One quandary bogging down lots of parents is choosing toys children will actually play with not just a couple of times before shelving for the rest of the year.
Tips for Choosing Safe and Age Appropriate Toys:
1. Check the labels or packaging: look for
- Age the toy is good for
- Words LEAD-FREE paint
- For art materials: it should say NONTOXIC. For younger children: paints and markers should say WASHABLE.
- Electric toys: look for the UL label (means it has met safety requirements by the Underwriters Laboratories).
2. Check for choking hazards.
- Any toy that can fit through a toilet paper roll is not recommended for children 3 and under.
- For infants and toddlers make sure toys don’t have parts that can come off when chewed or pulled. For example eyes of a stuffed toy.
- Be careful with battery operated toys
- The cases that secure the batteries should have screws so that children cannot open them.
- When batteries die or when the toy isn’t used for a long time adults should remove the batteries to avoid leaking
- Batteries and battery fluids can choke, poison or cause internal bleeding and chemical burns.
3. Be aware of possible things that can strangle children.
- Do not give children toys that have strings or laces that are long enough to go around their necks. Check the length of the pull toys.
- Never allow children to sleep with toys that have strings (balloons, toy necklaces)
- For older children:
- Always buy the safety gear that is required (scooters, bikes, skates, skateboards, etc)
- Toy darts, arrows and bullets should have soft tips not pointed tips.
- Toy guns should be in bright colors and not look like real guns so that they will never be mistaken as real weapons.
Guidelines for Choosing Toys:
1. Choose toys that can be used in a variety of ways.
Choose toys that are “open-ended” in the sense that your child can play many different games with them. Toys like this spark your child’s imagination and help him develop problem-solving and logical thinking skills.
Examples: Blocks, nesting cups, and toys for sand and water play
2. Look for toys that will grow with your child.
Look for toys that can be fun at different developmental stages.
Examples: Plastic toy animals and action figures, toddler-friendly dollhouses, trains and dump trucks (and other vehicles), stuffed animals and dolls.
3. Select toys that encourage exploration and problem-solving.
Toys that give kids a chance to figure something out on their own—or with a little coaching—build their logical thinking skills and help them become persistent problem-solvers. They also help children develop spatial relations skills (understanding how things fit together), hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills (using the small muscles in the hands and fingers).
Examples: Puzzles, shape-sorters, art materials like clay, paint, crayons or play-dough
4. Look for toys that spark your child’s imagination.
Pretend play builds language and literacy skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to sequence (put events in a logical order).
Examples: Dress-up clothing, toy food and plastic plates, toy tools, and “real-life” accessories such as a wrapping paper tube “fire hose” for your little fire fighter. The all-purpose large cardboard box is always a big hit for toddlers and is free. Boxes become houses, pirate ships, barns, tunnels—anything your child’s imagination can come up with!
5. Give your child the chance to play with “real” stuff—or toys that look like the real thing. She is interested in playing with your “real” stuff, like your cell phone, because she is eager to be big and capable like you. Toys like this help children problem-solve, learn spatial relations (how things fit together), and develop fine motor skills (use of the small muscles in the hands and fingers).
Examples: Plastic dishes and food, toy keys, toy phone, musical instruments, child-size brooms, mops, brushes and dustpans
6. Seek out toys that encourage your child to be active.
Look for toys that help your child practice current physical skills and develop new ones.
Examples: Balls of different shapes and sizes, tricycles or three-wheeled scooters (with appropriate protective gear), plastic bowling sets, child-size basketball hoop, pull-toys (e.g., toys that your child can pull on a string), wagon to fill and pull, gardening tools
7. Look for toys that nurture cross-generational play.
Consider starting a “family game night” when all of you play together. Board games encourage counting, matching and memory skills, as well as listening skills and self-control (as children learn to follow the rules). They also nurture language and relationship-building skills. Another important benefit is teaching children to be gracious winners and how to cope with losing.
8. Toss in some “getting ready to read” toys.
Books, magnetic alphabet letters, and art supplies like markers, crayons, and fingerpaints help your child develop early writing and reading skills.
Not sure where to find these toys? Vist http://www.cudsly.com
ZERO TO THREE is a national, nonprofit organization that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development. (http://www.zerotothree.org)