Good toy buys for the Holidays
Tips from Mary Muscari, associate professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and author of Let Kids Be Kids: Rescuing Childhood.
For all ages, consider books, books, and more books!; arts and craft projects; time spent with family and friends; and instilling the appreciation for the wonders of life such as nature, creativity and music.
Toy selection by age:
• Infants up to six months need a variety of sounds, colors, textures and movements. Feed their senses and learning skills with music boxes, crib mobiles, squeeze toys, rattles, stuffed animals, play mirrors. Rocking seats and swings.
• Six to 12 months have discovered the wonders of hands-to-mouth and other body movement. Activity toys such as nesting dolls, blocks, push toys and activity boxes can be added to the list. Remember to avoid toys with small parts that can make their way into small moths.
• Toddlers aged one to three, love to exercise their large muscles as well as their parent’s patience! They also enjoy squishing things. Divert their house-wrecking abilities with hard plastic cars, large balls, pull toys, peg-boards, big wheels, rocking horses, water toys sand boxes and play phones. Play dough, finger paint and soap bubbles are perfect for making a controllable fun-filled mess. Young toddlerhood is also the time for that ‘special toy,’ so consider a cuddly doll, a fuzzy teddy or even a plush Spiderman or Dora the Explorer. Cloth books, large piece puzzles and ‘just like mommy and daddy’ toys work well as this age.
• Three to five are the ‘magic years,’ filled with boundless energy and imagination that calls for creative activities and play. Try riding toys, punching bags, wagons, roller skates, pre-school gym sets and sleds. Fine-tune little fingers with lacing and buttoning toys, simple crafts and games, paints and puzzles. Simple flash cars and electronic games, dress-up clothes and kits, cooking and housekeeping toys, toy farms and schools, puppets, and doctor or nurse kits promote imaginative and creative play. Of course, you can always sit back and enjoy watching your 3 1/2 year old turn empty boxes into imaginary wonders!
• Industrious school-agers from six through 12 prefer play that involves increased physical and intellectual skills. A certificate for dance or karate lessons makes a great gift. Sports equipment, skates, ski gear, swim gear and bicycles help exercise muscles. Exercise minds by starting or adding to hobbies, or by giving board games, computer games, audio and video tapes and books. School-agers can also be given gifts that will introduce them to cooking, sewing, woodwork, gardening and more complex arts and crafts.
• The general rule for teenagers is if you hate it, they'll love it! Beside activities that drive their parents crazy, teens are developing specific interests in sports recreation, hobbies and intellectual and vocational pursuits. ‘Awesome’ and ‘radical’ gifts include sports, camping, fishing, hiking and boating gear, video and computer games, portable radios, compact discs, cell phones, trivial pursuit games, model-making and collectibles.
About Mary Muscari: Associate professor, Decker School of Nursing; Binghamton University, State University of New York
Topics areas: parenting, from toddler age and up, especially teens. She has conducted a number of parenting workshops around the country; most popular topics: keeping kids safe from predators ('live' and Internet), bullying, raising nonviolent kids.
Parenting books include:
Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Girls (Moira Mc Carthy with Dr. Mary Muscari) (2008)
Everything Book: Raising Adolescent Boys (Robin Weiss with Dr. Mary Muscari) (2008)
Let Kids be Kids: Rescuing Childhood (2006)
Not My Kid 2: Protecting your Kids from the 21 Threats of the 21st Century (2004)
Not My Kid: 21 Steps to Raising a Nonviolent Child (2002)