I go down to visit Little E and Baby C once a week. I anticipate these weekly visits with much joy! I love playing with Little E and Baby C! We always play with whatever toys or games they feel like – Aunti just goes with the flow (and makes sure no one falls head-first off the rocking horse or dumps puzzle pieces in the toilet).
After 4+ years of weekly play dates, I feel informed enough to share my opinion on the best and worst of children’s toys. [Sidenote: to provide context for my list...The Brother, SIL Ana, and I all share similar philosophies of "what maketh a 'good' children's toy; to some extent, my preferences and dislikes are founded on the toys that I have played with at their home. I also am basing my choices on toys and ways of playing that I grew up with].
So, let’s get on with the awards and the raspberries!!
THREE BRANDS THAT RECEIVE A FIST-PUMPIN’, TWO THUMBS UP, RAH-RAH GOLD AUNTI-STAR:
1. Melissa and Doug - Where was this company when I was little?! (Insert Snookie WAHHH here!). I have yet to meet a M&D product that I didn’t love. Everything I have come across promotes creative play, contains no toxic substances, and is unique in design…and just super cute.
2. Crayola - This brand of arts ‘n’ crafts products rocks: non-toxic and washable markers are the way to go with small kids and toddlers! There sure are a lot more products than when I was little – but I do have fond memories of they joy a brand new box of 64 crayons brought me!
3. Fisher-Price - Talk about durability: Little E and Baby C are playing with the farm, the airport, the school bus, and the schoolhouse that The Brother and I enjoyed back in the ’70′s! We spent thousands of hours creating scenarios with our F-P toys! I loved our collection of F-P people the best: they would inhabit lego houses, jump in Barbie’s swimming pool, hide out in empty cereal box apartments…simple toys provide multiple play opportunities.
TYPES OF TOYS THAT AUNTI CANNOT, IN GOOD CONSCIENCE, ENDORSE:
[I don't feel comfortable outright slamming any specific brand, so I'll go with generic types of toys, here].
1. Battery-operated toys – Parents who feel driven crazy by beeping, flashing, careening toys, please raise your hands!! Thought so! Besides being aurally annoying, toys that need batteries have short life spans. Parents who have burnt-out toys that need new double-A’s, please raise your hands!! Thought so!
2. Toys popularized by movies, TV shows,
Disney money-grabbing movie producers - This category of toy is all about moderation. Personally, I would not want my child to start school and not know who Dora is, or be ignorant of the Sesame Street gang. Conversely, I don’t think it healthy to have a panapoly of bedroom decor, backpack, toys, books, clothing that is solely comprised of Disney princesses. A few carefully-chosen books/toys/games featuring mass-market characters is a healthy balance.
3. Single-purpose (as opposed to multi-opportunity) toys - Any toy that only does one thing will quickly bore a child. And will clutter up the toy cupboard.
To celebrate birthdays and Christmas, I enjoy a three-pronged approach to gift giving: a toy; a book; an item of clothing (often hand-knit, yes!). Please note that these don’t have to be expensive purchases. I like giving the gift triumvirate because 1) children always get most excited about opening a toy 2) I firmly believe a personal library of books is essential to developing reading skills and stimulating imagination 3) I like to choose and give clothes – yup, this category is purely selfish…and nothing wrong with that! The kids gotta be clothed, right!?!
If you need some guidance for choosing toys, the Canadian Toy Testing Council may be a helpful resource [athough I just clicked on the website and see the Energizer Bunny front and centre...so much for my diss of battery-operated toys!].
I’d love to hear your thoughts, parents, fellow aunties, grandparents, friends. Can you suggest some of your favourites and also brands/types of toys you refuse to purchase?