Friday, June 10, 2011

Choosing Toys for Children

Choosing Toys

Toys don't have to be expensive. After all, cardboard boxes in the backyard and measuring cups in the sink are favorite standards. But when you do need to purchase toys, you may find it helpful to know what toys to choose and which to avoid for children of different ages.

Infants & Toddlers

Infants and toddlers learn about the world through their senses. They are interested in the sight, sound, smell, texture, and taste of things. Objects that can be squeezed, dropped, poked, twisted, or thrown are sure to cause delight. Toddlers also enjoy any item that can be stacked, poured, opened, closed, pushed, or pulled.


Preschool children learn by doing. They are busy developing new skills. They like drawing, painting, and building. They also spend a great deal of time pretending. Dress-up clothes, pretend "props," and puppets are big favorites. Preschoolers are energetic and active. They need large balls to roll and throw, wagons to pull, and tricycles to ride.

School-age Children

School-age children feel more grown-up and love activities that lead to "real products" such as jewelry, "designer" T-shirts, or stamp collections. They also develop a keen interest in sports and enjoy having adult-like physical equipment such as softball gloves, tennis rackets, or skates. They have a better understanding of rules and enjoy playing with others. Board games, cards, or dominoes teach math concepts and problem-solving skills.

In addition to choosing age-appropriate toys, it's also a good idea to get several sets of popular toys. Young children often have difficulty sharing. Toddlers simply do not understand the concept and preschoolers have very limited skills in trading or negotiating. Have several play telephones and a ball for each child to make the day go more smoothly.

Before you buy. . .

You will be spending money and time choosing and buying toys. Here are some questions for you that can help you get going on the right track with toys and equipment:

  • Will children of different ages enjoy it?
  • Is the toy durable? Will it last?
  • Is the toy safe?
  • Can the toy be used in a variety of ways?
  • Does this toy encourage cooperation or does it encourage aggression or violence?
  • Is it easy to clean?
  • Can I buy a more useful toy for the same money?
  • Do I need more of these for the number and ages of children in my home?
  • Do I have something at home that is similar and for the same kind of play?
  • Is this item essential? Can it wait?

Toys and Safety

More than 120,000 children are taken to hospital emergency rooms each year for treatment of toy-related injuries. Evaluate toys for the children in your care from the standpoint of safety. The following are some guidelines:

    • Choose toys appropriate to the child's age. Some toys intended for children more than 3 years old may contain small parts which could present a choking hazard for infants and toddlers. Toddlers should never play with anything that is smaller than a half dollar.
    • Think BIG when selecting toys, especially for children under age three. Big toys without small parts can be enjoyed by youngsters of different ages. Keep toys intended for older children, such as games with small pieces, marbles, or small balls, away from younger children.
    • Keep uninflated balloons out of reach for children under age 6 and discard pieces of broken balloons because of the choking hazard.
    • Explain and show children the proper use of safety equipment such as bicycle helmets. Studies show that helmets can reduce severe injuries from a fall.
    • Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged toys can be dangerous and should be repaired or thrown away immediately.
    • Store toys safely. Teach children to put toys away so they are not tripping hazards. Periodically check toy boxes and shelves for safety.

Toys to Choose - Toys to Avoid



  • Brightly colored objects
  • Pictures within view but out of reach
  • Mobiles that have objects attached with cords less than 12 inches long
  • Unbreakable toys that rattle or squeak
  • Washable dolls or animals with embroidered eyes
  • Stacking ring cones
  • Tapes or records with gentle music


  • Toys with parts smaller than 1 1/4 inches (about the size of a half dollar)
  • Toys with sharp edges
  • Toys with detachable small parts
  • Toys with toxic paint
  • Toys with cords more than 12 inches long
  • Stuffed animals with glass or button eyes
  • Balloons
  • Push and pull toys



  • Books with cloth or stiff pasteboard pages
  • Non-glass mirrors
  • Take-apart toys with large pieces
  • Blocks - foam, plastic, or cardboard
  • Nested boxes or cups
  • Musical and chime toys
  • Floating tub toys
  • Pounding and stacking toys


  • Small toys that can be swallowed
  • Toys with small removable parts
  • Stuffed animals with glass or button eyes
  • Toys with sharp edges
  • Balloons



  • Play dough
  • Large crayons
  • Pegboards with large pieces
  • Low rocking horses
  • Sandbox toys
  • Soft balls of different sizes
  • Cars or wagons to push
  • Simple musical instruments
  • Simple dress-up items like hats, scarves, shoes
  • Sturdy riding toys
  • Books with rhymes, pictures, jingles


  • Toys with sharp edges
  • Toys with small removable parts
  • Small objects such as beads, coins, or marbles
  • Electrical toys
  • Lead toys
  • Tricycles with seats higher than 12 inches
  • Riding toys used in hilly or inclined driveways
  • Balloons



  • Dolls with simple clothes
  • Balls of all sizes
  • Nonelectrical trucks, tractors, trains
  • Building blocks
  • Toy telephones
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Sturdy play dishes
  • Plastic interlocking blocks
  • Blunt scissors
  • Play dough
  • Washable markers, large crayons
  • Sewing cards
  • Simple board games
  • Books
  • Simple puzzles


  • Electrical toys
  • Lead toys
  • Flammable costumes
  • Toys with sharp edges or small, removable parts
  • Riding toys used in hilly or inclined driveways



  • Building blocks
  • Simple construction sets
  • Modeling clay
  • Nonelectrical trains, battery operated toys
  • Puppets and puppet theaters
  • Finger paints
  • Stencils
  • Board and card games
  • Simple musical instruments
  • Small sports equipment
  • Bicycles for 4- to 7-year-olds with 20-inch wheels and training wheels (all should wear bike helmets)
  • Books
  • 9- to 24-piece puzzles


  • Toxic or oil-based paint sets
  • Flammable costumes or ones that can be easily tripped over
  • Kites made of aluminized polyester film (this material conducts electricity)
  • Electrical toys (unless battery operated)
  • Shooting toys with darts with pointed tips
  • Fireworks of any kind
  • Lawn darts



  • Construction sets
  • Sleds, roller skates
  • Sewing materials
  • Simple cameras, film
  • Printing and stamp sets
  • Paints, colored pencils
  • Sketch pads
  • Kites
  • Battery powered electrical toys (Underwriters Laboratory approved)
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Dominoes
  • Board games
  • Simple tool sets
  • Dolls
  • Magnets, magnifiers
  • Simple calculator
  • Bicycles (24-inch wheels)


  • Kites made of aluminized polyester film (this material conducts electricity)
  • Shooting toys and toys with loud noises like cap guns
  • Fireworks of any kind
  • Sharp-edged tools
  • Electrical toys run on household current
  • Bike or skateboard riding without helmets



  • Hobby materials
  • Arts and crafts materials
  • Musical instruments
  • Sports equipment
  • Camping equipment
  • Construction sets
  • Electric trains
  • Bicycles (26-inch wheels for kids 10 and older)
  • Models


  • Fireworks of any kind
  • Air rifles, chemistry sets, darts, and arrows (unless with parental supervision)
  • Bike or skateboard riding without helmets

Reprinted with permission from National Network for Child Care - NNCC.

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