Are you having troubles picking the right toy for your child? Wondering which toy will keep their attention and benefit their development? After several valuable articles in Less Toys. More Play. series for every parent, today we are going to try to assist you with several guidelines for choosing toys that will grow with your child.
What to Avoid When Choosing Toys?
Here are some things to avoid when purchasing toys to help keep the clutter out of your home and the money in your pocket:
– Avoid Buying Impulse Items –
Strolling through Target something has caught your toddler’s attention and she’s making a B-line for her new “favorite thing.”
Of course, as parents, we want to give our children things. But, this new “favorite thing” will probably be forgotten in 24 hours (or 5 minutes), will only add clutter to your home and adds little or no purposeful, educational value to play time.
Instead, you could suggest an activity involving things you already have at home. Try a new play dough recipe. Have a dance party. These alternatives will provide much more imaginative play time.
– Bells and whistles –
I won’t claim that I don’t own any toys that require batteries. But we try to keep them to a minimum.
Items that name objects, sing or otherwise do the thinking and imagining for children leave little room for learning and exploration. They also take away the valuable opportunity of language development through conversation with an engaged caregiver.
Some of the light up, musical toys are just plain cute, I’ll admit. But it’s best to have the majority of your child’s items be those you can talk about. Name the colors, talk about textures, count items. Talk as you play and the learning will follow.
– Assembly required –
We’ve all had the thing that sends our children back to us over and over, “Can you open this, fix this, put this back on?….” This kind of “lots of adult assembly required” toy interrupts the child’s thought process and puts us in charge of their play.
Look for items that are simple for little hands to manipulative and allow them to solve problems on their own.
– Choosing Toys with Little Tiny Parts –
Small parts are just not safe. Even if you think your child is beyond the mouthing stage, you just never know. And if it doesn’t end up in someone’s mouth, it will end up under your foot.
And the more pieces there are to keep track of the more likely they’ll end up lost all over the house.
Try to evaluate items’ sizes and choose those that are proportionate to your child’s age.
– Monopolization –
Our little guy is really into kitchen play right now. But I don’t need to buy him every utensil and play food set I see. Even if your child is really into trucks, trains, dolls, you name it- their toy selection should have a variety.
Children’s interests and developmental needs are ever-changing. So think “diversified portfolio” when it comes to their play “investments.”
– One-Trick Pony –
There are toys out there that do one thing and one thing only. And they tend to get boring real fast. Look for items with multiple uses and get creative with them.
I’m sure you’ll be surprised at some of the inventive ideas your children come up with using open-ended materials.
If you already have some of these “avoid” items and you’re wondering what to do next, don’t panic. Getting kids involved in selling or donating toys will be covered later in the series. Also, if your child’s very favorite toy falls under one of these categories, no worries. These are simply guidelines and if a child has a strong attachment to something they should hang onto it.
Things to Consider When Choosing Toys
If you’re ready to switch out some things and make the leap to more child-directed, purposeful play, here are a few more tips for the next time you’re perusing the toy aisles:
Observe what your child is into.
Wait? Didn’t she just say “Don’t monopolize.”? I did. But knowing what interests your child is important. If your child likes super heroes, get a fire truck and talk about real-life heroes. You can get them a superhero costume for dress-up play. Build off of child’s interests to introduce new concepts and different kinds of play.
Think about development.
Take note of what your child is able to do at the moment. Provide toys that allow them to feel successful and those that challenge them to advance their skills. For example, start with puzzles with large chunky knobs and then introduce the peg-piece variety. For most things, start with larger pieces and move to smaller as they develop their fine motor skills.
Go for a sensory experience rather than over-stimulating.
Provide a wide variety of colors, textures, sizes, shapes and sounds and let them do the exploring. Things like colorful building blocks, silky scarves and wooden cars lend themselves to a multi-sensory experience. All of these items also have a variety of ways to play in them.
Diversity with Open-Ended Toys
Try to pick out items you can use in 3 different ways. Can you count it, build with it, pretend with it, etc? Great! It will more than likely be a purchase you won’t regret.
Open-ended toys can often be used much longer and add more variety in play. If you can, make sure to choose wooden over plastic toys because they are more nature friendly and durable.
Example for open-ended toy on picture: Wooden Rainbow Stacker Game
Teach the Whole Child.
Provide items that span the developmental spectrum from sensory (touch, hear, see) to items that promote social/emotional development through turn-taking and cooperation.
We have selected some of the best toys to grow with your child in different age groups:
Take a look for a referrence.
I hope you’ll be inspired by this and the rest of the series to closely evaluate what investments you make in your child’s toys. Because playing is serious business!
YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
- 20 Reasons to Say YES! to Less Toys. More Play.
- Less Books = More Reading
- Simple Outdoor Play Ideas
- Repurpose Old Technology into New Toys for Imaginative Play
Amanda Boyarshinov says
Avoiding bells and whistles is important for us!
Christy McGuire says
Good toys versus lots of toys, makes a difference!