Toy Buying Guide

The holidays are only a few months away, and some people plan for the holidays a couple months in advance, others only a few days in advance, while others started shopping as soon as the holiday ended last year. No matter what type of planner this guide is for you.

We all want to purchase the gift that is loved for ages; AND we are all frustrated when gifts are played with for one day and never touched again. I know when my children were smaller, I was always picking up pieces of toys that never seemed to have a match.

I have put together this guide for things to think about when looking for gifts for any child or adult.

  1. Toys should have multiple ways they can be used.
  2. Quality; this means it is safe for the age of the child, and it is durable.
  3. Focus on the child’s interests.
  4. The toy is kid powered.
  5. Balance commercial or popular/show based toys with open ended toys.
  6. Look for toys that encourage learning.
  7. Look for toys that have “layers of learning” and grow with the child.

What does that all mean? I have spelled it out in a little more detail below

1.  Toys should have multiple ways they can be used.

Open ended toys, are toys that have multiple ways they can be used. For example, blocks or simple dolls can be used for a child in acting out many different scenarios. They can build towers and roads. This helps children learn about their world around them through their toys and building towers can help learn physics. When toys can be used in multiple ways, children are more likely to continue to play and use the toys. Open ended toys also are good to engage adults in the play.

Block It

2. Quality; this means it is safe for the age of the child, and it is durable.

We are lucky in the United States that there are laws that protect children from many harmful chemicals and risky toys. However, do not become complacent in your toy buying. There are still places where you may find toys with lead paint, or other hazards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains information about toy safety and recalls of toys. Additional consider the age of the child. Toys are required to have an recommended age on the packaging. Consider the age when purchasing. Toys that are marked for ages 3 years and up often have small parts that a younger child may choke on.

3. Focus on the child’s interests.

Even the best toys may not get used if the child is not interested in them. If possible find out what the child enjoys doing, and look for toys that are similar or enhance those activities. For example if the child loves putting things together, try a marble maze or Discovery Toys Motor Works Collection. If a child loves creating or designing, consider a craft kit or look up how to make different things and give the child a homemade craft kit. I know many 9 to 12 year old girls and boys that would love to receive a gallon of clear glue for a slime making kit! If you don’t have any ideas, Discovery Toys’ catalog is organized by interest area, and you can always message me with questions.

4. The toy is kid powered.

What does this mean? Exactly what it says. To have the toy do anything the child must do it. Technology is wonderful, but it does very little to enhance most children’s play. In fact, in some ways technology actually is discouraging creativity and problem solving skills. The skills that children need when they become adults in our culture. Again open ended toys are best, as children can create or use them as tools in their play. However any toy that is 100% kid powered is good! Think blocks, dolls and action figures that don’t talk on their own, puzzles, playdough, sand, etc.


5. Balance commercial or popular/show based toys with open ended toys.

I understand children have that one item that is a must have based on the latest movie or show; and it is good to get that one item for the holidays. However, you will notice if you have been around children for more than one holiday, those “must have” popular toys are loved for a few days or months, until the next popular movie or show comes out. Then that toy is forgotten.

Balance the toy purchases between the popular/show based toy and open ended toys. I would recommend one show based toy to two or three open ended toys. Toys that will last for years to come. Remember open ended toys are toys that are designed to be used in multiple ways. Blocks, Measure Up Cups, dolls, cars, and playdough are good examples of open ended toys.

Tactile sand castle

6. Look for toys that encourage learning.

I am NOT talking about worksheets or academic tools. While worksheets and other academic specific tools have a place in learning, they are not toys. Children learn through exploring and testing out different scenarios and ways of being. A child that has wooden blocks can build a road to experiment with how the car drives on the road, and if they have trouble at the gaps; and that same child can build a tower to learn how to build it high so that it doesn’t fall. This information they learn helps them with academics by having a base knowledge of patterning and physics. If you are unsure if the toy encourages learning, check out Discovery Toys. The mission of the company is to sell toys that support learning of children. Leave a comment or question on this post for guidance. Or ask your child’s teacher.

7. Look for toys that have “layers of learning” and that grow with the child.

“Layers of learning” is a fancy way of saying a toy can be used in a variety of ways. Children and adults prefer to learn in a variety of ways. Some of us are visual learners, some audio, and many kinesthetic (learning by doing/action). Toys that can be used by many different types of learners in a variety of ways can grow with a child and be used for years. Measure Up Cups are a great example. A toddler can use the cups for scooping sand or water, banging, and stacking. A preschooler can do those things and can sort by color, use the numbered cups for simple math (the one cup plus the two cup, can fill the three cup), and early elementary age children can use the cups to learn to tell time (look for the picture on the front) and cook using the cups as measuring cups!

Measure Up Cups from Discovery Toys

I hope you find this guide helpful in your gift giving! Please leave me suggestions or comments below.






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