How to buy the right toys
A toy buying guide
The best toys are ones that stimulate imagination, encourage thinking skills and foster creative expression. Choosing new toys for your family can be a fun and adventurous journey for both you and your child. Allow your child to take the lead when it comes to picking out the perfect toy, and use their preference as a guide to finding their next favorite toy.
>> Who likes toys in your household?
Your first goal is to determine who you are choosing a toy for. Different age groups have different preferences when it comes to the types of toys that they prefer. Toys strengthen a child's motor and cognitive skills, so choosing age-appropriate toys is important.
Infants (6 to 12 months): Kids in this age group should be introduced to toys that feature sound, sight and touch. Look for toys that are lightweight and feature bright colors, and are free of very small loose parts.
Toddlers (1-3 years): Children of this age prefer physical play. Outdoor play ideas would include bikes and riding toys, balls, wagons and water stations or sandboxes. For indoor play, look for puzzles, large blocks and board games. This age group responds better to toy models that make them work a little and let them feel like they are accomplishing a goal.
Preschoolers (3-5 years): Preschoolers are intrigued by how things work. This age group does well with unique toys such as construction sets, board games, painting, clay, drawing or coloring. This age group is also interested in imaginary play, such as play kitchens, cash registers, doll houses and furniture. Books are also important at this stage.
School-age (5-9 years): School-aged children should be encouraged to share and socialize, so the list of toys that they play with should include group play. Some of the best toys for this age are board games, sports toys and learning toys. Electronic toys with sound and lights are also suggested for school-aged children.
Preteens (9-12 years): Preteens are at an age where they are building self-esteem and looking to be accepted by their peers. They still have some interest in toys but the types of toys are in the form of electronics, board games, activity kits, card games and sports games. For this age, physical play is encouraged, so outdoor sporting games are ideal.
Special needs children: The best toys for children with special needs are toys that reflect their individual play stages. Many of the top toys qualify when you know the child as an individual. Does sound bother the child? Would he or she prefer a toy with buttons? This is a case-by-case decision. Special needs children play with any and all types of toys just like any child would, making the best toy the one that catches their attention most.
When using battery-operated toys, shop toys that have a secured battery compartment that is not easily opened by young fingers. Keep back-up batteries on hand so that there is no interruption in how the toy operates.
>> What types of toys might be a good fit?
You can also choose the types of toys based on your lifestyle or what your child prefers over other unique toys. There is a long list of toys to choose from in a variety of categories.
- High-tech toys: You can find high-tech toys for kids of all ages, and the complexity of the toy will differ based on the intended age group. Some of these toys include kiddie tablets, cameras and music players.
- Riding toys: Riding toys can grow with your child. Many riding toy models have features that adjust to the height of children as they mature.
- Travel toys: Travel toys include baby activities and toys as well as a large selection for older children, such as doodling pads, travel-sized board games and hand-held electronics.
- Exercise toys: Exercise toys are a good way to keep your child active, while having fun. Many toy brands offer exercise toys; some of these are in the form of a play mats, jump ropes, kiddie gyms and trampolines.
- Action figures and dolls: Action figures and dolls are among the top toys that are requested by children each year.
>> Consider educational value when choosing toys
Many toy collections offer an educational value and each can educate the child in a specific area of development. You can choose an area that your child may need extra help in or one they might just enjoy in general. From a parent's perspective, the best toys are toys that your child not only enjoys, but can learn from as well.
- Math: Building blocks help teach volume and density awareness.
- Reading: Reading books helps build vocabulary and board games with instructional cards get your children comfortable with reading and understanding instructions.
- Writing: Games like MadLibs and writing tablets or diaries allow your children to practice their penmanship and practice using parts of speech.
- Spelling: Board games with letter pieces allows your children to practice their spelling.
- Geography: Map puzzles are a fun way to learn about geography.
- History: Trivia games can teach children about history in a fun manner.
- Art: Coloring and crafting toys allow your child to explore their inner artist.
- Music: Children love music, and singing along with their favorite toy or sing-a-long book is a good way to educate your child.
- Science: Science is fun when you have props to learn with. Chemistry sets, microscopes and telescopes are all good tools for science education.
- Languages: Phonics toys are a popular choice when it comes to learning new languages. Children like to repeat what they hear and this helps your child pick up new languages quickly.
>> Consider the toy's materials
When looking for the best toys for your child, consider the materials the toys are made from. Toys need to pass many safety regulations prior to being sold to you. Even so, you want to make sure that when you buy toys, the material is good for your child. Toys come in plastic, wood, fabric, metal and more. For small children that will put items in their mouth, make sure the child cannot chew any pieces off. If your child likes to throw their toys, choosing a soft toy is a better option. Make these decisions based on your child's play routine.
Choosing the best toys for your child is easy once you determine what your child enjoys. With just a little bit of research, you'll find the toys that are right for your family.