December is Safe Toys & Gifts Month
In honor of safe gift giving this Christmas I will discuss the top toy-buying tips, choosing the right type of toy for the right age, and give 20 options for toys and gifts you can DIY with items around your house or for a minimum investment.
Top Toy-Buying Tips:
Read the label. Information for age appropriateness and how to to use a toy will be found there. Be sure to teach children how to properly and safely use the toy right away [the moment you give it to them you should have a conversation about its proper use] and supervise use until confident children will be safe.
Prevent choking. Be sure that all parts of the toy are larger than a child’s mouth.
“Child Safety Protection Act requires warning labels on packaging for toys containing small parts. A tool called the small parts test fixture is used to measure toy parts. It is a cylinder tube that is 1.25 inches in diameter and between 1 and 2.25 inches deep. It is designed to mimic a child’s mouth and pharynx. Any object that fits in the tube is considered a small part and must have a label on its packaging indicating it is a choking hazard for small children.”
Be sure the labels read “non-toxic”. Mommytothemax.com – The Ultimate Guide to the Best Non-Toxic Toys
Hobby and science experiment kits should be avoided for children under 12 years of age. [Think chemicals and sharp things, not good!]
Electric toys should be “UL Approved.”
According to How Stuff Works, “UL Listing means that UL (Underwriters Laboratories, an organization that has been around for more than 100 years) has tested representative samples of a product and determined that the product meets specific, defined requirements. These requirements are often based on UL’s published and nationally recognized Standards for Safety.”
Batteries need to be well secured.
Inspect the toys’ sturdiness. Items should be able to withstand an impact and be free of sharp edges or points.
Avoid toys that shoot things into the air, as they can cause eye injuries or choking. (“You’ll shoot your eye out!” – YouTube – Compilation Scene from Christmas Story, [It’s near Christmas so I had to do it!!]
Only purchase well made stuffed animals. Be sure the seams are secure and all the parts are tight. Be mindful of small bean-like filling as this could pose a choking hazard. [Yank on the eyes and threading, make sure that stuff is going to stay on there. You’ll thank yourself later!]
Be careful when buying crib toys. Children’s sleep space should be clear of blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals. If you hang a mobile be sure it is out of your child’s reach. Information for reducing SIDS
It is recommended to keep toys with magnets away from kids under the age of 14.
Check out plastics: Avoid toys that list vinyl or PVC as an ingredient (#3 plastic). Soft plastic toys like bath toys, squeeze toys, and dolls are commonly made of vinyl. Polycarbonate plastic (#7 plastic) should also be avoided.
Choose natural materials: When possible choose plastic-free toys such as fabric or natural rubber teethers, unpainted wooden toys, or cloth and plush toys.
Avoid toys that are loud to prevent damage to your child’s hearing. [Not to mention annoying!!]
Dr. Mandy Rounseville-Norgaard, Audiologist, and owner of Sioux Falls Audiology Associates says,
“Parents and guardians will go to the ends of the earth to take care of their children or to bring them joy. The winter holidays are certainly no exception here, as parents and guardians will often spend countless hours shopping for presents that their young ones have had their eyes set on for the last year. But, according to a Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) study done in collaboration with researchers from the University of Minnesota, many of these Christmas toys are dangerously loud. Attached is a list of the latest toys that could be too loud.” Click for her Facebook Page. She can also be contacted at (605) 306-3050.
Since 1939, the Sight & Hearing Association has been dedicated to enabling lifetime learning by identifying preventable loss of vision and hearing.
“We test the toys as a consumer would – just walking through the toy aisle of a store. We use a noise level meter while testing, but there are phone apps that do the trick and most importantly, our ears! We tell folks that if a toy sounds loud to you, it is too loud for a child. And if people really have to buy a noisy toy, we suggest setting the toy to the lowest volume (if there are volume controls) or placing clear packing tape over the speaker will significantly lessen the decibel level.” Click for their Facebook Page!
Choosing the right type of toy for the right age:
[All the links below will take you to toys that can be purchased at Sioux Falls’ own Elegant Mommy! If you haven’t been in, do yourself a huge favor and drop in! Both Kelsey and Lindsey are gems!]
Toys for Birth to 6 months:
Infants prefer our faces and see the colors red and black best. They will grasp things, but the ability to pick up items well is not established until your baby is around 4 months old. To stimulate your baby’s grasping reflex [Stroking the palm of a baby’s hand causes the baby to close his or her fingers in a grasp. The grasp reflex lasts until about 5 to 6 months of age.] try placing a toy or colorful object just out of baby’s reach and encourage baby to grab it. [Be sure not to frustrate baby by leaving the item too far away! I promise it’s not worth it, even if it is cute at first.] Around this time babies will also begin putting things into their mouth. Video of Newborn Reflexes
Good toys for young infants:
- Things they can – reach for, hold, suck on, shake, make noise with – Rattles, soft dolls, large rings, textured balls, etc.
- Things to listen to – Nursery rhymes, poems, lullabies, [nothing beats you reading a book to them that will soon become their favorite], etc.
- Things to look at – Unbreakable mirrors, photos of faces, etc.
Toys for 7 to 12 months:
Older infants are movers and shakers! They will typically go from creeping, scooting, and bouncing, to sitting and rolling over, then finally pulling themselves up to standing. They can put things in and pull things out of containers, find hidden objects, they understand their own names and other common words and can identify body parts. Once your baby perfects grasping, watch out, throwing isn’t far behind, and many babies enjoy hurling their toys. Around 12 months babies will perfect their pincer grasp, which lets them pick up small objects between their thumb and forefinger.
Good toys for older infants:
- Things to play pretend with – Rubber or wood vehicles with wheels, fabric puppets, baby dolls, Things to drop and take out – nesting toys, plastic bowls, large beads and balls.
- Things to build with – large soft blocks and wooden cubes, avoid wooden items that are painted as they will most likely end up in your babies mouth. Maple wood or natural rubber are great options because they are sturdy and sustainable products.
- Things to use their large muscles with – low, soft things to crawl over, large balls, and toys to push and pull. [Careful with baby walkers!]
Toys for 1-year-olds:
One-year-olds are seriously on the go. [I’m not kidding, we’re talking constantly!] Typically by this age they can walk steadily and often can climb stairs, they enjoy stories, will begin to say their first words. [Probably not the one you would prefer they mention first either.] One-year-olds will play next to other children but aren’t quite able to play with others yet. They enjoy experimenting but need us adults to keep them safe. By about the time children are around 18 months old, they have discovered that they can place objects they grasp into other things. You can help them develop this skill by giving them objects to put in empty boxes, plastic cylinders, or other containers.
Good toys for 1-year-olds:
- Things to look at – Books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
- Things to listen to – Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
- Things to create with – crayons, wide non-toxic, washable markers, and large paper
- Things to pretend with – puppets, dolls and doll beds, stuffed toys, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories, plastic animals, and wooden “realistic” vehicles
- Things to build with – cardboard and wood blocks
- Things for using their large and small muscles – toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), puzzles, large pegboards, and large and small balls
Toys for 2-year-olds (toddlers):
Toddlers rapidly learn language. Some may show some sense of danger in the form of physical “testing”; hanging by their arms, rolling, jumping from heights, climbing, and rough-and-tumble play. By now they have established good control of their hands and fingers and enjoy doing things with small objects.
Good toys for 2-year-olds:
- Things to look at – Picture books with more details
- Things to listen to – CD and DVD players with a variety of music
- Things for solving problems – things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell), wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), and blocks that snap together.
- Things for pretending and building—blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys.
- Things to create with—large non-toxic, washable crayons and markers, large paint brushes and fingerpaint, large paper for drawing and painting, colored construction paper, toddler-sized scissors with blunt tips, chalkboard and large chalk, and rhythm instruments.
- Things for using their large and small muscles – tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), and pounding and hammering toys.
Toys for 3- to 6-year-olds (preschoolers and kindergarteners):
In this age group, children have longer attention spans than toddlers. Typically they ask a lot of questions and talk a lot. They enjoy experimenting with things, testing their still-emerging physical skills. They like to play with friends but they really don’t like to lose! They can learn to take turns and begin sharing.
Good toys for 3- to 6-year-olds:
- Things to look at – Picture books with even more words and more detailed pictures than toddler books
- Things to listen to – CD and DVD players with a variety of music
- Things for solving problems – puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features – collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears,and small colored blocks
- Things for pretending and building – many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture, apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, pretend money, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys
- Things to create with – large and small crayons, and markers, large and small paint brushes and fingerpaint, large and small paper for drawing and painting, sticker books, colored construction paper, preschooler-sized scissors, chalkboard and large and small chalk, modeling clay and playdough, modeling tools, paste, paper and cloth scraps for collage, and instruments—rhythm instruments and keyboards, xylophones, maracas, and tambourines
- Things for using their large and small muscles – large and small balls for kicking and throwing/catching, ride-on equipment including tricycles, tunnels, taller climbers with soft material underneath, wagons and wheelbarrows, plastic bats and balls, plastic bowling pins, targets and things to throw at them, and a tool belt with hammer, screwdriver, wrench, ruler, and painted saw, or Lacing shoe.
- If a child has access to a computer: programs that are interactive (the child can do something) and that children can understand (the software uses graphics and spoken instruction, not just print), children can control the software’s pace and path, and children have opportunities to explore a variety of concepts on several levels
Games and Activities:
Balloon Rocket (balloons pose a choking hazard, please monitor children while enjoying this activity!)
Elephant Block Puzzle made with wood and paint
Hopscotch, Tic Tac Toe, Target games made with fabric, felt, and a hot glue gun
Knit with a Toilet Paper Roll Loom
Picture Puzzle Made with Duplos or Legos and double-sided tape
Marshmallow Gun and Goggles made with PVC (projectiles pose a risk to eyes, please monitor children and be sure they are wearing proper eye protection!)
Memory Game made with wood and felt
Snap Blocks made with wood and snaps
Animal Ear Headbands made with felt and fabric then sewn
Build a puppet theatre
Dolls made from clothespins, embroidery thread and hot glue
Fort Kit including all the things needed to make a kick-butt fort!
Instruments made with wood and other household items
Make a Pizza Set made with felt, string, old spice jars, and a pizza box then sewn
Race Track made with mat and paint
Stick Horses made with felt
Toolbelt with Tools made with felt
Use Household Ingredients:
Use old Crayons to make new ones
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!