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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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Ten Stress Free Shopping Tips
• Guidelines for parents, grandparents, or anyone with children on their shopping lists.
     
Play fosters intellectual, social and physical development. Adults are encouraged to view toys as learning tools with different types of toys as builders of various life skills including creativity, self-esteem and cooperation. Another bonus: a toy that is fun as well as educational will engage children for more than one holiday season. The following are general guidelines to keep in mind when choosing toys for the child, or children, on your holiday list:

1. Allow children to identify their own strengths with self-discovery toys. Toys kids play with by themselves, such as dolls, science activity kits and magic sets, help teach them important lessons about responsibility, values and respect for others.

2. Increase confidence and build pride while children are young with self-esteem toys like art projects, model-building and construction toys.

3. Support open-ended play that allows free expression and lets kids use their imaginations. Bring out the creativity in kids with theater/puppet shows, cooking sets and pretend play projects such as tea parties.

4. Help children learn how to think independently with toys that promote concentration, competition and deductive reasoning. Thinking and logic toys include detective puzzles, ant farms, construction sets and memory games.

5. Build social skills and family togetherness with family interaction toys. Recommended games include dress up, board games, sports activities and battery-controlled car and boat races.

6. Encourage cooperation with friends and peers with relationship toys. Team communication skills are improved with sports, contests of skills, and toys such as medical and chemistry kits.

7. Let kids run, crawl, climb, throw and kick with toys like climbing structures and ride-on toys that use large muscle groups. Gross motor activities help kids develop balance and exercise gross motor skills.

8. Improve hand-eye coordination with fine motor activities that require hand movements such as grasping and pinching. Smart choices include stacking games, puzzles, writing and coloring books/activities.

9. Strengthen language skills and stimulate listening, speaking and imitation sounds with speech and hearing toys. Musical toys, play telephones, phonics-based sets and voice-command games are suggested.

10. Teach kids, especially infants and toddlers, about their environment through textures, tastes, smells and sight with sensory activities. Clay, activity quilts, blocks and shape games are all good choices.


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