Choosing toys: mom’s agenda or kid’s choice?

One of the first toys I ever bought for Tristan was a Fisher-Price classic: the Brilliant Basics Rock-a-Stack. He was too little to do much more than even grasp the smallest ring in his fat little fingers and drool on it, but it stayed in the every-day toybox (the one we dumped every day and picked up every night) for years and each boy took his turn learning to carefully stack the coloured rings on the tippy yellow pole. It’s not a complicated toy, but I wasn’t surprised to hear from Fisher-Price’s play expert Dr Kathleen Alfano during our visit to Mexico earlier this month that it’s a world-wide best seller.

Of course, I didn’t buy the toy expecting that it would help Tristan pass his high school trigonometry exams, but I do admit to buying more than a few toys because I hoped or believed they would help the boys reach some developmental milestones. Now that the boys are older, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of where their strengths and interests lie, but when they were babies I would have been grateful for the new playtime guide that Fisher-Price has started putting on its toys and features on its website.

As Dr Alfano explained to us, by way of this quote from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” That’s why the elements of enrichment are grouped into those three developmental domains: physical, cognitive and social/emotional. Dr Alfano used the Rock-a-Stack example of how the even the simplest toy can bridge many of these elements and can provide “a wonderful combination of simplicity and challenge: problem-solving thinking, trial and error, self-correcting, intrinsic learnings, size relationships, sequencing, colors, how many…” That’s a lot of learning packed into one well-drooled-upon little toy!

So I admit, I’ve always got my hidden mom’s agenda when choosing toys. Things that sway me are toys that encourage collaborative or imaginative play, toys that can be used in more than one way or encourage creativity, good quality (they take a beating over the course of three boys, our toys do), and of course, price. Perhaps, then, it’s lucky for the boys that the person actually in charge of most of the toy choosing in our family is Beloved, who is deeply in touch with his inner boy and much more attuned to what the boys want in their dearest secret hearts than I am. You have to give me points for trying, though, right?

Don’t get me wrong, now that the boys are old enough to covet things, there are plenty of toys that I consider junk that they’ll get just because they are kids and sometimes kids do love junk. But I’m trying to at least explain to them as we go why I think it’s junk. Most toys based on video-game or animé TV shows fall into this category and my kids know it.

Care to share your thoughts on buying toys? What sways you when you choose toys for your kids? What resources do you use to help in your decisions – toy buying guides, reviews, recommendations? (I am deeply swayed by recommendations, especially from friends. I would have never picked up the hex bugs that our boys so love if I hadn’t read about them online.) Do you plan ahead for what you want, or wander aimlessly through the toy store until something grabs your attention? (I always feel like a fish out of water when I do this – if I don’t have a plan going in, I’m likely to come out empty-handed and anxious, or I over-buy.)

What are the most important factors that influence what toys you purchase?

Disclosure: I am a Fisher-Price Play Ambassador and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are ALWAYS my own.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

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