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Toy Buying Guide for Kids

by Margaret Weiss, PHD, MPH

Have you seen the deep concentration on the face of a toddler putting a square block into a square hole? Their play is their work and toys are their tools. As you make a holiday shopping list, here are a few smart choices for young ones.

Babies are explorers. They use their senses to learn about the world around them. Age-old toys for babies include a nursery mobile, a mirror, a stack of rings and push-pull toys.

Toddlers are like young scientists exploring their world and figuring out how it works. Good choices are balls, shape-sorting toys, mechanical toys with levers & knobs and roleplay toys that help them imagine being a chef or a doctor or a teacher.

Preschoolers are the masters of their world and can be very imaginative. Choose toys that let them build and create. Blocks, construction sets and puzzles of all kinds are great fun. Pretending is also a favorite, so dress-up items will be well-used.

School-aged kids are beginning to explore their talents and interests, as well as making friends outside of the family. They enjoy jump ropes and other toys that encourage activity and problem solving. Card games and board games are popular. Musical instruments and science toys build new skills and interests.

You are the perfect toy. When you play with your child you give them the attention that builds their self-esteem and tells them they are loved. You will hear their squeals of joy!

Safety matters. Here are a few tips:

• Toys made of fabric should say flame resistant or flame retardant.

• Stuffed toys should be washable.

• Painted toys should have lead-free paint.

• Art materials should say nontoxic.

• For children under age 3, choking is a frequent occurrence. Toys and their parts should be large enough that they cannot fit into a toilet paper tube.

• Make sure a toy isn’t too loud for your child (or for you!)

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