Friday, November 19, 2010

Best and Worst Toys and Gifts for Babies

As the holidays approach, parents and grandparents will be shopping for baby toys. Many toy advertisements and colorful department store displays will influence our decision, and good commonsense is interrupted. Before buying any baby toy consider just what makes a good toy for babies. Be sure the toy is safe and has no small parts or pieces that can break off easily. Be sure the toy is age appropriate - meaning, a toy that is too complicated will only frustrate your baby, or ones that are too simple will create boredom. When choosing educational toys be sure the toy requires active involvement that will help babies to learn and experiment while playing with the toy.

Okay, sounds simple enough, right? Here are some things to look for in baby toys before you buy:

* Does the toy have longterm play value and will it capture your babies attention for more than a few weeks?
* Is the toy challenging but not too complicated?
* Will the toy stand up to being thrown, chewed, sat on or banged?
* Is the toy stimulating? Does it engage creativity and imagination?
* Is the toy interesting and involve thinking?
* Does the toy require interactiveness or does it just entertain while passively watching?
* Does the toy compliment your family values? For instance, is the toy versatile, friendly to the environment, and are you comfortable and satisfied with what the toy represents?
* Is the toy different from what is already in the toy box?
* Is the toy washable?
* Does the toy have fun appeal? Babies like toys, but more important is a toy that you will enjoy playing along with your baby.

Best Toys/Gifts for Babies:

Pictures and Photos: A small photo album filled with pictures of family, friends and pets is a good activity to enjoy before bedtime. If grandparents or some family members live far away, a book filled with photos of them, their pets, and favorite activities can help to reinforce your babies memory and familiarity with people they do not see everyday.

Clothes: When a baby is born, clothing tends to be a big gift item, but babies grow out of newborn sizes quickly. Before buying an outfit that catches your eye, ask the parents what size is appropriate. Sometimes well-meaning relatives buy a piece of clothing thinking it can be worn for years, but instead, the child will not be able to wear the item for years and cannot be work at the appropriate season.

Savings Accounts: Toys and clothes are nice for the moment, but a savings account with continued growth is a great gift. Good choices can be cash, contributions to an account set up in the child's name, or a 529 college savings plan. Investments in solid stock is another long-time giving gift. Investments are not a gift-in-hand for today, but investing in stocks, such as Disney and adding to it each year, will be a valuable asset when it's time for college.

Blocks: Blocks have been around forever (or so it seems) and have stood the test of time, like wooden blocks. Of course, there are soft fabric blocks, cardboard and nesting blocks, and plastic versions. Blocks are good teachers as well as entertainers. A baby can learn colors, numbers and the alphabet with a nice set of blocks.

Music: From early on, babies are subjected to sounds and music. Music is soothing and stimulating for kids. Musical toys such as books, animals, play instruments, nursery lights and mobiles are great gifts for a baby.

Books: Reading to a child is a wonderful way to entertain kids and an avenue to allow their imagination to soar. There are wonderfully illustrated, musical and talking books on the market. Books abound targeted to kids under 2 years of age, toddlers, pre-school and continue for every age of life. Reading to your child often ignites a hunger for knowledge, entertainment, fantasy or wonderment. The gift of books can never be wrong.

Entertainment: Toys that are able to keep babies busy and entertained are worth their weight in gold! Toys that keep them entertained while traveling or on those around-town errand runs are welcome toys. When babies begin to get around by themselves, a toy that they can sit in and be entertained keeps them out of trouble or safe while you might need to cook or do some other household chores.

Bad Toys/Gifts for Babies:

Living Animals: Never give a kitten, puppy or other live animal that you think would be a nice surprise for any baby or child! The baby does not know that the animal can be hurt, scared or intimidated. Parents may not want or have the ability to provide adequate accommodations for an animal. The animal, in turn, will be unwanted, abandoned, or ignored at the hands of people that did want it.

Too Easy or Difficult Toys: Stick to and follow the 'intended-age' for a product. Even if you 'think' your baby is a wiz-kid, don't set them up for injury or frustration. Toys that are too complicated or below their capability will not be enjoyed and discarded quickly.

Messy Toys: Let's talk about paint sets. Most young children under 1 year do not have the attention span or dexterity necessary to paint only on the designated paper or art tablets. Giving a young child paint is like telling them to cover your furniture, floors and walls with the colorful concoction. Avoid messy art stuff and markers! Mess means nothing to your baby - so don't set them up or yourself for frustration.

Proposed Bargain Brand Items: Shoppers love to get a good deal, but if it does not work or falls to pieces in a very short time, it's not a find. Items that will not last or are not helpful should be avoided. Always try to purchase toys made from non-toxic materials from reputable brands and have a guarantee or return policy.

Noisy Toys: Toys that make a lot of noise are the worst gifts to give to a baby! Although, kids tend to like noise the intrusive sounds can drive parents crazy! Avoid toys such as drums, fire engines and police cars with sounds, and toys that make loud repetitive dings, whistles or bongs as these tend to become more irritating than pleasurable.

Small Pieces: Toys that have small pieces are not only a safety hazard but a pain to pick up. After a long day, the last thing parents want to do is to crawl around searching for that one favorite piece missing from the set.

Over-sized Toys: Many families have limited space for toy storage. Purchasing big over-sized toys that invade or overpower toy areas are not welcome. Often times, grandparents may think a big jumbo-sized rocking horse would be a great toy, but in reality, the toy becomes a scary over-sized monster and crowds play space for other things. Before running out and grabbing that bigger-than-life toy, check with the parents.