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In the last few months of each year hundreds of millions of dollars is spent on Christmas presents for children. Parents need to spend some time thinking about the type of toy with which they want their children to play and the purpose for which it will be used. Aside from price, parents need to carefully consider a number of issues:
- Toys need to be geared to the child’s age level and developmental skills, and to have long term play appeal. Ask these questions: Will this toy help in any areas of developmental growth? Does it challenge my child’s ingenuity?
- Poor quality toys that break easily or break down cause nothing but heartache. Ask these questions: Is this toy safe for my child to use? Is this toy durable?
- Some battery operated toys and dolls have limited play value, although they have instant appeal – particularly if built up by advertisements. Ask this question: Can the toy be used in different ways? Will my child find this toy interesting a week after Christmas?
- Good quality toys last a long time. Ask this question: Can this toy be passed from one child in the family to another?
- Good toys offer new challenges at different ages. Ask this question: As my child grows, will this toy provide a new set of challenges?
Safety tips for developmental toys
Before buying any developmental toys you need to also check that they are safe. Consider the following points:
- Does the toy meet approved safety requirements?
- Is the toy designed for a child of the same age as mine?
- Does the toy have any little pieces that might come off and be a choking hazard?
- Is the toy sturdy or can it be easily broken?
- Will the toy be easy to clean and to keep free from germs?
After developmental toys are brought home, they should be regularly cleaned. They should also be checked often for damage or defects. Any toys that are showing cracks or broken pieces should be replaced. Most developmental toys are designed to be sturdy in order to survive a baby and toddler’s rough play, however breakages can still occur.
Under two years of age
Basically, before 18 months, children do not really need any costly toys at all. Christmas wrapping paper that is shiny and crinkly is probably far more exciting to your creeper/crawler than anything inside! Early walkers will probably prefer the pots and pans in the kitchen cupboards or the plastic containers from the bottom draw! If you do buy your infant and toddler toys, remember they learn through movement and their senses – so the toys and materials for this age should appeal to the senses and the muscles.
Hollow blocks or boxes, soft toys, floating bath animals, spinning tops, rattles, squeaky play animals with no removable parts, light plastic blocks, large holed posting boxes, large soft balls, and empty containers are examples of toys suitable for the under one. The very small baby will enjoy tracking a mobile, hearing a rattle and feeling and sucking on soft rubber/plastic toys. Simple, two dimensional, sturdy picture books are also great. Read Developmentally Brilliant Gifts For Babies here.
As babies begin to walk they should have simply constructed materials because they experiment continually. A variety of toys is desirable, but offer only a few at a time.
Suggestions for one – two year olds include; a toy telephone (or mobile), percussion instruments, miniature garden tools, plasticine, clay, wagons or trucks, soft play animals, cardboard cartons, a large soft ball, large crayons or chalk and drawing paper, a sandpit with a bucket and spade, a small rocking horse, a push-along cart, boats for the bathtub and well made picture books.
Two years of age
Two year olds are active explorers of their world. They are learning new things about themselves and their world every day. They are still refining large muscle control, so toys for this age group need to be sturdy and stimulating.
Suitable toys for two year olds include; large blocks, wooden inlay puzzles (four – seven pieces), large coloured beads, large soft balls, a train, trucks or boats, brush painting materials, clay modelling, push and pull toys, ride on/scoot along bike, musical instruments or a musical box.
Three to five years of age
These children are developing fine muscle control while large muscles are continuing to grow. Their imagination is also blossoming and they love to hold tea- parties or pretend to be tigers!
Three to five year olds will enjoy playing with; a toy cart, magnifying glass, wading pool, swing, lock and key, skittles, simple throwing games, paddle with ball attached, three wheeled scooter, tricycle, wagon (large enough to hold a child), bouncing horse, rocking horse, bean bag, simple rolling games, simple construction kits, aquarium, water play materials, bubble set, musical instruments, model house with small family, farm and zoo sets, tea-party set, inlay puzzles (eight to twenty pieces), matching picture games, viewer box with slides, washable, unbreakable dolls, house keeping equipment, costume box for ‘dressing up’, hats – including space helmets and fire fighters hats, puppets, blunt ended scissors, paste, hammer, nails and soft wood.
Sources of information: The information above is a compilation of information from GymbaROO parent handouts and the Australian Consumers Association: Choice magazine, Toys2buy.com.
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