If you’re still in the market toys for the boy or girl on your holiday list, don’t feel pressured to buy the latest electronic gadget. Although video games, the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, and Apple iPad are among the top must-haves toys for boys and girls this year, there’s also a big demand for the classics, like LEGOs, dolls and toy cars, according to the National Retail Federation. Their holiday survey reveals that 45 percent of consumers have toys on their shopping list.
If you’re among them, go to the toy store with a game plan. Even if you’re shopping at the last minute, look for toys with high play value. Ask yourself: What can my child or grandchild do with this toy? Kids can be passionate about Sponge Bob and other characters because they read about them, or see them in the media and in ads.
“But if a toy has nothing to offer beyond the character, don’t buy it,” says Richard Gottlieb, an international toy industry expert in New York City. A better bet: Select toys that require creativity, such as building blocks, nontoxic art supplies, educational video games, musical instruments, and sports equipment. Kids will play with them longer because their uses are unlimited.
Keep safety in mind too. Regardless of your child's age, don't buy toys with small magnets, even if they seem safely contained within the toy. If the toy breaks and the magnets fall out, they could be accidentally swallowed. Also, buy according to a child’s age. Look for the manufacturer's recommended age range on the toy package—and take it seriously.
More than a friendly hint, age grading can alert you to a possible choking hazard, the presence of small parts, and other dangers. It also relates to a toy’s play value. Although you may think a more “advanced” toy will present a welcome challenge, it could be a source of frustration if it’s inappropriate for your child’s stage of development. Also, think twice before buying a toy with small parts for a child older than 3 who has a younger sibling. The younger child will probably find a way to get the toy.