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Stocking the Essential Toy Box
By Kathleen Alfano
Toys that encourage children to imitate real life:
Playsets with miniature figures, kitchen toys, tea sets, medical kits, pretend telephones—they all help children learn about the world around them by bringing it to their level. Having an interesting selection of dress-up clothes is essential for the same reason.

Toys that inspire problem solving:
Toys like shape sorters, stacking toys and puzzles help children develop the concentration and problem-solving skills they'll need when they go to school and throughout their adult lives.

Toys that invite creativity:
Children love to use paints, crayons and paper. Play dough is great for exercising children's imaginations and helping their manual dexterity, and you can even make it yourself. Building blocks are essential, too—children love to play with blocks, they encourage creativity as well as logical thinking.

Playing with balls of all sizes helps children improve their coordination. Ball games are also great for social interaction, helping children to learn about winning and losing and how to take turns.

Musical toys:
Children love to sing along with, dance to and control the music, and so a durable, child-appropriate CD or tape player and a variety of children's music are highly recommended. Songs with actions are particularly important—they improve coordination, stimulate the memory and are social, too.

Children should have access to as many books as possible. Even if they just pretend to read, they are still exercising their imaginations and their pre-reading skills. Like toys, books should always be kept in good condition so children learn to respect them.

A good toy:
  • is safe and durable.
  • is fun to use.
  • is interesting to the child.
  • stimulates creativity and imagination.
  • encourages inquisitiveness and resourcefulness.
  • is a tool for learning.
  • is challenging, yet not frustrating.
  • invites repeated use.
  • involves child interaction.
  • addresses developing needs and emerging skills.