It’s Tuesday again and that means we’re here to answer your parenting and early learning questions! Today we’re talking all about toy shopping and how to choose toys that will stimulate a child’s development and last for longer than a few months. Happy reading!
Dear BANANA Bites,
My niece’s birthday is coming up and I want to get her something really special. Can you offer some tips on what to choose?
-Aunt Buying Presents
When buying a new toy, there are some important factors to consider: safety, durability, price, fun factor, and developmental purpose.
Safety: Toys should be chosen with care, especially for the very young. Safety considerations don’t end with the purchase of a toy; proper maintenance and safe storage are equally important. Always discard plastic wrappings immediately and protect outdoor toys for rust. Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids and those with no ventilation holes. Be a label-reader, particularly on toys that are labeled “not recommended for children under three, due to small parts.” Some key toys to avoid are: those small enough to be swallowed, those with detachable parts, those that can be easily broken into small pieces or pieces with jagged edges, and toys that have parts that can pinch fingers or toes, or catch hair.
Durability: You can expect some toys, such as wooden blocks, an easel, or sturdy wheel toys, will last for years with the potential of being passed to another child. These have the durability to survive your child’s play over a long span of time. When you opt for a toy with longevity, you know you are making a good investment.
Price: We all want to get the most value for our money, and when it comes to choosing toys, the same holds true. Consider purchasing items that are well made and be sure to check if they come with a manufacturer’s guarantee or if the store has a return policy. As children get older, they might begin to tell you exactly what toys they want. Items such as video games and electronics can be significantly more expensive. It’s ok to be honest and tell a child if a specific toy or game is out of the question financially. (In fact, this can serve as a great way to encourage kids to start a piggy bank or add to an existing one. There’s no better incentive for learning to save money that having a desired toy in mind!)
Fun Factor: You’ll definitely want to ensure that your child has fun with their new toy, so consider what types of play your child enjoys. Some children enjoy playing alone for hours with a set of tiny plastic people. Others prefer a to share a toy with playmates. Think about what toys have been popular with your child in the past and consider choosing a new toy that will stretch this interest further. Also, many toy manufacturers classify toys by age, but these are broad generalizations, so look beyond the label.
Developmental Purpose: Play is often called children’s work, so you can think of a toy as a tool that stimulates imagination and helps a child actively learn about the world. Children enjoy imitating tasks they see adults performing, so you can consider helping to grow this process by taking a stroll through an art supply store, sporting goods store, or hardware store and looking for items that kids can play with as a way of learning about the world. Some possibilities could be: kitchen timers, mixing bowls, whisks, clothes for dress-up, envelopes and tape, stamps and stamp pads, boxes and empty food cartons, or aprons. And, don’t forget books! They are affordable and they give children knowledge, comfort, art appreciation, humor, and joy.
For additional details on choosing age-appropriate toys, see our handout: Some Thoughts on Toy Buying. You will find more information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. If you have a question about children, child care, parenting, or early learning, send an email to email@example.com.