Stocking the Toy Shelf

Having the right playthings on hand can go a long way toward assuring that developmental targets are met and that there is enough on hand to keep children happily engaged; however, you may also want to consider the following Do's and Don'ts for making playtime as smooth as possible.
Buying Do's

  • Look for sturdy toys such as stitched dolls, wooden blocks, and puzzles with heavy pieces.
  • Provide play and playthings that offer new experiences.
  • Store toys where your child can get to them easily and without help.
  • Keep parts stored together (an end of the day task) so you don't lose any parts.
  • Consider if you are buying something that will require special care or arrangements.
  • Keep safety in mind. A good rule of thumb for children ages 3 and under is to avoid anything that can fit through a toilet-paper tube.
  • Tell your child why you selected a particular gift/toy.
  • Make children responsible for cleaning up after play, helping them so it becomes part of the play.
  • Remember that paying a lot for a toy doesn't mean you will get high play-value.
  • Suggested ages on toy boxes are fairly reliable, and buying something more advanced will not speed up that timetable.
  • Consider toys that require pretend play and imagination such as hats, dish sets, children's tools, and dolls.
Buying Don'ts
  • Avoid overwhelming a child with more than one or two new gifts/toys at a time.
  • Never make comparisons to other family members' gifts.
  • Toy boxes encourage dumping and lost pieces.

Playthings from around the House

  • People and lots of attention
  • Common household items to look at and listen to Toddlers
  • Cans
  • Large spoons and spatulas
  • Kitchen pots and lids
  • Milk and egg cartons
  • Shoes
  • Bright scarves
  • Empty boxes
  • Purses to empty and fill

Ages Three and Four
  • Books with large pictures
  • Kitchen utensils for water and dirt play
  • Hats
  • Shoes
  • Old clothing
  • Pencils and pens
  • Sponges
  • Vegetable brushes
  • Cards
  • Large boxes to crawl through
  • Pouring and measuring tools
  • Real hammers with large-head nails

Kindergarten through Grade 3
  • Jars to collect insects
  • Mud, sand, and water
  • Junk jewelry for pretend play
  • Cards
  • Flashlight
  • Garden tools
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Paper punch
  • Large needle, thread, and fabric

Worthwhile Things to Buy
If you want to purchase toys or to give a gift to your child, the following suggestions can help to assure that your purchases will be appropriate, long lasting, and fun:

  • Soft, squeezable animals and dolls
  • Mobile
  • Music box
  • Basket of baby books
  • Soft ball
  • Spinning top

  • Child-sized table and chair
  • Doll bottle
  • Finger puppets
  • Toy mop and broom
  • Nesting cups
  • Push-and-pull toys
  • Rhythm instruments
  • Balls of various sizes
  • Soft plastic toys
  • Soft dolls without buttons or eyes
  • Sturdy books
  • Plastic keys
  • Play telephone
  • Music boxes
  • Toy camera
  • Broomstick horse
  • Step stool
  • Playhouse

Ages Three and Four
  • Picture storybooks
  • Balls
  • Dolls
  • Art supplies
  • Small garden tools
  • Plastic tea and cooking sets
  • Three-wheel riding toys
  • Wagon
  • Cars
  • Wooden unit blocks
  • Plastic lunch box
  • Toy telephone
  • 20- to 30-piece puzzles
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Trucks for dumping sand and dirt

Kindergarten through Grade 3
  • Backpack
  • Kites
  • Butterfly net
  • Jump rope
  • Tape recorder
  • Two-wheel bicycle and safety helmet
  • Lunch box
  • Board games
  • Skates
  • Yo-yo
  • Gyroscope
  • Picture dictionary
  • Puzzles of the USA and the world
  • Tap shoes
  • Easel
  • Art supplies
  • Play kitchen
  • Tool bench
  • Cars and trucks
  • Lego table
  • Brio train
  • Doctor kit
  • Ant farm
  • Bird feeder
  • Croquet set
  • Frisbee
  • Construction sets

More on: Best Toys

Copyright © 2004 by Susan Kettmann. Excerpted from The 2,000 Best Games & Activities with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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