Some Thoughts on Toy Buying
A new toy is one of the pleasures of childhood. Shopping for a new toy can be just as fun for the adult. You will want your gift to be loved and played with for a long time so before you set out on your toy-buying adventure, keep these tips in mind to ensure that the child and the toy are a good fit.
Make sure the toy is safe and durable. You want it to survive your child’s play, otherwise it’s not worth buying. Request a demonstration at the store or at least examine mechanical toys closely.
Think economically. Expect that a major toy will last for years and be passed from one child to another. Major toy purchases include wooden blocks, easels and sturdy wheel toys. Look for well-made items rather than brand names and check on product guarantees and the store’s return policy.
Consider the fun factor. Will your child enjoy playing with the toy? Many toy manufacturers classify toys by age, but these are broad generalizations so look beyond the label. Are the toy’s setup and instructions clear for you and your child? Remember, too, that this year’s “in” toy may not appeal to your child after the momentary thrill of recognition. Use your judgement and avoid toy fads especially during the holidays when children are bombarded with television advertisements.
The Importance of Play
Play is often called children’s work. Think of a toy as a tool which stimulates the imagination and helps a child actively learn about the world. What about the child’s preferences, needs and interests? Some children enjoy playing alone for hours with a set of tiny plastic people. For other children, a toy to share with playmates is more appropriate. What toys have been popular with the child in the past? Choose a new toy that will stretch this interest further.
Some toys have multiple uses throughout early childhood, such as a set of colorful nesting cups. Infants love to look at these. One- and two-year-olds like to touch, chew on, and roll them. Three- and four-year-olds stack them, pour liquids into and out of them, or sort them by size and color. Five- and six-year-olds find them perfect for hiding things in. Choose toys with a variety of uses to challenge (but not frustrate) your child. You want to find a toy that fits the child’s developmental level.
Alternate Shopping Experiences
Children like to imitate tasks they see adults performing. You can help this growing process by taking a stroll through the hardware store, art supply house, or sporting goods store. Depending on the child’s age, here are some creative and inexpensive toy kits you can put together.
- A set of real and durable tools: small hammer, hand drill, wood scraps, wood glue.
- A ball of yarn and large knitting needles with a promise to teach the child to knit.
- Magic markers, drawing paper, envelopes, pencil sharpener, hole punch, safety scissors, tape.
- Magnets; some come in kits with simple science experiments included.
- Kitchen timers, bowls, whisk, hand-mixer.
- Rubber stamps and stamp pads. A commercial stamp can be purchased with the child’s name.
- Paints and assorted brushes. • Old clothes for dress-up.
- Musical instruments.
- Garden tools.
- Balls of varying sizes.
Try secondhand stores – paint and needleand- thread can spruce up great finds there. You and your child can decorate a doll house with found objects and paper scraps. Create a pretend store from boxes and crates, then stock it with empty food containers and cartons; supplement with a cash register, play money and a grocer’s apron. Sometimes the best toy is a large box from the appliance store for painting and climbing on. Use your imagination!
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS
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