Choosing Educational Gifts – December 2013

The holidays are right around the corner. While you want to get your little one the perfect gift, it’s important to remember that children are very resourceful and creative. In other words, they don’t need the most expensive gifts in order to learn but rather ones that are developmentally appropriate.

According to Beverly Anderson, Executive Director of Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations in Milwaukee, Mequon, Greenfield, Oak Creek, and Wauwatosa, “It’s worth the time and effort to do a little research before you go shopping to learn which toys are developmentally appropriate for your children. It’s also important to understand that the best educational toys are open-ended meaning that children can use them in a variety of ways.”

Age-Appropriate Toys
If your children are under the age of one, they are just beginning to learn to play. However, according to Anderson, you can still find many age-appropriate toys. Gift ideas for this age group include teething toys, rattles, stuffed balls, activity boards, and board books. Reading to young children is a great way to stimulate brain development. Also, toys with a variety of textures to touch and patterns to observe are also interesting for infants.

Anderson says, “Children ages one to two are continuing to develop their fine motor skills, so toys that encourage children to sort, stack, push, or pull are all terrific ideas. Even small puzzles that have four to five pieces are very appropriate.”

Children ages two to three are beginning to use their imagination. Anderson recommends dress up clothes, musical instruments, and props such as toy telephones, toy dishes, dolls, toy vehicles, and toy animals for this age group.

Children ages four to five are really gearing up for school. So, Anderson says it’s important to give gifts that encourage literacy and math skills as well as social skills such as puppets, dollhouses, construction toys, and simple games. “There are a lot of great electronic learning products out there that children in this age group enjoy. In addition, art and craft projects are always a hit as well as books.”

Safe Toys
Anderson says that when you go to purchase toys, you should carefully inspect them to make sure they are well constructed, shatterproof, sturdy enough to hold a child’s weight, washable, and nontoxic.

Materials should not have sharp edges, points, exposed nails, or make loud noises. Corners should be rounded rather than square.

“If you are purchasing toys for toddlers, make sure that they do not have small parts that could pose a choking risk or strings that could pose a risk of strangulation,” says Anderson.

“Also, if the toys are from another country, make sure they do not contain lead. Avoid anything that looks like it might have a finish that could peel.”

Finally, Anderson says it is okay to purchase battery-operated toys but avoid toys that need to be plugged into an outlet for children under the age of five. When buying battery-operated toys, try to avoid noisy toys that could hurt a young child’s hearing.