The toy market is a multi billion dollar industry (over 21.6 billion in 2008), with trade secrets and grand unveilings. Marketers are pushing children to grow up faster so they can sell them expensive electronic toys. It use to be that girls would play with dolls until they were 12 ,13 or 14 years old, now that same age group is being marketed make up and magazines. What once was an industry whose agenda was to make toys for children now just seems to be an industry that wants to make money for its stockholders. Good toys are not always the newest toys, it's the toy industry that needs to keep changing what children want to play with,(that's the way they make their profits) other wise we would just make really good toys and pass them around from child to child. Toys are awash with pit falls and problems, what sort of values is it portraying, has it been made with dangerous materials, is it cool? are you paying the money for the quality of the toy or because it is a licensed toy from a TV program or movie. When did it get so complicated just to buy a simple toy?
Television and peer pressure are not only aimed at children but parents and other adults as well. Every Christmas there seems to be a toy that everyone is racing to get, the "toy of the year" which is nothing more than hype. Does anyone remember Cabbage Patch Dolls? It seems at the time their only quality was that they were hard to come by. While every parent wants to get their child the newest, neatest toy out there, the old stand-bys are often the best. Tried and true, they are toys that have been loved by generations of children because they will always do what they were meant to do. Entertain children. If you don't have any children in your life and are unexpectedly having to buy for someone else's the first thing you need to know is how old the child is. Most toys do have indications on them of what ages they have been made for. If you get a toy for a child that they are too young for, the toy might frustrate them, if you get a toy they are too old for, the toy will just bore them. Not only do they have to be age appropriate but they have to be well made so they don't shatter the first time they are played with roughly. You have to teach children how to play, so if you get them a box of building blocks make sure that you sit on the floor with them and show them how to stack the blocks to make towers and bridges and buildings. If you get them a licensed toy then they will always associate that toy with the movie or television show they are from which will limit their imagination of how they play with it (a plush Snoopy dog will always be Snoopy),but if you get them a generic plush dog then that dog could be Snoopy or it could be something else.
For children under the age of three no matter what you get them it will end up in their mouths. That is why it is vital that the toys that you get are rated for children under three and have no parts that can be pulled or sucked off, it made with safe materials and is not so small that it would be a choking hazard. The younger the child the more likely the toy will spend a lot of time in their mouths so it should be washable. Some items like bicycles are suitable for all ages but are only suggested in the first age group they are ready for, so read through all the age groups.
So if you are determined to buy them something that is not electronic think of these ideas as you wander down the toy aisle or surf through the Internet.
Newborn to 6 Months
Generally babies start to sit up at around six months time so any toy you get for a child younger than 6 months will be something they will grasp in their hands like a teether, a rattle or a shaker or will be a stationary item that they will try to reach for and bat at like a play station that they would lie under and reach for the toys that dangle from it. Once they can sit up their world and yours changes.
6 Months to 1 Year
Washable cloth toys, such as dolls or animals, board books, pop up toys (they hit it and a figure pops up) BEST TOYS Bath toys- these can last for a very long time as children love to play with water.
1 to 2 Years
Sorting toys, large blocks, walking toys (like baby carriages), riding toys (ride on cars), BEST TOYS Pots and pans, children love to crawl into the pot cupboards and pull everything out and bang on them with a wooden spoon. Make sure that your house is absolutely child safe with anything that can do them any harm safely put out of reach. A ball, this is a great toy that grows with the child, they will learn to roll it, bounce it and then kick it as they get older.
2 to 3 Years
Sturdy large cars, trucks, trains, made of good quality plastic or cloth, plush toys, dolls, housekeeping, grocery store or cooking sets, wooden puzzles, rocking horse, tricycle BEST TOYS Playhouse- this does not have to be expensive, you can make them out of the cardboard boxes from appliances. Wooden blocks, these can last for years and be added to. With imaginations they can be combined with other toys.
3 to 4 Years
Puppets, matchbox cars, sidewalk chalk, craft kit (children's scissors, crayons, glue, paper- as children this age only scribble on paper recycle the junk mail that you get that has nothing on one side) sandbox, swing set, bicycle BEST TOYS Dress up box, you can start collecting outfits that look like fire fighters, police officers, doctors, wizard, etc add in any baseball hats and gardening hats, ballerina skirts, wands, old Halloween costumes and anything else that they might enjoy. Duplo, this is the large version of Lego and can attach to Lego as well, for children that like to build things with is wonderful.
5 to 9 Years
Jump rope, action figures, marbles, activity books, board games, card games, crafting supplies (stickers, stamps, markers etc), kite. BEST TOYS doll house, you can have styles from Ikea modern to Victorian elegance, but remember you are buying for your child not yourself. Lego and Knex, if your child liked Duplo they will love Lego and Knex, these come in kits but the imagination is the limit in what they can build with these.
10 to 14 Years
Board games, sports equipment, wood working, needle work, jigsaw puzzles, mind puzzles, arts and crafts. BEST TOYS at this age it would be something to expand on a hobby like baking, you could buy them unusual baking pans and start a cook book collection or if they enjoy science buy them a subscription to an unusual science magazine.
BEST TOY FOR ALL AGES Books, they are available for all ages from cloth books for the newborn to mystery books for the teenager. Studies have shown over and over again that parents that read to their children have better learning skills, do better at school and become readers themselves. Reading to young children is a bonding experience. Reading for a teenager can be a great way to relieve stress and to develop further interests.
While some parents love to love their children with the toys they buy there is such a thing as buying them too much. When there is just too many toys every where the toys are not appreciated by the child and become nothing more than clutter. The little give away toys from fast food restaurants are notorious as being clutter. You might want to think of a strategy if your child has a collection of these little toys. One family only let the children plays with these toys for a month then they would give them away to a local charity. Usually by the months end the children had totally lost interest in the mini toys.
Children don't need a great deal of toys and with the toys that they have 1/3 of them should be put away so you can rotate them to make interesting again. You might rotate them once a month or once a week. When the rotated toys are brought out again they seem like new for the child.
The best advice for parents about toys?Spend half the money but twice your time with your children.
Photography and Content
Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2009