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Toy Buying Guide

Kids like to explore and learn by doing through play. When looking for a toy as a gift look for toys that kids can take apart, put together, add on or build. Look for toys that can give them opportunities to play and develop imagination, problem solving, and logical thinking skills.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has developed a guideline for buying holiday toys. 

Some examples would be blocks, interlocking blocks, sand and water play toys. Look for toys that require understanding how the fit together (spatial awareness), hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. Some examples would be puzzles, shape-sorters, blocks, paint, crayons and play-dough. 

Is the toy safe and age appropriate?

If the suggested age range is too young for the child, he or she may get bored quickly. If the range is too old, the child may get frustrated and give up, or be exposed to small parts that could pose a safety risk. Be mindful of your own child’s development in terms of his or her strengths, interests, and abilities. 

Can the toy be played with in more than one way?

Toys that offer unlimited possibilities can tap into the child’s creativity. Blocks can be stacked, knocked down, lined up, crashed into, and even substituted for play food in a pretend kitchen. 

Does the toy appeal to several senses?

Children’s attention is captured by exciting colors, sounds, lights, and textures. Toys that encourage them to push buttons, move parts, open doors, or sort shapes will often lengthen play time. 

Can the toy be used in more than one place or position?

Toys that are easy to carry or can be used while sitting, standing, or even lying down make play possible anywhere. Crayons, markers, sidewalk chalk, a baby gym, and plastic rings can be used in a variety of locations. 

Does the toy involve the use of both hands?

Moving parts, buttons, and gears encourage activity and movement. Construction toys, craft kits, puzzles, balls, riding toys, and toss-and-catch sets all promote motor skill development at different ages. 

Does the toy encourage thinking or solving problems?

Board games and science kits offer older kids the chance to use thinking skills in a new way, while shape sorters, puzzles, or a Jack-in-the box are great for babies and toddlers. 

Does the toy encourage communication and interaction?

Dress-up clothes, costumes, playhouses, kitchen sets, and tools can all be used with more than one child to teach cooperation and negotiation and foster imagination. 

Is the toy worth the cost?

Consider the appeal, durability and cost of the toy. Will the toy engage the child in a way that he/she is an active participant, rather than a passive observer? Can the family engage in play together? 

If you can answer “yes” to many of the questions in this checklist, your toy purchase will likely be a developmentally appropriate toy that is worth the cost. 

  • AOTA.org
  • skoolzy.com 

Written by: Tract Atkinson

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