Do you notice that that your child’s favorite toy is often a box or the Tupperware drawer? In times where simplicity is underappreciated, parents as well as children are bombarded with the overabundance of choices of toys available on the market. Especially with the holiday season upon us, it is important to practice mindfulness when selecting toys for children.
Here are some considerations when shopping for our little ones:
Avoid the Flash
Look beyond the flash of commercials and marketing for toys. Does a toy subtly (or not-so-subtly) perpetuate gender stereotypes, glorify violence or promote passive screen time over active play? Try to select toys that are not tied into TV shows or other character branding, as they often carry with them a prescribed way to play with the toys, and lead to less creative and open-ended play.
Toys that are open-ended encourage creativity and grow with your child’s developmental skills and interest. Rather than beingone-dimensional (like a pirate ship that will always be a pirate ship), they can bring their own ideas and interest, which will certainly change over time, to toys such as blocks, magna tiles, and Lego sets. Check out Preschoology’s 2014 Open-Ended Play Gift Guide for suggestions on toys that promote open-ended play.
Currently, the big money maker in the toy industry is to create and market toys separately to boys and girls. If you recall when you were young, tricycles and ride-on toys just came in red, along with your gender neutral highchair and car seat. Not only are these basics gendered now, but toy companies spend a lot of money making sure toys fit into gendered stereotypes (for instance, girls should like all things sparkly, or related to shopping, cooking or mothering, while boys get to create, discover, build and destroy). Most of us here in the Bay Area are trying to break these stereotypes for our children’s generation and yet we often forget how much their toys are communicating to them about their role in the world. Can Your Toy Choices Affect Your Kid's Future Career? from the Huffington Post, explores the importance of being mindful of the messages of gendered toys. This holiday season, try to avoid toys that are specifically marketed to boys or girls, or break stereotypes and buy your little boy a doll so he can practice being a Dad, or your girl her first train or Lego set.
Get Creative & Resourceful
Handcrafted gifts always make for thoughtful gifts. Especially for young children who are newly discovering the world around them, natural materials such as shells, leaves, rocks, drift wood, and found materials from daily experiences of the child can elevate play. Check out hardware stores and container stores for creative gift ideas.
If your child is in school, ask his or her teacher for advice on toy selection! Teachers have years of experience working with diverse toys and can offer insight on the child’s interests at school. Some website resources that teachers utilize for supplies: Lakeshore, Discount School Supplies, Land of Nod, and Hearth Song
And last but not least...
Top Ten Early Childhood Matters Approved Toys for Toddlers & Preschoolers
The Bay Area has many wonderful, independently-owned shops offering great ECM approved gifts for kids and families. Some of our favorites include Carmel Blue, The Ark, and Chloe's Closet (for new and gently pre-loved items). Consider supporting local businesses this holiday season!
Light Box or DIY Light Table
Wooden Toy Bus
Wooden Doctor's Kit