How can I decide which toys are best for my child?

By Kathleen Alfano

Dawn, this is a difficult question to answer without knowing a little bit about your children, such as their ages and interests, what toys they already have and like to play with, and what toys they tend to ignore, if any. I'll do my best to give you some useful information, however.

Basically, children don't need to have lots of toys. Having a variety of different types of toys is what's important—toys for active times and quiet times, indoor toys and outdoor toys, toys to spark the imagination and encourage role play (such as tea sets and doctor kits), and toys for manipulative and constructive play (such as puzzles and blocks). And sometimes, just a small addition to the toy collection can spice up the play; for example, a new animal for a farm playset can revive interest and begin a whole new cycle of play. Also important is having a place, or places, to neatly store all of the toys; if you can't do that, there are probably too many toys out for your children to choose from. Put some in storage, and rotate them back into circulation every so often.

Deciding what toys to buy can be an overwhelming experience, especially with all of the toys available today. But I have found that parents have a good sense of what their children will think is fun. Look for quality, be mindful of the toys your children already have and choose toys that complement them and can add richness to the play. And go with your instincts, Dawn, because you're the one with the most knowledge about your children and can decide which toys are best for them and which ones they can live without. Occasionally, you may find a certain toy doesn't have the appeal you thought it would. It might just be a matter of timing: Try putting it away for now, and bring it out for a different day or week. And once in a while, look for new and exciting toys to encourage your children to branch out, learn new things and experience new ways of playing.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.