Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Toys: My Holiday Picks

I love shopping for toys, and with 17 grandchildren I get plenty of opportunities to do so.  If play is the work of childhood, then toys are the tools.  Carefully chosen toys give children the means to explore their world and to acquire a plethora of important skills and knowledge.  Unlike traditional tools however, the best toys are open-ended, with a generalized purpose.  In carpentry for example, certain jobs require very specific tools. In play, good toys should be used in multiple ways, only limited by a child's imagination.  Think of a set of unit blocks, which are a staple in early childhood classrooms.  Children can build towers, farms, skyscrapers, zoos, neighborhoods, roads, or any structure that they might dream up.  Blocks are sometimes used to take the place of people or planes or trees. (This sort of representational play is actually quite sophisticated, and is a prerequisite to reading and creativity.)   Some other basic super toys for children of all ages include play-doh, art supplies (crayons, paints, markers...), balls, vehicles, dolls, books, puzzles, and riding toys.  

  Toys are the best gifts to give to children because they are appreciated so much more than anything practical.  And isn't the point of gift-giving to bring joy to the recipient?  When choosing a gift,  the first consideration should be the child's interests and current developmental levels.  A good toy will bring her hours if not years of fun. My own grandchildren range in age from 7 months to 17 years, so I thought it might be helpful to share some of my gift ideas for different age groups.  If you know any of my grandchildren, please don't tell!

My youngest granddaughter is the fourth child in her family.  I'm getting her a soft doll and money for spring clothes.  Toy shopping for Infants can be difficult because they neither need nor appreciate toys.  They are just as happy to grab and mouth a paper cup as an expensive teething toy.  That being said, board books are good infant toys, as are play mats and bouncers.  As they pass their first birthday, they might enjoy walker toys (they hold on and toddle), an outdoor swing, banging toys like balls and hammers, nesting toys, soft blocks, or a toy piano.  A favorite toy I gave my one year olds was a rocking horse.

Twos are ready to manipulate their fine motor muscles.  They like farm houses with little animals, or garages with small cars and an elevator they can crank up and down.  Peg boards, large beads for lacing, Mr. Potato Head, shape sorters, all work their fine muscles and are great fun.  Twos also enjoy bath toys and riding toys that they move by pushing their feet. The best two year old toy I've given was probably a wagon.  Kids love to ride and pull their friends, and parents find them useful at parks and zoos.

Three year olds are busy acquiring language and beginning to play imaginatively.   They're steadier on their feet and ready for large muscle toys.  Previous gifts I've gotten for three year olds were hoppers (to sit on and bounce), trikes, scooters, dolls and accessories, floor puzzles, dress-ups, puppets, tool kits, and basketball hoops.  The most popular were probably the play kitchens I got for each family.  This year, I have three three-year old grandchildren:  two boys and a girl.  I got my granddaughter Spin Art.  I got both grandsons something called Tap and Tack.  It's a cork board that comes with various wooden shapes, each with a little hole, and child-safe nails and hammer.  They'll hammer the shapes onto the board and make up their own designs. 

Fours and fives will enjoy many of the same toys as threes.  As their skills are more advanced, they begin to play simple board games like Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or Connect Four.  They may advance from trikes to two-wheelers, from Duplos to Legos.  This year, four of my grandchildren are six years old:  two girls and two boys.  One girl is getting a play-school set.  It comes with a chalkboard, chalk, name plates, prizes... she picked it out of a catalog (lakeshorelearning.com).  I bought her cousin a set of tangrams.  It's a magnetic set, with shapes that can be arranged to look like animals.  One of my boys is getting a set of walkie-talkies, and the other is getting a build-your-own creature with remote control capabilities.  He  picked it from the same catalog.  

There are two eight year olds, one nine year old, one ten year old, and two eleven year olds in our family.   Only one of the eight year olds is a girl.  She chose the same school play set as her six year old cousin. Her eight year old cousin is getting a complete 2017 set of baseball cards.  The nine, ten, and one eleven year old are all getting  ATM style savings banks.  They love money and have collected empty bottles and set up lemonade stands to earn some, so I know this will be a hit.  The other eleven year old is getting Boggle, a word game he can play with his siblings.

We have three teenage grandchildren. They are impossible to shop for.  Even if I think of something they might like, teens in general are very picky.  So they are each getting money, and I know they will be thrilled.

As much as I love buying toys, there are times when the best present is a special one-on-one outing.  Giving individual attention to one child, maybe attending a game or show, is a priceless gift for both the recipient and the giver! 

 It's so much fun to give to our children, to make them happy.  I hope you enjoy shopping and are rewarded with lots of smiles and hugs and days filled with play.

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