Need to buy a toy for a child?

Jeri Kayser, a Child Life specialist at Children’s, wrote this post for families.

I have often thought that the hospital would be an excellent testing site for what toys kids really like and which ones hold less value than the box they came in. When we purchase toys for the hospital we need to find ones that will capture the child’s interest, support their developmental needs, be durable and have universal appeal. So with these thoughts at hand as well as mistakes and triumphs in present purchasing for my three urchins, I am offering a helpful guide to get as much value as possible from the task of buying a present for a child.

The Golden Rule of Toy Purchasing: The more the toy requires from the child, the more they will get out of it and the longer they will play with it.

I saw a stuffed animal in a toy catalog that was playing drums. That would be fun for about five minutes. The action of the toy has already been decided and the child has little input. A toy that allows the child to vary what they can do with it increases the possibilities and value of the experience. The following categories help give guidance to finding toys with lasting power:

The 4 Bs

1)    Books: You can never get enough of these. One of the surest ways to help your child become an excellent reader is for them to be surrounded by books that they can get their hands on whenever they want.

2)    Babies: This would include anything that can create a storyline. If you have ever watched kids play with small cars, the cars talk to each other and have roles to play. Stuffed animals, action figures and dolls would also fit.

3)    Blocks: Anything you can build or create something with. Small bricks, big blocks, clay or arts and crafts activities offer the chance to use your imagination in virtually limitless ways.

4)    Balls: Things that get your child moving. Balls, yoyos, bikes, hockey sticks, whatever. We all know physical activity is good for our bodies, but our brains crave that kind of stimulation as well.

Jeri Kayser has been a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota since 1985. Her educational background is in child development and psychology. She has three children, ages 21, 19 and 15, who have been a great source of anecdotes to help illustrate developmental perspective. They are wonderful at being good sports about it.

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