by Judy Mullican
Many of the best toys for children don’t cost a lot of money! Have you ever been surprised to see a child having more fun playing with the box a toy comes in than with the toy itself? Boxes are really appealing to children because they can be played with in so many different ways. Depending on the size of the box, children might use it for stacking, for filling and dumping, or for giving rides to other toys. They might even wear it as a hat or use it as a drum! Bigger boxes can be anything from a house to a barn to a store.
So what are some qualities to look for when choosing toys for your group?
Flexibility. Some toys in the store are designed to be used in only one way or have a narrow range of uses. The best toys can be used in many different ways and grow with children. For example, a good set of building blocks offers many play choices. A younger child may enjoy dropping the blocks into a container, dumping them out, and then doing it again. As children mature, they can stack the blocks or line them up. They may decide to use a block as a telephone or put it on a plate and serve it as a piece of cake. Eventually they may build complex structures with the blocks or use them for storytelling.
Imagination and Creativity. The best toys encourage children to be imaginative! Safe household objects, such as plastic tubs, pots and pans, or bulk mail, are great for inspiring pretend play. A simple tricycle can be a truck, a car, or an airplane in a child’s mind. Crayons, paint, playdough, and other art supplies offer many opportunities for creativity.
Safety. Always consider safety when choosing toys. Watch out for toys with long strings in which a young child might become entangled. Avoid toys with small parts that might choke younger children. If your children enjoy playing with common household objects, such as old telephones, be sure to remove batteries, cords, or other hazards. Check toys regularly for damage that might lead to sharp edges or other hazards. It’s also important to check labels to be sure toys and art supplies are nontoxic.