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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 12:09 am

How to pick the right toys

Every kid has a wish list – but how do you decide what should actually be under the tree this year?

While it might ring true that everyone feels like a kid at Christmastime, nothing beats the excitement of actually being a kid at Christmas. Few annual traditions are more anticipated and toiled over than the creation of a child’s holiday wish list. For parents, however, few things are more stressful than trying to balance buying a kid what he or she really, really wants with buying the best, longest-lasting toys.

Today, with more toys than ever from which to choose, how should one go about selecting the right gift for the kids on your list?

“The number one most important thing to consider before buying a toy is age appropriateness,” says Marissa DiBartolo, senior editor, The Toy Insider.  “Always check the packaging and see what the suggested age range is for a toy. The manufacturers’ suggested age ranges exist for lots of good reasons, including safety.

Experts agree that toy quality and durability also are important considerations when determining what to buy.

“There are landfill toys and there are legacy toys,” says Richard Gottlieb, Global Toy Experts, a world-renowned consultancy and resource for toy industry insight and information. “Landfill toys tend to be relatively inexpensive, based upon some character or brand a child currently loves, and end up thrown away within a couple of months.”

Gottlieb describes legacy toys as those that are durable – typically made from wood, metal or heavy plastic – that can grow with the child, involve some form of mastery and can withstand being passed down to other children. “Because legacy toys are more expensive they need to be seen as an investment,” he says.

Premier legacy toys, according to Gottlieb, are Lego sets, Tonka trucks, Meccano robots, American Girl dolls and even bears from Build-A-Bear.

DiBartolo also believes it’s important to consider play value before buying. “Ask yourself: Does the toy allow for lots of imaginative play? Can kids play together with this toy? Will kids use it more than once? Will it last for a few years, or will they outgrow it quickly?”

And while learning toys aren’t always the most popular with kids – at least until they get their hands on them and realize how fun they can be – DiBartolo says parents and grandparents should consider how any new toy could help a child develop.

“Will it help develop their fine motor skills? Will it aid in enhancing social-emotional growth? All kids learn through play, but make sure you are choosing toys that will help kids grow in ways that are right for them,” DiBartolo says.

Above all, parents should purchase toys that match up with their child’s interests. Part of the joy of Christmas morning is getting exactly what you want, and although he stresses the importance of durable toys, Gottlieb agrees that there’s no harm in getting your child a quality branded toy if it’s what he or she wants.

“Buying a toy featuring a beloved character is fine, but make sure that there is play value,” he says.

For grandparents, Gottlieb encourages them to forgo a child’s wish list, at least for one gift, to teach the child about something that’s important to them.

“Grandparents should buy a child a gift that reflects the grandparents’ passion. For an example, if a grandfather was an Air Force pilot, he may want to buy a model plane or a book on planes. The best that will happen is that the grandparent will create an enthusiasm in the grandchild that they can share. The worst is that the child will get a sense of who their grandparent is, which will pay dividends in later years.”

The most popular toy trends for 2016 are toys that teach kids how to code, small collectibles, small technology toys and, as has been the case in the past several years, nostalgia toys remain trendy with both parents and kids alike.

“Nostalgic toys are very popular because they allow for a truly unique parent-child interaction unlike any other,” DiBartolo says. “In a world where technology is constantly evolving, parents have a strong desire to return to simpler times, and share their childhood experiences with their children. Nostalgic toys and brands encourage families to unplug from their devices and spend some quality time together.

According to DiBartolo, some of the most popular nostalgic toys this year include Spirograph Shapes, Lincoln Logs 100th Anniversary Tin, Strawberry Shortcake Rag Dolls (from The Bridge Direct) and Nintendo’s Super NES Classic Mini.

Also from Matthew M. F. Miller, CTW Features

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