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K-5th Grade
5th-7th Grade
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.

Q&A Corner

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)


Selling Toy Stickers is a business and not many people know this!

Beginning in September, toy industry publications, magazines, news reports, and individual self-acclaimed “toy gurus” appear in the media with lists of the so-called “best” and hottest toys just in time for holiday shopping.

Many of these lists of toys are chosen with efforts masked by marketing awards, public relations and advertising campaigns to spread a message on what to buy. Here are some of the ways this is done.

*Editor picks: Journalists create their own list of preferred toys and label them “our picks". Sometimes, these are a round-up list to reflect the personal opinions of the writers.
*Kids choices: Contrary to what is said, kids are NOT toy experts. The Experts are the qualified educators who study what kids learn during play. Research shows that given a choice of 5 toys to choose from, a child will pick 3 or more that they “like” regardless if they will play with them later. Applying this formula to the popular magazine toy tests, you can understand why so many choices are titled, the "best toys."
*TV toy tests - These are seasonal in nature. Small groups of unstructured focus groups are conducted with children or undemographically diverse day-care centers. Results indicate their choices for an entire population. Many times these are coordinated by a TV producer/reporter for airing.
*Paid Spokespersons-Hired by toy companies to appear on TV to claim their toy is among the best, these people profit financially from their efforts.
*Award Stickers- Sold to toy manufacturers as a revenue source to make money. Sometimes, reviews for these stickers are done with as little as one child playing with a toy to obtain results.
*Retail Hot toy lists- Compiled by retailers who want to sell you toys based on their own inventory.
*Personal Opinions; Some people just claim to be an expert and tell you what they personally like.
*Toy Industry Publications and Media Events- Supported by toy companies to expose the newest toys to consumers. Masqeueraded to the media as the “best of the season,” this is not much more than a trade show for the press!

While reading toy lists, keep in mind the credibility of the source and choose toys based on a child’s individual AGE, NEEDS and personal INTERESTS. Each child is different and while one personality type may like puzzles and another may like sport or social toys, this does not mean both may like the "hot hyped" toy of the season.

The best thing a shopper can do is to forget these lists. 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.

How To...

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