The ABCs of Choosing the Right Toys
- Art stuff. Lots of it. Playdough and cookie cutters, chunky crayons and paper for little kids. Older kids like glue, glitter, safety scissors, and lots of colors of paper.
- Fingerpaint. Every kid deserves to be messy once in a while. You might also include an inexpensive plastic tablecloth to put on the floor when it’s fingerpainting time.
- Something for making rhythms and music. A pot and a spoon will do for kids under two. Jingle bells for the young child. Something more complicated like a thumb harp for older ones.
- A sturdy dollhouse with some basic furniture and durable dollhouse dolls that represent everyone in your family. The house needs to be big enough and open enough that the kids can really get in there and play. (Don’t be surprised if you find the dinosaur or the zoo animals in there sometimes.) You don’t have to take out a second mortgage to buy one of those expensive wooden houses. This can be a fun family project. Find a few sturdy boxes for rooms, cut out windows and doors, decorate the walls and put a scrap of fabric down for a rug. Small boxes, jar lids, some fabric and scraps of wood can be easily transformed into furniture. Dolls can be made out of old-fashioned clothespins. Even if you aren’t the creative type, remember that your kids are.
- Anything that encourages physical exercise: jump ropes, balls, basic sports equipment, skates, age-appropriate riding toys. Too many of our kids lack physical confidence and competence.
- An age-appropriate board game or two to encourage cooperative play and problem solving.
How to Foster Learning and Fun
Remember that play is the “work” of childhood. Good toys help kids learn new skills and practice relationships with others and their world.
- When you choose a toy, ask yourself if it is really for the child or for yourself. (It’s OK to use toy buying as a nostalgia trip. Just don’t expect your child to share in your enthusiasm.)
- Don’t get hung up on gender-specific toys. Little girls and little boys both need to learn to be comfortable with babies and with tools in the world they are going to inhabit as adults.
- Get in there and play with your kids. It’s part of the fun of being a parent!
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