to take some interest in real ones. It was a set of four, and I left two at Grandma and Grandpa's (he spends a fair amount of time there) and kept the other two at home. I also bought him a toy guitar because he absolutely loves music and guitars. He already has a few, but the difference with this one is that it had actual strings on it and resembled a real one a bit more. I think that I've already written about his love of rock music though.
Some other cool toys came from my mother, who lives in Germany. They're all stuff you can't get here, or at least, I don't ever see them. They're wood animals, and they seem to be hand-made rather than pressed out in some factory somewhere. One of them is a little chicken with wheels and a string so he can pull it along behind him. Those are pretty cool, and they're the kind of toys that date back to a time before advertising and fast food tie-ins.
While on our trip to Washington, D.C., I wanted to bring back a little something for my son, as I remember my parents always bringing back something special for me whenever they went on a trip. I had this idea in my head that I'd find the perfect thing in Amish country. I thought I'd find the Amish equivalent of the toy shop in Minden, Germany where my mom got his chicken. Well, that idea was a bust. There were some hand-made toys, but they were either ridiculously expensive (not even sure if it was meant to even be a toy at those prices) or something that I didn't see him getting too excited about - like a little Amish boy doll. (He has stuffed animals, but he's only interested in them when he goes to bed.)
I was at a loss. My next hope was the gift shops at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum. I started to get a bit pessimistic though, as the more interesting things were the kinds of things that you can get pretty much anywhere - you know, like plastic dinosaurs. (He once had a lot of fun with some of those while we were at a friend's house.) Finally though, I found exactly what I was looking for - rocks!
Here's the thing - my son loves rocks. Whenever I take him out on a walk, he likes to either get out of the stroller and collect a few, or he has me stop and pick up a few for him. He'll constantly say "A rock! A rock!" the whole time, and he takes immense pride in holding them. It's funny to watch him try and hold on to as many as he possibly can while walking, as he frequently drops a few along the way, and then he has to turn around and get them again. I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps he's a future geologist. (And luckily, he hasn't taken to throwing them.)
The thing is, I don't mind spending money, but I hate wasting money. I really wanted to get him something, but I didn't want to just get him something for the sake of getting something. With these rocks, with all their different colors, shapes, and textures, I figured he'd get a real kick out of it.
So, what's the verdict? I brought them out for him when he was upset that Mommy had to go to work. He instantly changed his whole demeanor, and as I took each rock out of the bag, he'd say, "Thank you!" He also would frequently come up and hug me. After that, he insisted on taking them all in the stroller while we went on our walk.
All that for nine bucks worth of rocks. I would have spent a hundred dollars for that reaction though.