A child’s job is to play. Play offers a child the opportunity to grow and develop. Some of the best forms of play are open ended and require a child’s imagination to bring them to life – such as a set of blocks, a doll, or a pack of paper with a box of crayons. Sometimes the simpler, the better – no bells and whistles (or technology) needed.
There is no shortage of options out there, and this time of year many people look forward to the opportunity to share gifts with loved ones.
So how do you choose which toys to buy?
Focus on choosing something developmentally appropriate for their age and on a few basic safety tips. A good starting point for developmentally appropriate play ideas can be found on the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s website and for safety, visit Safe Kids Worldwide. For information about toy recalls, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Safety tips to keep in mind
– Small parts can be a choking hazard. Also keep this in mind if there are younger siblings in the house. Watch out for strings, knots, or other parts that can be removed or fall off.
– Make sure all materials are non-toxic as most things will end up in a young child’s mouth at some point.
– Take special care with magnets or toys that require button batteries. Magnets or button batteries that are swallowed can pose serious medical risks.
– Look for well-made, high-quality materials, including strong seams and thick plastic that won’t open, unravel or break easily and potentially cause injury.
– For electronics, look for the “UL Listed” designation on the label.
– If it rolls or has wheels, the child needs a helmet.
– Read the construction, operating and instruction manuals carefully.
Children can request devices such as phones, tablets and game consoles. However, screen time can affect a child’s physical (obesity, sleep and vision problems) and mental health (depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc.). If toys come in both traditional and new technology form (such as board games), choose the traditional.
The goal is to make sure screen time is the exception, not the norm. Try to encourage positive behavior to earn fencing for a short period of time. It should be something they get excited about and look forward to, but not expect. When it comes to content, Common Sense Media has a website to research what’s age-appropriate and it’s a great resource for parents navigating the waters of screens and kids. AAP’s HealthyChildren website also has great resources, including an article for those with young children, “Healthy Digital Media Use Habits for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers.”
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to your child’s play is get involved! Initially, you can join in to demonstrate how to use the toy safely, but don’t let the fun end there. Human interaction is a crucial part of learning and spending a few minutes every day with your child to play with him and show him that their world can mean so much to both of you.
Katherine Blount, DO, MPH, is a board-certified pediatrician at SSM Health Medical Group – Pediatrics, 3348 American Ave., in Jefferson City. For an appointment with Dr. Blount, call 573-761-7210.