Buying Gifts for Children

Where does time go? It seems like yesterday that summer was in full bloom and school was a memory. Now… we are looking at the holiday season peeking around the corner. In a few short weeks Thanksgiving will arrive, bringing her bountiful feast and blessings, followed by Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It is time to think about the gifts we will purchase this year, especially those for our children. Everyone knows, some toys do not stay on the shelves long, so early shopping is sometimes a must. Every year, hundreds of new toys and games come on the market competing for shelf space, advertising budgets and, most important, your attention. So how can you tell which toys are appropriate for your child?

Here are four are simple rules to follow:

1. Buy toys that are safe.

· Check for ages on toys.

· Choose toys that can safely be used unsupervised.

· Remember to buy protective helmets, as well as knee and elbow pads, if you give a tricycle or bicycle.

· Check manufacturers warnings.

· Very young children and toddlers: Avoid toys with small parts especially detachable small parts like glass or button eyes, toys with sharp edges, toxic paint or other materials, toys with long chords like push and pull toys, balloons, electrical or lead toys, tricycles that are higher than 12 inches, small objects such as marbles, beads, or coins.

· Children (5-8): Avoid electrical toys unless they run on batteries, toxic, oil-based, or flammable materials, and sharp-tipped shooting toys or darts, and fireworks.

2. Buy toys that are related to your child’s interests.

· Infants and toddlers are learning about the world around them through their senses. Give them toys they can touch, squeeze, poke, smell, see, hear, are bright colored and make fun noises, along with toys that can be opened, pulled, pushed, stacked or poured. Look for toys that involve several senses or are multisensory.

· Preschool children have a lot of energy and use their energy to learn new skills. They love painting, drawing and making things, and using their imagination to play dress-up, pretend with their toys, or make up stories about imaginary things.

· Older children enjoy more realistic toys, like jewelry and fashion, TV or movie-related products, music, and sports.

3. Buy toys that are appropriate to your child’s development.

· For babies (0-1): multisensory toys such as, brightly colored objects, mobiles with attached objects, unbreakable toys, that make squeaking or rattling noise, washable toys and dolls with embroidered eyes so the child can’t swallow any loose parts, and stacking ring cones.

· For children (1-2): building blocks made of cardboard, plastic, or foam, brightly illustrated books made of cloth or stiff, pasteboard pages, mirrors not made of glass, toys they can take apart into large pieces, floating toys for in the bath tub, pounding and stacking toys, and musical toys.

· For children (2-3): sandbox toys, large crayons, pegboards with big pieces, creative toys like play dough, brightly colored books with music, children’s simple musical instruments, sturdy cars or wagons they can climb onto, ride, or push, low rocking horses, soft foam balls, and hats, capes and large dress up items.

· For children (3-4): trucks, tractors or trains (not electrical), balls, building blocks and interlocking plastic blocks, dolls with clothes that are easy to put and pull off, creative toys such as play dough, blunt scissors, large non-toxic markers and crayons, sewing cards, “pretend” toys such as, toy telephones, play dishes, and dress-up clothes, and books, puzzles, and simple board games.

· For children (4-5): building blocks, modeling clay, finger paints, simple construction sets, battery operated toys, puppets, stencils, card and board games, simple children’s musical instruments, books, puzzles (9-24 piece), children’s bicycle with training wheels, and young sports balls and equipment.

· For children (5-8): roller skates, sleds, bicycles, puzzles, games, dominoes, kites, children’s tool sets; magnifiers, magnets, battery powered electrical toys, dolls, children’s cameras, printing sets, and painting and drawing utensils.

· For children (8-12): art, craft and hobby materials, construction sets, electrical trains, building models, age appropriate bicycles, musical instruments, and sports equipment.

4. Buy toys that spark the imagination and keep your child actively engaged during play.

· Look for toys that your child can use as he develops and acts out stories. Dress-up clothing, blocks, toy food and plastic plates, action figures, stuffed animals and dolls, trains and trucks, dollhouses, toy tools.

· Boxes become houses, pirate ships, barns, tunnels, anything your child’s imagination can come up with, “real” stuff, or toys that look like the real things, television remotes, musical instruments, child-size brooms, mops, brushes and dustpans, play cell phones, and “getting ready to read” toys like books, magnetic alphabet letters, art supplies like markers, crayons, and finger paints, “real-life” props like take-out menus, catalogs and magazines.

· Buy toys that will adapt to several possible play schemes. Avoid toys that can be played with only one way.

Source: Linda G. Swann, M.S. Early Childhood / SPED