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Preschool Education Articles

'Tis Toy Season Again

At 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.


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