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December Is "Safe Toys and Gifts" Month

Purchasing Age-Appropriate Toys Helps Ensure Children's Safety

The holiday season is the time when scores of new toys are introduced via television commercials, store displays, and other media. One of the keys to buying safe toys is buying age-appropriate toys. The guidelines that follow will help you determine if the toy you are considering is appropriate for the child you have in mind.

Babies: Birth to 1 Year

To stimulate your baby's senses, select toys that are brightly colored, of various textures, nontoxic, and lightweight. The following toys are age-appropriate choices:

  • books -- made of cloth, plastic, or cardboard -- with large, colorful picturesbaby toys (14688 bytes)

  • large, chunky blocks made of plastic or wood

  • rattles and squeeze toys that make a lot of noise and are brightly colored

  • washable dolls or stuffed animals that are soft and cuddly

scooter

Toddlers: One to Three Years

A toddler, a one- to two-year-old child, needs toys that will keep his or her curious mind busy as well as satisfy the need to imitate adults. Puzzles, nesting blocks and other stacking- or fitting-type toys, musical instruments, play furniture and appliances, and games that involve sorting are good choices for a toddler. A kiddy car, wagon, or low tricycle is usually a hit with a child in this age group, though use of such a toy must be supervised carefully. These low, rolling vehicles are sometimes hard to see from the driver's seat of a car. Avoid push- or pull-toys that have long strings. Do not buy toys that have sharp edges -- inspect musical toys closely in this regard.

Preschoolers: Three to Five Years

Preschoolers are the masters of make-believe. They constantly create imaginary situations to act out the grown-up roles they observe around them. They need props to use in their re-enactments. For a preschooler, a play cash register and money; play food; and make-believe villages, forts, farm, gas stations, and the like are just the ticket.toy train(13538 bytes)

Many preschoolers are fascinated with cars, trucks, planes, etc. and how they work. This is an appropriate age for a child to receive his or her first two-wheeled bicycle -- provided that the bike has training wheels and the child has a helmet.

This is also an appropriate time to introduce board games, electronic toys, and word and matching games. These past-times sharpen visualization and memory skills.

In addition to the toys already mentioned, consider these gifts for a preschooler:

  • books
  • blackboard and chalk, crayons, nontoxic paints, clay
  • toy workbench and tools
  • tea-party set
  • dress-up costumes

Six- to 9-Year-Old Children

This age group enjoys toys and games that help develop skills for social and solitary play. Fashion and career dolls for girls and
action figures for boys enable children to experiment with different grown-up settings. Craft kits and model building allow children to touch and experiment with the world around them.bicycle (95578 bytes)

A larger bicycle, roller skates or roller blades, or other sporting equipment, along with appropriate protective gear, are gifts that help a child interact within a group or team atmosphere.

Many electronic games designed for this age group are more than educational; they help teach specific skills and concepts -- skills with money and currency, reading, and word association, for example. Some electronic games help children develop hand-eye coordination and the ability to enjoy competition.

Preteens: Nine- to 12-Year-Olds

girl with football (32184 bytes)

A preteen begins to develop specific skills and his or her life-long interests. Advanced chemistry sets, advanced model kits, and advanced construction sets may be appropriate gifts for children in this age group. Physical play now focuses on team interaction, such as that found in various sports. Sports equipment can be popular with sports-minded 9- to 12-year-olds.

Video and other electronic games, especially those that require strategy decisions, are excellent choices. Books and tapes continue to serve as ways for preteens to learn. Crafts and musical instruments help them express themselves artistically.

Teens: Thirteen- to 16-Year-Olds

During the teen years, a young person's interests begin to merge with those of adults. Electronic games and computer-based systems marketed as "family entertainment" have been developed to meet the interests of teens. Most teens are interested in challenging board games with themes that stimulate their interests. During this time, many young people begin collections: collections of dolls, models, and stuffed animals are common. Books, tapes, crafts, and musical instruments usually remain popular.

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