Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Top 10 Tips for Buying Good Toys

Here’s a list of 10 tips for buying good toys for all the kids in your life (and consider yourself a kid if you’re young in spirit and love to play!)

1. Buy toys that engage their imagination. In a survey of kids done by a toy industry magazine, kids said that they want toys that spark their imagination. Kids are full of ideas, so buy games that tap into this amazing power. (Example: Think-ets, Legos)

2. Get toys that have many different ways of playing with them. Kids want layers of fun. They want games that have different rules, levels, and applications. This way, their toy isn’t boring after awhile and keeps on giving just when they start to fade. (Examples: Playing Cards, Bananagrams)

3. Intrigue them enough to make them want to invent a toy themselves. All kids like to invent. Whether it’s a scientific experiment or a fantasy play, they want to create something new. Look for games and toys that are simple, innovative, and that “think outside the box.” Inspire your kids. (Example: Fractiles, Flashflight Flying Discs)

4. Buy games of quality. There is nothing worse than getting a toy home and having it break after a short period of time playing with it. If at all possible, buy the toy that has a sturdy and satisfying feel to it. It will last far longer and its play value will far outlast your original investment. (Examples: ‘Bedroom at Arles’ Wooden Puzzle by Think-a-lot Toys, Doinkit Darts.)

5. Try something different. It’s a big toy world out there and while we all know and love our favorites, like Monopoly and Pictionary, there are many hidden and not-so-hidden gems waiting for you. Ask your friends, your neighbors and your specialty toys store sales clerks what’s new and different. (Examples: Djubi, Magformers)

6. Avoid licensed products. OK, this may be hard for some of us but the problem with buying too many licensed toys is that they limit kids’ imagination. Products that come with their own scripted story tend to do the thinking for the child and don’t allow kids to create their own stories, which are limitless. (Example: Knight/Dragon Cape and Hood by Creative Education of Canada)

7. Choose simple toys. A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child. The child's imagination is the engine of healthy play. Simple toys and natural materials, like wood, boxes, balls, dolls, sand, and clay invite children to create their own scenes—and then knock them down and start over. (Examples: Sand, Clay, Dolls, Balls)

8. Be Easy on the Environment. There is a growing awareness that we need to start buying toys that are not only good for our kids but good for the planet. Many new toy companies are stepping up and creating great products that use recycled materials. Kids will know you care when they see you buying toys that are “green” and use minimal packaging. (Examples: Tea Set by Green Toys, ImagiPLAY’s Wooden Toys)

9. Choose toys that support right brain thinking. Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind says that the future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, and storytellers, etc.—those who are empathic, inventive and have big-picture capabilities. All kids—boys and girls—need toys that engage the right side of their brains. (Examples: Scratch Art, Piano Wizard)

10. Listen to Your Kids. By this, we mean listen to your kid’s passions. Sure, they might want the latest hot toy or game—and one may be fine—but also think about each child in particular and find out what really moves them and what they are ready for. Think back over the year and see if there are times when your kid was truly engaged and then find those toys and games that meet this passion. (Examples: Your Own Eyes and Ears)

Most importantly, have fun when buying good toys for your kids. Nothing ruins good play by getting stressed out when you are out to bring more fun into the world. Make your toy-buying journey a destination in and of itself.

1 comment:

Jan Altman said...

Thanks for your mention of how Piano Wizard contributes to right-brain thinking (#9). These kinds of activity (and music education in particular) have been shown to contribute to better marks in school, higher IQs, and a lower drop-out rate.

I would add a tip #11 to buying a good toy: look for ones the whole family can play together. Family bonding is important at any time of the year, especially when parents spend much time working outside the home.

Piano Wizard is just one example of a game that everyone can enjoy together (parents tell us that the duets in the game create a wonderful bonding experience). But I'm glad to see that many others you've listed here are also conducive to some effective whole-family time. What fantastic food for the soul.

Kudos to putting this together. Hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season!

Jan Altman
Vice-President/Corporate Evangelist
Music Wizard Group (makers of Piano Wizard)