When Buying Toys For Holiday Gifts...

Toys are more than just something to play with, toys should be fun but they should also be age appropriate, stimulating and safe. Toys should be thought of as developmental learning tools as they are so important in the social, mental, physical and emotional development of children. A toy that does too much doesn’t allow a child to use their imagination. When a toy is too specific, it limits a child's ability to use their own imagination, however simple toys like blocks allow children to be creative and spontaneous.

Choose toys that children will enjoy and are able to master and that are right for their stage of development. Some suggestions for the types of toys kids benefit from most as they go through different stages:

0 - 6 months: Infants are fascinated with simple black and white visuals that move and have sounds. They are discovering their own bodies, working on eye-hand coordination, reaching and grasping. Toys that are appropriate at this age include push/pull toys, blocks, nesting cups, stacking rings, shape sorters and simple take-apart toys.

6 - 8 months: At this age children are learning cause and effect and they will repeat activities over and over in order to master them. They are able to hold small toys and like to transfer toys from hand to hand and into and out of containers. The same toys used by infants 0 - 6 months are also appropriate for this age; they will be able to use them in different ways.

8 - 18 months: This is the age when children begin to foresee results, decide on a goal, and deliberately take some action to make it happen. They also begin experimenting with size, shape and space. At this age the same types of toys they have been playing with are still age appropriate and will be used more child directed than needing constant adult assistance.

18 - 24 months: Toddlers are beginning to enjoy “pretend” play. A great way for a child to learn is to introduce dress-up clothing, dolls, kitchen sets, and toy cars/trucks/buses. Allowing a child to use their imagination and tell their own story.

2 - 4 years: During the preschool years children learn a lot about socialization and they continue to do a lot of pretend play. Giving children miniature farms, construction toys, house sets etc. allow them to exercise their imagination. To help develop their creative side give children large crayons, finger paints, and play-doh. At this age children will also make huge gains in both fine and gross motor skills. Toys that are appropriate include puzzles, large Legos, blocks and other construction toys. Don’t forget about the noisy toys that children also enjoy; hammer-and-peg, drums and other musical instruments.