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Choosing Toys of Value

Toys are the tools of children's play and they influence that play. Toys of value enhance children's natural ability to engage in imaginative, meaningful play by allowing them to try out their own ideas and solve their own problems. Many toys are highly structured and often linked to popular media images and programs. These toys channel children into imitative play, robbing them of opportunities to use their own imaginations, creativity, and problem solving skills.

Parents are constantly faced with decisions about what toys to buy and what toys to avoid. High-powered marketing and the influence of popular culture interfere with thoughtful decision-making at the toy store. Here are some suggestions about choosing the best toys for young children.

Toys that enhance play value...

  • Can be used in many ways.
  • Allow kids to be in charge of the play.
  • Appeal to children at more than one age or level of development.
  • Are not linked to TV or movies.
  • Can be used with other toys for new and more complex play.
  • Will stand the test of time and continue to be part of play as children develop new interests and skills.
  • Promote respectful, non-stereotyped, non-violent interactions among children.
  • Help children develop skills important for further learning, a sense of mastery.

Toys with limited play value...

  • Can only be used in one way.
  • Encourage everyone to play the same way as determined by the toy designer.
  • Appeal primarily to a single age or level of development.
  • Will probably sit on a shelf after the first "fun" half hour.
  • Will channel children into imitating scripts they see on TV or in movies.
  • Do special high-tech actions for the child instead of encouraging the child's exploration and mastery.
  • Lure children into watching the TV program or other media linked to the toy.
  • Promote violence and stereotypes, which can lead to disrespectful and aggressive behavior.
  • Introduce academic concepts to children too early, keeping them from the kind of play that truly prepares them for later learning.

Choose toys that promote...

Dramatic play. Helps children work out ideas about their experiences, learn new skills, and gain a sense of mastery. Examples: blocks; toy vehicles; dress-up clothes; small stuffed and plastic animals; dolls; puppets; props to recreate real life; materials for creating small worlds like doll houses and castles.

Manipulative play with small play objects. Develops small muscle control and eye-hand coordination. Teaches about relationships between objects,   science. Examples: construction sets and toys with interlocking pieces like Legos and      Lincoln Logs; puzzles; pegboards, miniature models, parquetry blocks.

Creative arts. Encourages self-expression and the use of symbols, a vital skill for problem solving and literacy. Develops fine motor skills. Examples: paints; assortment of blank paper crayons and markers; scissors; glue; recycled materials; stamps; clay; weaving kits.

Physical play. Promotes healthy body awareness and coordination and helps let off steam. Opportunities for social interaction. Examples: bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys; balls; bats; jump ropes; space trolleys; pogo sticks; giant chalk; swing sets; climbing structures; play tunnels.

Game playing. Teaches about taking turns, planning strategy, sequencing, rules, and cooperation. Examples: board games like checkers and chess; card games; jacks.

Source: TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment)

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