'Tis Toy Season
this time of the year it is interesting to ask why some toys are big hits
and others seem to be gigantic losers. The reason is twofold. Part of the
answer lies within the child since each child is a unique person, with
their own likes and dislikes, interests and of course, abilities.
It is very important to consider where the
child is in her development and where she is likely to be in the very near
future For example, one father gave his 2-year-old daughter a very
complicated and sophisticated doll only to have the little girl completely
disregard the doll once it was opened and held "once" on
Christmas morn. A more appropriate gift might have been a stuffed doll
that did not eat and wet.
Another family decided to buy a small
indoor slide for their 4-year-old son. The boy was not at all interested
in this rather expensive gift. The reason was simple -- the past summer
the boy has mastered the large slide at the park. The small slide would
have been just right for an 18-month-old or even a 2-and-one half-year-old
but not a 4-year-old with proven abilities to slide down a big slide.
The idea of matching the toy or gift with
the child's level of development is often overlooked because a parent may
in fact buy the toy on impulse or buy it because the toy is cute. Any toy
should offer some challenge to the child, but not be so advanced that it
will take many months for a child to grow into it.
Before deciding on a toy it is helpful to
sit back and consciously observe what the child does in her/her play. Does
he like to play make-believe using people and cars? Does she enjoy doing
more quiet activities? Is he ready for a simple board game? Is she
fascinated by a wheel toy? Is he able to throw a ball? Can she read? Does
he have books of his own? A parent needs to ask these kinds of questions
to determine where the child is in development.
One caution is in order. Many catalogs and
toy packages have suggested ages stated. These are intended only as a
guide and are not infallible. Each parent must ultimately choose the toy
that is suited to his or her child.
Catalogues can be helpful because they are
filled with ideas. Look through them and when a toy looks like a good one
for your child, think about the above questions. Catalogs also give the
parent a chance to make a list before hitting the store that has songs
playing in the background and shelves full of gaily packaged toys.
The other part of the original question
about why some toys are big hits and others real losers lies in the toys
themselves. Any toy should be safe for the child who receives it. It is
unfair and unwise to give a toy to a young child that requires an adult to
be present so the toy can be used safely. It is also unfair to give a
young child a toy that requires an adult to make it work. A toy should
also be durable. Many toys and games on the market are so poorly designed
that an adult must constantly be involved in supervising their use so that
they don't fall apart.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.
Minnesota Extension Service's Family Life Packets, were written by
Ron Pitzer and Sue Meyer.