Tis the season for giving. And what is more fun than giving gifts to the children in our lives? However, the vast choices for children’s toys can be overwhelming. So how do you choose what to buy? Focus on choosing something developmentally appropriate for their age and on a few basic safety tips.
For the youngest children, a good starting point on developmentally appropriate play ideas can be found at the website for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play/toys). For toy safety, check out the website for Safe Kids Worldwide (safekids.org).
Safety tips to keep in mind
1. Small parts can be choking hazards. It is important to also keep this in mind if there are younger siblings in the home.
2. Make sure all materials are non-toxic. With young children, most things make it to a young child’s mouth at some point.
3. Take extra caution with magnets or toys that require button batteries. Magnets or button batteries that are swallowed can pose serious medical risks.
4. Look for well-made, high-quality materials including strongly sewn seams and thick plastic that will not easily open/unravel/break and cause potential harm.
5. If it rolls or has wheels, it should come with a helmet.
6. As the adult in a young child’s life, it is important to read building, use and instruction manuals carefully.
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to a child’s play is to join them in the fun. A critical component to human development is social interaction. If they have a new toy, you can join with them to demonstrate how to use the new toy safely. Activities such as arts and crafts, board games and card games are perfect opportunities to play together.
For older children beyond the infant and early toddler stage, a win-win would be if you allow them to join you in what you are doing around the house by teaching and including them in the activities.
Maybe your future little chef needs an apron and their own miniature rolling pin. Or the slightly older chef could start their first cookbook. A child-size set of construction or gardening tools may turn a child into your best helper.
One of my fondest memories of growing up is learning how to sew in my grandparents’ basement. I still have a quilt I made when I was 8 years old that my daughter can now use.
Of course, you do always have to practice caution to make sure they can participate safely, but with a little creativity and planning, there are often many opportunities for children to help, and in return, gain valuable skills, confidence and pride in having done something meaningful. Play is how children grow and develop. It also allows us the opportunity to bridge the gap between their world and ours so we can both learn from one another.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the toy choices out there this holiday season, approach shopping as an opportunity to plan future activities with the children you love. Remember, the most important thing you can give them is time with you. Happy holidays and happy shopping!
Dr. Katherine Blount, is a pediatrician with SSM Health Medical Group-Pediatrics, which is located at 3348 American Ave. in Jefferson City.

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