Whether you’re shopping for your own child or someone else’s kid, here are five things I always consider when trying to find toys kids love.
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Find That Perfect Toy: What to Look For When Toy Shopping
I love finding toys to give to kids as gifts, but it’s a task several of my friends dread. Here are five simple steps that make it easy to find that perfect gift that will receive hours of play. As with all of my posts, this one contains affiliate links. Learn More.
#1 How Messy Is This Toy?
This question is really out of consideration of the parents. Some parents are fine with messy toys; others are not. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of less messy.
This is something to consider for older children as well! We love Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty in our house, but rarely give it as gifts because it can ruin clothes.
#2 Is There More Than One Way to Use This Toy?
Some toys are so cool that they are fine purchasing as single-use items, but wherever possible I look for toys that can be used in more than one way. Keva planks can be used to build buildings and marble runs. They are also fun for kids to decorate for art projects. LEGO bricks can be used in countless ways, as can art supplies. We love Sargent Art supplies for older kids, and Crayola Washables and Color Wonder for young children.
#3 How Many Years Might a Child Use This Toy?
Some toys are worth only a year or two of play just for the memories they produce, but in general I look for toys that will grow with the child. Dolls, stuffed animals, blocks, balls, and construction toys all see years of use in our home. Magna-Tiles are one of my favorite toys to give, since even if people already own them they are happy to own a few more. They clean up easily, and entertain everyone from preschoolers through teenagers and even adults.
Many of the toys from my calm down toys for toddlers list will also entertain older children! And every parent needs a few toys that help their toddler calm down.
#4 Quality Control Time: How Well Made It?
With four children, I’ve learned to invest in solidly built toys. I buy name-brand Magna-Tiles because I find the magnets are stronger and they break less easily than other brands. I buy name-brand LEGO bricks because I know that they will stick together as expected and last through hours of play. With wooden toys, I tend to stick to established companies like Hape that I know finish their products well and use safe paints and finishes.
#5 Can This Toy Be Shared with Siblings and Friends?
A “no” answer doesn’t mean this is a bad toy to buy; it simply shapes thinking as to whether it’s the right toy for that child at that time. My children have their own dolls and stuffed animals, for example, that they aren’t expected to share. Other toys, like our play kitchen, are clearly meant for sharing.
When I’m buying a toy that doesn’t share well, I do try to stick with toys that can mix well with other toys. All of my kids own baby dolls that are theirs; since they each own them they play with them together a great deal. When I buy my kids Playmobil sets, I tend to pick sets that work well when my children set up a village with all their different sets.
It’s also important to consider the ages of siblings when buying gifts. I tend to look for non-choking-hazard toys for children with younger siblings, unless I know for certain that the child the gift is for has a designated place to use these tiny toys.
What are your top toy shopping tips for finding the best gifts for children of all ages? Did a favorite toy of yours get a mention in this post? What toys do you love that you expected to see and didn’t?