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Selecting Your Baby's Toys

Posted by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:19 PM
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The following article appears on Tiny Love's website (http://www.tinylove.com/).  You can find Tiny Love toys at www.GrowthSpurtToys.com .

 

Selecting Your Baby's Toys

Here are two stories commonly told by parents who have not yet learned the rules by which babies live.
First tale:

I bought my baby a wonderful toy. It was big, shiny, beautiful and very expensive. My son looked at it, picked it up, put it in his mouth and a few minutes later just left it. He has ignored it ever since.
Second tale:
My friend and I have baby girls exactly the same age. When my friend told me about a toy that her daughter plays with constantly, I immediately ran out and got one just like it. But my daughter doesn't even look at it!

 

Stories like these illustrate how difficult it is to choose toys for your baby - an individual with his or her own personal taste in toys. Well-meaning parents are on a constant quest to find stimulating, educational and fun toys, without wasting money in the process.



Seven rules for buying toys for the first years of those dearest to us:

1. Do Your Homework - Which is the best toy I can buy?

  • What is the purpose of the toy? Is it meant for baby to lie on her stomach? or for sitting up? For the carriage? or the car? Are you looking for a toy that will develop fine motor skills such as hand control? Or for developing gross motor skills such as head-lifting or crawling? Or has the time come to teach your baby concepts such as shapes and colors? Visit our Developmental Center and use the Developmental Matrix to track your baby's age-by-age development. It offers an overview of the developmental stages requiring special attention: what to expect at each age and what is needed for nurturing your baby and her development at each stage. Now, go to and read the section on the age group relevant to you.
  • Ask neighbors and friends regarding toys they recommend. This is a good opportunity to actually see the toy, and maybe even see how your child likes it... Web sites have also become important information sources. Reliable sites will provide much information regarding the range of toys available for each age group, and often also for the desired developmental element. They include pictures, and some also have reader feedback from parents who have had experience with these toys in their homes. Remember though, that toys that are a hit with some parents are not always guaranteed the same success with you, but it certainly increases the odds.
  • Visit our Age Kit for ideas of the type of toys suitable for your child's age.

2. Verify Compliance With Official Safety Standards

  • Safety should be your first and foremost concern. Never compromise on safety. Make sure that the toy you choose meets certain safety standards before making your purchase.
  • All reputable toy manufacturers have their toys tested for compliance with certain official safety standards. In the United States, the marking ASTM F963 on the package indicates compliance with those standards. In Europe, the marking is CE. If a toy does not have the ASTM F963 or CE mark, you cannot be certain that it meets the industry's safety standards. This is particularly true in the United States, where toy manufacturers are not required to note their compliance with the standard on their packaging. To be certain of a toy's safety, you should rule out any toy that does not have the ASTM F963 or CE mark. (For a more detailed explanation of the safety standards for toys and the tests performed, see the Tiny Love Toy Safety Program.)
  • Verify that the age-grade written on the package is for under the age of 3. This increases the likelihood of the toy meeting the standards for infants.

3. Perform Your Own Safety Survey

  • Follow these additional safety recommendations before giving a toy to your infant.
  • Durability: Since babies tend to drop or throw everything they hold, their toys must be made of sturdy, unbreakable materials. Anything less durable is likely to break, possibly into small pieces, presenting choking and sharp-edge hazards. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the quality of plastic or other hard materials used. Does the toy look sturdy to you and of high quality? Choosing a well-known brand will increase the likelihood that the toy meets durability, quality and safety standards.
  • Small parts: Babies learn about new objects by putting them into their mouths. Small parts of toys could accidentally become detached by fingers, teeth, or gums, probably ending up in the mouth and presenting a choking hazard. This includes buttons and eyes on dolls and stuffed animals. Wherever possible, check for safety by holding and pulling firmly on small parts to make sure they will not detach.
  • Threads and strings: Never purchase toys with pieces of thread, string or ribbon longer than 4-3/4 inches (12 cm). Long threads and strings can become wrapped around a baby's neck, possibly causing strangulation.
  • Long "hair" or "fur": Soft and fuzzy toys with long "hair" or "fur" that could fall out or be pulled out should never be given to babies under twelve months old. A baby could inhale the hairs through the mouth or nose, blocking the airways. Rule out toys with long hair, and check for the safety of those with shorter hair by pulling on a group of hairs to ensure that they do not come out.
  • Secure battery compartments: If you consider a battery-operated toy, make sure the batteries are well-protected in a housing that can be opened only by an adult. A loose battery could be swallowed or pushed into a nostril. Also check that there are no electrical wires that could come within baby's reach.
  • Soft toys: Check the fabric and seams of soft fabric toys very carefully. Both should be resistant to tearing when pulled by baby's hands or teeth. Seams should be strong enough to hold up to frequent washings. Check washing instructions on the toy before purchasing. Never purchase a soft toy without laundering instructions on it.
  • Test the size of the toy - In order to ensure that the size of a toy is not hazardous to your child, try putting it into an empty roll of film; if the toy fits into the roll of film or closes it like a lid, it is too small and should be considered unsafe.

4. Select a Toy Best Suited to Your Child's Age and Development.

  • The toys you buy must be suited to your baby's abilities at his or her stage of development. A toy that is too advanced for your baby's current stage is likely to cause frustration, while a toy that is too simple will be boring. For example, a shape sorter with only three shapes might bore a two-year-old quickly but is probably perfect for a one-year-old. The same toy with nine shapes would likely frustrate a one-year-old but give a two-year-old just the right challenge. Make sure sizes are appropriate too: a rattle or teether should not be too large or too heavy for your four-month-old.
  • The types of play activities that interest your child will reflect his or her developmental stage. For example, six-month-old babies enjoy toys that make noise when shaken and are fun to explore with their mouths. And one-year-olds usually enjoy putting-in and dumping-out activities, like with the shape sorter described above. They also like to experiment with appearance and disappearance, which is part of learning the concept of object permanence. They are therefore fascinated by things that they can put into and take out of a box, or things they can open and close. Toys that contain these elements and characteristics will most probably interest your child during this period of development.
  • Age written on the package? Don't blindly rely on the age written on the package. Some companies are more accurate while others tend to stretch the suitable age.

5. Check the Range of Possible Games

  • Toys that can be played with in a variety of ways increase the chances of being successful over an extended period. The pictures on the package can give you an idea about the possible range of games.

6. Read the Toy's Package for Information

  • The toy's packaging offers a wealth of information? carefully check all sides of the packaging. Manufacturers allocate much time and effort in providing you with as much information as possible about the toy, by means of the packaging, including pictures and explanations such as what the toy does?, what actions it has and what skills it helps develop.

7. Keep in Mind That the Toy Should Be Suitable for Your Child and not for You

  • Do not reject a toy because you think it looks boring. Your baby is different from you not only in size, but also in his abilities, needs, motivation and preferences. Many babies love playing the same game over and over again, and in this way they practice the new skills they have learned. On the other hand, if you like a toy very much, there is a good chance that your excitement will also affect your baby.
  • Each child has his or her own personal preferences which you should take into account when purchasing toys. While these preferences are shaped by the stages of development, they are also unique to each individual. Some babies like to look quietly at colorful objects, while others like toys that make lots of noise. If you buy a shape sorter for your one-year-old and he shows no interest, don't be disappointed. It's always possible that after a while he will suddenly "discover" it and start playing with it, or it may simply be that your child's preferences lie elsewhere. While you should consider your child's preferences when selecting toys, you should also encourage him to try a variety of toys that might help him discover even more interests.

Any advice and information provided in this website is given as suggestions only and should not be taken as a professional medical diagnosis or opinion. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent.

by on Jan. 27, 2009 at 3:19 PM
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