Best Holiday Toys for Kids
December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its recommendations for the best toys for children, so our family practice doctors in Delray Beach would like to help you make the best choices when it comes to gifts for your children and grandchildren.
According to the non-profit Alliance for Children and Families (ACF):
- Approximately 217,000 children are treated at hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries every year.
- Riding toys are responsible for the majority of toy injuries among children ages 15 and under.
- Other causes of toy-related deaths include choking, drowning, and suffocation.
Therefore, the ACF offers these three most important tips before you gift a toy to a child:
- Inspect toys before you buy them. Avoid toys with sharp edges or parts that can be easily pulled off. For children younger than age three, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.
- Make sure the age and skill level marked on the toy matches the age and skill level of the child you’re buying for.
- Check toys for the ATSM (American Society for Testing and Materials) label that proves it’s up to standard.
Other things the ACF wants you to keep in mind this holiday season:
- Do not give toys with ropes, cords, or that can heat up, and avoid crayons and markers unless they are labeled nontoxic.
- Keep high-powered magnet sets away from children. Building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
- Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than eight years old as they can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Also, discard broken balloons immediately.
- Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit when using riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates.
- After gift opening, immediately discard plastic wrapping or other toy packaging because the wrapping and packaging pose safety issues.
- Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.
The AAP’s report on best toys for children suggested that parents skip the pricey electronics in favor of the old-fashioned toys: blocks, puzzles, even empty boxes.
“Toys have evolved over the years, and advertisements may leave parents with the impression that toys with a ‘virtual’ or digital-based platform are more educational,” said Aleeya Healey, FAAP, a lead author of the clinical report. But, she added, “Research tells us that the best toys need not be flashy or expensive or come with an app. Simple, in this case, really is better.”
The report, which focused on children from birth through school age, concluded that the best toys for children are those that stimulate the imagination and encourage them to interact with others, especially their parents, which doesn’t happen when their only engagement is with a screen.
The best toys will match a child’s developmental abilities and promote the growth of new skills, the AAP said. This does not tend to happen with electronic toys, in which play is preprogrammed, leaving the child a passive observer of what happens on the screen.
The AAP scorned marketing which touts videos, computer programs, and books offering voice-recorded reading as “educational,” saying that such interactive media can actually interfere with healthy development.
Just the opposite is true, according to the report. It found that excessive use of these electronic media could delay children’s speech and language development, interfere with important and necessary playtime with parents, and lead to obesity as children reject physical activity in favor of screen time.
“The best toys are those that support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together,” said Alan Mendelsohn, MD, FAAP, and co-author of the report. “And when children play with parents, the real magic happens, whether they are pretending with toy characters or building blocks or puzzles together.”
Even an empty box presents enrichment opportunities, he added. “A cardboard box can be used to draw on or made into a house.”
Here are the main recommendations the report offered for parents and caregivers:
- Recognize that one of the most important purposes of play with toys, especially in infancy, is not educational but rather to facilitate warm, supportive interactions and relationships.
- Understand that the most educational toy is one that fosters interactions between caregivers and children in supportive, unconditional play.
- Choose toys that are not overstimulating and encourage children to use their imaginations.
- Use children’s books to develop ideas for pretending together while playing with toys.
- Limit video game and computer game use by young children. Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than one hour per day for children two years or older, and avoided in those younger than 18-24 months.
We support these recommendations and encourage you to talk to us with any questions you may have about this important subject.