Almost every parent has bought their toddler a new toy expecting him to completely love it, only to find out that he seems to enjoy the box that it came in more than the toy itself. While there is no way to really avoid this, it is important to evaluate the toys you’re considering purchasing for your toddler before handing over the money for them. When shopping for toddler toys, consider the following things before you buy:
- Does the child already have similar toys? When shopping for toys, does it seem like you are attracted to the same type repeatedly? Make sure to have an idea of what you already own before you go shopping so you don’t purchase the same toy or something similar.
- Do you have room for the toy? Sometimes toys are so cool that you buy them without thinking about the logistics of getting them home or storing them once you get them there. It’s especially important to ask yourself if you have room when shopping at garage sales and consignment sales. If you see a large toy that is marked at a really good price instead of impulsively buying it think about where and how your toddler is going to use the toy first. If you have room for it and it will get good use then it will probably be a good purchase. But if you’re just enamored with the cool factor of the toy then you may want to rethink buying it.
- Are there any educational benefits? Not all toys have to be educational, but it’s a nice perk if they are. Toddler brains are little sponges and if their toys aren’t educational then it’s just a missed opportunity for them to learn something new. Toddlers don’t see learning as a chore. To them it’s fun!
- Is the toy age appropriate? One of the most important things to consider when buying a toddler toy is to make sure that it’s appropriate for the toddler to play with. Reading the recommended ages listed on the toy packaging can help you determine if it may be appropriate for your toddler. Even if the toy looks simple to use, if it is too advanced or requires him to have the fine motor skills he just hasn’t developed yet he won’t enjoy it and it will collect dust until he gets old enough to play with it.
- Is the toy recalled? It’s not uncommon for parents to get toys from friends and family that are hand-me-downs, or for parents to purchase toys at garage sales or consignment shops to save money. Make sure that the toys you inherit or purchase were not recalled due to a safety issue. Don’t rely on others to catch these recalls. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website before giving your child secondhand toys to play with.
- Does it require batteries? Before purchasing a toddler toy, consider how many batteries it takes. The cost of replacing batteries adds up fast. As a general rule, the more a toy does by itself, the less a toddler can do with it.
- How will the child use it? Take a moment to consider the way in which the child will use the toy that you purchase for him. If the toy does a lot for the child, what is left for the child to do? If you’re looking to purchase a toy to keep in the car for long rides, will the toy you’re considering be a good choice? These are important to questions to ask before making a purchase.
- Is the toy safe? Just because a toy has not been recalled, doesn’t mean that it’s safe for your child. Every child is different and you will need to consider your own child and his developmental level before deeming that a toy would be appropriate for him.
- Has the toy been recommended? Instead of buying a toy on impulse, it’s a good idea to research what kind of toys parents and experts are recommending. Many times certain toys will be endorsed by pediatricians or recommended by your nanny or by friends who are also moms. Consider what others are saying about the toys they have and the ones you are thinking about purchasing. Reading reviews from other parents can also be helpful in determining if the toy is worth purchasing.
- Does the toy encourage your child to use his imagination? As toys become more and more sophisticated, sometimes they just do too much. Basic toys like blocks and plastic food give toddlers the opportunity to pretend and to use their imagination. Is a mini kitchen better if the phone actually rings and the knobs on the oven really turn? Or can the child use their imagination and have them occur in the world of make believe? According to a study conducted by the Children’s Research Laboratory, there’s a direct link between imagination and cognitive learning.
While giving your toddler new toys can be fun, think through your purchases before you buy. When you do, you give yourself the opportunity to consider if the toy is really worth buying, or if it’s a toy that won’t be missed if you don’t purchase it.