Marisa OlsonContact Email:
For many parents, the holiday season comes with high pressure to buy your child the “hottest” toy of the season. But before lining-up to get your hands on the latest fad, Dr. Paula Kramer, chair and professor of occupational therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, wants parents to know that while the “it” toys may be unique and novel, they’re not always the best choice.
“When buying gifts for a child, parents should consider their child’s specific needs and interests,” said Dr. Kramer. “Know what your child likes and enjoys playing with - it may not be the must-have toy of the season. Tickle Me Elmo® is cute, but if you’re child isn’t into it, it will ultimately end up in the corner.”
When shopping for kids this holiday season, Dr. Kramer encourages parents to focus on toys that offer the following important attributes:
· Encourages mental and physical development: Toys that are at a child’s ability level, or just above it, support growth and provide a challenge. Many newer and time-honored toys promote development of motor skills, social skills, problem solving skills, and reasoning skills. Traditional Legos® help build skills such as fine motor manipulation and creativity, while the new Fisher-Price Smart Cycle Extreme® promotes physical activity.
· Stimulates creativity and imagination: Toys that have an open-ended function work best to promote creativity. Playing with dolls or action figures prompts children to use their imagination to make up stories. Painting and drawing toys also encourage children to explore their creativity.
· Has a long life and can be used in multiple ways: Know who your child is and match that. Look for toys that fit the child’s age, interests, skills, and abilities – and the toy will have a longer life. Finding new uses for a toy promotes creativity and replaces the need to constantly purchase new toys. A ball can be more than a ball; it can be used for throwing, bowling, a target game, and more.
· Evolves and adapts as the child grows: Again, to prevent toys from ending up in the corner, look for toys that grow with your child, such as the Fisher-Price Grow-to-Pro Basketball® hoop that adjusts to different heights as your child ages.
“With all the shiny new toys and high-tech gadgets crowding the shelves, it’s easy for parents to overlook how a toy will actually benefit their child,” said Dr. Kramer. “But toys that encourage a child to think, develop, grow, and use imagination – they offer the perfect balance between fun and learning.”