I’ve always faced quite a dilemma when I go out toy-shopping for my toddler daughter. The stores are filled with rows and rows of brightly colored toys of all shapes and sizes and types. Musical, non-musical, pull along, push ahead, throw, stack, the list is endless. So, how does one go about the all important parent’s job of choosing a toy that is fun to play with, adds some value to learning and is safe to play with? See, got you thinking, didn’t I?
While it is difficult to choose, it certainly ain’t impossible. Here I’ll share some of my tips on choosing safe, fun and educative toys for toddlers, based on my experience with my daughter.
Safety Comes First
That’s right. For my husband and me, the safer a toy, the better it is. Which means, no sharp edges, no small parts that can be swallowed, no sewn on buttons for eyes or noses, no really long strings and certainly, no toys with lead in them. I know it seems like a really long list but there can be no, absolutely, no fooling around with the safety of a child.
Does it Rattle, Shake, Jiggle, Play Music?
Babies and toddlers love toys that ‘do’ something. While soft toys are nice and cuddly, the cow that moos or the clown that dances is so much more fun for them. For one thing, it keeps them entertained. Secondly, musical toys can also, be quite educative. They can be used to teach toddlers sounds, music or good, old nursery rhymes. Choose a toy whose sound wouldn’t bug the daylights out of you, because you would be hearing a lot of it.
So, What Else Does It Do?
Besides playing with your toddler, does the toy in question also, serve another purpose? Is it a book that doubles up as a soft toy? Is it a ball plus a rattle? Toddlers lose interest in a toy quite quickly so if you can get dual purpose toys, do invest in them. They may cost slightly more but they would be playmates for longer with picky toddlers.
Another important thing to keep in mind is whether or not a toddler is developmentally ready for a particular toy. Complicated Lego sets or adorable but high maintenance kitchen sets would be quite useless for a toddler who is more interested in exploring the wide, wide world outside. So do the Learning toys you’re buying encourage sensory learning and creativity or help in building motor or verbal skills?
And How Durable Is It?
Toddlers love to play rough. Rougher than the football team, probably. Which means, that they toys that you buy would be subject to throwing, banging, climbing on, stomping and chewing. Would it be able to withstand all of that? If not, trust me, it would last a day or maybe two, at the most. Even the most well-behaved of toddlers would want to see what happens if you bang something. So, go in for durability if you don’t want to head to the toy store for something new the very next day.
Also keep maintenance in mind. Is it easily cleaned or machine washable? Does it require frequent battery changes? These little details would also, have an impact on the overall life and durability of the toy.
How Expensive Is It?
A-ha! Manufacturers of children’s toys know that they have an extremely good market. Kids want. Parents get. Simple and easy. Which is why it is so important to keep a healthy balance and not go overboard spending on toys. My husband and I agree completely on this and so, if we find a toy that fits all our criteria but costs more than what we expected, we would probably buy it. But not always. And only if we feel that our daughter would really benefit in some way by having that toy.
We, also, do a lot of Toy Rotation, which means that every week, I take out a few toys from the toy chest and put back a few that she’s been playing with. I take care not to remove ‘hot favorites’ since that would lead to tears and tantrums. However, I do keep giving her some ‘new’ toys to play with and this keeps the element of novelty alive. You could start the same thing with other moms in your playgroup if your respective toddlers are not too destructive.
For the most part, we believe in creating play situations, using ‘toys’ from around the house, such as, unbreakable plates, glasses, wooden spoons, empty cartons, snack jars filled with pasta shapes, plastic water bottles, and other unbreakable household items, as well as engaging in a lot of interactive play with her. So what do you do? Do share your tips, ideas and favorite toddler toys.