The holidays feel more important than usual this year as the pandemic rages around us. we are all looking for something to enjoy. And, of course, a large part of the family vacation fun is buying toys.
As parents, friends, and family set out to buy toys for the kids on their lists, here are some suggestions for things to do should not buy – and you should.
Buyers exercise caution when choosing toys
The US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) has a list of types of toys that people should avoid. they include
- Loud toys. Loud noises can damage your hearing. Given how much noise we are exposed to over the course of our lives and the ubiquitous use of earbuds in earbuds, you really don’t want to start making additional noise early. You can turn off the sound at any time, but it’s probably better not to buy the toy.
- Mucus. Apparently some brands are high in toxic boron! Instead, make your own (there are plenty of easy recipes for borax-free slime) or just avoid it altogether.
- Fidget spinners and other adult toys. That “designed for adults” is the key point here; You don’t have to meet child safety standards.
- All with small parts if the child is under 3 years old – or if there is a child in the household who is younger than 3 years. Read the safety labels! If you’re not sure if a part is too small, see if it will fit through a toilet paper tube. If so, it’s too small. Also, watch out for attached small parts that could come off, such as a stuffed animal’s eyes.
- “Hatch” toys. As they hatch, they create small chunks that – you guessed it – can create choking hazards.
- Balloons. This is the greatest choking hazard for children. Anyone under the age of 3 should never have them, and anyone between the ages of 3 and 8 should be closely monitored.
- Smart toys and devices. They may collect data that you would rather not share and can be hacked. Mozilla has an excellent resource for finding out which devices are more secure than others.
- Form. Apparently it may contain asbestos and other toxic chemicals. Personally, I think young children shouldn’t be wearing makeup anyway.
- Magnets in toys. This is a big and important no for any child who might put the toy in their mouth (or any sibling of a child who might). Small magnets in toys, many of which are ten times stronger than traditional magnets, can be fatal if a child swallows more than one. They can bind through the walls of the intestines, causing blockages and perforations. In 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of these magnets, but the ban ended in 2016 following a lawsuit by a magnet company. Unsurprisingly, the number of emergency rooms for magnetic use has increased.
- Used and older toys. While most of these are likely fine, they have run out of security tags and you don’t know if they may have been recalled or have been damaged in a way that might make them less secure.
Which toy should you buy instead?
When it comes to toys for children, “back to basics” is best: simple toys that encourage fake play, creativity, fine motor skills, language skills, and movement. Think of things like dolls, puppets, costumes, train sets, blocks and other construction sets, balls, skipping ropes, bikes, books – and of course all kinds of art objects. These are the types of toys that are the most enduring fun, require imagination and interaction, get kids moving, and help kids develop.
During the pandemic, I would particularly suggest three types of toys:
Toys without screens. Even with preschoolers in distance school everyone has way too much screen time. So skip electronics this year.
Toys that encourage movement. We’re all too sedentary these days. Getting outside and doing sports is great, so things like bikes and balls can make excellent gifts. If the weather is too cold or you don’t have a lot of easily accessible outdoor space, look for things to do inside. Balls with a handle that you can sit and bounce on are fun, as are balance boards, riding toys, stepping stones, or even tightrope walkers indoors. A yoga mat can be used for all types of exercises. In addition to setting up home offices, it’s a good idea to set up a practice room if you can.
Toys that you can play with together. We all spend so much time together. So it’s great when we can have fun with it. Look for games that you can play as a family – there are so many out there. Or, get hold of a train set or a construction kit that you can make together. We need each other more than ever and we need fun. Getting both at the same time is a wonderful Christmas present.
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