Finding the right toy

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Because the winter holidays are fast approaching, the next few posts will highlight how to choose the right toy as a gift. Many adults have trouble knowing what toys are appropriate for what age. Don’t beat yourself up about this – even parents sometimes miss the boat on their own children’s abilities.

The truth is, picking the right toy can be hard due to individual differences as well as market confusion. For instance, the labeled “recommended age” on a toy’s box is not the most reliable indicator. This age is determined chiefly through insurance groups, meaning that the toy is safe for that particular age group. Whether or not the toy will appeal to the child’s educational level is another matter all together.

Also, children of the same age have not necessarily reached the same developmental level. Boys and girls, for instance, can be worlds apart in early childhood. Even children of the same gender learn at different rates.

So do a little research: if you are shopping for a nephew or niece who you have not seen for a year, make sure to ask their parents what their interests are. Parents seldom get asked what their children are up to – they usually have to go on the offensive for this conversation – so chances are they will have plenty to say.

If you feel out-of-touch with children but still want to make a favorable impression, another tactic is to do 10 -15 minutes of field research by watching a children’s television show. Commercials can illuminate what is hot for a variety of age groups, whether it be a new kind of plush toy or an educational video game.  Fads are powerful for kids, so use this to your advantage.

Next we will discuss specific age-relate toys for the very young side of the spectrum – babies up to preschool.

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