The Blog

As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Before Black Friday Toy Shopping

It is now that time of year when parents and relatives become concerned about holiday gifts for children.  Many people give a great deal of time and attention to choosing just the right gift and are disconcerted when the child finds the packaging more appealing than the gift.

My first suggestion is to teach children not to believe all of the advertising they see on television.  They ask for toys which look great on the tube and then are disappointed with reality.  These toys cost much more because you are also paying for the advertising.  When children make up their list from television commercials, they tend to become very long ones.  Parents and relatives then feel guilty if they disappoint the children by not getting everything on the list.  Shopping from TV also makes some toys very popular and parents sometimes are run ragged trying to find a sold-out item.

Therefore, my second suggestion is to have an agreed upon limit to the child’s list.  In that way, you can add to the list toys which you feel are more suitable for the child’s level of development.  Also, try not to be swayed by the television and other advertising gimmicks yourself.  Above all, do not feel you have to satisfy the child’s desire for a toy you feel is unsuitable just because everybody else has it.  Begin early to do this.  It is very difficult later to change your child’s expectations and to keep from disappointing him because you can not possibly acquiesce to the commercial demands around you.

Beware of toys that have small pieces.  Objects should be at least one and a half inches long and of course all paint should be lead-free.  Choose toys which allow children to use their imagination and creativity.  Children tend to loose interest in toys which can only be used in one prescribed way.  Lego sets never loose their popularity because they can be used creatively.

If you are going to buy games which have complicated directions attached, you must be prepared to help children figure them out.  Are you up to the challenge?  Read the directions first before buying the game and make your decision accordingly.  Also, you probably will have to play many of these games with your children, so you might consider buying ones which interest you too.  Good games are wonderful gifts and have the potential for bringing the family together for a fun time.

Be cautious about buying toys which come unassembled and in unopened boxes.  Often, the directions are impossible or incorrect or the most important piece is missing and the store is closed.  If you are going to do the assembling, do not wait until Christmas Eve to start.

It is always nice to give books for presents.  Inscribe the inside of the book with some sentiment which personalizes the book for the child.  You can start giving books to children at seven months of age.  These books should have stiff pages for children up to fourteen months of age.  Your librarian can help with suggestion.

It is the wise parent who is careful to make this season one of giving rather than one of getting.  Even very young children can make pictures and cards for other members of the family.  Older children can write stories or poems or make something at school.  And do not forget to encourage children to thank their gift-givers as they should be thanked for the gifts they have given.  Have a happy holiday.





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