Questions to ask before 'the toy' purchase
Our annual toy test report (beginning on page 36) tells you what kids like and don't like, but that isn't the only information parents need. Below are questions to ask to help choose the right toy. They come from Stevanne Auerbach, known as Dr. Toy for her books and research on playing. Her toy recommendations are at www.drtoy.com.
• Is the product appropriate now? Does it fit the child's age, skills and abilities? Will it hold her interest?
• Is it well designed? Is it safe? Are there sharp edges, parts that can be swallowed or loose ties? Is it nontoxic? Does it meet Consumer Product Safety Standards? Will it take rough treatment? Is there a guarantee?
• Is it appealing? Does it have long lasting play value? Does it have versatility?
• Does the toy stimulate creativity? The right products in arts, crafts, hobbies, language, reading, music, movement and drama can expand a child's imagination, thinking and comprehension.
• Does the toy match the package and the package match the toy? If the toy does not match ads or packaging, it can be disappointing.
• Will it teach? Does the toy encourage the growth of self-esteem or cultural values; offer practice in skills, eye-hand coordination or fine and large motor skills? Does it expand understanding of the environment, the community and world?
• Is the toy affordable? Does the price match the value?
• Will it frustrate or challenge the child? Does the product offer an opportunity to think, learn something new, practice or try something that will be beneficial? Or will it be too difficult for the child to use without adult assistance?
• Will the toy help to nurture childhood? Can children use the product by themselves? Will it help them gain independent skills? Is there any violence, sexism or negative aspect to the product?
• Is the toy fun? Will it make him laugh? Relax? Feel good? Play is, after all, a time to have fun. Learning is more enduring if it's fun.