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Archive for Monday, December 8, 1997

KEY TO CHOOSING TOYS

December 8, 1997

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Tips on Toys

Gayle Anderson

Each year, some 5,000 new toys enter the marketplace. The holiday season finds more than 150,000 kinds of toys for sale in approximately 1 million stores.

According to the Toy Manufacturers of America, more than 60 percent of toy purchases are made during this holiday season. Despite the efforts of manufacturers, retailers, safety inspectors and others, it is impossible to ensure the safety of every toy. Parents and other relatives should check new and old toys for possible hazards.

Choose your child's toys with care, based on the child's age, interests and skill level. Look for good design and quality construction. Children need different toys at different stages of their growth. Think about these questions as you select that special toy.

Is it appropriate?

Choose for lasting appeal: Is a so-called "educational toy" really enjoyable?

Avoid toys that are too complex for young children. Children have personal preferences. A toy that holds the attention of one may go unnoticed by another. Experiment and discover your child's taste.

Choose for age level: Is the age recommendation on the package correct for your child?

The suggested age range indicates toys that are appealing as well as safe. Toys that may be safe for older children can be extremely dangerous in the hands of little ones.

Choose for visual appeal: Are there bright colors or contrasts?

Light and dark are more appealing than the traditional pale pinks and blues. Early toys should be selected from the infant's point of view, not the adult's.

Choose for growth and development: Is the toy teaching a value you want your child to learn?

You can enhance the appeal of a toy by altering it slightly once the child has become used to its original form.

Is it safe?

Prevent choking: Are there long strings or cords?

Be sure to discard bags the toy may have been packaged in.

Prevent swallowing: Are the pieces larger than 2 inches?

Tiny toys or small parts from toys can be swallowed or become lodged in a child's windpipe, ears or nose. Older children may damage a toy through mishandling, leaving it unsafe for a baby.

Are there weak seams or loose parts? Small pellets from poorly constructed seams in dolls or stuffed animals can be swallowed or inhaled.

Prevent poisoning: Was nontoxic paint or glue used?

Prevent cuts: Does it have sharp points or edges?

Is it unbreakable? Broken toys can expose dangerous prongs and knife-sharp points. Even some stuffed toys are assembled with wires that can cut or stab.

Other questions

Will it bring forth wholesome, playful activity?

Will it build self-confidence?

Does it encourage the use of expressive language?

Can it be used with a friend? Two friends?

Parents should be attuned to the kind of stimulation that interests their child. Choosing your baby's toys will inspire you to observe his behaviors more closely and think more carefully about his stages of development and individuality.

--Gayle Anderson is a parent educator with Parents as Teachers, Lawrence Public Schools.

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