Do you remember that old chestnut of a saying: “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye”? Like all ‘old chestnuts,’ there’s an element of truth in those words. Toys for kids should be epic, should capture their attention, and their imaginations. But they also need to be safe. With the holiday season fast approaching, here are a few things to keep in mind with every age group, when it comes to safe AND fun toys!
Under 3 years old
With toddlers and babies, toys need to be bright and colorful with no small parts. Rule of thumb? If it’s small enough to put into the an empty toilet paper roll, it’s too small for baby. Little kids put things in their mouths and risk choking on a tiny toy.
Also, pay attention to what the toys are made of, and where they are made. Plastic toys can contain toxic paint—containing lead—particularly when they come from countries where the rules about manufacturing are less stringent. Make sure the toys are labeled non-toxic.
If you’re buying toys for a young child who is likely to put it in or near their mouths, you also have to consider what it has on it that could come apart or come off in their mouth. Eyes on stuffed animals, for example, are safer if they are embroidered rather than plastic that is sewn or glued on. Anything battery operated should have the battery compartment secured with a screw so that they cannot be opened and the batteries ingested.
Kids at this age are sponges for new and interesting information. Toys that help them learn words or colors are great options. Music is also a big baby crowd pleaser, so a toy that plays a song when they activate is ideal. But be weary of any toys that don’t have some kind of volume control: a too loud sound can be damaging to little ears.
Some good ideas that spark the imagination:
- Books (board books)
- Non-marking crayons
- Dress up
- Large blocks
- Water table
- Puzzles (large size)
4-6 year olds
From this point on, the concern is less that a child will put something in their mouths and choke and more that they will simply do themselves harm by being ill equipped. Like what? Skateboards, scooters and bicycles are all popular at this point, but they must include ALL the necessary safety gear: helmets and pads.
Safety can also be about making sure that others in the house are always safe. While building toys are often popular at this age, they are dangerous for a younger sibling and for pets, to say nothing of parents walking through a room in the dark, at night! Teaching kids to put away their toys is a major factor in safety.
Pay attention to age appropriate label but remember that it is only a guidelines. Many toys are marked as suitable 6+ but that doesn’t mean that every 6 year old will be able to handle it.
Some good ideas that spark the imagination?
- Problem solving with puzzles
- Toys for building such as magnetic tiles
- Toys for creating – modeling clay, playdough, paint
- Toys for pretending – dress up, dolls, tents
6-8 year olds
Toys that spark the imagination are more complex at this point: kids are developing their own interests, so finding toys that will enhance those interests in an educational way is ideal.
Example? If your child is into building things, a kit for building a robot might be just the ticket. Or a science kit for the one who likes to mix things. It’s still important to check ingredients on these types of toys because while a 7 year old isn’t likely to put the glow in the dark goop they just made in their mouths, they may neglect to wash their hands and then proceed to eat a cookie, goop and all!
At this stage, age appropriateness becomes very important. You don’t want to be purchasing toys that are too advanced for them: these are just discouraging and will be ignored. Nor do you want toys that are too big for them: it might seem like a good idea to buy that bike one size up, so it lasts longer, but it’s also more likely that the child will get hurt learning to use it.
8-11 year olds
Technology is the wave of the future and the children growing up now will know a different world from the one we grew up in (what with rotary telephones and the like!) so make sure that their engagement with technology isn’t just passive: where they consume content like YouTube, without learning or engaging. Active technology, like remote control vehicles, robotics, tools for writing stories or creating and editing videos are the the first steps to learning how to code and compute in the coming world.
With all electronic toys, however, make sure that that are certified UL. This means that they have been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories. This is a certification company with a standard accepted worldwide to ensure that electrical components have been tested and inspected against international standards and found to be acceptable.
Keep a close eye on the toys you buy and those that are bought for your children, to make sure they are safe and fun, so a happy holiday season can be shared by all!
Shlome Knopfler is the Founder/CEO of Shape Mags. Shape Mags magnetic tile building sets give little builders the opportunity to create castles, bridges, trains, buildings, pyramids, rockets, and more…the possibilities are endless. Shape Mags will be a valuable part of your child’s cognitive development, as the construction stimulates right side brain training, promotes creativity, and assists your child with spatial problem-solving tasks, pattern recognition, motor skills, logical thinking, and math reasoning. Visit www.shapemags.com.
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