Toys. Kids love them. But as a parent, how do you determine which ones offer some sustenance and which are useless, moneymaking gadgets designed for visual appeal? Recently at a local toy store, my husband and I became dismayed when we looked down into the shopping cart. For our two-year-old, we were purchasing board books, Play-Doh, and magnetic letters and numbers with the intention of enhancing his language and creative skills. But for our nine-year-old, there was a pack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards and an electronic football game. Where along the line did our focus switch from educational toys to amusements for our oldest son? Perhaps when he began to select his own purchases. In any case, how can parents return a child’s interest to toys that provide some educational benefit, and how are such toys found?
It is difficult to compete with the newest trends in meaningless thingamabobs, as children are bombarded with advertisements and commercials every day. But several organizations help parents determine the best toys for their children. For example, the Parents’ Choice Foundation gives awards to toys that “help kids grow imaginatively, physically, morally and mentally.” The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio evaluates products according to their educational and play value, safety, and age appropriateness. The National Association for Gifted Children publishes a holiday toy list each year that profiles toys with educational value. Dr. Toy features the toy recommendations of Stevanne Auerbach, author of Dr. Toy’s Smart Play: How to Raise a Child with a High PQ (Play Quotient) (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998).
So, don’t be dismayed this holiday season about the scarcity of toys that provide high-quality intellectual stimulation. These organizations provide some sound recommendations. In addition, if there are some great educational toys that have been a hit with your child, please share with other DGL readers. Good luck!
—Kristen R. Stephens, PhD