Tips for Buying Toys for Babies and Toddlers: AAP Report Explained

Children will always be children, but their toys have changed, and choosing a toy can be overwhelming!

We are continually bombarded by countless choices of toys with sounds or lights that stimulate the senses, and digital media products with software and applications designed for children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics report, Choosing Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Age, offers a guide that can help you navigate the aisles of toy stores. The best toys are those that match the child’s development and abilities and that encourage the development of new skills.         

Back to basics: traditional toy categories

Symbolic /  Pretend – Pretending using certain toys that represent figures (such as  dolls, animals, and action figures ) and toys that represent objects (such as food, cars, planes, and buildings ) can help children use words and stories to imitate, describe, and deal with emotions and events in everyday life. Imagination is the key! Pretend play is an important part of a child’s emotional and social development.

Fine motor / adaptive / manipulative skills – Children can learn to solve problems with some traditional toys (such as blocks, figures / molds, puzzles, and trains ). These types of toys promote fine motor skills and can improve language and brain development. Some of these toys can also develop early math skills. Buy Baby Activity Equipment

Art  – High quality doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Simple things like cardboard boxes or paper notebooks can still make little ones happy. The coloring books, crayons (crayons), markers, modeling clay, stickers  can be great gifts to develop creativity and help improve fine motor skills.  

Language / concepts  – In the last two decades, many of the traditional toys are now available in digital versions. And new toys are built to replace human interaction. For example, a teddy bear can read a story out loud or a board game can be played in an mobile application with virtual players. However, real human interactions are essential for a child’s growth and development. Digital toys should never replace face-to-face play. Traditional playing cards and board games  (not video game or app versions) and even toy letters and books  can create opportunities for you and your child to bond and have fun together.   

Gross motor / physical skills – Toys that include physical activity (such as playing with  balls, push / pull toys, riding toys, and tricycles ) can aid physical development and improve self-regulation and interaction with peers, as they have to negotiate rules that usually come up when children play together.

Tips to keep in mind when shopping for toys:  

Be skeptical (incredulous) of toy labels claiming to be “educational.” The truth is that most tablets, computer games and applications that are promoted as “educational” are not. Most “educational” applications focus on memory enhancement, such as the alphabet and shapes. These skills are just one part of preparing for school. The skills that are really necessary to learn and be successful in school (and in life) include controlling impulses and emotions and developing creative and flexible thinking. These are best learned through  social and unstructured play  with family members and friends. Research suggests that digital toys, such as tablets, may rather delay the social development of infants and young children because they do not include real-life facial expressions, gestures, and vocalization.

Be aware that some toys can promote racial and gender stereotypes . Just as toys have changed over time, so have our perceptions of what “girls do” and what “boys do.” All children need the opportunity to explore different gender roles and different styles of play. For example, children’s books or puzzles that show men and women in diverse roles and without gender stereotypes (for example, dads who take care of the home, moms who work, nurses and nurses, policewomen). Try to have a variety of toys for your child to choose from, such as dolls, cars, action figures, and blocks. See:  The development of gender identity in children .

Limit the time children spend with video games and computer games. Total screen time, including time for watching television and using the computer, should be less than 1 hour a day for children over 2 years old, and should be avoided for children under 2 years old. Children under 5 years of age should only be allowed to play developmentally appropriate video games and computer games, and much better if they do so in the company of a parent or caregiver. See:  Healthy Eating Habits for Infants and Preschoolers.

About the safety of toys:

Government regulations, standards to improve the safety of toy making and use, and product evaluations have made most toys safe when used correctly and at recommended ages and stages of development. However, you can still find toys that are not safe.

To determine if the toy is safe , the characteristics of the toy and how it will be used or abused, and the time it takes to be supervised or to play with it safely must be considered. Avoid toys that use button-type batteries or high-power magnets .

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