Whether you are giving as a gift for a littlie, or purchasing toys as for your own home, toys can be expensive. Deliberate thought about how a toy is to be used can save wasted time and money. Have you thought about these aspects?
Safety – NOT always the first priority but essential. Ask yourself if the toy is safe for the age child or will you always need to monitor its usage? Such things as bits that come off – could they be swallowed or fit up a nose or in an ear? Could little fingers get stuck in the moving parts? Are the edges and corners too sharp, given that toys are usually found at ground level, what would happen if you walk into it? And then there is the paint – check that it is child safe. Sometimes more expensive, locally made toys are safer in this regard than cheap imports.
Use – seems obvious but please ask yourself how you seeing this toy being used? Is it an everyday toy? Is there only one way to use it or will it be helpful in extending imagination? For very small children a stack of wooden cubes may be a better investment than the fit together blocks that only work in one position.
Thinking – deliberating planning how your children will extend their thinking is worth the effort. Ask yourself if we play with this toy what language will we need? Words such as longer, taller, faster, bigger, littler, and all the colours spring to mind. Of course, not everything is about that, but if you find a toy that can be fun AND educational, why not get that one over the just fun one?
Longevity – both for the construction (sturdy enough), and for the stage of the child. Something really appropriate for a three year old such as a glove puppet may still interest your seven year old. A word on this though – some things are just necessary for the stage. For example those triangular crayons that are so good for teaching grip for beginners, are worth the money. Value toys (and crayons) will always have a market, either for sale or passing on, when your children have finished with them.
Storage – where will the thing live? If it is a 2m high teddy bear, which is great to roll around on the floor and to lie in to read books, ask yourself is there enough room in the bedroom, the lounge? The big trolley car is great to rent for the few weeks that your child needs it – do you want to store it for a year? Five years? Your call!
Deliberately selecting some basic toys for your home is a pleasure. The other ‘themed’ toys, (eg. Disney characters) can be suggested to kind family and friends as presents, or alternatively, hired at your local Toy Library, for a season.
Homemade toys always have a place. Pot lids and wooden spoons you know about. Shakers and drums are easy to make and can be customised to the size of little hands. Learning to shake to the beat at two years old helps install expectation of repetition and familiarity (rhythm) which is an important skill in early reading. Home made*ice cream containers with lids on, with a large square cut out in the lid, with very large holes can be used as early as nine months, the lid design can become more specific as the child’s skills (and your cutting out skills!) increase. Give it a go!
* This is NOT posting boxes. Posting boxes meet a specific need in teaching mathematical concepts of rotation, matching, seriation and 3D visualisation, and social skills in perseverance and critical thinking.