I think my daughter has too many toys for her 3-year-old son; they absolutely take over the room. No matter how she attempts to organize them, he is always dumping them all over. Too many choices. Far cry from day care where he always puts toys away.
From: Debi, Oviedo, FL
I'm not sure what your question is, but I'm happy for a chance to talk about toys. I agree that more is less. Having too many toys at any one time overwhelms a young child and almost by definition means they will flit from one to the other without sticking with the toy and exploring its play possibilities.
So what are the best toys? Considering that the holidays are not far away, here are some guidelines for choosing toys :
1. Look for open-ended toys. The more ways you can play with a toy, the more open-ended -- and better -- the toy is. Open-ended toys encourage pretend play, which uses and stretches creativity and imagination. There's no right or wrong to the play, the toy is working in the service of the child, not the other way around. Plus, you get your best value for your toy dollar if a toy has many ways to be played with. Consider something as simple as a piece of clay. One day, your boy shapes it into a dog because the neighbor's dog barked at him and scared him. Days later, he creates a pizza and slices it and serves it and makes it again and again because the family ate out last night and he was fascinated by the whole process. In both cases, the child uses the clay in his play to make sense of the real events of his life.
2. Single best toy? Blocks, blocks and more blocks. Blocks come in zillions of shapes and sizes for different ages and stages of development. What makes them so great is that they have endless play possibilities, they expand both small and gross motor skills, and can be played with in groups or individually. Blocks even help pre-math skills. When my son was in preschool, his teacher (Hey, Micki Corley -- shout-out to you!) told me that if a parent could only afford to buy one toy, it should be a set of blocks. It didn't take long for me to see the wisdom in her words. My son loved to build all kinds of things with all kinds of different blocks at all ages, and knocking things down was half the fun.
3. Stay away from "scripted" toys. Any toy that's tied to a video, TV show, cartoon, even to a book, comes with a script, and the child is unwittingly locked into the story line. To her way of thinking, there is only one "right" way to play with the toy, and that's the script. So she can't use the toy in any other way and doesn't grow, learn or -- really -- enjoy the toy. These toys tend to be the ones that are discarded first because they're boring.
4. Stay away from electronic toys for babies and toddlers. Did you see this article in the New York Times last week about parents who think iPhones are good toys? All a child learns from a toy that has bells, whistles and screens is to be attracted to the sights and sounds and to want -- and expect -- instant gratification. Right. It works to shorten a child's attention span.
Every holiday season, TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Childrens Entertainment) publishes a guide for toy-buying. This is the guide for 2010. It's an excellent guide; I printed it for years in my holiday column with the Globe.
Anyway, Debi, don't know if this is what you were looking for, but thanks for giving me the chance to share a few thoughts about toys. I'd love to hear parents' experiences about good & bad toys....
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