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I keep seeing award stickers on toy packages. If I buy a toy that has an award sticker on the box does that mean other similar toys are not as good? What guidelines can I follow for choosing a good toy?

Lauren, Miami, FL
Mom of Rachel (7), Sofi (6) and Naomi (2)
Use them as a guide and follow 3 easy steps before making a decision on what to buy?

1.Analyze: What does the child have already? (Stacks of board games, tubs of building blocks, shelves of books) Take a quick INVENTORY of your child’s collection and see if there is a type of toy missing from the playroom. A new kind of toy will trigger interest and intrigue once opened!
2.Simplify- Parents “think” kids need a lot of toys, then regret having so many around the house! It is best to have a variety of TOY TYPES, so a child uses a range of developmental skills.
3.Magnify: It is imperative that toys are chosen which are age-appropriate and are of interest to a child. Choose toys that "MAGNIFY’ a child’s current skills and challenges those they need to work on.


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Last Minute Toy Assembly Hints

You shop for that special gift weeks ahead of time and hide it carefully. All goes well until the big day, when flap A will not fit into slot B, or the assembly kit is missing three screws but contains six extra bolts. The key to preventing this headache is preparing weeks in advance.
     Here are some helpful tips to ensure a memorable day and a less stressful time assembling gifts.

Special Tools
     While you're still in the store, holding that perfect gift, find a salesperson or manager and ask if any special tools are needed to assemble the toy. Proper tools ensure less damage to the toy during assembly and a more secure fit afterward. If the salesperson can't help you, look on the box: Many companies have a toll-free information number.

Extra Batteries
      Before leaving the store, buy extra batteries! If they are not immediately inserted into that new toy, you'll find other uses for them later.

Put It Together
      Assemble the toy BEFORE the big day. WELL before. WEEKS before. You'll have time to find the proper tools, and to replace any missing or broken parts.

Play With It!
      Once the toy has been assembled, with the proper tools, WEEKS BEFORE THE BIG DAY, run your own test. Play with the toy yourself so that you can see how - and if - it works before placing it under the tree. If the test is successful, hide the toy with the neighbors, in the attic, or even in the trunk of the car. Never hide a toy in a closet -- it's the first place a child looks.

Video Games

      Video games and video game systems require special attention. Practice hooking the system up to your television while the child is at school or out of the house. This simple step will ensure that the system is compatible with your television and will help speed things up on the special day. If you are purchasing a video cartridge, play the game yourself to make sure that it isn't too difficult or too easy for your child.

Research
      The most important advantage you have now, which you will not have on the big day, is time. Before you make any purchases, research which toys need assembly and which toys do not. This way, you'll know ahead of time how much assembly work you face.





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