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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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InfantBirth to Age 1
     
Find Toys For Infants 

      When a child is first-born, children respond to the five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing). Toys that allow a child to stimulate any of these senses strengthen the experience and skill. Toys that feature movement, color, sounds and different textures develop these senses.

Types of toys to consider:
• Mobiles
• Squeeze Toys
• Rattles (be sure the rattle does not have any long stems or small pieces a child can break off or choke on.)
• Soft Washable Stuffed Toys
• Musical Toys
• Floating Bath Toys
Toddler – Age 1 to 2
     
Find Toys For Toddlers 
      Children who have learned to identify their five senses now find an interest to use all of them. Learning to walk, speak and imitate sounds and words are the 3 skills to emphasize the most. Toys to choose include musical toys that allow a child to repeat a number, letter and eventually words with sequencing. Push-pull toys enhance walking and puzzles, nesting blocks and other preschool building sets allow a child to learn spatial relations and hand-eye coordination. Be aware that children at this age put mostly everything in their mouth so the toys should be LARGE in size.
Preschool – Age 3 to 5
      Find Toys For Preschoolers 

      Pretend and make-believe play enhances imagination and creativity. Housekeeping toys, hammers, building toys, chalk, crayons, finger paint, dolls, appropriate action figures and imitation toys promote opportunities to learn real-life skills. Talking toys that encourage sequencing, repetition and speech strengthen speaking skills. Ride-on toys, ice and roller skates and sports toys promote motion and movement strengthening arms and legs. Increasing muscle movement strengthens a child's body tone and refines dexterity and gross and fine motor skills.
School Age – 5 to 9 (Grades K-4)
      Find Toys For Children Age 5 to 9 

      Children in grade kindergarten through fourth grade learn to make friendships and experience conflicts with relationships. Toys such as board games and puzzles that encourage participation, learning to win/lose enhance pro-social behaviors. Character development is extremely important at this age and toys with television and movie characters make an impression. Make sure these are impressions you approve of.
School Age – 9 to 12
      Find Toys For Children Age 9 to 12 

      Toys that encourage responsibility and independence strengthen the role of individual development and personality. Mind-games that challenge promote analytical skills and thinking. Look for toys that enhance self esteem and group play that promote social interaction.
Family Toys – Everyone

      Encourage social toys that allow all members of the family to play together. Choose board games or large piece puzzles for multiple age groups. Humor, skill and sports toys encourage family experiences that create memories.



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