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Use Good Judgement When Choosing Toys
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Everyone loves to see a child's face light up over a special gift on Christmas morning, but adults need to think beyond Dec. 25 as they shop for children's toys.
"Many adults buy gifts with the goal of seeing an excited reaction to the newly opened present," said Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist at Mississippi State University. "But the real test of success will be the amount of and quality of play with the toys. How long will the child play with it? How will the toy benefit the child's development?"
Davis said the answer does not rest on the price tag, and excessive spending is not a good idea with children.
"Young children cannot comprehend cost, and their favorite toys often are the least expensive," Davis said. "Stressing the budget to make the family happy can backfire by causing extra tension. The children may even feel responsible for the stress."
Here are some guidelines for choosing children's toys:
* Choose toys that foster creative play. Will it stimulate the child's initiative, imagination and skills?
* Toys that require decision-making can help build self- confidence. Choose toys that help children learn how to learn.
* Select "kid-powered" toys. Batteries can be undependable and costly.
* Make sure children have a wide variety of toys, not all books or all balls. Choose toys for all the child's developing needs.
* Choose toys that will grow with the child. These toys must be sturdy to last several years.
Davis recommended gifts with open-ended activities that will stretch the child's imagination.
"Art supplies -- like colors, paper, paint -- or boxes with costume-type clothes can entertain children for hours," Davis said. "Kitchen sets, doll houses, balls and construction toys can be enjoyed long after Christmas day."
Watch the age appropriateness of each gift. Don't rush children to toys for older ages.
Safety is a major consideration for all ages, but especially for those under 3. Davis said to make sure all toy pieces are larger than the end of a toilet paper tube.
When giving gifts like bicycles, skates and skateboards, include safety equipment like helmets and kneepads.
"The most important gifts cannot be purchased. They are the gifts of time, patience and a high self-esteem," Davis said. "Parents should not let the stress of gift buying hinder a healthy relationship with their children."