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Buying toys can be a challenge to gift-givers
By Bonnie Coblentz
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Sticker shock, violent themes and product recalls can make holiday toy buying difficult for parents and others with children in their lives.
Buying gifts for children usually means a trip to the online or actual toy store. This year has seen the recall of millions of toys, many because of lead in the paint of some toys made in China and a recent round made in Mexico because they contain parts too small for children.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lists products online that have been recalled. This information can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov. Stores that sell children's toys also typically display lists of products that have been taken from store shelves.
Beth Bell, child and family development area agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Tallahatchie County, said common sense and the age-appropriate information on packaging help when selecting toys as gifts.
“Age recommendations are put on the packages for a reason,” Bell said. “You can also ask the parent for suggestions on what toy the child might want as a gift.”
Consider gifts that promote creativity, such as those where the child must supply the noise and action, or gifts of art supplies or dress-up materials.
“I like to avoid things that promote violence and toys that encourage the child to just sit there and not think about what they are doing or playing with,” Bell said.
Other good gifts for children include gift certificates, savings bonds, cash and items that promote physical activity like a bicycle.
Karen Benson, Extension child and family development area agent in Neshoba County, recommended age-appropriate books for children when the adult does not know the child well.
“Children's books, especially classics like ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?'; ‘Goodnight Moon'; and ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,' are always safe to give,” Benson said.
Other educational toys make good gifts. Benson suggested adults carefully consider the child's developmental stage when selecting toys.
“Crib infants do well with teether toys; toddlers need soft blocks, board or cloth books, and push and pull toys; and preschoolers like puzzles, costumes, colorful picture books, and things that fit together and pull apart,” she said. “If you don't know the child real well or how they play with toys, ask their parent or guardian for a suggestion.”
Once the gift has been chosen, there is still the matter of paying for it.
Financial consultants say to keep holiday spending under 1.5 percent of gross income. This figure includes gifts, decorations and food for holiday parties. On a $50,000 income, the holidays should cost less than $750. That leaves little room for $50 and $100 toys.
Susan Cosgrove, Extension area family resource management specialist in Newton County, said holiday displays, advertising and peer pressure lure shoppers to consume more than they can afford.
“You don't have to spend lots of money to have the holiday spirit,” Cosgrove said. “Many people overspend because they feel trapped by traditions and expectations. Others try to get their children whatever they ask for, and some have to travel great distances to be with family.”
Cosgrove urged families to keep holiday expenses in check by limiting decorating expenses, setting a budget for gifts and shopping for food bargains for the holiday feast.