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Dear Marianne:

We have tons of toys in our house. How can I organize them so my kids get the most play value from them?

Erin, Pittsburgh, Mom of Katie (9), Lizzie (8) Mary (6) Ben and Jacob (4)
The best way to get the most play value is to organize them so that they ARE played with. For example, board games are fun but you really need to have them in sight as a reminder to play oftern. Stack boxes by age groups on a shelf in a room that will encourage social play. Consider the kitchen and family room. Keep them in the box and neatly tape all 4 corners on both the top and bottom of the box. This will help to reinforce the box after multiple uses.

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Q&A Corner

Dear Marianne:

What can I do to buy toys for my 3 year old niece and 8 and 9 year old nephews that I do not see often or know very well?

Aunt Ava from Woodland Hills, CA

 

Kids remember what was given to them and from who. No one wants to be the aunt who buys the boring toys. Any gift for a child should be chosen based on age, current skills and/ or special needs and overall interest. If possible, talk to the parents of the child to gather this information. Then sift through this information to personalize a selection.

AGE:
Many people ask me if age means "chronological age" (actual age) or emotional age. For children with special needs this may not be the same, but it is most important to make sure the age is chosen appropriately for safety reasons. Toys with small parts should be avoided for infants and toddlers, no matter what.

SKILLS:
If you choose a toy that requires certain skills to play with it (hula hoop, pogo stick, bicycle, ice skates) be sure to know ahead of time if the child has learned those skills. If not, s/he may get frustrated. Because you are not near, you cannot encourage practice or play with them. Be considerate to mom and dad and don't automatically expect they will assume the role.

However, if you know the child has interest in perfecting a skill and mom and dad agrees, then choosing a toy that a child may need to practice, may be a good choice. TIP: To know if a skill toy is appropriate for a child's current skill set, then the toy should challenge a child.

If a child receives a toy that is too easy to play with (puzzles with non-challenging pieces, board games that are too easy to win)
s/he will become easily bored and most likely will not play with the toy often.

SPECIAL NEEDS:
Always check with mom and dad concerning toys for children with special needs. Depending on what the need is, keep in mind that the idea is to purchase a toy that a child will have fun playing with. For children with speech or language delay, toys with sounds that stimulate cause and effect are a great choice. For kids with a low-attention span, choose board games that involve movement or constant changes.

INTERESTS:
Preschool-school age children may have a special interest: trains, hobbies, a doll collection.... find out what they have missing in their collection from mom and dad and choose something that will be an accessory to the interest. If your nephews are interested in science-based activity sets, perhaps choose a craft to make a volcano or dig dinosaur bones. If your niece is interested in trains, choose one that that will fit on her track.

Choose toys that have a high "fun" value (remote control cars, water toys) The more play value it has, the more times your niece and nephew will think about you when they play with it. Steer away from the trendy toys that may shift to the bottom of the toybox.

Most importantly, when wrapping the gift, add a clever and personalized note. Since you are not able to spend time with them, at least you can have a special communication they will look forward to receiving each year.








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