It is holiday time and your mail and e-mail are packed with advertisements for your local toy store. Decision time is near for the perfect gift for your child, cousin, niece, and nephew. Let’s get down to business. How do you pick the perfect gift? Or better yet, how do we pick a gift that is safe and fun for a child? Here are a few guidelines to help you shop:
- Buy toys that are bigger than the child’s mouth. Avoid toys with removable parts especially if they are smaller than the child’s mouth. This will avoid the child from choking on the toy and also avoids the child ending up in urgent care with a toy piece stuck in the child’s nose or ear.
- Protect your child’s hearing and avoid toys that are loud.
- Protect your child’s eyes by avoiding any toy that can shoot small objects.
- Avoid toys made of toxic substances.
- Avoid toys that have long strings or ropes. This prevents accidental strangulation.
Read the toy box and be aware of the age appropriate notices on them. Not only is this for safety, but also for the appropriate developmental stage of your child. By understanding their milestones it will be easier to buy a gift for them that they will not only use but enjoy. From 0-6 months the infant is gaining strength to pick up their head and smiling responsively. By 6 months the infant is able to sit without support, turn in response to a rattle and bring hands into the center.
Examples of gifts for this age are toys with bright colors, touchable fabrics, rattles, and books that include mirrors. A 6-12 month old will start exploring sounds, saying mama/dada, pass an object from one hand to the other, and by the end of this time will be standing or even taking a few steps. Toys that would be appropriate for this age group include blocks, cloth books, stuffed animals, family picture books and toys that the child has to reach for.
By 12-18 months a child is standing alone, walking, saying up to 6 words, and starting to build towers. Gifts that are appropriate for this age include blocks, books that show objects/colors, balls and walking toys. At 18-months—2-years a child engages in pretend play by feeding dolls; can point to body parts, and throws balls overhead. These children tend to enjoy balls, stacking blocks, imaginary play, and books.
By 2-4 years of age children can name colors, color/draw, enjoy imaginary play, and start understanding board games. Gifts that are appropriate at this age range include push toys with activity sets, craft supplies, and toys that promote imaginary play. At 3-4 years old, children enjoy play-dough, dolls, large puzzles, imaginary toy sets and play cars, trains, and trucks.
Remember when choosing a gift focus on exploring the child’s developmental needs and toy safety.
Jennifer Sniadanko, D.O., FAAP, is a Pediatrician at Good Night Pediatrics which provides all-night urgent care for children every night of the year from 5PM-5AM.