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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015 12:01 am

Kids’ toys

As retailers start to move to non-gendered signage for their aisles, it’s good to simply remember that toys will be toys

This holiday season your local Target is sure to be decked out in red and green, but not so much in pink and blue.

Over the last few months, so shoppers don’t “feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” the retailer has eliminated many of the gender-based labels in their stores, including in the toy section. But rather than causing gift-gathering pandemonium, this move may actually be irrelevant to the best kind of holiday shopping, which keeps the individual child – not their gender – in mind.

Selecting a great gift is about “finding out what a child naturally gravitates to,” says toy expert Chris Byrne, content director for TTPM, a website that offers toy reviews and price comparisons.

“I wasn’t a kid who would sit and do Legos. I wanted to be physical,” Byrne says.  “That [sort of preference] varies as much as gender preferences.” And it’s likely to be a more useful shopping guide for parents.

“Both of my kids like what they like regardless of their gender,” says Norma Lopez, a mom of a second-grade daughter and fourth-grade boy in Oak Park. “My daughter in particular has never liked typical ‘girl’ toys. We would have missed Legos, for sure, if we had lived in that girl section, but because our son is older we never even had to walk down one of those aisles. We’ve always shopped in the ‘boys’ Lego section for both kids.”

Obviously, if there’s something you’d prefer your child not play with, that’s your choice as a parent, Byrne notes. But “play lets kids explore, express themselves and have new experiences,” he adds. So selecting toys that the children in your life will love means finding “the things that help them do that,” he says. And there are lots of possibilities on the toy shelves this season that will bring smiles to girls and boys alike.

Go artsy

In contrast to all the technology out there, look for arts-and-crafts supplies and kits that can interest all kinds of kids, Byrne suggests. An easel, a batch of crazy markers, a book of ready-to-make paper airplanes or an assortment of colored/patterned paper may be just the thing to kickstart a grand creation. (Lopez vouches for this option, too.)

Help them start a collection

Collecting is a popular play pattern for kids, Byrne reports, and the sheer range of items available and waiting to be gathered makes collectibles – whether they’re Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or dinosaurs or Minions or cats or Disney characters or pencils or stickers – a good gift choice for all sorts of personalities.

Go wild with animals

Animal-related toys are another option with broad appeal. Lopez says both her kids like stuffed animals. “It’s their way to have more pets,” she says, and there are near-limitless varieties of animal-focused figures, puzzles and games.

As you’re shopping, just be sure to think more about the small person who will be unwrapping the gift you choose than the likely full-sized adult who developed the season’s marketing ploys. “At TTPM, we always say the ‘hot toy’ is only hot if it’s hot for your child,” Byrne says. “All these things are being promoted and advertised, but if your child isn’t into it, if it doesn’t resonate, it doesn’t matter.”

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