Toy Buying Made Easy: A Simple Guide
To children, the holidays mean "toys", but you can't buy just any toy for any child. Here's a simple buying guide to help you get started with your holiday toy shopping. The biggest thing you want to consider when buying toys for kids is quality. Quality trumps how fun a toy is for a child or how much kids will actually play with the toy. Just because they like the toy doesn't make it a good toy. One big factor that determines the quality of a toy is safety. Toy safety is never as simple as we would like it to be. There are so many details you have to keep in mind when you are buying for a child:
Pay attention to the age indication on the packaging. Age recommendations take into consideration safety and developmental stages of children. A recommendation means it's stimulating for that age group and helps children develop new skills. If older children play with toys with an age recommendation younger than they are, it might be perfectly safe for them, but they likely will get bored. Younger children playing with toys made for older children may get frustrated because it requires skills they haven't developed. Additionally, they may have parts that pose a safety hazard for younger children.
Examine the toy to see if there are parts that are loose or can be chewed off and swallowed; if it includes parts that can fit through a toilet paper tube, it's a choking hazard for children under the age of 3. Bigger pieces are safer for little kids.
Check for strings and cords; if they're longer than 7", it's a strangling hazard for children under 4 years of age. Cords on pull-toys 12" or longer should not have beads or attachments that can get tangled and create a loop. Cords on crib toys should not be longer than 6".
Check packaging to make sure it's made of non-toxic materials and any paint used is free of lead. This includes arts and crafts supplies.
Avoid toys with magnets for children under the age of 14. Magnets that are swallowed can be very dangerous--in pairs, they can do serious damage as they try to connect inside the body.
Any toys made of cloth should be flame resistant.
Examine the surfaces of toys and think about how tiny hands will hold them. Some toys can have areas where skin and little fingers can get pinched or sharp edges that can cut the skin.
Toys children can sit on or ride on should be sturdy. If the toy does not come with safety gear, include it as part of the gift. Depending on the age of the child, safety straps and harnesses should be a consideration.
Toys designed to project objects, like toy guns or slingshots, should only be considered with extreme caution. They don't have to be rocket launchers to be dangerous; anything that sends an object flying is a risk for eye injuries, especially if it is in the hands of a child who is not ready to play with such a sophisticated toy. All children should be supervised when playing with launch toys.
As a last measure of precaution, check to make sure the toys you are selecting have not been recalled. Six federal agencies collectively post product recalls on a single website. There, you can find recalls for everything from spinach to doll cribs.
On top of age and safety, consider the value of the toy. Value goes beyond what a mint condition toy will sell for 20 years from now; it's more about how useful the toy is and what a child can gain from playing with it. Toys can be educational and advance development in children. When you're buying a toy, think about whether or not it teaches new skills, feeds creativity, and is interesting enough that the child will want to play with it again and again.
If you're buying a toy that requires batteries, make sure the battery case is secure. Tiny hands should not be able to pry it open. Look for products with battery cases firmly attached with screws.
A lot of thought should go into selecting and buying toys for kids. Whether it's a stocking stuffer or a present from Santa, carefully examine your options for what to buy.