I think back over all of the birthdays and holidays celebrated at our house. In my daughter’s 5 years there have been several occasions that a toy was given to her to commemorate an occasion or her accomplishments. Some of those toys end up being put aside within a few days of receiving them. Others aren’t even that lucky. The unlucky toys are tossed aside the same day they are opened. But then, there are those charmed toys that never seem to lose their luster. They are played with day in and day out, put aside for a tiny rest and then picked up again to continue where the play left off.
All of this got me thinking about what qualifies a toy as “good”. As a parent I want my “toy dollars” to be used well, not thrown aside before the birthday candles are blown out. As a parent educator I want toys that will help my daughter work on new skills, think about the world in new ways, and encourage creativity and independence. That is asking quite a lot from a block of wood or a hunk of molded plastic.
The top 4 things that I look for in toys are…
- Versatility- Toys that are created for one, unique purpose are often played with in that one-way. I want toys that encourage my daughter to think of as many ways to play with it as possible. A wooden block can be a sander, cell phone, couch, or a loaf of bread. Toys do not need to be purchased to be fun. Give your child a cardboard box and see how much fun they can have with it.
- Sparks Creativity- Toys that help a child think outside the box not only allow creativity but also allow play to go in many different directions. Open-ended toys encourage children to find how they want to play with a toy. Then you can show them several other ideas when playing together.
- Educational- When I talk about educational toys I don’t mean toys that teach your child to read or count. Rather, I am talking about the type of toys that a child plays with and “accidentally learns” something. Role-playing in the kitchen teaches a child that dumping a teapot full of water causes a huge spill, while gently tipping it will not.
- Independent Play- I also like to find toys that allow my daughter to play independently. Not all toys are going to meet this measure, but those that do give children a chance to make decisions, to be creative with their play, workout problems, and build their confidence. On top of all of this, independent play gives children the down time that they need in between classes, play dates and gym time.
Play is a child’s work. It is through play that children learn about the environment they live in, social relationships, laws of physics, expectations, and new skills. We are there to help give them good tools to play with. So there you have my top 4 criteria for toys, what is important to you?
PAIIR Parent Educator