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It's Playtime!

Ronali is a freelance writer and editor who was granted an Awardicon for A Wonderful Family Article by Writing[dot]com.

As a parent, you will be buying toys for your child to provide him the wonderful experience of play and the challenge of physical and mental stimulation. With this kind of mindset, you may think that expensive toys are the best due to their quality and beauty.

But Marianne Szymanski, founder and president of Toy Tips, Inc. and author of Toy Tips: A Parent’s Essential Guide to Smart Toy Choices, says, "Toys are an investment in a child’s development," and since your child will spend a considerable amount of time with his toys, you should aim to help him get the most out of playtime.

Over the years, a wide variety of toys has been introduced to the market, to the point that the selection extends far beyond dolls, stuffed animals and action figures, and building blocks, Chinese checkers, and chess sets. Certain types of toys have also been created to serve as learning aids, or tools for the developmental intervention of children with special needs.

So to get you started, first take a good look at your child. Take into account the following when choosing the right toy:

its-playtime

Age

What may appeal to a toddler may no longer interest a child who has already started pre-school or grade school. And regardless of age, some toys may be too complicated for certain children, since youngsters develop at different levels in terms of skill and aptitude.

If your child finds that a toy is too much of a burden to play with, he will eventually ignore it. The goal of playtime is to make him relax and enjoy in a safe and healthy way, as well as enhance his mind and creativity. So if your child ends up feeling drained and even more agitated instead of well rested, check to see if the toy may be the possible culprit.

Gender

Boys and girls, having been wired differently from one another, have unique preferences. While certain toys may appeal to both genders, some will undoubtedly be preferred by either a boy or girl.

Also, there had been a lot of valid arguments and discussions over several gender stereotypes. Some are cultural, such as the belief that boys will grow into sissies if they show an interest in dolls.

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As a parent, keep in mind that there are dolls that merely promote vanity. However, in ethnic groups that place a high importance on their culture and heritage, dolls are used to introduce children to the concept of racial diversity. These dolls may bear a distinct appearance that differentiates them from one another, because they teach kids that these differences must be accepted and celebrated as a unique trait of humanity.

Interest

In some cases, parents may cave in to pressure from other parents to purchase toys that they consider “chic,” “current,” or “trendy,” like electronic games that require sophisticated equipment.

Not all children are enamored by video games aimed towards the technologically savvy. In fact, some kids may feel overwhelmed because of the constant barrage of visually stimulating images greatly enhanced by special effects commonly associated with video games.

To avoid any unnecessary conflict, be sure that you have a clear understanding of what turns your child on. If you have a budding artist under your wing, he may ask for a basic set of water colors and paintbrushes. If your little girl is interested in cooking, provide her with miniature cups and saucers, plastic knives, forks and spoons, and maybe even have her wear a toque made of white construction paper.

Safety

Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure buyers of the quality and safety of their toys. Some companies even hire children to act as product “testers.”

Toys that are widely sold in department stores are made to be age-appropriate, or marked according to possible hazards, especially if they contain small parts that may choke a small child.

its-playtime

Time of the Day and Weather

You may dismiss these two as the least likely factors for toy selection, but it's a fact that kids tend to get bored easily during rainy days, when they can't go outside to play with their friends, or when they're not doing homework.

Toys like board games, dominoes, and science kits can be used to fill their time. They're also a good alternative to TV shows and can be helpful if you're trying to wean your children away from mobile devices.

Budget

If you don’t want to spend too much on toys that you know they will someday outgrow, you can assure your kids that they can have fun even if they don’t own the most expensive toys. It can be helpful to have a talk with your children, and make it clear that you’ll be shopping for toys on a budget.

Before taking them on a trip to the toy store, make a mental note of the toys that you already have at home, and determine if it would be worthy to spend money on another stuffed animal, doll, action figure, etc. when you can give your kids the option of owning a different toy. More often than not, it’s also a disadvantage for a child to have too wide a selection of toys.

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