I am one of those moms who loves to stock up on toys! I get as excited as my toddler on the toy aisle. No, not the developmental toys that claim to make kids geniuses. I believe in unstructured play with a wide variety of stuff ranging from kitchen utensils to store bought legos. While I definitely pass it through a cost and benefit analysis (weigh the cost v/s features), I buy a toy only if it meets some criteria. They are
- It should keep the child engaged for at least a few minutes: I wouldn’t complain if my child was engaged with a toy for half an hour or even more. A toy should intrigue the child, and hold his or her attention at least for some time, say until I make a quick escape to the bathroom.
- Must be safe: I mean free of chemicals like BPA, lead and similar toxins and also not be too loud lest they harm sensitive little eardrums.
- It should not pose any danger: While babies and toddlers need close supervision when they play, it’s always possible for an adult to get distracted once in a while. (hello! I need to answer the door bell). Therefore toys that can easily detach into small parts that can choke, batteries and magnets that come off easily are a strict no, no in my house.
- They must be portable: This is why I love board books.I like toys which I can take along with me on a vacation. I like toys that can be attached to strollers. I prefer toys that don’t take up a lot of space and need a whole corner of the house to themselves, barring our playhouse of course.
- Easily cleanable: One fine afternoon my child may as well decide to dunk them into the toilet bowl. Or might bury them in mud. Or might puke accidentally. I don’t want to be struggling with brushes, washcloths or tooth picks to take out something gross stuck inside the horn of plastic yak.
- Must not be useless after a while: Think soft toys. A sensory stimulation for a baby and pretend play for the preschooler. Think cars and trucks. Think balls that are timeless and can even amuse adults. Okay, that’s too much expectation. Anything that serves a specific purpose (like teethers) or that grows with the child and be of use for a couple of months (rattles for example) if not years is welcome.
- Must be able to withstand toddler torture: Obviously they must be durable since I mention that I want to use them long term. But, they must also be able to withstand some rough handling. This is one reason why I chose wooden toys like stacking blocks and wagons. After all, they are not just going to fill sand and drag that wagon around, they will want to sit in it and be dragged around.
That’s pretty much it except that I do check the labels, warnings and read manuals and reviews before buying toys especially the expensive ones. Will soon post reviews of some toys.