It is important for children to play and toys can be important 'tools of play.' According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in their Clinical Report, Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children: The Pediatrician's Role, 'toys play a supportive role in enhancing a child's development.'
But these toys don't have to be 'trendy or expensive' and there is 'no scientific evidence to suggest that any toy is necessary or sufficient for optimal learning.' So when choosing toys for your child, don't feel guilty if you can't afford new, trendy and expensive toys that claim to boost your child's development or intelligence.
Instead, choose toys that you can afford and which are developmentally appropriate for your child, 'help promote learning and growth', and which encourage your children to use their imagination. And remember that toys should never be 'substitutes for the attention of devoted caregivers.'
And of course, you should choose toys that are safe. Even with the passage of the Child Safety Protection Act in 1995 and warning labels and age recommendations on toys, according to the CPC, 'last year, an estimated 140,700 children were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms after toy-related incidents and 13 children died.'
Toy Safety Shopping Tips*
Toys for Children Under 3 Years Old
- Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a choking danger.
- Never let children of any age play with uninflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger.
- Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls, that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children.
- Children at this age pull, prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.
Toys for Children Ages 3 Through 5 Years Old
- Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges.
- Look for household art materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.
- Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.
Toys for Children Ages 6 Through 12 Years Old
- For all children, adults should check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.
- If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun.
- If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it.
- Teach all children to put toys away when they're finished playing so they don't trip over them or fall on them.
*Reproduced from the CDC guide to Toy Safety Shopping Tips