How To Stop Buying Your Kids Rubbish Toys
By: Mikala SImon, DPT
When looking to buy a high quality toy, the toy aisle can be overwhelming, ridiculously packed with horrible toys and down right time wasting!
Buying a toy is easy. But buying a high quality and smart toy can be nearly impossible, if you don’t know where to look.
When you are in a general toy aisle you will see shiny plastic toys that sing songs and flashes lights everywhere, the word “educational” plastered on toys that call into question fake advertisement, and I can, unfortunately, guarantee there’s a stuffed animal shaped like, well, poo lingering around.
If you're looking to bypass this stress all together, we can help. I recommend making sure any toy you buy meets these 3 simple rules before you buy it.
#1 IF THE BATTERIES DIE, DOES THE TOY SERVE A PURPOSE?
#2 CAN IT BE PLAYED WITH IN MORE THAN ONE WAY?
#3 DOES IT ENCOURAGE IMAGINATION, INTERACTION OR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?
If the answer is "NO" to any of them. I'd reconsider making the purchase.
Now, like I just said, if it breaks one of the three tips, I'd reconsider but that doesn't mean these are hard and fast rules.
Some toys that break one of these rule but that I would still recommend are: light up balls, some cause and effect toys for young children (15-22 months) [examples: pop ups, piggy bank and ramps with balls], toys that serve a specific purpose like teething toys or teething toys2 and play food (these could even be argued that could be played with in several ways so then wouldn’t break the rule but are a little harder to do so, so I included them here).
Okay, now that you know the rules. Let’s go over them a little bit more in depth.
Rule #1 IF THE BATTERIES DIE, DOES IT SERVE A PURPOSE?
I started on a hot ticket topic; batteries. They seem to be in every “cool” toy. I get it. The flashing lights and when the toy “reads” to your child and lets you have a break it is fantastic. Yet...
“Simple toys are often the best.”
I’d rather start with a toy that doesn’t have batteries at all because toys without batteries encourage:
- language development
- logical thinking skills (making a decision based on another known idea)
- problem solving skills
- spatial relationships (how things fit together and ideas like length and size)
- fine motor (using small motions of your arms and hands; writing, stacking, cutting)
- gross motor (using the large movements of your body; running, jumping, climbing), and coordination
Some examples of how toys without batteries can encourage these skills are: a fire truck toy doesn’t make a noise will encourage language building because then your child will have to.
Another example is a puzzle that you have to actually take out and manipulate the pieces. They are examining the sizes (spatial relationships), using small muscles in their hands to hold them (fine motor) and problem solving where the pieces go!
And, if I want to risk sounding selfish for a second, as a parent, toys with batteries drive me up a wall! Sorry but I don’t want to hear the book that is in the drawer stutter through the first line of the book repeatedly because the button was pushed. Do you?
So, after all of that, if you still must buy a toy with a battery, at least ask that if the battery dies, is it still play-able? A firetruck with batteries can still be played with as a firetruck but a hand held electronic device is just a paperweight without the batteries.
Aiming for toys that can still be played with without the batteries is a great way to start to wean away from tech-toys.
Rule #2 CAN IT BE PLAYED WITH IN MORE THAN ONE WAY?
This rule is a little vague but let me clarify.
Yes, a video game console can be play several games but can your child do anything other than move their thumbs to play with it? No. Then it fails.
Whereas a toy like a train track can create several scenarios, include dolls for people or monsters to tear it down. It can be build on the ground or up high on the couch. It encourages your child to move, imagine and create.
See the difference?
Toys that meet this rule are: blocks, train tracks, animals, stacking boxes, and pegs.
Rule #3 DOES IT ENCOURAGE PROBLEM SOLVING, INTERACTION WITH ANOTHER PERSON OR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?
This rule includes A LOT but is probably my favorite question to ask when buying toys for my business Stages of FUN Play Kits and my own daughters.
This rule really helps me to examine what the toy will be used for. Toys are the tools children use to learn about their World.
Sometimes a toy will sneak through the first two rules and then I’ll get to this one and it fails terribly.
Toys that fail this section are typically tech heavy but can also include toys like too many stuffed animals and poorly made toys- think toys that come in food meals.
“The toys and playthings your child has available to her can shape her development in important ways.”
Children learn by doing and high quality toys give them the best opportunity to gain skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Check back for upcoming blogs on Why We Shouldn’t Fight Boredom & Toy Rotations 101
- Aleeya Healey, Alan Mendelsohn, COUNCIL ON EARLY CHILDHOOD Pediatrics. From the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era” January 2019, VOLUME 143 / ISSUE 1