When thinking about what kind of toy to buy for a child, it's important to consider the age and personality of the child. When children play, they're learning how to interact with others, define themselves, and learn new skills. It's important to put materials in front of them that encourage this process.
Consider the individual child's personality. Do they like to be outdoors? Are they creative? Do they have a specific hobby or sport that they love? If you cater to the things that this child likes to do, odds are they'll enjoy the gift. While individuality is important, two of the biggest things to pay attention to when shopping for a kids toy are age and safety measures:
What toys are age appropriate for my child?
After safety, age range is probably the most important consideration while shopping for kids toys. Areas of focus, developmental skills, and overall interests change drastically from year to year.
Preschool age is generally considered to be between 3 and 5 years old. For children in this age range, creativity and learning are vital. Preschoolers are curious, and want to learn more about how and why things work the way they do. Pretend play is very popular at this age, as are books and crafts. Preschoolers want toys with personality, so often toys that are modeled after their favorite book and TV characters are popular.
For school-aged children (between 5 to 9 years old), developing social skills, working on teamwork, education, and building self-esteem are very important. Educational online and computer games are great choices, as are toys that teach them how to work with others and yet be independent. This is the age where children really have a personality. Choose a toy that pays tribute to their individuality, and the things they love to do.
Pre-teens (between 9 to 12 years old) may start to lose interest in the idea of toys. Spending time with friends and working on self-esteem tend to be what's important to this age group. Puzzles, board games, electronic games, and sports related games are often popular choices for preteens, since they encourage group activities, and help show off specific skills.
What toys are safe for my child?
Above all else, make sure that the toy you purchase is safe for the child who will use it. A good place to start is to check the label. In the United States there should be one from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and in Europe there should be one from Certificate European. Watch out for toy recalls and check these commissions' websites if you're concerned about a product.
Watch out for choking hazards. This is partly why paying attention to age range labels is so important — it can help you avoid purchasing a toy for a young child that contains choking hazards. Avoid toys that are made with any kind of material that can break or have jagged edges, and make sure that any toy with a cord or string isn't long enough to endanger a child. Stuffed toys should always be washable, and painted toys should always be painted with lead-free paint. Art supplies should be labeled as non-toxic. Any art supplies should say ASTM D-4236 on the label, which means they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Avoid loud toys that can damage your child's hearing. Even if the sound is brief — like that from a cap gun or a horn — it can still cause serious damage. Children often hold these items directly to their ears, making them even more dangerous. If you buy a mobile toy (like a bike or scooter), buy a helmet and safety pads to go along with it.
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