Choosing toys for your children
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|   Feb 15, 2011
Choosing toys for your children

Remember that credit card ad where they talk about fancy expensive toys for toddlers, and all the while the little one is freaking out with the cardboard box?  Priceless…!  Haven’t we been through the same situation with our own children a zillion times?  There’s probably a law in the making here – the chances of your child liking a toy you have selected is inversely proportional to the time, effort and money you spent researching, locating and buying it!

Once again, we’ll try and reduce the pain and increase the gain in the process of selecting the most appropriate toys for children. 

Your child’s age

The obvious starting point and a critical one.  A child’s senses, motor skills, interests and understanding change at every age.  Toys too advanced for your child’s age are likely to frustrate him and may even pose a safety hazard. And toys made for children younger than your child will simply bore him.  Here are some broad guidelines on what type of toy to choose at each age and what to avoid.

Infants & Toddlers (1-2)

Infants and toddlers learn about the world through their senses. New sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of things thrill them. Watch them squeal with delight when playing with a toy that can be squeezed, dropped, poked, twisted, or thrown.  Brightly coloured objects and those that rattle or squeak are ideal for ages upto 2.  Older toddlers can spend long periods of time with toys that can be stacked, poured, opened or closed like foam, plastic or cardboard blocks and nested cups or boxes. As they start walking, push and pull toys are a great idea for toddlers as well. 

Encourage their curiosity with toys that have non-glass mirrors and toys with large pieces that can be taken apart and reassembled easily. Take discovery hour to the bathroom with floating tub toys and other water toys.

You can never go wrong with musical toys, chimes or simple audio CDs with gentle soothing music.  This is also the time to introduce children to books, but play safe with cloth or stiff pasteboard pages or bath books. 

This is also the age when safety issues are the most crucial, what with everything going into the mouth, all objects being banged hard on the ground, poked and punched!!  Be aware of what your baby and toddler is holding at all times and specially avoid :

  • toys with detachable small parts or parts that can easily break off
  • toys with sharp edges
  • toys with peeling paint
  • toys made from low grade smelly plastic
  • toys with cables or strings more than 12 inches long
  • stuffed animals with glass or button eyes or small removable parts
  • balloons

Preschoolers (3-4)

At the next stage, children learn by doing.  Creative thinking sets in and they like drawing, painting, and building – you will find endless requests for building blocks or plastic interlocking blocks, play dough and large crayons. They also spend a great deal of time pretending. Dress-up clothes, glove puppets, pretend "props" like a doctor’s set, tea set or tool box are big favorites. Roleplay continues with dolls with simple clothes nonelectrical trucks, tractors, trains or toy telephones. Add to the fun with simple musical instruments.  

Preschoolers are energetic and active. They need balls of different sizes to roll and throw; wagons and wheeled toys to pull along; sand toys for a day out in the sand pit; and tricycles, low rocking horses or sturdy toys to ride. Not just physical actions, your little ones are also ready for some mind exercise with pegboards with large pieces, simple board games and puzzles. “Puzzles are not just fun, they build pre-reading skills too. The skills that are used to select a puzzle piece to fit a specific hole are the same ones that are used to detect the difference between the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’, says Ashima from Mama’s Little Donut, Delhi’s leading concept toy store and activity centre.

Safety warnings apply to this age group as well, and in addition to the points mentioned above, you will need to watch out for loose wiring in electrical toys, unstable tricycles or bicycles with high seats, riding toys used on inclines, flammable materials etc.

Ages 5 to 7

Children at this age like to feel more grown-up and love activities that lead to real things that they can use and gift - such as simple beaded jewelry, block printed or simple screen printed T-shirts, or collections like stamps or coins.

Roleplay continues at this age as well and should be encouraged.   “Research has shown that pretend play provides children with a microcosm for life that encourages them to take the skills they have learned in classroom lessons and apply them to meaningful life activities. It is believed that this process of application helps your child not only develop a skill, but learn how to use it in life”, explains Ashima.

Your 5-7 year olds also develop a keen interest in sports and need right-sized sporting equipment such as cricket gear, tennis rackets, or skates.  Bicycles also progress to the larger wheeled varieties from the little ones.

By now, kids have a better understanding of rules and enjoy playing with others. Board games, cards, or 9-24 piece puzzles teach math concepts and problem-solving skills.   Building blocks will gradually make way for simple construction sets and pull along cars will be taken over by remote controlled battery operated ones.  Budding artists deserve the whole deal - finger paints, printing and stamp sets, paints, coloured pencils, sketch pads, stencils and modeling clay.  Simple knitting and sewing materials are also a great idea for those inclined as are tool sets, magnets, magnifiers and even a simple calculator.

While maintaining safety precautions, remember to enforce wearing helmets and knee guards while skating or riding bicycles. Discourage toys that use household electricity.  Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged toys, leaking batteries can be dangerous and should be repaired or thrown away immediately.  Store toys safely. Teach children to put toys away so they are not tripping hazards. Periodically check toy boxes and shelves for safety.

 Age 8 and above

The ages 8 and above are when kids are shaping up their personalities. By now you will also have a clear idea of their interests and ability, which will be your first guide towards choosing the right playthings.

Children at this age may develop special interest in collecting items or hobbies. Musical instruments, hobby kits such as coin collection guides or philately albums would be a great starting point here.   Arts and crafts and other construction projects such as baking, jewelry-making, wood-working are also ideal for fostering patience, dexterity and creative skills.

With improved finger dexterity, 8 year olds and older kids are able to handle more complex puzzles with smaller pieces.  Realistic three-dimensional model-building projects improve concentration, dexterity, and fine motor skills. And, kids get a kick out of figuring out complicated mechanisms and making something that actually works.

By middle school, children are likely to enjoy games with more complex rules and more sophisticated problem-solving experiences. Most pre-teens also gain an increased interest in competitive sports. Provide plenty of opportunity for your child to play educational games of strategy. Classic board games such as checkers, chess, and monopoly call on problem-solving abilities while sharpening critical-thinking and cognitive abilities. Many sports-related toys such as golf, tennis and table tennis provide hours of training in agility and precision as well as strategy.

Older children are unlikely to tolerate parental supervision as they play and this is when safety considerations have to be maintained by children themselves, rather than enforced by adults.  This is particularly critical when playing with chemistry sets, darts, arrows and anything involving electricity.  Other safety habits like wearing helmets and safety pads while playing sports or bike or skateboard riding may have become habits by now, if enforced from the beginning.

 

Toys and Games available at amazon.in

 

Observe and learn

Talk to your child about interests regularly and observe casually to determine his preferred activities, skills level, preferred characters, and so on. Based on these observations you can get a clue on what types of toys your child would prefer.  Another handy tip for younger children is to observe when they are playing with friends, to find out which of their playmate’s toys interests them. But of course, observations aren’t enough. Add the other factors listed here into the equation to ensure that your child will have lots of fun with the toy you’ll choose to buy finally.

Avoid stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are the first to be shown the way out of the door.  Boys will be as happy playing with a toy kitchen as girls would enjoy a car track. Our toy shop salesmen unfortunately are still hung up on those labels and will first ask you whether you are buying for a girl or a boy.  Simple answer “Both”, get a complete selection and go with your knowledge of what your child likes or doesn’t before buying. 

Children learn when they are having fun, so don’t get caught thinking that school-aged toys should be just about letters and numbers. Any toy that encourages creative thinking, allows them to explore options and discover there is more than one way to solve a problem is an educational toy.

When buying toys for this age group, remember to take stock of their physical and mental abilities, but be careful not to underestimate them. You will be surprised by how quickly children at any age grasp new concepts, and toys are a great way to extend their learning.

Let children choose

Brave up and take the kids along to the toy shop.  If you survive the hyper excitement, get a chance to voice your opinion in the middle of all the breathless “I want….I must have…. I need……..I can’t do without….,” you will come out with the perfect toy that pleases both you and your child.  But don’t count on them telling you what they like, particularly younger children.  Some children aren’t very keen to talk with parents unless they really want a certain toy. This is when you need a little homework done, a little advice from the salesperson or friend with kids the same age and finally approval from your little one. 

What will it teach my child

Playtime is most valuable since children feel completely stress-free while playing and learn better at that time. Play helps them communicate ideas and develop many other important skills. So choose toys that can involve your child in some mental or creative activity, encourage thinking and solution finding.  In technical terms, balance out toys such that your entire collection helps develops 3 aspects - physical-motor development, cognitive (intelligence), and the process of emotional-social development.  For example, video games can stimulate the cognitive aspects of children because they demand a strategy and problem solving. However, they score low on the motor physical and social emotional aspects.

Recall Your Childhood

Trying to recall what you liked as a child will be of great help, while buying toys for your kids. If it doesn’t help you better determine what toys the child will prefer, at least you know what toys you didn’t like at all and can avoid them altogether! Of course you cannot compare the variety and choices available then and now, but the basics remain the same – Monopoly may come in a Princess version, but it is still Monopoly, just as Lego, Scrabble, Meccano are still around.   So relive your childhood, but keep in mind that you are buying toys for your kid this time and the fact that you liked a toy when you were a child does not mean that your child will love it too.

Recommended toys list from Mama’s Little Donut

Birth - 2 Yrs

 

 

 



S.No.

Name

Brand



1

FISHBOWL FILL AND SPILL

MELISSA & DOUG



2

LEARNING BABY TAG

LEAP FROG



3

BABY COUNTING PAL

LEAP FROG



4

LEARNING TOOL BENCH

FISHER PRICE



5

JUMBO KNOB PUZZLE

MELISSA & DOUG



6

PULLALONG CROCODILE

WONDER WORLD



7

CLAPPING ELEPHANT

MELISSA & DOUG



8

LEARN TO DRESS MONKEY

ALEX



9

ROCKING CROCODILE

WONDER WORLD



10

HIGHT SEA SYMPHONY

MELISSA & DOUG













2- 4 years

 

 

 



S.No.

Name

Brand



1

EASEL

MELISSA & DOUG



2

MAGNETIC RESPONSBLITY CHART

MELISSA & DOUG



3

CUTTING FOOD  

MELISSA & DOUG



4

NUMBER SOUND PUZZLE

MELISSA & DOUG



5

PIRATE ROLE PLAY SET

MELISSA & DOUG



6

DOCTOR ROLE PLAY SET

MELISSA & DOUG



7

PUPPET TIME THEATRE and PIRATE/RED DRAGON  PUPPETS

MELISSA & DOUG



8

BAND IN A BOX

MELISSA & DOUG



9

HAPPY HARVEST FARM (FLOOR PUZZLE)

MELISSA & DOUG



10

COOKING CENTER

WONDER WORLD













4yrs - 6yrs




 

 

 



S.NO.

NAME

BRAND



1

TUMBLING MONKEY

MATTEL



2

JUNIOR SCRABBLE

MATTEL



3

JUNGLE LUDO

FRANK



4

RAPUNZEL

FRANK



5

JUNIOR MONOPOLY

FUNSKOOL



6

MASTER MIND

FUNSKOOL



7

MAKE A PRINCESS MIRROR

4M



8

MIGHTY BUILDERS JET PLANE

MELISSA & DOUG



9

FOAM HOPSCOTCH PINK

SUN TA TOYS



10

GLOW STATION

CRAYOLA



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